Ruins

Ruins

If Marvel wanted to go for its bleakest TV show yet, this is the story to tackle. It’s ironic, as Warren Ellis intended Ruins to be a comedy, although it’s almost impossible to see how once you’ve read it.

First, some history. In 1994 Marvel released a four-issue limited series called Marvels, which features a Daily Bugle reporter exploring everyday life in a world of superheroes. It’s charming and light and shows the human side to this fantastic new world.

Ruins is the opposite story, set in an alternate universe where things aren’t going well. The government rules with an iron fist and superheroes aren’t allowed, prompting the Avengers to start as a secessionist movement. Iron Man gets killed by a grenade thrown by a National Guardsman. Black Panther is thrown in jail in San Francisco. The alien Kree live on a concentration camp in a nuclear test zone and are slowly dying from cancer. In short, it’s a world where heroes simply haven’t been allowed to be. The rub? Professor X is the American President presiding over all of this. And you thought Legion got dark…

We follow the reporter as he sees atrocity after atrocity being committed and while Ellis might have intended it to be light-hearted, it sure doesn’t feel this way. Case in point: the last words of the first comic, as spoken by our reporter after he literally stumbles over the bullet-riddled corpse of The Punisher are “Death is everywhere. It’s falling on us all. Let me find an answer before I go. Let me show them all how this happened. Please don’t let me die in this place.” Sheesh.

The Forever War

The Forever War

The title may not be appropriate anymore, as “The Forever War” has been used to describe the ongoing wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, but this book was influential like few others.

Joe Haldeman’s story about a war against an alien threat known only as the Taurans was written after his experience serving in the Vietnam War, and that explains why the combat scenes are so short, brutal, and ultimately pointless. It follows a group of space marines as they fight an impossibly long war that lasts well past any understanding why the conflict began in the first place, starting in 1997 and lasting until the 3000s.

The brilliance of this novel is in how authentic it is. Our ships are sent to the far reaches of space in order to fight an alien threat, but but due to time dilation years and years pass every trip they take even though they never age. Sometimes they end up in a fight with no clear idea what is going on, or completely outgunned because of advances in technology the aliens have made since their last encounter.

This could be the Battlestar Galactica follow-up we’ve all been waiting for, with plenty of human drama, space battles, and the crushing feeling of fighting a war for nothing.

MaddAddam-Trilogy

MaddAddam

Now that the floodgates have opened, who will be the one to adapt Margaret Atwood’s MaddAddam? What? Did you think that Atwood only had one dystopia in her? Please.

MaddAddam has actually been in the works for years, with news hitting a couple of years ago that HBO would adapt the entire trilogy of books: Oryx and Crake, The Year of the Flood, and MaddAddam. But even with Darren Aranofsky behind it, plans were recently dashed.

The difference between the two is that The Handmaid’s Tale is scarier because it’s more plausible. As you can see from many of the entries on this list, it’s the dystopias that start off slowly and take away your freedoms bit by bit that feel the most likely, because they have happened before in actual human history. Oryx and Crake is a more fantastical ruined world, but one that’s no less scary or compelling, and indeed, might be even more cinematic. In this world, things are ruined by corporations and scientists who have unleashed a plague upon the world that decimated the population. Translating Atwood’s frankly astonishing prose onto screen is always a pointless task, but if Handmaid’s Tale is as great as early word indicates, there could be hope for future adaptations.

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