MARIA HILL GETS A STANDOFF O
When last we saw The Avengers, several of their branches – The All New, All Different; the New; the Uncanny; and for all I know Steed and Mrs. Peel – were standing off against S.H.I.E.L.D. because of Pleasant Hill. As it’s been a couple of weeks since I’ve been able to write about Avengers: Standoff!, I thought a quick recap might be in order.
S.H.I.E.L.D. and its director Maria Hill got a hold of some fragments of a Cosmic Cube, a device which is controlled by the will of its holder and can reshape reality. It’s kind of like Green Lantern’s power ring but without the weakness to yellow or the need to make all its constructs curry the favor of Kermit the Frog. They used the fragments to create Pleasant Hill, an idyllic, all-American small town somewhere in Connecticut which was neither idyllic or all-American. See they populated Pleasant Hill with super villains whose memories had been wiped so that they believed they were non-powered residents of Main Street, USA. Various Avengers teams were getting ready to square off against Director Hill and S.H.I.E.L.D. because they didn’t agree with what had been done to the villains. Meanwhile, the super villains, who had regained their memories, were getting ready to square off against Director Hill, and S.H.I.E.L.D., not to mention the various Avengers teams, because they didn’t agree with what had been done to the villains either. And, for good measure, math students were getting ready to square off against Geometry teachers, because… Well wouldn’t you?
That’s where I left you last time I wrote about Avengers: Standoff! It’s also where I’m going to leave you this time, too, because the same things that kept me from writing columns for the past few weeks also kept me from reading comics for the past few weeks. I haven’t finished reading Avengers: Standoff! yet so have no idea how it ends. Or even if it ends. (Considering what goes on in comic books these days, that’s not as facetious as it sounds.)
Last column, I wrote about how Pleasant Hill prison violated the Eight Amendment to the United States Constitution and it’s prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment. My friend and fellow comic-book writer Tony Isabella didn’t fully agree with me. Oh he thought my analysis was fine, up to a point. That point being the USAPATRIOT Act. He didn’t think my analysis took into account what provisions might have been enacted to imprison super villains in a post-9/11 world.
I told him that because so many of the early villains in the Marvel Universe were super powered Communists, Congress in the Marvel Universe probably enacted it’s version of the USAPATRIOT Act in 1961, not 2001. However, considering the USAPATRIOT part of the USAPATRIOT Act is an acronym for Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act, it’s Marvel Universe version would probably have been called something like the Emergency Xenogenesis Containment and Elimination Legislation and Super-powered Individuals Oversight and Regulation Act.
So what affect would our hypothetical act have on a place like Pleasant Hill? Depends. No, I’m not claiming that the answer might make you poop your pants, I’m saying that some inmates in Pleasant Hill might be treated very differently from other inmates.
We know from our own real-life experience that people designated as enemy combatants are treated differently from US citizens under the USAPATRIOT Act. Prisoners who are not US citizens and classified enemy combatants can be held indefinitely and without being charged in places like the Guantanamo Bay detention camp. So prisoners in Pleasant Hill such as Helmet Zemo or Ulysses Klaw, who are not American citizens, could receive the enemy combatant designation. Especially Zemo. Even money says the government would designate a German national who headed the terrorist organization Hydra an enemy combatant without even a second thought.
Other Pleasant Hill inmates, such as Mr. Hyde, the Trapster, and the Absorbing Man are American citizens. I practiced law for 8 years after the USAPATRIOT Act was enacted, so I know from personal US citizens who became inmates didn’t lose their 8th Amendment rights. Even after 9/11. Thus, it would be harder for Director Hill or S.H.I.E.L.D. to deny the American inmates in Pleasant Hill of their constitutional rights, with or without our hypothetical congressional act.
When governmental agencies – such as S.H.I.E.L.D. – seek to curtail the constitutional rights of inmates, they must be able to show they’re using the least invasive means possible. That is to say, their method of imprisonment must be consistent with both keeping the inmates in while depriving them of the fewest number of constitutional rights possible as possible. Pleasant Hill wiped its inmates’ memories and personalities and replaced them with different memories and personalities. I still think that was an invasive and unconstitutional assault which deprived the inmates of their constitutional rights, and I think many courts would likely rule in this manner, even after our super-human control act.
Prisons in the Marvel Universe have power dampening mechanisms which can take away inmates’ super powers. Super villains without super powers are just as easy to keep in prison as normal prisoners; you know, the ones who aren’t being mind-wiped. So mind wiping them wouldn’t be the least invasive form of imprisonment.
Sure super powered inmates would be kept in facilities whose security was even more maximum than Alcatraz. Call it a supervillainmax prison. But I just don’t think courts would side with the mass mind-wiping of the inmates.
Moreover, Maria Hill obviously didn’t think the courts would side with her. Or anyone else. After all, she kept the Pleasant Hill prison a secret from three different Avengers teams, her bosses in the World Security Council, the courts, and pretty much everyone else in the world. If she thought she was on firm footing with Pleasant Hill, she wouldn’t have pussyfooted around in secret.
I’m sure that when Avengers: Standoff! ends – no, I haven’t suddenly gotten caught up on my reading, I’ve been writing this column – Pleasant Hill prison will be somewhat more public. Super hero/villain battles tend to make things public, even when they happen in rural Connecticut. Then after Maria Hill’s pet prison has been outed, the World Security Council will have to decide how do they solve a problem like Maria. Ms. Hill and allies must now face the music. And I have confidence they’ll do something to her. I wish I could be sure it would be something good, like them telling her so long, farewell, but it’ll probably be little more than a slap on the wrist. Still, a guy can do-re-mi-m, can’t he?