Community Nooch's Comic Reviews

What if the past happened again, but in the future?

Scourge of the Gods Book 1
morituri te salutant by Valérie Mangin and Aleksa Gajic

Up to what point can someone be held accountable for their actions? Are any of us really responsible for anything that we do? Or are we each just a set of conditioned responses, reacting only as programmed to various stimuli?In the American legal system, someone who commits a crime is not necessarily held accountable to it if a legal and/or medical professional can prove that they are at least partially or were temporarily insane. I listen to Jason Ellis and Howard Stern on Sirius. Whenever they have an adult entertainer as a guest, they always ask her what sort of abuse she may have suffered while growing up. The assumption is that someone would only ever do that if they had some incident in their life to provoke it, and wouldn't in their right mind make such a decision. This brings up the question: do we actually make our own decisions, or are we responding to our programming?

When we type code into a computer, we know, or at least accurately predict which actions it may take. If we are just responding to our programming, and not actively making decisions, then how are we any different from the machines that we invent? Well, one might argue that as humans, we have emotions, and react to our senses. But aren't those emotions just symptoms of how our machine-bodies are built? Happiness is really just a stream of endorphins being released. When a woman is in a bad mood, sometimes they aren't taken seriously, as the cause is excused as "hormones".

So if we're just a series of responses, then could we really hold anyone guilty of their actions. "You can't punish that guy for shooting 8 people because his job made him crazy." "You can't imprison that thief, he was brought up in poverty so it's not his fault that he has to steal."As a society, we have to believe that people are choosing their actions, and should be held accountable to them, otherwise we would live in utter chaos.We would be in a world where it truly was survival of the fittest, with the strongest of us taking what we wanted. This would be akin to living as wild animals, but with the added curse of awareness of the difficulty of life. So for us to prosper as a species in the ways that we have, we must establish a set of rules to live by, and hold every other citizen to that agreement. Those who operate outside of the agreement must still be held accountable to it.

But then, who decides what those rules should be? If it was just the strongest of us, then that would put us back to the animal state, wouldn't it? Instead, we elect leaders and officials that we believe are intelligent enough and compassionate enough that they will make decisions based on what they think will benefit the community the greatest while harming it the least. That's the standard that we use in what we consider "civilized" nations. Not every country operates this way, though. Some cultures still rely on their physicallystrongest to make the decisions. Others still look to their holy men, who in turn look for divine inspiration, to regulate the populace.

There's a certain danger in a society like that, as "messages from God/the gods" are always open to interpretation. There's a temptation of the holy men to interpret those signs to their favor, or in the favor of those who treat them best. Granted, every form of government ever has been susceptible to this corruption, but you could at least expose that sort of thing and remove people from office. In a theocracy, you can't argue against the message from the supreme being as easily.Also, what if your "god" wants nothing to do with it?

And so my existential/political/theological ramblings bring us to Scourge of the Gods. This book is published in the US by Marvel, but was originally published in France by Soleil through a partnership between the two publishers. I reviewed another of the books from this line, Universal War One, a few months back. Scourge is a retelling of the confrontation between Attilla the Hun and Roman general Flavius Aetius. Instead of occurring in ancient history, it's retold against a sci-fi spacefaring background. The story begins depicting the decadance in which Rua, king of the Huns and father of Attila, has been living. The Hun culture has been founded on expansion warfare, and chaos, but its current ruler is living by none of those "virtues". The status quo is turned on its head with the appearance of a Roman girl who has somehow miraculously survived her sacrificial murder. She also happens to bear more than a passing resemblance to the Hun Goddess of Chaos, Kerka.

She is immediately taken under the wing of Oktar, High Priest of the Huns. This creates a power struggle between Oktar, Rua, and Attila. The populace is divided. Some are loyal to tradition, and so embrace Attila. Others grasp tightly to their faith, and so follow Oktar, and his reincarnated goddess. Still others have grown corpulent under the indulgent rule of Rua.

What is interesting is the dynamic between Kerka and Oktar. Everyone is convinced that Flavia Aetia is Kerka returned except for her. You can even see doubt in Oktar, but he is still determined to use her to further his own ends. What would it take for someone to presume to tell a "god" what to do? The conflict between the characters in the book is what really gets my attention here. They each have loyalties to each other, but all have different ideas about how the people should be led. Each of them are torn in different directions, so you're intrigued by which force will be pulling stronger. Scattered throughout the book are images of bloodshed and conquest, but not to a degree that is inappropriate. There's enough to show some of the brutality that an invading force might perpetrate, but not so much that it becomes the focus of the book. Each panel is tastefully done (including the "adult" scene that mandates the "mature content" advisory) with an awesome painted style. I'm not yet sure what the "scourge" in question is, but goddamn if that's not an awesome sounding title.

Who should read this book:
People who liked The Red Star.
People who like stories of conquest and betrayal.
People who have 3 adamantium blades pop out of each hand.

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Nooch's Comic Reviews

More people should be reading comic books, dammit. As the resident comic book elitist, Nooch has made it his personal quest to get more noobs heading into their own dimly-lit comics dungeon every Wednesday to peruse the vastly under-rated world of sequential art.