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  • Domino’s Philosophy of Luck: A Bataillean Reading*
  • Troy Michael Bordun

Marvel Comics’ Neena Thurman, a.k.a. Domino, is unique among the mutants in the X-Universe for her supernatural ability to bring about personal good fortune. This good luck, however, cannot be willed into existence. Instead, she must throw herself into dangerous, life-threatening scenarios and trust that the odds will turn in her favour.

Gail Simone (writer), David Baldeón (artist), Michael Shelfer (artist), and Jesus Aburtov’s (colour artist) Domino (2018–19) takes the titular character’s supernatural power as a central theme. Within the two volumes (Volume 1: Killer Instinct, issues #1–6, and Volume 2: Soldier of Fortune, Annual #1 and issues #7–10, respectively), Domino reflects on fortuity and death and, through my intervention here, develops philosophical themes that echo the tenets of Existentialism, particularly in the works of French philosopher Georges Bataille. I am not the first scholar and comics fan to suggest that the X-Universe and Existentialism go hand-in-hand (Housel 85–98; Kavaldo 35–49; Samuelson 105–114; Thompson 299–310), but my aim is not to demonstrate how Domino exhibits the traits of a Bataillean heroine.1 Instead, I propose a comparative approach that combines the story of the fictional character and arguments by the twentieth-century philosopher so that we can engage with core ontological and ethical questions. For Earl Miner, “[c]omparison is feasible when presumptively or formally identical topics, conditions, or elements are identified. Of course what is presumptively but not actually identical soon betrays difference. With tact and luck, however, we may find the difference just great enough to provide interest, and the presumed identity strong enough to keep the comparison just” (qtd. in Brown 72). In short, I will argue that Domino is an Existentialist hero who practices a philosophy of luck by experimenting with her relationship to the world, selfhood, and [End Page 337] others. Regarding the latter, when good luck favours her, expending energies gloriously in battle produces intense friendships and happiness for Domino.

The following article provides interpretive remarks about Domino and its latent philosophical stakes while also refining Bataille’s onto-ethical theory, i.e., there is no ethical theory without ontological inquiry. By unraveling Domino’s mutant abilities alongside her reflections about chance, life, and mortality, Domino poses questions that are central to onto-ethical inquiry, each of which I tackle in separate sections: does the universe give a damn about our existence and, if it does not, what are the forces that we must contend with to exercise our (perhaps limited) free will? What makes a unique being, what factors contribute to personal identity and, if a small piece is taken away, is that person still the identical person they were before? And how do others help us determine who we are and how we collectively inhabit the world?

“Come Play Domino” : Gail Simone, David Baldeón, Michael Shelfer, and Jesus Aburtov’s Domino (2018–19)2

Before answering these questions, it would be helpful to know how Simone et al. depict the character and her powers, as well as the story arcs of the two published volumes.3 First, Domino’s pale skin and black marking around her left eye are unmistakable, setting her apart aesthetically from the other mutants in the X-Universe. Domino is cheeky, intelligent, brave, a good friend, and a strong leader. She aspires to live up to these traits; thus, her struggles, personal and external, are additional efforts to maintain those virtues. Simone et al.’s Domino also provides the character with a detailed backstory and a set of all-female teammates, both of which are discussed in detail later in the article.4

Harnessing the power of good luck and managing her good luck power is a key theme in Simone et al.’s Domino series. Chance and luck are unpredictable; thus, Domino’s power produces unpredictable consequences. Domino relies on good fortune in life-threatening situations, but exactly how the universe will benefit her-or prevent her from losing her life-is as surprising for the...