Nine Worlds Debrief: The Humanitarian Element: Superheroic Ethics – Heroism, compromise & the reality of intervening under fire

This is far more of a reading list than the last one. Most of the books here were covered in the panel but a couple didn’t come up and have occurred to me since. One note before we dive in; included here are Amazon and, where possible, Comixology links. Please, if you have a local comic store and you like them, order from them. They’ll love you for it.


ritualsRhapsody of Blood

The novel series Roz referenced. In the Rhapsody of Blood books, she explores the consequences not just of immortality and superhumanity but of the ethical dilemmas that go hand in hand with those two concepts. The concept of ‘With great power comes great responsibility’ is, as said in the panel, central here.

Amazon  Roz’s author page


books of doomBooks of Doom

The official biography of the greatest ruler Latveria ever had. Or the greatest villain the Fantastic Four ever faced. Or is it both?

Comixology Amazon



xenogenesisAstonishing X-Men:Xenogenesis

The storyline Hazel mentioned where the X-Men are called to a small African nation to work out just what’s causing a violently destructive wave of apparent mutations amongst newborns.

Amazon Comixology


carol volume 1

carol volume 2

Captain Marvel

The Kelly Sue DeConnick run that Roz and I touched on briefly. This is flat out one of my favorite series. Kelly Sue does an incredible job of getting inside Captain Marvel’s head and showing us that she’s a flawed, interesting, uncertain real person instead of the lingerie model/exposition device she was in the past. Compassionate, brutally honest and tackles a lot of the issues discussed in the panel head on.

Amazon-First series Amazon-Second series

Comixology-First series Comixology-Second Series


kamala volume 1

Ms. Marvel

Kamala Khan is the single greatest thing to happen to Marvel Comics since the turn of the century. At her core she’s a very similar character to Spider-Man; gifted, sweet, nerdy kid who gets powers. However, where Peter’s life is defined, a lot of the time, by tragedy, Kamala’s is defined by a frequently joyous struggle to balance her faith, her family and her powers. This is the best street level superhero book being published right now. Honest, compassionate, very funny and utterly unafraid to explore the difficulties it’s lead character faces. Absolutely essential.

Amazon Comixology


global frequency

Global Frequency

A book that puts the idea of humanitarianism and the price that can be paid by those on the ground front and center. Global Frequency has 1001 specialists. They could be your neighbour, they could be you. Their lives are completely normal until the odd looking phone they carry rings. When that happens, they know two things; the world is in danger and they’re one of the few people that can stop it. A vast sprint of ideas and comic styles written by Warren Ellis and illustrated by some of the best artists in the field. Endlessly humorous, dark, hopeful stuff.

Amazon Comixology



The book that started Ellis’ fascination with the price of humanitarian intervention. Stormwatch are the UN’s Crisis Intervention Unit, tasked with rescuing people from superhuman incidents and punching the incident itself in the head until it dies. A multi-national group, Stormwatch are what I was talking about in the panel when I referenced the heroes who ‘stand on the wall’. Complex, exuberant stuff with a flawed final act that does nothing to damage just how good the rest of it is.



the authorityThe Authority

The sequel to Stormwatch, The Authority explores the consequences of what starts off as enlightened humanitarian superhuman aid and turns into something darker and far more interesting. This is a fascinating, vastly variable, often hard to read book. David wasn’t kidding when he pointed out how crunchingly unsubtle the Mark Millar run is for a start. But if you can make it through the textual turbulence this is an interesting, brave, surprisingly cold book.

Amazon Comixology


letter 44 1Letter 44

This wasn’t covered in the panel but it’s another book that speaks to the big ethical issues that were. The 44th President of the US is given a letter by his predecessor on Inauguration Day. In it, the 43rd President confesses everything; there are aliens in the solar system. They’re building something. He thinks they’re hostile which is why he’s been a warmonger for eight years.

And the manned mission he sent to investigate the alien construct is due to arrive any day now.

Charles Soule’s script jumps between Earth and the mission to explore the consequences of political choice, the human cost of duty and isolation and how we cope with being far from home. It’s a vastly ambitious, vastly successful book and it’s an interesting, non-superheroic, take on what we looked at in the Panel.

Amazon Comixology


she hulkShe-Hulk

Charles Soule again, with a year long run that stands with Ms Marvel as one of the definitive runs to date of 21st Century Marvel. It’s a book focused entirely on Jen as a lawyer and, through that, the human consequences of living in the Marvel universe. An intellectual property dispute over Iron Man technology, a Latverian defector and the perils of networking are all explored in a book that’s endlessly funny, sweet and whip smart.

Amazon Comixology


There’s a ton of other stuff too, Ellis in particular is constantly circling back to the humanitarian consequences of innovation but that should keep you busy for a while. Now to go pitch that ‘Zenith as an oral history of Britain in the 1980s’ talk to Hazel for next year…


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