Punisher MAX: Butterfly (1 of 3)
I’ve been told I tend to ramble quite a bit in my book reviews, and that they’re consequently more interesting… so I thought I’d try doing one as pure train of thought. The “book” in question is the comic book titled “Punisher MAX: Butterfly.” Because this work is train of thought, there will be spoilers — so please be accordingly warned.
So… just finished the story, which was sent to me by a friend (thanks, Greg!) because it has a rendition of the story of Inanna’s Descent in it. In some ways the story has no surprises in it — it can’t, since it’s a Punisher comic book — but in other ways it’s very nicely done. I do wish the author had gotten Inanna’s story right, however. If that sloppy a version of the “descent” of Jesus was given, I imagine folks would be outraged. I quote it in its entirety here:
Well, one day Inanna decided to travel down to the Underworld. And she got really dressed up for the occasion, too. It was a pretty big deal.
But as she starts her journey, a gatekeeper explains to her that she must remove one item in her possession at every gate along the way, or else she may not pass. And so Inanna does exactly that. The result being, she is completely naked and defenseless by the time she reaches the heart of the Underworld.
At which point she is judged for her sins, killed, and hung on a meat-hook. Three days later, she’s improbably revived through a series of arcane Sumerian god politics. The End.
The speaker later comments, when asked why Inanna made her journey to the Underworld, that “[t]he tablets are unclear on that point.”
I found this all somewhat frustrating, since while the story of Inanna’s Descent is, as the speaker states, indeed about “spiritual development,” there are several inaccuracies which I feel lessen the story’s power and impact. For example, there is no mention that Inanna is a young goddess coming into the fullness of her power in her own right, or that she was traveling to the Underworld for the funeral of her brother-in-law, or that the goddess of the Underworld was her sister Ereshkigal. Also relevant is that it was simple hubris on Inanna’s part that caused Ereshkigal to slay her sister — read the story for yourself (try this link if the other one is dead), or better yet, check out the excellent translation and interpretation by Wolkstein & Kramer in their wonderful book Inanna, Queen of Heaven and Earth: Her Stories and Hymns from Sumer.
But to continue: Inanna’s revival was not “improbable” at all — she very specifically instructed Ninshubur, her sukkal (variously translated as her vizier or her higher consciousness), to wait three days, then go to Inanna’s relatives one after another in order to get one of them to revive her. Most perplexing to me was the complete lack of mention of Inanna’s triumphant ascent back to the upper world, full of new power that allowed her to send her uncaring husband to the Underworld in her place, since “No one ascends from the underworld unmarked. If Inanna wishes to return from the underworld, She must provide someone in her place” — and how she protected all those who loved her and grieved for her absence.
I find myself wondering interestedly how religious people would react were the story related to Butterfly that of Jesus, but told in a similar manner. Just for the speculative fun of it, let’s try it and see:
Well, one day Jesus decided to travel down to the Earth. And he got really dressed up for the occasion, too. It was a pretty big deal.
But as he starts his journey, a gatekeeper explains to him that he must remove his godliness for all the years on earth, or else he may not pass. And so Jesus does exactly that. The result being, he is completely human and defenseless by the time he reaches Earth.
At which point he is judged for his sins, tortured, murdered, hung on a cross, and sent to Hell. Three days later, he’s improbably revived through a series of arcane Jewish god politics. The End.
The speaker later comments, when asked why Jesus made his journey to the Earth, that “[t]he writings are unclear on that point.”
Hmm… okay, I think my original assessment stands: the story would have been more powerful if it were accurately related. It’s right on the verge of being insulting to the deity in question, as is, although I suspect the inaccuracies weren’t deliberately added, since Inanna’s Descent is unfortunately not a well-known story.