Friday, October 07, 2005

The Morality Of Wonder Woman

This is a post I made at another message board, in regards to the moral question posed by Wonder Woman's killing of Maxwell Lord in issue #119. It has been somewhat editied for context, but not for content.

A recap, for those not reading Wonder Woman, Adventures of Superman, and The Omac Project -

Maxwell Lord, former manager of the Justice League, is now in control of the international espionage agency Checkmate. He had abused the agency to spy on Metahumans around the world, and had compiled a complete dossier on every one of them, with the help of a sattelite, Brother I, that he stole from you guessed it: Batman. One person discovered this in time, Ted Kord, the Blue Beetle, an old friend of Max's. Max then promptly killed Ted. Things got even crazier when Max began targeting metahumans for termination using living machines called Omacs, controlled by the sattelite. The Justice League was fast on the trail of discovering who was pulling the strings of the Omacs when Max played his trump card - he had brainwashed Superman and was in complete control of him. Superman's first order was to take out the League's detective, and Superman beat Batman within an inch of his life. He was stopped, barely, by the league and before Superman could be contained, Max took control again and called Superman back to him. The only one who could stop him was Wonder Woman, and they proceeded to have the most gruesome Superman/Wonder Woman fight ever put to ink and paper. Wonder Woman was able to break Max's control over Superman for a moment, using the Lasso of Truth, but Max pointed out, she "couldn't keep me in this lasso forever! As soon as I'm free he'll be mine again." Faced with this propect, Wonder Woman snapped his neck, killing him. This raised the question - did she do the right thing?

I think Wonder Woman did exactly the right thing.

First I feel I should address the idea of non-lethal superheroes vs lethal ones.

I've found that there's a pretty black and white division in comics as far as characters who kill go: either they're like Superman, who are against killing an enemy under any circumstances what so ever, or they're the Wolverine and Punisher characters, who almost seem to kill regardless of the situation. This has to do a great deal, I feel, with the way comics matured. Kept in pre-adolescence by our own comics McCarthy Era, and the implementation of The Comics Code, it wasn't until the eighties when things became "grim and gritty", and we skipped over adolescence as a form and hopped right into this faux adult hood, where everything was over-sexed and over-violenced. With the exception of very early Steve Ditko The Question stories, Wonder Woman is the first character I've seen take a very well thought out approach to killing (And even in the early Question stories, the character absolved himself of any responsibility thanks to his very unusual ethical code). When the threat is big enough, and someone, in this case a hero, is in the position to act to prevent that threat from ever rearing up again, the only moral or ethical thing to do is to kill.

When thinking about Wonder Woman herself, we have to remember that Diana is not a regular person who was bitten by a radioactive spider, or a regular person who uses a magic word to become super. She’s unlike Superman, too, who isn't from Earth but was still raised by the all-American family. Diana was brought up in a culture completely removed from almost any other on Earth, with different views on love, religion, and yes, the sanctity of life. They are warriors, primarily, and while I'm sure life is respected on Paradise Island, I doubt the concept of having to take a life in battle was taboo. If there's no other choice to reach victory in battle (and why fight if it's not a matter of life-and-death anyway?), then killing is wholly acceptable.

Wonder Woman has made these views clear on several occasions in recent comics. Her advice to Superman about how to handle Ruin was to "put him down" over in Adventures of Superman. And in her own book, earlier this year, she fought a Medusa threatening to turn an entire world to stone, and faced with a mass murderer, Diana beheaded her. Medusa may have looked like a monster, but she was no less alive than Max Lord. No one questioned the nature of her death.

Maxwell Lord had the single most powerful being on earth, and he made him a weapon. This weapon was not only a living being, not only one of Diana's closest friends, but also the greatest hero the world has ever known. She had to stop him, and her options were to either take away the weapon, or keep Max from pulling the trigger ever again. Instead of killing or exiling Superman, the best option was to kill Max, take away his ability to hurt everyone ever again. The word EVERYONE is important here, because Max isn’t some crazed lunatic, who could simply kill a few people with his bare hands… he was using Superman in a way that could cause destruction on a level unimaginable to us, a death toll that would take years to count.

I’ve heard a lot of talk about putting Max in a coma, or mind-wiping him. Both of those options, in recent comics, have not worked out terribly well. Zoom II, over in The Flash, was in a coma for about a year before he got up and began tearing the Flash’s life apart again. There’s also the moral issue of putting someone forcibly into a coma, and how different from that is death if you never intend to let him or her awaken. As for option two, I don’t think I really need to do anything more than point to recent issues of JLA or almost any other DC title to show how well mind wiping works out.

I don’t think that Diana did this as a snap judgment. All of the other possibilities and options were considered, and killing him was the only one where she could be sure that the world was safe from Maxwell Lord. It’s easy to see her speed, her strength, and her flight, but one of Wonder Woman’s powers is to see with the wisdom of Athena. She made a decision, there is a panel in issue #119, where this all happens, where Wonder Woman looks at Max, makes the decision and does what needs to be done in the quickest most humane way possible, and she feels no guilt over it.

I’m sure there is a great deal of regret she feels. I’m sure it would have been easier to use one of those other options to stop Max, and it would have made her feel better. Wonder Woman doesn’t serve herself, she serves the world, and what was best for the world was for Maxwell Lord not to be in it. It could be argued that Batman’s views are incredibly selfish, considering the number of times he could have killed the Joker and saved hundreds of lives, but doesn’t in order to be able to sleep during the day.

Wonder Woman did the only moral, ethical thing she could do by killing Max Lord, and put the good of the world above her own feelings.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Wonder Woman's lasso could have mind controlled Max out of controlling Superman but DC removed that ability from the lasso in order to transition Diana into an anti-hero, which has now come to surface in the New 52. Would you feel the same way if DC had Batman, Green Lantern, or Flash kill Max Lord? DC dumps the dirty work in Diana's lap because they refuse to see the truth that Diana was an idealist like Superman, and the realist was Batman. Batman is the one who should be using lethal force. DC took a role model that stood for peace, love, reason, and compassion and turned her into their Wolverine. DC didn't really kill Max Lord or Medusa, they killed Wonder Woman.