ROBERT GREENBERGER talks Civil War
It must come as quite a shock to you. We’re talking about a profound cultural shift for the betterment of mankind, People want this, Richard. They need the superhumans of the world to be responsible, properly trained, qualified…and ultimately held accountable. That’s what the initiative is all about. We’re trying to move out of the dark ages of masked vigilantes into a brighter future where tragedies like Stamford can’t ever happen again.
World War Hulk began last week and we saw the jade-jawed giant arrive on Earth with a pretty big mad on. With less than twenty-four hours to evacuate Manhattan, Doctor Strange and his, er, estranged Avengers offer to help Iron Man clear the populace. Shellhead magnanimously offers amnesty for their help.
Welcome to the new status quo in the Marvel Universe. The dust continues to settle from the brawl that was Civil War and with all of Earth confronted by a new menace, now’s not a bad time to assess the new political landscape.
After the Mutant Registration Act, unveiled in Uncanny X-Men #181 and passed into law, required all mutants in America to be registered. Those not complying faced criminal charges. Once that was passed, a parallel super-hero or super-power act was an obvious follow up and came up during the Acts of Vengeance crossover. Fantastic Four #335 began the first serious examination of such an act. Reed Richards addressed a congressional subcommittee saying such an act was unnecessary. His odd argument that such a law wouldn’t be followed by the villains anyway struck an odd chord.
While American legislators dithered over it, the Superpowers Registration Act became Canadian law in Alpha Flight #120.
Years went by without much activity on either front with the Mutant law not being vigorously enforced and the super-human law a mere idea.
Then came the House of M.
Wanda Maximoff, the Scarlet Witch to her friends, used her mutant hex power to actually reduce the burgeoning global mutant population down to a mere 198. Suddenly, every mutant was known and registered and that seemed to reduce the level of fear and tension felt by the homo sapiens.
Soon after, though, people found something new to fear. The super-powered beings that fought each other regularly over the skies of Manhattan had become a common sight. Less common was such a battle in the nearby Connecticut city of Stamford where the New Warriors took on Nitro and hundreds of civilians died.
Now the call for a Superhuman Registration Act became deafening – and became the dividing line among America’s heroes. Forces led by Iron Man and interestingly, Reed Richards, saw that a tipping point had been reached and that Americans needed to be assured that people imbued with powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal men be trained in the use of those skills. Of course, putting them on the government payroll also removed one of the inducements for misusing those newfound abilities and that became another selling point.
Not everyone agreed. The epic battles that crisscrossed Marvel’s titles throughout 2006 had heavy doses of ideology mixed in with fisticuffs. Unlike so many other crossovers since Secret Wars, this one was about something and how it ended would, arguably, irrevocably change the world. Interestingly, both Tony Stark and Reed Richards were proponents because they saw trends that dictated the need for changing the public’s opinion as well as getting the heroes trained. While Stark discussed his trendy thinking with Peter Parker and others, Reed kept his thoughts to himself until he finally got corroboration from, of all people, the Mad Thinker. Reed had turned the social discourse into a formula and showed that events were leading the world to a crisis, one that was inevitable and registering the heroes was a part of the equation. But that rational, factual argument has remained out of the public debate.
The villains didn’t seem to have much of an opinion, what with them being villains and all. In fact, they seemed to get rounded up fairly easily and stuck in the Negative Zone where the rent was cheaper.
The world was changed in the end. The government forces won, the act enforced and training begun as seen in the entertaining Avengers: The Initiative. But, exactly what does that do for the man on the street?
Well, he can sleep safely knowing that the 50 state initiative would place a team of Grade A approved heroes in each state. Much like the monies doled out by Homeland Security that seemed to equate the security needs of Wisconsin with those of New York, no doubt the teams in sparsely populated states got more firepower than necessary. After all, with all these heroes on the government dole, they had to go somewhere to earn it.
Heroes continue to fight villains with collateral damage in their wake so that hasn’t changed too much – the heroes now just have shiny ID cards.
Mark Millar, writer of Civil War, said of the changes, “Tony Stark is a beast from the military industrial complex, so what we have post-Civil War is a militarization of the Marvel Universe.”
Dan Slott added, “Marvel’s army of super-heroes is now a superhero army.” One would think the superheroes now beholden to the Federal government would be summoned when American’s sovereignty was imperiled. For example, as Civil War was winding down, a different war, a Silent War was just beginning.
For those who missed it, the U.S. Government took possession of the Inhumans’ Terrigen Mists, which was brought to American soil illegally by Pietro Maximoff, formerly Quicksilver. Rather than return the property, they kept it and Black Bolt, king of a sovereign nation (which just happens to located on the Moon so was never a threat to American safety) had little choice but to invade.
So, where was the superhero army when super-powered folk like Gorgon arrived and began ripping buildings apart in search of their rightful property? Nowhere. It seems.
We’re left to wonder then, at what role this army will play? Right before the Hulk returned to Earth, Senior Editor Tom Brevoort described Stark, characterized largely as an arrogant single-minded villain in the conflict, in a different light. “Tony has the list of names and identities of all the registered superhumans – he is the only one with access. He will be struggling to use S.H.I.E.L.D. and his new position in a proactive way. He wants to make people comfortable with superheroes, not fearful of them. He’s in the most key position in the Marvel Universe, and we’ve seen in the past that Tony can crack under strain.”
We’re not really shown yet how Tony’s latest mission has played out. After all, the Hulk just arrived and the only ordinance in evidence was Iron Man’s big, boxy mega-armor. The notion that people will be comfortable with superheroes once they’re all registered has to be a pipe dream given the evacuation of New York.
Brevoort promised the fifty-state initiative will be taken out for a real test during this Hulk-centered event with the new Champions book, The Order. Can the Great Lakes Champions be far behind?
So again, what has changed for common man living in the Marvel Universe? He’s lost the spirit of liberty in the death of Captain America and with that the hopes of at least two generations have been dashed. The youngest generation is being raised where there is a constant stream of threats and attacks from individual villains such as Nitro to armadas from the moon and the ever-resent threat from Atlantis.
Living in New York remains just as risky as ever and the idea that each state has a team on hand to protect it also means there’s the belief that a threat is coming.
Comics industry veteran and novelist Robert Greenberger is a regular ComicMix.com contributor.
Artwork (The Order #1) copyright 2007 Marvel Characters. All Rights Reserved.