Sinestro #1: Give In To Fear

If there is one thing DC Comics does better than any other comic book publisher, it is how it has designed its villains. The villains of the DC Universe are often complex — certainly far from two-dimensional. The best villains are not your archetypical villains. The greatest example, no doubt, is the Joker — pure chaos; no desire for power, control, or riches.

The reason, I dare say, I have come to be a loyal DC reader and am solidly on its side in the never-ending DC vs. Marvel debate is because of its villains. The villains were the reason I became such a huge fan of the Batman franchise because while Batman is a great hero, his character is molded by his villains.

The one type of villain DC does better than anyone else is the anti-villain. It is the villain whose cause may actually be considered righteous if they were not held to the same standard as their hero counterpart. It is the antagonist who is not purely evil, villains highlighted in the last few months during the Forever Evil crossover series.

After relaunching its universe is 2011 with the New 52, DC Comics is not necessarily relaunching it again, but reshaping it. Essentially, whatever the DC Universe looks like after the Forever Evil series (and I am excited to read the final chapter of this story) it is not exactly going to be the DC Universe fans grew up with. Then again, the New 52 universe isn’t entirely that, either.

One character that has already played a notable role in the reshaping of the universe is one of DC’s best anti-villains: Sinestro.

During the events of Green Lantern #20, a brilliantly-written end to Geoff Johns’ run on the title, Thaal Sinestro uses the powers of Parallax to not only fight the First Lantern — one of the greatest threats ring-bearers have had to face — but to go into exile where he would then release its powers. Despite how horribly the Green Lantern movie reduced Parallax, it is one of DC’s greatest antagonistic forces.

The Green Lantern issue will be remembered for many reasons, but the scene that will likely stick out most in the minds of fans is one particular exchange between Hal Jordan and Sinestro before they part ways:

Hal Jordan: I can’t… I can’t just let you go.

Sinestro: Before I release Parallax, I will use his power to take me far from here. I will leave you forever. But, before I do… you were going to ask me a question. Long ago, when we were trapped on Ysmault and we both believed we’d die. But you never did.

Hal Jordan: Were we ever truly friends?

Sinestro: That’s the tragedy of all this, Jordan. Hal. We’ll always be friends.

The relationship between Jordan and Sinestro was never black and white, and neither was Sinestro’s role in the DC Universe. Sinestro returned in the Forever Evil crossover series when Batman attempts to use a Sinestro Corps ring to fight Power Ring. In many ways, Forever Evil separates the villains who are truly evil and those who truly believe their cause is righteous or are just not completely evil.

Sinestro #1 opens with Sinestro powerless and exiled in forgotten space. He is found by Lyssa Drak, a Sinestro Corps member and keeper of the Book of Parallax, a record of the Sinestro Corps, along with other secrets. Drak was one of Sinestro’s first recruits into the Sinestro Corps and, according to Sinestro, “the most insane.” In the past, Drak would have the Book of Parallax chained to her wrist by yellow energy (believed to be from Sinestro). However, the book was destroyed — sort of.

The same book that revealed to Sinestro that the Guardians planned to replace the Green Lantern Corps with what was called the “Third Army,” reveals that there is a growing force of anti-emotion spreading throughout the universe and Sinestro is needed to stop it. While Sinestro initially refuses to come out of exile, telling Drak to “let the universe beg the Green Lanterns for protection,” she reveals another secret that almost immediately changes his mind.

No spoilers here, but if issue one is any indication of what to expect from the title, it is going to be an excellent storyline to follow.

With new purpose guiding him, Sinestro will need the help of his corps, the corps he abandoned to live in exile and is now in the command of Arkillo, Sinestro’s second-in-command, who has no desire to relinquish his control over the yellow ring-bearers. The situation is complicated enough as it is, but there is one more twist at the end to get the title off to a great start.

Not all ‘Gun Free Zones’ are Equal

On IVN this week, there was a very well-written article from Wendy Innes, a regular contributor to the network, about the irony that military bases are “gun free zones.” The article was written in response to the most recent shooting at Fort Hood, located in Killeen, TX.

While the investigation is ongoing, many are wondering just why it is that America’s military bases are so-called “gun free zones.” It seems incredibly counter-intuitive to say that we, as a nation, trust these men and women to handle weapons in order to defend the country and carry out the mission they are given, but they can’t be trusted to carry a weapon in accordance with their constitutional rights at home.

“The decision to make military bases ‘gun free’ was one of Bill Clinton’s first acts as president in March of 1993, in order to reduce violent crime on board military installations,” said military disability attorney John B. Gately. How effective the policy has been at reducing violent crime is drawn into question given the on-going sexual assault crisis in the military as well as the recent rash of shootings on military bases and one Navy ship.

After nearly 13 years of continuous combat, stories of soldiers coming home with broken bodies and broken minds are all too common and make mental illness the easy scapegoat when tragedies occur, followed quickly by the “blame the gun” ideology. But these high profile shootings seem to have increased just over the last 5 years.

Read the full article here.

Shootings at Fort Hood, the Navy Yard in Virginia, and other military installations have sparked a debate over whether or not military bases and installations should be “gun free zones.” However, the mistake that is often made in this debate is to treat all “gun free zones” like they are equal.

The article above does an excellent job at focusing specifically on military installations, but IVN is all about going beyond the headlines and standard, recycled talking points that people only see from most media outlets. This honest discussion on topics like guns and gun policy in America, however, is not seen on other networks.

There are several gun rights activists who want to do away with “gun free zones” completely, treating them like they are all the same. The exact same talking points were used after Aurora, Sandy Hook, Fort Hood, the Navy Yard, and pretty much every mass shooting that has happened across the nation over the last few years. However, schools are not the same as military bases. Movie theaters are not the same as military bases.

If we are to examine eliminating the “gun free” status of military installations then we can’t make the mistake of treating the debate like it is the same as talking about the “gun free” status of elementary schools or any civilian location.

There is a good reason for schools to remain “gun free zones,” just like there is good reason to keep public locations where people are packed together like cattle for multiple hours, like a movie theater or sports arena/stadium, “gun free zones.” Most civilians do not have proper response training for crisis situations, including most people with concealed handgun licenses (CHLs).

CHLs do not mean an individual is prepared to act in the very, very remote chance they are present when a lone gunman or group of gunmen open fire in a public place. People have this image of the civilian hero who pulls out his gun to save the day, but chances are they would put more people at risk in a close-quarter situation than they would save. That is the simple truth most law enforcement professionals try to explain to people.

Military bases, however, are different. We are talking about trained soldiers who are taught how to respond in a situation where they suddenly come under fire. This type of response training would not only benefit them in a combat zone, but in a situation like the two shootings at Fort Hood. There is an argument to make to allow soldiers who have been licensed by the state to carry concealed handguns to be allowed to do so in military installations.

There is also a matter of security. How is it that a troubled individual was able to get a gun on what is already supposed to be a secure location after said location was the scene of a mass shooting incident a few years before? It seems that looking further into the security issue and making improvements would also be something to consider. After all, no one can open fire on an installation if they can’t get a gun into it.

Silicon Valley: The Smart New HBO Comedy No One is Talking About

Ok. To be fair. It is not that no one is talking about the show. If you Google “Silicon Valley,” you will see plenty of reviews, but it is not likely a show your friends are talking about on social media or will follow the conversation starter, “Did you catch the latest episode of ___” at school or work Monday morning. Silicon Valley is a well-written comedy that is forced to dwell in the monstrous shadow of Game of Thrones.

For those who have not watched the series premiere of Silicon Valley, log on to HBO Go and check it out. It is not going to be a comedy that will appeal to everyone, but it may be the perfect comedy for the millennial generation.

The show was created by Mike Judge, who brought us Beavis and Butt-head, King of the Hill, Office Space, Idiocracy, and Extract. Fans of these shows and movies should give the show a chance at the very least because there is a good chance they will enjoy this show too. Unfortunately, this may be the latest smart comedy HBO cancels well before its time because it is not going to have violence and sex in it, and that is what the audience wants.

Seriously. Who doesn’t like Game of Thrones? I love the show. Several members of my family love the show. It seems everyone I am friends with on Facebook loves the show. It has everything the average TV audience wants. It is a dark, high-drama thrill ride with violence, sex, scandal, more violence, and even more sex. It’s got dragons, zombies, dark magic, and plenty of twists and betrayals. How can a show compete with that unless the show in question caters to the same audience?

Smart sitcoms simply don’t do well on the small screen. It doesn’t matter if it is network television, cable networks, or online video streaming services, shows like Silicon Valley will have a specific fan base, but will be cancelled because they don’t get the ratings the network wants them to get. Unless a sitcom follows the same formula as shows like Modern Family, it is not going to take off with the average TV audience.

It is a shame, too, because Silicon Valley seems like it is going to be a good satirical comedy. It is perfect for a generation that has as much of an entrepreneurial spirit as previous generations, but as the labor market has changed, so has the focus of how to make it big in America. Who are the icons of these aspiring young entrepreneurs? They are the Mark Zuckerbergs of the world. They are the young billionaires who dropped out of college, but made it rich in the tech industry by introducing the right idea at the right time.

Young people go to Silicon Valley thinking it is going to be their golden ticket to the chocolate factory. But, what do they encounter when they get there? It is a culture of, as Judge put it, “true believers in something, and I don’t know what it was.” The show depicts the environment as cult-like and an enemy of higher academia. Judge worked in Silicon Valley briefly, but was turned off by the prevailing culture and quit his job in less than 3 months.

Judge’s experience in Silicon Valley, however, gave him all the material he needed to create his new show. As I said before, if you like the work of Mike Judge, check out Silicon Valley. However, it certainly is not be a show that will appeal to everyone. People will either love it or will not get it.

New Captain America Movie Takes On Government Spying, Targeted Killings

The creators of the film intentionally raise a moral issue with modern U.S. foreign policy: We must take out our enemies before they take us out.

“The question is where do you stop?” Director Joe Russo asked. “If there are 100 people we can kill to make us safer, do we do it? What if we find out there’s 1,000? What if we find out there’s 10,000? What if it’s a million? At what point do you stop?”

The lingering question, which the movie addresses head-on, is how much freedom are we willing to give up to feel safe? And, at what point have we sacrificed everything America is supposed to stand for?

Read the full article here.

If the goal was to create a political thriller, which Marvel wanted, then there is arguably no issue that should cause more anxiety among the populous than infringements on civil liberties by the U.S. government. Captain America: The Winter Soldier highlights the modern U.S. foreign policy of taking its enemies out before its enemies take us out, which raises some obvious moral questions.

What if government officials decided that by taking out a million people, America could be safer? It doesn’t matter if the people in question are proven threats to national and global security or that they are American citizens who are guaranteed certain legal rights by the U.S. Constitution — rights that are supposed to promote a system where people are innocent until proven guilty. What if an enhanced computer system was in place that used a certain algorithm to not only determine potential threats, but then used unmanned aerial vehicles to take these targets without due process and with zero accountability?

The questions posed by Russo are also raised in the movie Swordfish, in which John Travolta’s character gives a similar hypothetical scenario to Hugh Jackman. John Travolta plays a counter-terrorist in a top secret government operation to thwart future threats to the United States through preemptive measures designed to spread fear so no one would even think of attacking the U.S.

Stanley (Jackman): How can you justify all this?

Gabriel (Travolta): You’re not looking at the big picture Stan. Here’s a scenario. You have the power to cure all the world’s diseases, but the price for this is that you must kill a single innocent child, could you kill that child Stanley?

Stanley: No.

Gabriel: You disappoint me; it’s the greatest good.

Stanley: Well how about 10 innocents?

Gabriel: Now you’re gettin’ it. How about a hundred? How about a THOUSAND? Not to save the world, but to preserve our way of life.

Stanley: No man has the right to make that decision; you’re no different from any other terrorist.

Gabriel: No, you’re wrong Stanley. Thousands die every day for no reason at all. Where’s your bleeding heart for them? You give your 20 dollars to Greenpeace every year thinking you’re changing the world? What countries will harbor terrorists when they realize the consequences of what I’ll do?

Captain America: The Winter Soldier is not the first movie to highlight the moral concerns with using extreme preemptive tactics to maintain security, but it may bring the issue to the attention of a much larger audience.

Films are a form of entertainment, but they are also a form of art and communication. They are a different medium of expression and speech. When the media doesn’t talk about these issues, no one cares. So why can’t movies pick up the slack?

The problem is the common response will be: it is just a movie. The storyline was founded on the biggest civil liberties and foreign policy issues to arise in the last few years: government spying, data collection, targeted drone strikes, and kill lists, but most people will not look any deeper into the movie than they want to. People go to movies to be entertained — to escape reality.

Still, the parallels are there and the question people should take away from the film is, how much freedom are they willing to give up to feel safe? In a post 9/11 world we have seen numerous examples of the government sacrificing individual rights and liberties in the name of national security. Yet, the only question the mainstream media wants to ask is if people like Edward Snowden are heroes or traitors.

There is absolutely no way of knowing how far the government is willing to go if the American people are kept uninformed of its actions.