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Is there room for subtlety in comic books? Part I

Here’s a key passage from a critique written by Darren about an X-men retrospective dedicated to “Operation Zero Tolerance”: “‘Operation Zero Tolerance’ is, in a word, blunt. With so many of the high-profile comics of the nineties, from both Marvel and DC, ‘subtlety’ is an alien concept. This is an X-Men comic where racial intolerance and prejudice are expressed through nothing short of attempted genocide. On the one hand, it’s very clearly the mutant prejudice idea pushed to its logical extreme. On the other hand, the notion of the United States government even passively condoning an attempted genocide feels like it robs the franchise of the social relevance which had made it so compelling and intriguing.”

But is subtlety really necessary? We’ve read parts of this saga and our biggest beef is that some events happen too fast and with rather tenuous links. But otherwise, it wasn’t a bad comic. (Darren, “X-Men: Operation Zero Tolerance (Review/Retrospective),” July 29, 2013,

A few months ago, Jozef Siroka, in a critique of “Man of Steel” went in the other direction: “From Christopher Nolan’s Batman and Daniel Craig’s James Bond, the idea of bringing back earth heroes who used to easily accommodate the fantastic—both witnesses and actors in a world that’s recognizable but entirely fictional—has been largely approved by the public and critics. Critics especially, who were often too quick to equate the realism of the new versions with their artistic quality. Agent 007 and the Black Knight act like adults, and so we, as adults, are grateful. [He adds:] The challenge is to organically integrate the presence of a supernatural character in the natural world.” (Jozef Siroka, «Man of Steel : contre le super-héros «réaliste », June 18, 2013,

For Siroka, the loss of fantasy comes at the price of a more realistic perspective. So we see that the playfulness of the comic form can become obscured by an overly cerebral approach.