Mister Terrific’s T-Spheres just quoted the philosopher Spinoza in the middle of Strange Adventures, suggesting buried truths about the war on Rann.
Warning: the following contains spoilers for Strange Adventures # 8 by Tom King, Mitch Gerads, Evan “Doc” Shaner and Clayton Cowles, out now.
In Strange adventures, Mister Terrific has been investigating the war crimes committed by the people of Rann against another alien race known as the Pykkts, discovering the role of Adam Strange in this war. The Pykkts were nearly wiped out, but when they attack Earth, the narrative of victims and perpetrators becomes difficult to distinguish.
Throughout the series, Mister Terrific (one of the smartest men in the world) has kept his mind sharp by having his T-spheres question him about various trivia. One of those trivia might have hinted at the darkest secrets of the entire war. As the Pykkts invade Earth, Mister Terrific continues to be interrogated by his T-sphees during the fight. The T-spheres provides a quote, and while Terrific tries to correctly identify who wrote it, he fights one of the Pykkts. This causes the answer to be stretched, which signifies the importance of the line.
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The quote says, “In practical life we are obliged to follow what is most probable; in speculative life we are obliged to follow the truth.” The line was written by the 17th century Jewish philosopher Baruch Spinoza as part of his personal correspondence with his friend Hugo Boxel, who had asked him if Spinoza believed in ghosts. It is incredibly significant that Mister Terrific, who has been haunting the ghosts of the Pykkt-Rann War, receives a quote on the nature of what is probable versus what is true.
Tom King’s writings frequently quote great philosophers and poets to emphasize themes in his scripts. Strange adventures questions how the “speculative life” seen in pulp science fiction adventure stories relates to “practical life” (ie, “real life”). The adventures of Adam Strange killing aliens in a foreign world reproduce the “adventures” of European colonizers who kill indigenous peoples. Chasing after the ghosts of war requires one to expose the tragedies whose truths were buried.
Fighting a Pykkt in the confines of a crashed spaceship, Terrific identifies the quote by saying: “Spinoza. Letter to Hugo Boxel. 1674.” It takes him two pages to say this while drawing the line between hits. Terrific takes the imprisoned Pykkt for questioning.
The invasion force destroyed the American city of Phoenix, Arizona. When Terrific asks why they specifically targeted Phoenix when there were a total of eight cities exposed by breaches in Earth’s defenses, the captured alien responds with a name: Adam Strange. Terrific then says that he has investigated what happened on Rann, and that “Adam Strange was a good man who led a good war.”
Furious, the Pykkt rebukes this as a lie, yelling, “Adam Strange killed my people without honor or dignity! Innocents were detained! Prisoners! Women! Children! … There was no war against Rann! There was only genocide! ” ! “
This heartbreaking scene echoes another “interrogation” in the same issue, a flashback to when Adam Strange was brought in to interrogate a captured Pykkt. He was spending time with his daughter when he received the call and (although he rarely saw her) he abandoned her to see the captive in chains. Strange spoke briefly to the prisoner in his own language before killing him with a ray gun shot to the head. This calls into question Terrific’s claim that Strange is a “good man who leads a good war.”
The truth of what happened in this genocidal war has been buried by propaganda. Similarly, Adam Strange’s daughter has disappeared in equally dark events. All aspects of the Rannian war are obfuscated. The Pykkts have been practically annihilated, their honorable culture destroyed. But the ghosts of the past continue to haunt those who live in the present. As Spinoza’s words suggest, Mister Terrific may look at what is likely (that is, the convenient propaganda that Strange and the Rannians have spun on their victory), but the truth will not remain buried, and the dead have already returned in the shape. of this new invasion force.
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