A review of Matthew Johnson’s “Heroic Measures” in Irregular Verbs and Other Stories (ChiZine, 2014)
by Derek Newman-Stille
Superheroes inspire the imagination. They are larger than life. They are impossible. They are figures of immortality, defying the touch of death and aging. So, what happens when our superheroes age? What happens when their bodies begin to change?
Matthew Johnson explores superhero mortality in “Heroic Measures”, presenting readers with an aging superhero who seems remarkably similar to Superman (with dark-framed glasses, invulnerable skin, a little s-curl of hair on his forehead, a bald, wealthy adversary, and plucky former reporter for a partner). This superheroic figure has had what may be a stroke and is experiencing the shut-down of all of his bodily organs.
Doctors, in their compulsion to ‘fix’ whatever they see as ‘broken’ try to intervene in his health care, but their medical technology is no more able to pierce his skin than a speeding bullet would be. They admit that even if they could see into his body with X-Rays or a scalpel, they still wouldn’t know what was normal for his alien biology. This Super body is medically defiant and resistant, unable to be ‘fixed’. But, his body is also trying to constantly heal itself. He is suspended in a liminal space between healing and death, his organs healing themselves only to have others fail.
What happens when our Supermen age and approach death? What happens when these icons of seeming eternal youth and virility meet age, something that our society imbues with the imagery of loss and eventual death?
To discover more about Matthew Johnson, visit his website at http://zatrikion.blogspot.ca
To discover more about Irregular Verbs and Other Stories, visit ChiZine’s website at http://chizinepub.com/books/irregular-verbs