NR Digital

Cosmic Comics

by Ross Douthat

In eternity you can only become more like yourself. From Aquinas to C. S. Lewis, this insight has played a crucial role in explaining the justice of eternal damnation. It also may help explain the trajectory of the two major superhero franchises, the Marvel extended universe and the DC world of Gotham and Metropolis, as their sequels and spinoffs accumulate in numbers that approach infinity.

DC and Marvel began with different approaches to the superhero genre and different ways of translating the strange hermetic worlds of their comic books to the big screen and mass audiences, and those differences have become more exaggerated with the insane multiplication of installments. And as time bends either toward eternity or toward the fifth Aquaman sequel, whichever arrives first, each brand seems destined to be gradually distilled into the ne plus ultra of its approach, the essential Marvel or DC movie, with nothing within its two-hour running time that doesn’t fit the architecture chosen at the franchise’s beginning.

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