The following contains spoilers for Blood Syndicate #1, on sale now from DC Comics.
Superheroes are always trying to solve world-ending threats and fight evil in any form, wherever it may pop up. But sometimes, you can’t fight evil by punching hard enough, and creating lasting change can’t always be done with superpowers.
This is exactly what Icon and Rocket discover when they attempt to fight the influence of illegal drugs in their hometown Dakota City. While they have been able to take down major local and global drug operations, it’s hard to say whether the city has improved. In fact, for some people, Dakota City has become an even more dangerous place.
In Blood Syndicate #1 (by Geoffrey Thorne, ChrisCross, Juan Castro, and Will Quintana), Rolando came back to Dakota City after serving a tour in the military. Back home, he met his friend Carlos who caught him up on what’s been happening while he’s been gone. He told Rolando about the appearance of Icon and Rocket and how they’ve cleared up Dakota City’s biggest drug gangs. But while that sounds like great news, it meant that just about anyone with guns and a gang was trying to rule the drug trade.
The result is much more violence in public with Rolando and Carlos witnessing gunfire attacks twice in one day. The second attack was towards the community center Carlos set up to directly counteract the effects of violence towards everyday citizens, people that he feels Icon and Rocket haven’t been paying any attention to. But the truth might be a little more complicated than that.
The complexity of fighting illegal drugs was acknowledged in Icon & Rocket: Season One (by Reginald Hudlin, Doug Braithwaite, Scott Hanna, and Andrew Currie) by Icon even before he decided to tackle the issue. In Issue #1, he acknowledged that there will always be someone selling drugs to make money and someone buying drugs to escape negative feelings. And after defeating global drug cartels, he talked about removing the reasons people want drugs in the first place and providing rehabilitation for those who want to get clean. Unfortunately, he isn’t shown taking steps towards those goals throughout any part of the DC Universe, and that lack of progress is definitely noticed by citizens of Dakota City like Carlos.
Icon and Rocket’s attempt at helping Dakota City has only proved that even when superheroes do good things, they can make things worse. But it also shows the importance of using social and economic solutions when attempting to fix social and economic problems. Just like how you would use physical force to fight criminals, and magical force to fight demons, it makes sense to use economic and social justice to fight the illegal drug trade.
These kinds of problems aren’t usually addressed in comics, especially with superheroes. This could explain why Icon and Rocket might have failed at their goals. But it does give the opportunity for other heroes to learn from them and try a different approach, like the way Carlos opened a community center. We’ve even seen attempts at social change in more mainstream comics, with Nightwing setting up a charity fund, Jon Kent protesting against climate change, and the Tower being built as a modern attempt at rehabilitation in Gotham City. Creating real lasting change is more complicated than beating bad guys, but if superheroes are able to do it, then they truly deserve to be called super.
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