Tagged: Stinger

The Law Is A Ass # 425: Ant-Man’s Trial Has Character Flaws

The Law Is A Ass # 425: Ant-Man’s Trial Has Character Flaws

A long time ago in a multiverse far, far away…

The Flash went on trial for murdering Reverse-Flash in a multi-part story called The Trial of the Flash. As storylines went, The Trial of the Flash went on for…


Okay, it went on for two years. But back in 1983 – before decompressed storytelling and multi-part stories designed to be binge-read in trade paperback collections – two years was forever. The second “The Law Is a Ass” I ever wrote was also my first column about The Trial of the Flash. Several more followed. How many more? Well let’s just say before The Trial of the Flash, and I, were finished, I had earned enough writing about it to pay off my mortgage, insure my kids had no student loan debt, and reduced the national debt to zero from the taxes I paid.

So you can imagine my trepidation upon reading Astonishing Ant-Man# 12. It was, you see, the first part of The Trial of Ant-Man. Still, a journey of a thousand columns begins with a single step, so let’s get started.

Ant-Man – the Scott Lang version, not Henry Pym or the one nobody remembers because even I had to look up Eric O’Grady – was on trial for a crime he didn’t commit. Of course he didn’t. When a super hero is on trial in a comic book you can be pretty certain it’s for a crime the hero didn’t commit. In comics the only thing more certain than that is death and resurrection.

The crime Scott didn’t commit? His daughter – and former super hero Stinger – Cassie Lang committed it. How did this one time Young Avenger go rogue? Long story short; like this. To protect Cassie, Scott took the blame. He said he kidnapped Cassie and forced her to participate in his crime. It was a noble gesture, but it had serious repercussions; as the whole “The Trial of the Ant-Man” title would suggest.

The trial started as most trials do with jury selection but as there is virtually no way to make the voir dire process visually or dramatically interesting, the story ignored jury selection and jumped right to opening statements. Starting with the opening statement of Janice Lincoln, the prosecuting attorney. Janice went for the jugular. Scott’s. She argued that the jury should ignore Scott’s good deeds as Ant-Man, as Scott had been convicted of several felonies, abandoned his family, burned his bridges with the respected members of the super hero community, recklessly allowed his daughter to be killed – but resurrected, see I told you – and kidnapped that same daughter to force her to be his accomplice in a heist. Probably the only reason Janice didn’t blame Scott for The Great Train Robbery is that Scott’s strong suit has never been silent.

There’s a name for that in the legal biz. We call it “putting the defendant’s character in issue.” We also call it improper. In a criminal trial, the prosecution is expressly forbidden from offering evidence, testimony, or even opening statements about a defendant’s bad character in order to prove that the defendant acted in accordance with that bad character. Or, in words that aren’t ripped from compelling prose that is the Federal Rules of Evidence, it’s improper for the prosecutor to prove or even argue that the defendant has been a bad person in the past so probably continued to be a bad person and committed the crime.

There are some exceptions to this rule. We won’t go into all of them, because only one of them applies to the story at hand. The prosecution may address the issue of the defendant’s bad character when the defendant puts his or her own character into issue first. If the defense offers evidence or argues that the defendant is a good person who would never commit the crime – in the legal biz we call that “opening the door” – the prosecution is allowed to walk through the open door and rebut evidence of good character with evidence that the defendant is a bad person who would commit the crime.

In her opening statement, defense counsel Jennifer Walters told the jury all about what a good person and upstanding hero Scott Lang was; ending with “I’ve seen it with my own eyes – this man is a hero.” It was after Jennifer Walters made this opening statement that Janice Lincoln made her opening statement and assassinated Scott’s character like it was that other Lincoln at Ford’s Theater. (What? Too soon?)

So what’s my problem with Ms. Lincoln’s opening statement? After all, if the defense put Scott’s character in issue – and it did – then the prosecution would be allowed to rebut that claim of good character with an argument of bad character. My problem is that if proper trial procedure had been followed – and the story went out of its way to establish that the trial judge, the Honorable Ronald Wilcox, was a no-nonsense, by the book judge who would follow proper procedure – the prosecution would not have been allowed to make the opening statement that it did, because the defense wold not have put Scott’s character into issue yet.

Proper trial procedure dictates that the prosecution makes its opening statement first, because it has the burdens of producing the evidence proving the defendant guilty and persuading the jury that the defendant is guilty. The prosecution makes its opening statement before the defense makes its opening statement. In a real trial, not one that played with proper procedure for dramatic purpose, Janice Lincoln wouldn’t have been able to attack Scott’s character in her opening statement, because she would have given it before the defense opening statement and before Jennifer Walters opened the door to Scott’s character.

Oh, I’m sure that Ms. Lincoln would have had her opportunity later in the trial. The defense’s sole tactic was to convince the jury that Scott Lang was a hero who wouldn’t commit the crime, so the defense was going to open that door eventually. Then all that other bad stuff about Scott’s character would have come in. In the legal biz we have a name for that, a bad idea.

Here’s a piece of advice to all you future lawyers out there: If you put your client’s character into issue, the prosecution is allowed to counter with proof of your client’s bad character. So don’t put your client’s character into issue when your client’s closet has more skeletons than The Pirates of the Caribbean.

The Law Is A Ass

Bob Ingersoll: The Law Is A Ass #393


Sometimes I wonder why I bother getting out of bed.

So Scott Lang, former thief and current Astonishing Ant-Man, has a daughter, Cassie. Cassie is a teenager, meaning she’s in that rebellious stage. We’re not talking tattoos, emo outbreaks, and staying out after curfew to be with that boy. We’re talking the Boxer Rebellion of teenage acting out. Cassie decided that to get what she wanted, she should become a super villain.

What did she want? Revenge on industrialist inventor Darren Cross for one. Kind of a non-standard goal for an angst-ridden teenager, but Cassie had a kind of non-standard childhood, what with her having super powers, losing those powers, dying, and being brought back to life. Then there was the time, Cross’s son kidnapped her and stole her heart because he needed a transplant for his father. So I can see where Cassie might go all Wrath of Kahn  on Cross and start spitting at him for hate’s sake. (Okay, we know Captain Ahab beat Kahn to the “Hell’s heart” shtick, but Cassie’s young; she may not know from Moby Dick. To her a rousing sea story is probably Finding Nemo.)

Anyway Cassie went to Power Broker, a super villain whose gimmick is that he supplies super powers to people who want to become super villains in return for a cut of their ill-gotten gains. He even has an app – Hench– that people needing super villains can use to find his super villain database and find the suitable villains to hstingerire. And, it turns out, Power Broker has his own mad on for Darren Cross, because Cross’s son stole the platform for Hench and started a rival super-villain-hiring app, Lackey. So Power Broker convinced Cassie to undergo his process and regain her former powers.
She did and became Stinger, an insect-motifed super villain.

Power Broker wanted Cassie to use her Stinger powers to break into Cross’s super secure facility and retrieve Lackey. Cassie agreed. That way both she and Power Broker would get their revenge. (By the way, contrary to popular belief, revenge isn’t a dish best served cold. That would be vichyssoise. And I don’t really recommend adding either to your meal plan.)

When Scott learned what Cassie was up to, he gathered together a group of super powered individuals – himself, the new Giant-Man, Darla Deering AKA Ms. Thing, Grizzly, Machinesmith, Whirlwind, The Beetle, The Magician, The Voice, and Hijacker – to break into Cross’s super secure facility and rescue Cassie.1u1jnc Their twenty-two step plan succeeded well enough to get everyone into the facility. Then the team separated. The super-villains in the team – you did notice that most of the team was comprised of super villains, didn’t you? – went off to fulfill their goal, stealing technology from Cross. Scott headed off on his own for his goal, to rescue Cassie.

Scott found Cassie, who was in the middle of a face-to-face confrontation with Darren Cross, Cross’s son, and their super villain bodyguard, Crossfire. That’s when things went…

Ah, but you don’t want me to give that away, do you? I mean that would be a SPOILER and I’d have to do a SPOILER WARNING! and everything. Even though this is issue 9 which would be a bad place to stop a story arc, because 9 is a bad number of issues to collect into a trade paperback, so you probably already know the story was be continued in the next issue, you still don’t want me to tell you that things go badly and Ant-Man is captured by Cross and Crossfire. Right?

Okay, fine. Things go badly and Ant-Man is captured by Cross and Crossfire. Happy?

Now I’ve written before about my problem with super heroes who do stupid things that essentially break the law. But rather than do that, and like I said earlier, I shoula stood in bed, because apparently no one listens or cares. Hell, The Astonishing Ant-Man # 9 didn’t just not care, it doubled down on the trope. Instead of having Ant-Man do something stupid that essentially broke the law, this story astonished us by having Ant-Man do something stupid that actually broke the law.

Ant-Man teamed up with a bunch of super villains to break into a technology research facility. Sure Ant-Man’s motives were a little more pure than thieving. He wanted to rescue his daughter and keep her from becoming a super villain. But to do that, he aided and abetted a group of super villains he knew were going to burgle the research facility. That makes him just as guilty of their thefts as they are, even if Ant-Man didn’t, himself, steal anything. Ant-Man even knew he was guilty, because his narrative caption joked, “Cue Ocean’s Eleven soundtrack.” (BTW, Scott, your quip doesn’t work. In case you didn’t notice, or can’t count, there were only ten of you.)

I can’t say as I’m impressed with Scott’s parenting skills. I’ve got to show my daughter that the way to solve your problems isn’t to become a super villain. So I’ll solve that problem by becoming a super villain. I’d hate to see what Scott’s solution is when Cassie comes to him because it’s time for “the talk.”

Oh, and lest you think I’m being a little hard on Scott, because he wasn’t really a thief and his heart was in the right place, think again. Everything the astonishing Ant-Man did in this issue proves that, contrary to popular opinion, he was a thief. What did he do? He staged an elaborate heist to break into Darren Cross’s super secure technology research facility to steal something, only to be captured by Cross. See, Scott is a thief. He totally ripped off the plot to the Ant-Man movie.