Climate Change Should Not Exist in the Marvel Universe - So Why Does It?

doctor doom marvel climate change

Superhero comics often require a certain suspension of disbelief. Even beyond believing someone can fly or stop bullets with their mind, comic readers often need to proceed under the conceit that places like the Marvel Universe continue to be similar to our world, even though they are rife with impossible science, magic and other assorted super powers. However, Doctor Doom #1 recently touched on a major taboo in the Marvel Universe that may be a push too far for some readers: global warming.

The new solo series, which focuses on Marvel's greatest villain, starts by announcing that the universe's resident geniuses, Tony Stark and Reed Richards, have found the most comic book solution to global warming ever created. Their fix involves opening a black hole on the moon, which will serve as a dumping ground for human waste of all descriptions, effectively solving the problems of climate change and global warming on Earth.

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Understandably, this begs the question why the geniuses and superheroes that abound in the Marvel Universe never bothered to solve such a major issue facing the planet previously. Obviously, it's important to invent some new flying robot suit or trans-dimensional whizzbang to face whatever new villain of the week is threatening the world, but surely the global issue of a faceless enemy that threatens the population would take priority.

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Solving such major issues is not a topic Marvel entirely shies away from, but often the solutions are temporary or tied to some antagonistic force that puts the price too high. In the Avengers vs. X-Men event, for example, the omnipotent Phoenix Force famously split between five different X-Men, allowing them to take over the world and solve several major world problems. They ended world hunger and war, and even provided free limitless energy that would address the global warming problem on its own. Unfortunately, they were the "bad guys."

After defeating the Phoenix Five and winning the freedom of all nations back from their hands, there were no efforts made to address the same problems the god-mutants were successful at solving. Sorry starving nations! Sorry casualties of war! Sorry anybody living in coastal cities in 20 years! We'll get around to putting a black hole on the moon eventually.

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Namor Phoenix Five Destruction of Wakanda revealing costumes

From a meta-textual perspective, it's obvious why these problems don't get solved. Part of the appeal of the Marvel Universe is its similarity to our own, despite the capes and cowls. If the world were transformed into a utopia it would be all the more difficult to cook up the conflict every story requires, and it would make the citizens of Marvel all the more distant and unrelatable from our real world lives.

However, in-universe, it's hard to make the logic work, and it's an issue worth addressing. Too often the only time these issues come up are in stories similar to the Phoenix Five, where the problem's solutions are only possible at the cost of freedom or some other moral quandary that is unacceptable. Over time, that either conveys that the problems are too big for even superheroes to solve (which is immensely depressing) or that the superheroes themselves just don't take the problems seriously (which is hard to believe for such moral paragons).

Agent Zero Doctor Doom

Even in the Doctor Doom solo that recently touched on the issue, the black hole solution is one the Latverian leader has doubts about from the outset, doubts which are confirmed by the issue's end. A band of terrorists (touting a Latverian flag) attack the moon base and kill 3,000 people. The solution to global warming was introduced and immediately complicated in the span of a single issue, and it's probably safe to say the solution will not be revisited by the series' end.

So how should real world issues like climate change be addressed in the context of the Marvel Universe? If the problem is that there are several Marvel characters who could solve real-world global issues but never do, then the best course of action would be to actually address that delinquency, rather than continually ignore it. For the most part, Marvel wants to have its cake and eat it, too. Storytellers want to have super geniuses and omnipotent gods flying around in a world that remains similar to our own, in which case, they should just address why they never solve these problems and the tension between the two extremes evaporates.

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Marvel Universe

Stories could also have the heroes acknowledge that many of these issues are ones non-powered people of world are better off figuring out solutions for on their own, rather than opting for some godly quick fix. Whether it's through some window into the future Reed opens up or advanced calculations Tony crunches, heroes could acknowledge that problems like climate change are indeed serious, but also ones that can't disappear with the wave of a wand. It keeps their world relatable, recognizes the gravity of such issues without totally ignoring them, and shows that these heroes that stand as moral ideals are actually justified in their position.

Then again, maybe the ideal world that Marvel represents is just that, and the heroes of Earth have bigger, more cosmic fish to fry... like Galactus looking for a snack. Perhaps the fantastic should simply deal with the fantastic.

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