Emergency and bare life
in Sovereignty and superheroes
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This chapter continues to interrogate a problem emerging out of the previous two chapters on law and violence, and the friend and enemy distinction, namely the capacity the sovereign has to suspend the law and declare a state of emergency when faced with an internal or external threat. Superheroes live in a permanent state of emergency so they are especially good for analysing this topic. It importantly addresses the extra-legal aspect of superhero activities to show why they are not vigilantes. Related to this is the creation of what Agamben has called ‘bare life’, the point when legal protections are lifted and people can be exposed to the full force of sovereign violence. This is explored in relation to the long story in Marvel that led to Norman Osborne heading the Avengers, and stories about Captain America, Hulk and Wolverine that exemplify the sovereign ban.

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