In Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD, Joss Whedon gets to tell the story of the unsung hero of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. After that crazy first season, though, the show has had little connection with the movies. The agents have been facing their own threats that still originated in the comics.
The new season has Ghost Rider. In the comics, he’s a demonic skeleton on a flaming motorcycle who serves vengeance to those who deserve it. Like Lucifer on that other TV show that just returned, the Rider punishes the wicked in a way that could be taken as heroic or villainous. Judeo-Christian mythology and moral ambiguity: my kind of content.
Ghost Rider’s vengeance is different from Black Panther or the K-drama Arth wrote about a while back. He doesn’t target those who personally wronged him; maybe he initially took the job to do that, but then he kept going. He goes after sinners who deserve more punishment than they’re likely to get, either because the system is flawed or some authority behind his pyro powers says they deserve more. It’s a lot like Daredevil’s vigilante philosophy.
Sin deserves punishment, of course, but these superheroes force us to ask whether they should take justice into their own hands just because they can. This goes beyond forgiving those who have trespassed against us. Do we have faith that God will punish the wicked, even if the justice system doesn’t seem to be doing enough?
Recently, here in the real world, overzealous people have been attacking and killing policemen in retribution for certain lives being taken possibly in error. Others think talking about it on social media counts as activism. But what are their motivations, really? Morality or craving attention? We want to do it because it’s the right thing to do, but sometimes we should let the perfect and omnipotent expert handle it.
Ghost Rider, Daredevil, and Lucifer all kind of claim to be following a higher authority when they punish sinners. But even Matt Murdock chooses the image of the devil. Maybe he knows that outright claiming to do God’s work wouldn’t fly with God in this case.
It looks like SHIELD is also dealing with magic in preparation for Sherlock vs Hannibal. Isaac and I will probably have more to say about that. Stay tuned.