Category: The Law Is A Ass

The Law Is A Ass # 314: J. Jonah Jameson—Menace Or Menace?

Okay, a promise is a promise. And I promised to lay off the Superior Spider-Man this week. Lucky for me there’s still an Amazing Spider-Man.

I know you think there aren’t any new Amazing Spider-Man stories right now, but I assure you there are. Where? Well, in the words of the philosopher, “See you in the funny papers.”

In the Amazing Spider-Man newspaper strip – where J. Jonah Jameson is still the editor/publisher of The Daily Bugle, not mayor; Peter Parker is still Spider-Man, not Doctor Octopus; and Peter and Mary Jane still have at least one more day of marital bliss – they’re running a story in which JJJ is trying to unmask Spider-Man. (JJJ? Lois Lane? What is it about alliterative initials and secret identities?)

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The Law Is A Ass # 313: Superior Spider-Man’s Abu Ghraib for Power

The Superior Spider-Man is not a good book.

No, it has nothing to do with the whole Doctor Octopus is in Peter Parker’s body while Peter is apparently dead, even though some remnant of Peter’s morality is making Ock try to prove he can be a Spider-Man. A superior Spider-Man, even. No, that doesn’t bother me. I mean I never thought that status would remain quo for long.

Ever since the days of Stan Lee, Marvel Comics has operated on the principle of “the appearance of change,” but that’s not even the real reason. The real reason I expected Peter Parker back in control just about now is because in a few short weeks the movie The Amazing Spider-Man 2 comes out. Anybody who thought the Disney suits would want a comic book where Doctor Octopus is Spider-Man out at the same time as the movie where Peter Parker is Spider-Man could use a lesson in marketing. And I don’t mean a refresher course at your local Kwik-E-Mart.

So why is The Superior Spider-Man not a good comic for me? Well, let’s look at the latest example of what bothers Bob about The Superior Spider-Man and then we’ll discuss.

The Superior Spider-Man Annual # 1 featured Blackout. No, not the one in the skin-tight black costume with the “ridiculous lightning bolt on his head,” but the half-demon hired killer with razor-sharp claws and teeth who likes to rip throats out – sometimes in double-page pop-up spreads.

Blackout wants to reestablish his rep as a hired killer and how he chose to do it is the subject of this week’s SPOILER ALERT. You know those really big spoilers on cars that resemble the blades of a ventilation fan? They look silly. Don’t use them. And don’t continue reading this column, unless you want the beginning, middle and end of The Superior Spider-Man Annual # 1 spoiled. (more…)

The Law Is A Ass # 312: The Superior Spider-Manslaughterer

[[[Fifty shades of grey]]] isn’t just a runaway best-seller of debatable literary merit soon to be a major motion picture of, probably, even more debatable merit. It’s also the world we live in.

No, I don’t mean it’s a world of erotic fantasies, BDSM role-playing games, and dominance. Although if it were, can you imagine how that would change the popular Disney attraction  “It’s a Small World?” (And I apologize for having put that now unwashable image into your minds.)

What I mean is that the world isn’t just “white hats” and “black hats,” good or evil. It’s a world of grey tones where everyone has some good and some evil, where everyone is grey. Some people are more good than evil, while others are more evil than good, which is why there are shades of grey; at least fifty of them if bad literature can be believed.

Otto Octavius, the former Doctor Octopus and now the controlling mentality in the body of Peter Parker, who is trying to prove he’s a “white hat” by being a superior Spider-Man is proving instead that, like Batman in [[[The Lego Movie]]], he “only work[s] in black. And sometimes, very, very dark grey.” And the world around him is trending darker too, like it’s got some sort of Goth hashtag.

Which brings us to The Superior Spider-Man #15 and the world’s reaction to the events of The Superior Spider-Man #14. (more…)

THE LAW IS A ASS #311: Commissioner Gordon: Threat Or Menace?

All I can conclude is that James Gordon attended police academy with Steve Guttenberg. That’s the only explanation I can come up with for what he did in Detective Comics #25.

Detective Comics #25 is set during Batman: Year Zero which, despite that title means the story takes place during Batman’s first year, not his zeroth year. At this time, James Gordon wasn’t Commissioner of the G.C.P.D. yet, just a recent transfer from Chicago who found himself in a city overrun by mobsters and crooked cops paid to look the other way while the mobsters mobbed. Gordon wanted to take down both the mobsters and the corrupt cops, starting with Roman Sionis, who Gordon suspected was the secret head behind the Black Mask gang. So what Gordon did was…

Oh, wait. SPOILER WARNING! Leaving your milk out will spoil the milk. Reading this column will spoil Detective Comics # 25. If you don’t want either your milk or comic books spoiled, don’t leave your milk out and don’t read this column. (No, wait. Do read it, just finish reading Detective Comics # 25 first.) (more…)

THE LAW IS A ASS #302: A Civil War Never Is

“Whose side are you on?” That’s how Marvel touted its mega-event of 2006-2007, Civil War. Me? I’m on the readers’ side. So, even though Civil War ended some time ago, we’re still living in its aftermath and I’m still looking for a way to prove it couldn’t have happened.

Civil War started because the New Warriors, a team of “poorly-trained” super-heroes, tried to boost the ratings of their reality show by capturing a group of super-villains on camera. One of the super-villains, Nitro, the villain who can blow himself up over and over, decided that rather than be captured, he would blow himself up “real good,” killing over six hundred people, including a school bus full of children.

Everyone blamed the New Warriors. I don’t know why. Maybe because it’s easier to blame the heroes than the super-villain who actually killed the six hundred people. Maybe because Civil War’s plot needed a plot device that would prompt Congress to enact a Superhuman Registration Act. All I know is that in the eyes of the law, the New Warriors shouldn’t be blamed for Nitro’s acts.

See, the law has this thing called the Doctrine of Emergency, which says people can act in emergencies without being subject to normal standards of care. The doctrine exists to encourage good Samaritans, so the law seeks to immunize them if they try to do good in an emergency situation but cause some harm as a result. So if a person performs emergency CPR on a heart attack victim and accidentally breaks the victim’s ribs, the good Samaritan isn’t liable for breaking the heart attack victim’s ribs. In the same way, if a group of super-heroes takes on a group of super-villains who are attacking a city, the heroes shouldn’t be held responsible if third parties get hurt or killed in the fight; and they especially shouldn’t be blamed if one of the villains acts on his own and kills said third parties. God, if the Doctrine of Emergency didn’t exist, can you imagine the property damage and wrongful death suits that would have been brought against Superman after [[[Man of Steel]]]? Instead, he got thanked by some Metropolans in the middle of a bomb crater.

Civil War had major problems in its premise because of the Doctrine of Emergency. The New Warriors shouldn’t have been be liable for the deaths that Nitro caused. Nevertheless, and despite the fact that the law may not be on its side, the Marvel Universe Congress passed the SRA. After all, when has a little thing like the law not being on its side ever stopped Congress?

The SRA required all super-powered individuals in the Marvel Universe to register their identities and super powers with the federal government, so that the government could train meta-humans to use their powers properly. Riiiiight. Our government couldn’t even train FEMA agents how to book passage on Orbitz to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, it’s the perfect organization to teach Captain Wrigley how to keep his mutant-powered minty freshness fresh all day.

Under the SRA, failure to register was a criminal offense. Several of the super-heroes, most notably Captain America, opposed the SRA. They refused to register, and immediately became outlaws and fugitives because the SRA and its registration requirement went into effect the day it was enacted. Which is the second legal reason why Civil War couldn’t have happened.

In the real world, laws have a phase-in periods. New emission control standards don’t go into effect overnight, before any automobile manufacturer had a chance to comply with them. Car manufacturers are given time to get their cars into compliance with the standards; usually years. Registration laws also have phase-ins periods. When the Selective Service Act was enacted, the federales didn’t start rounding up the unregistered at the stroke of midnight on the day the law went into effect. No, the SSA gave people a period of several months to register before they were called draft dodgers.

Why? Well, what if someone was in Europe on the day the law went into effect so couldn’t register? Should he be a criminal under those circumstances or should he be given time to return from Europe and register? Now multiply that problem a millionfold for super-heroes. What if, when the SRA went into effect, a super-hero was visiting the Blue Area of the Moon, or fighting Blastaar in the Negative Zone, or was dead and hadn’t been retconned back to life yet? Should said hero be guilty of violating the SRA?

So, if the SRA had a phase-in period, and it would have had one, that means Civil War hasn’t actually happened yet. Remember, the Marvel Universe time moves much, much slower than real time. In the Marvel Universe, the SRA’S months-long phase-in period probably wouldn’t be ending until right about now. We still have time to give Captain America and Iron Man a copy of Civil War #7, with its oh-so-obvious solution to the problem, and keep them from fighting in the first place. We can keep Civil War from happening.

And that means we don’t have to see Tony Stark become someone unrecognizable to anyone who grew up with him when he was a hero. It means we don’t have to see Reed Richards explain that he was in favor of the SRA, because the law was the law and as long as it was the law, we have to obey it; conveniently forgetting that in his own origin he stole a rocket ship, thereby committing the grandest grand theft motor vehicle in history. It also means that we don’t have to see Captain America scolded for not really knowing what the American people wanted because he didn’t have a MySpace page or a YouTube account. (After all, everyone knows that you really measure how in touch with the American people a person is by counting how many e-mails offering financial aid he gets from deposed Nigerian princes.)

So Marvel’s Civil War couldn’t have happened. And we can ignore all those stories that came during and after it. Well, not really, but sometimes don’t you wish you could? I was born in 1952, some ninety years too young to have been in the American Civil War. And after thinking about Civil War all over again, I realized that I wish I had been too young for Marvel’s Civil War, too.

Author’s Note: I wrote a few installments of “The Law Is a Ass” for Comics’ Buyer’s Guide which, for a variety of reasons, it never printed. From time to time, I am going to run one of these previously unpublished installments, slightly edited to bring them up to date. This is one of those times.

The Law Is A Ass #310: Avengers A.I.: Where Intelligence Really Is Artificial

So let me get this straight, in order to defeat the villain, the Avengers made a worse villain?

That first villain, Ultron, the living automaton with artificial intelligence and massive daddy issues about its creator Henry Pym, had made things pretty bad in the [[[Age of Ultron]]] mini-series. “Pretty bad” being a euphemism conquering the world, destroying major cities, killing people, and generally not playing well with others. In order to undo the Age of Ultron, Invisible Woman and Wolverine went into the past and visited Henry Pym before he built the first Ultron. They told Dr. Pym that Ultron would destroy the world in the future but also told him he still had to build Ultron so that the time line would stay the same until just before Ultron started the Age of Ultron. So Pym built Ultron, but put a kill switch into Ultron’s A.I. so that Ultron could be defeated at the right time in the future.

Cut to years later and the right time in the future: Invisible Woman visited Dr. Pym again. She showed Dr. Pym, whose memory of the earlier visit had been wiped, a video about Ultron which included instructions on how to activate the kill switch. This occurred just before the events of The Avengers v.4, # 12.1, where, you may recall, the Avengers rescued Spider-Woman from super-villain team the Intelligencia but inadvertently reactivated Ultron. (You may recall it. I had to look it up.)

Because he had been warned, Dr. Pym could change what happened after the Avengers reactivated Ultron. This time Ultron didn’t get away. Instead Pym had Iron Man upload the kill switch activation codes into Ultron. Then, after Ultron shut down, Pym used a computer virus to destroy Ultron. And they all lived happily ever after, no?

No.

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The Law Is A Ass #309: Reverse-Flash Belongs In The All-Whiners Squad

lawass-300x150-8071710I don’t know whether he was a super villain or a sommelier, because in his origin story Reverse-Flash served a rather poor whine.

(Yes, I said that.)

First, we’re not talking about your father’s Reverse-Flash, Eobard Thawne. Or your older brother’s Reverse-Flash, Hunter Zolomon. We’re talking the New 52 Reverse-Flash, Daniel West. The one whose secret origin, which appeared in The Flash 23.2, was the biggest batch of bad whines since Mr. Boone got himself a farm.

(Yes, I said it again.)

Daniel narrates his own origin and makes a real sob story out of it. His mother died in childbirth. Daniel’s father blamed Daniel for his wife’s death so hated him. Daniel hated daddy back. Daniel did, however, love his sister, Iris West; yes, that Iris West. Daniel pushed his father down the stairs and daddy became a paraplegic. Then Daniel’s relationship with Iris soured. (Can’t you just feel the tears welling up?) (more…)

The Law Is A Ass #308: The Superior Spider-Man Isn’t

Okay, Marvel, let me see if I’ve got this straight? The bad guy wins. That’s how you celebrate the 700th issue of your flagship character, by killing him and letting the bad guy win?

Assuming you haven’t been in a cave and know about the events of The Amazing  Spider-Man #700 and the subsequent issues of [[[The Superior Spider-Man]]] – and in case you have and you don’t: SPOILER WARNING – you know that Dr. Octopus put Peter Parker’s mind into his own dying body and his mind into Peter Parker’s body. You also know that Doc Ock’s body died with Peter’s mind still in it and that Ock, whose mind is in Peter’s body, is now proving that with his “unparalleled genius” he can be a superior Spider-Man. Well, I like a good redemption story as well as the next guy – and for me that’s the  only thing that makes this storyline interesting; can Doc Ock actually find redemption by being a better Spider-Man than Peter Parker was?

So how’s that working out for him?

Well, there is a little matter of murder. (more…)

The Law Is A Ass

The Law Is A Ass #307: Back In the Saddle Again

Let’s see now, where were we before we were interrupted?

Back in the Mesozoic Era, there was something called the print media. You remember the print media, don’t you? It was in all the papers. Well, one of the all the papers that print media printed in was Comics Buyer’s Guide; or CBG as those of us who didn’t want to type out Comics Buyer’s Guide all the time called it. CBG was a weekly trade paper about the comic-book industry. It wasn’t as big and important as Billboard or Variety or even as vital as that paper that gives positive reviews to every movie no matter how wretched, because studios have to get their pull quotes from somewhere. But CBG was ours and we loved it.

And I  loved CBG more than most, because for over two decades I wrote a regular feature called “The Law Is a Ass” for it; a column that combined legal analysis and comic books.

Legal analysis and comic books? How did that unlikely combination come about? (more…)