Gary Jackson

The Secret Act of Reading a Comic

(After Auden)
The old comics were never wrong.
Right always defended
by the hero – polished like Adonis.
In one moment Thor is paused
in flight towards his foe,
the motion lines steadying
his resolve as he hurtles
ever closer. The next moment
Mjolnir, his mystical hammer, slams
against the Black Knight’s helmet
with a thwack in red letters –
emulating pain, as Thor announces
every move in white bubbles.
These are treats, delicious twenty-two-page
snacks we swallow, never questioning
the action between the panels’ gutters
and how similar that world bleeds
into our own. Take, for example,
Avengers #4 where we see
the final days of World War II.
Captain America and his sidekick
Bucky chase a runaway plane.
As they grab hold, the plane explodes.
Cap yells No! cuing the combustion
of smoke and flame. The next panel
flashes forward twenty years. We see
Cap preserved in a glacier, found
by Iron Man, Giant Man and the others.
Hail the returning hero.
But what we don’t see
before the miraculous resurrection
is Cap losing his grip on the plane,
falling and helpless
to watch Bucky
fragment into pieces.
And how below, the Allies carried on,
killing Nazis, failing
to notice the body wrapped
in the American flag, dropping
into the frigid ocean behind.

Gary Jackson
“The Secret Act of Reading a Comic” is from Missing You, Metropolis (Graywolf Press, 2010), and first appeared in The Laurel Review, vol 44, issue 1.