Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Marvel Comics -- Civil War

Now that Carl has finally read issue 4 of Civil War I feel I can now talk about it more openly. The original storyline seemed to have people split. On the one side, the government is taking away people's civil liberties in the name of protecting its people. On the other side, you have people fighting to protect those civil liberties. Before the series started, I had several "conversations" with people online and offline about this idea. We're now just getting past the half way point (not including all those extra special issues that are going to be coming out after the Civil War series ends) so the story has been flushed out a bit more. Now I'm focussing mostly on the Civil War series itself as I don't read all the other tie in books.

The core of the story remains the same but I can see what has people in a frenzy and it doesn't seem to be that core. It's the actions of the characters. It's the plot devices that are used to push the story. And it's the shipping delays. Ignoring that last one, let's talk about the first two shall we. We'll start with the anti-registration characters that seem to be creating the most buzz:

Tony Stark/Iron Man: Almost seemed to be anti-registration at times in the beginning but quickly became the poster-boy for the pro side. Hired villains to push the registration through. Clearly manipulated anyone he could (*cough* Peter Parker *cough*) for his own agenda. Very quickly made it his mission to hunt down his "friends" and put them in prison. Released several psychotic killers from prison to help him hunt down those friends. And along with Reed he has had a hand in not only cloning Thor but taking away any rights that clone might have by making it a programmed operative (and of course the clone goes off and kills Goliath). And so on and so on.

Reed Richards/Mr Fantastic: Maybe he's being blinded by Tony Stark's charm but let's face it, Reed hasn't been coming off too well. Johnny is beat up and put into a coma. Reed's response "Well, I'm sure someone will contact me if there's a problem." Then he goes off to build a prison for his ex-friends in the negative zone knowing that travelling to the negative zone often leaves people mentally unstable to the point where they are a danger to themselves and others (and a few heroes have already committed suicide there). See above for the Thor clone debacle.

Hmm... that doesn't seem too good for the pro-registration side. But they are doing this for the greater good right? I mean, then we have the government and SHIELD being able to control and police the superheroes. It's not like the government and/or SHIELD have done anything bad is it? Such as:

- Possible connections to Nitro by supplying him with something boost his powers so that the next time he explodes he takes out more people (leading to the 600+ deaths).
- Blackmailing heroes (Wonderman for example) and forcing them to do what they want.
- Detaining journalists, manipulating the media, and trampling the first amendment to hide what they're doing (as seen in Frontline).
- Registering and detaining people who they deem as "unregistered combatants", a term they came up with to be as vague as possible so they could pretty much classify anyone they want as someone who needed to be registered and under their control.
- Orchestrating the death of several pro-registration heroes to make the anti-registration side look bad (Frontline again).
- Employing psychotic mass-murderers to hunt down unregistered combatants.

And a few other goodies. But wait, the anti-registration side must be doing a bunch of bad stuff too right?

Captain America for example, he's been a bit of an arsehole to people. He beat up (but didn't kill) a few SHIELD people (who had pulled guns on him and were told to subdue him). He's gone underground to fight a law he feels is unjust. And when Iron Man said he wanted to talk to Cap, Cap sucker punched him (after Iron Man had tricked Cap and his anti-reg team by faking an emergency).

Okay, but the other anti-reg heroes... ok, they don't really do too much. But let's look at the other two characters creating the talk, Spider-Man and Invisible Woman.

Spidey: Sees Tony Stark as a father figure and goes along with the pro-reg side. He unmasks infront of cameras to show his support. Then, after seeing the Thor clone and the prison he figures "oops, I made a mistake" and tries to switch. Kinda stinks for Aunt May and MJ now doesn't it? They don't have Tony and the Avengers to protect them anymore. You have to wonder if Peter really thought through the whole unmasking since the primary reason for it was their protection. But it was sad to see Peter go along with Tony. Marvel guys were using the term "father figure" and such but really, Peter has been a big boy for a while (and a married one at that, much to Joe Quesada's chagrin) and it's not like him to be so blinded like he was.

Invisible Woman: Again, after seeing the Thor-clone and prisons we have Sue decide "oops, I'm on the wrong side" so after a quick dinner and roll in the hay with Reed she's off to the anti-reg side. But wait, what about the kids? Oh, she'll just leave them with Reed. Now I've flip flopped on that last part (though I don't like to use that term, I prefer to say that I'm continually seeing this story element from different perspectives). The dinner and roll in the hay, that came off really stupid. Yeah, you call the man you love a murderer and a fascist but hey, let's make him happy for one more night? That's lame. But the kids, I've been thinking the most about. My problem, Reed as he's being portrayed here is not a good choice for who to look after the kids. But my first thought was that even with Reed being the jerk, you have to consider the Baxter Building was built to protect them and it's been shown recently that they need that physical protection. The downside (as Carl has pointed out to me because things are portrayed differently in the various books) is that "criminals" (heroes and villains alike) are being taken through there to go to the negative zone (again, this is not how it's shown in Frontline but I digress). So there goes the security of the Baxter Building.

But as I ponder it, the one thing I am most certain of is that the whole thing was horribly done. For Sue to say she's leaving the kids with Reed not because it's best for them but because she's using them in the hopes Reed will realize what an arse he's being and will realize he needs to look after them is a joke. No, it's beyond a joke, it's crap. Her letter and/or accompanying dialogue should have been about what was best for the children. If she came to the conclusion that leaving them in the Baxter Building (with Ben at this point in time) was best for them, then maybe you could argue with her logic but at least she wouldn't be using her own children as a weapon in this war (yes, I do see it that way).

So moving away from characters, let's look at events. Spider-Man unmasking, Invisible Woman leaving, Thor cloned, Goliath dead, ... what do these major events have to do with the main story about hero registration? Not much actually. Spider-Man's unmasking wasn't necessary as nobody required he do it, he just went ahead on his own. Invisible Woman leaving? I guess you could say that this is showing the fractures that can happen when people's beliefs come into play (though with all the stuff the FF has been through it makes you wonder how it could all unravel so easily here). Cloning Thor? The only thing I see this showing is just how bad the pro-registration side is (though the whole point of this story was supposed to be that neither side was in the wrong). Goliath dead? Well, he was only just recently brought back so it had to be for a reason. The only thing these things seem to show is how "evil" the pro-registration side is (again, Marvel claimed neither side would be in the wrong). So the real reason I think they're in there, the "wow" factor. The "I can't believe that just happened factor".

So that's what it's currently boiling down to for me. Marvel is taking a storyline that was supposed to be "brother versus brother in a fight with neither side being right or wrong" and seemingly turning it into "government is evil and has corrupted some heroes turning them evil but the glowing 'rebelion' is fighting them". And they're focus seems to be so much on what they can do to "shake things up" or make comic fans go "wow" that they are losing sight of that core story.

That's not to say that I haven't enjoyed bits and pieces of the series or that I'm giving up on it. I'm just not necessarily liking where the series is going and what eggs/characters it has to break on its way.

I have a lot more thoughts on the series but this rant is too long as it is. So I'll hold off on them for now. Perhaps once the series is done I'll be able to put them more into focus.

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