Thursday, November 26, 2015

Marvel's "Civil War" (the comic)

This movie trailer just dropped.  It looks great.  I am going to talk about the god awful comic that inspired the movie.
I have a theory, the reason most smart people in the Marvel Universe (and comics in general) tend to be scientists rather than lawyers is simply because in comics you can make up bull shit gibberish and call it science, you can't make up law and everyone just say, “Yeah, I can see how that might pass and spike controversy”.
Unfortunately Marvel Comics back in 2006 decided to base one of the biggest events on the decade around a legal misunderstanding… and it made not a lick of sense.  After a number of incidents relating to superhero misconduct (for instance, the Hulk destroyed a good amount of Las Vegas while being mind-controlled, and Star Fox date raped a woman and fled the country) the last straw came in a very stupid way.
A group of young superheroes called The New Warriors found a group of escaped super villains hiding out in Connecticut.  What they should have done is kept their distance, formulate a plan, and call for back up if they needed it, one problem though, the team was being followed around by a camera crew because they were part of a superhero reality show akin to “Cops”.  The bad guys saw them, a fight broke out, and one of the villains, named Nitro, caused an explosion that killed hundreds of people including dozens of children.  Several of the heroes died as well.  This was the 9/11 of the Marvel universe and prompted a change in how the government interacted with the heroes.  All the superheroes now needed a license to use their powers.

Strangely the actual bad guy, Nitro.  He is barely mentioned in the rest of the event.
Captain America saw this licensing issue as unethical and took to leading a group of superheroes who did not want to register as a freelance group of heroes, he gave them all new cover identities and they continued to fight crime.  Iron Man was on the other side, since he was a former Secretary of Defense (yes, Tony Stark) Iron Man was made head of the licensed heroes and given the directive to stop vigilantes from operating, either they registered with the government (which means they would receive training, pay, benefits, and have to take orders) or they would be jailed until they registered.
As I previously mentioned writing law in comics is difficult and in this instance it was especially bad because at no point did they print the literal text of “The Registration Act”.  So no one could actually point to the law and say what it was the argument was about.  No soft language that would require review.  The registration act was unwritten not because it was complicated, but because Marvel's editors did not know how you would word a law to make such a disagreement possible.  There is an issue of She-Hulk that explains her legal justifications for why Registration is correct (there is no corresponding argument from another super-lawyer because it would require the creative staff to really hammer out a legal fiction that could illustrate the point).
I actually find this to be a sad state of affairs because Dan Slott wrote excellent super-cases for his run on She-Hulk (can a ghost testify against his murderer, can Starfox be tried for rape because his love powers can manipulate a woman's will, can a supervillain sue a hero for excessive force, what constitutes cruel-and-unusual punishment for a super-max prison?)  All of those topics were really cool to explore... And unfortunately no one else can really write that kind of stuff.  (Really, Dan Slott’s writing on that comic went into the toilet toward the end too, so maybe even he couldn’t have fixed this).
There is a massive argument going on that has no foundation on either side.  So instead we have to infer what the argument was about from each side’s behavior… AND HO-BOY everybody acted out of character
Whose side are you on?
I don't know.  What the hell is this all about?
The single biggest issue I have with the story is that both Iron Man and Captain America seem to be going against what I think they would be in that situation.

1) Captain America has had a teen sidekick die and has advocated against other teen heroes namely the Young Avengers.  Captain America is always the first hero to advocate against new people getting into the life of a superhero, and that makes sense he was frozen and lost his entire life to being a hero, why would he want someone to make that same sacrifice?  He is also critical of heroes who use too much force or use being a hero as an excuse to have fun or seek thrills.  The idea of heroes needing to receive training and licenses to operate makes a lot of sense.  But he is against it, and during the series he employs the Young Avengers (a group of teen heroes he told to stop operating) to help his cause, all of which makes him a massive hypocrite.  And then the Punisher shows up having murdered two super criminals and is immediately teamed up with by Captain America.  Hypocrite.

Also, Spider-man getting this beaten up by the two chuckle heads that Punisher killed is kind of disrespectful to Peter Parker as a character.
2) Cap's identity is known to the government, he lives in the helicarrier when he is not in Avengers tower or mansion, he gets a pay check from the government to go on missions for them and has a tremendously flexible work load that allows him to apply his skills and abilities to those missions he sees needing his abilities and his moral compass.  If anything he should be advocating that other superheroes receive the same support from the government to help them escape unfair persecution (“Spiderman, Hero or Menace” for instance).

3) Cap has used his legal status as "Champion" to form his own team of Avengers in the past so he is clearly not above using the rules.  This is more an extension of #2.  SHIELD was initially against or resistant to a new Avengers team forming because of how a previous team had ended (Scarlet Witch went crazy, killed 4 team members, and nearly destroyed all of New York), Captain America was so adamant about wanting to create a new team that he invoked his special status with the government to overrule all objections and create a new team.  Does he feel those rules are a detriment?  If so he gives no indication of such.

4) Iron Man is also acting out of character so let’s talk about him some.  Tony has been managing from behind the scenes the superhero community for years.  He formed the group called the Illuminati along with leaders from other super teams to help coordinate their efforts; Charles Xavier, Mr. Fantastic, Namor, Black Bolt, Doctor Strange, and Iron Man have all been taking the lead without the government’s oversight.  I think that these characters ESPECIALLY TONY, would not want to relinquish this control to the government which has shown itself to be run by idiots on more than one occasion.
Poor Charles Xavier, it is hard to do an action shot when you're an 80 year old man in a wheel chair and your powers are completely imperceptible.  He looks like he is having an ice cream head ache.
5) Tony has gone to war with the Government to keep his armor technology from being misused.  The entire reason he became Secretary of Defense was to end the perceived abuse of his inventions.  So now he is going to sign up to give the government control of literal super geniuses?  Even if the government had no access to his armor, there are other super inventors whose inventions they could misuse.

6) Let’s get back to Cap.  Steve has his team give up their true identities and live under assumed names with no end to the war in sight, claiming that living under an assumed name is temporary, and the fact that these people cannot go home till their insurrection is over should be seen as a necessary and noble sacrifice.  Tony does not require that, if you register your identity doesn't have to be public and you get a paycheck, back up, training, and benefits/retirement. Cap is actively causing people to give up their lives, Tony is benefiting their lives.  Really, this aspect of the registration should be seen as a good thing by both heroes, and since Tony has been funding the Avengers and has in the past tried to set up shell corporations to fund hero retirement it would make sense for him to still create these kinds of systems but not be on the side of registration, Tony (by analogy) would be in the rich people, “let’s privatize social security” camp.

I do not think words can express how much I hate this quote.  It all at once encapsulates everything that is wrong with political discourse in this country and in the world as a whole.  You could replace Captain America with literally anyone, be it Glen Beck, Bernie Sanders, Jared Fogle, Jenny McCarthy, Bill Nye, or the Red Skull and not change a word.  It is empty rhetoric, and all Captain America does to justify his position in the entire story is say crap like this.
             7) After years of fighting super criminals and murderous mad science, the SHIELD agents sent to capture heroes are dubbed "Cape Killers" even though no heroes are killed by them.  It actually makes little sense on numerous levels.  In fact there is an incident in which a registered hero tries to take in a non-registered hero and the registered hero is killed in the ensuing fight.  (Seriously, how is training and accountability a bad thing?)

             8) To help keep unlicensed heroes (and you know BAD GUYS) jailed during the Civil War Tony Reed Richards and Hank Pym invent ultra-prison in a dimension called the Negative Zone.  Why are heroes being jailed in the negative zone? I do not understand both the moral "why" and the legal "how" that allows this to be accomplished.  This is less a character issue and more of a “why didn’t they write down the registration act” thing.

             9) Tony Stark and Mister Fantastic clone Thor in an attempt to create more heroes (kind of like the Ultron program in “Avengers: Age of Ultron”).  Unfortunately the clone is not ready and it uses lethal force to subdue a “hero” named Goliath (it should be noted that Goliath was 50ft tall and charging clone-Thor at the time and knocked several SHIELD agents off a building.  It should also be noted that Goliath is a black guy, and I think that it was SUPER AHEAD OF ITS TIME commentary on excessive force).  Regardless I don’t so much see this as out of character, but another thing that should have happened differently.

Maybe Thor should have used a TASER to take down the charging suspect?
With the above listed reasons I feel that the whole of Civil War should have been different.  I think that the Iron Man led Illuminati should have been against registration and Captain America should have favored registration.  I think that Tony should have made the clone-Thor as a way of evening out the fight with the mounting government forces and it causing the death of a hero should have prompted Iron Man to surrender.  Everything in the comic was backwards.
If they had shown the registration act and had Captain America explain the issues that caused him to react as such, and Iron Man explained why he did what he did, I would understand why this was happening, but none of it makes any sense.
Thankfully the movie is going to sidestep all of this.  Rather than arguing over the place of young heroes and training, instead it is a very different Captain America and a very different Iron Man fighting over (I think) whether Bucky Barnes needs to go to trial for all the terror and murder he was forced to take part in.
The only complaint I have with the movie universe (so far) is that Tony and Cap seem to not be friends in the movie universe.  Tony seems to see Cap as a stick in the mud who would be useless without the inventions of Howard Stark (Tony’s dad).  And Cap sees Tony as lacking morals, having only taken action to help people after suffering a personal attack (while Cap tried and failed numerous times to get into the military trying to fight and make the world better).  As to whether the argument which causes the fight will make sense… I think it will, this is the creative team behind “Winter Soldier” and that is my favorite superhero movie.

Don't even get me started on how fucking stupid Spider-man acts thru this whole thing.
(Though it is still less stupid than Black Panther)
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