It's interesting to read J. Michael Straczynski and Mike Deodato Jr.'s superhero comic The Resistance in light of the covid-19 crisis in real life. In New York City where I live, the mayor declared a state of emergency and predicts there could be 1,000 cases here in weeks. Broadway theatres declared they were going dark for a month. The President's speech from the night before drove members of the public to raid supermarkets for supplies, mostly for toilet paper. All in all, the vibe in the air today was tense and apocalyptic.
The Resistance takes place in a world like ours where an extinction event-level pandemic sweeps through the world and kills hundreds of millions of people. A fascist president takes over America in the chaos. The pandemic also leaves some of the survivors with powers by the time it's over. The government comes after them, which drives them to form an underground resistance.
Tapping the Zeitgeist
Fascism and resistance are recurring themes of JMS' work going all the way back to his Science Fiction series Babylon 5. This is his latest exploration, and they're even more timely than ever. That the kickoff of the story is a deadly pandemic gives the story extra frisson because it coincides with the current covid-19 scare. The first issues of The Resistance were completed months ago, before anyone could have predicted covid-19. Its publication is that rare coincidence where pop culture directly reflects current real-world crises. It holds up a distorting lens to the anxious vibe of this month.
The first issue is an extended prologue that sets up the world. It takes the second issue for the story to come fully into focus. What sets it apart is the sheer denseness of the story. JMS creates a sprawling epic to show the scope of the pandemic that sows chaos and death across the world. It's like an atavistic ritual creating a more extreme version of what's currently happening and feels oddly cathartic. It's times like this that pop culture can become a kind of psychic safety valve for the paranoia and terror of the times.
The Resistance #1 is published on March 18th.