Remember the excitement about Frank Miller’s sequel to the Dark Knight Returns and how everyone thought it would kick ass, only to find out it was nothing like Dark Knight Returns (some even called it the worst comic book series ever)? Seems Frank Miller was attempting a postmodern satire of superheroes and nobody seemed to get it. Well, why would Mark Millar, who a vocal critic of the Bush Administration, especially with regards to foreign policy, pen a series that ends with what could be a vindication of those policies? Has he changed his mind? I doubt it. Then it hit me:
Civil War is, just like DK2, one big ironic joke. This time, however, it’s a satire on the post-911 mindset.
Maybe I’m overreading things or giving Millar too much credit, but the thing is that Millar got his start, not just as a comic book writer, but wrote political satire. And one way to be satirical and demonstrate absurdity by being absurd is to employ contradictions. Just look at the following:
Captain America, the living legend of World War II, the ultimate patriot, champion of liberty, freedom, and justice for all, is mobbed by his fellow countrymen--firefighter, police officers, and doctors no less--because they see HIM as a bigger threat, as though his stance against what he sees as an infringement on civil liberties is not patriotic but rather treasonous and criminal. Sound familiar? (Millar, on his own website, even said Cap and his side were wrong, but doesn’t that totally contradict the entire notion that there was “no right or wrong side?”)
Or how about the fact that registration was all about holding heroes accountable for their actions and that it would serve as a means of keeping superheroes under control, virtually NO ONE is holding Iron Man, Reed, or SHIELD accountable for the actions they used to achieve “peace” and that, with Iron Man now director of SHIELD, heroes have far more control over regular people’s lives than they ever did before Registration was even passed?
How about the Negative Zone prison? The public has no problem with it because it an effective prison for supervillains, yet the prison was designed to imprison those who didn’t comply with registration--including superheroes. Hmm, does that mean superheroes who refuse to register are considered “super-villians” now?
Speaking of villains, what about the Thunderbolts? They, as pointed out by Miriam Sharpe herself, are composed of psychotic killers and yet they’re considered media darlings? Tony says to Miriam that they deserve redemption, and yet in actuality, because of the nanocites implanted in them, it’s actual forced subjugation without any illusion that they are “redeemable.” Some of them are even incarcerated and thrown into the Negative Zone afterwards as a “reward” for their service.
Also, even though it was a villain who actually caused the explosion at Stamford, almost everyone exclusively blamed the superheroes ONLY because of the actions of a reckless few.
And how about these:
Spider-Man unmasks in order to earn the people’s trust and is instead more ostracized than ever before;
Sue leaves Reed because she disapproves of what he’s doing and hopes he fixes things and yet comes back to him even though all the reasons why she left have not been fixed by Reed at all;
The Thing, whose very motto is “It’s Clobberin’ Time” and is a born scrapper refuses to actually fight;
The X-Men, who are traditionally the one’s most effected by any kind of Registration Act, choose to remain neutral.
And the very act that was created because of collateral damage caused by superbeings and designed to prevent it in the future leads to another incident where a battle between superbeings resulted in collateral damage. What’s more, with regards to the upcoming “World War Hulk,” there will be even more collateral damage that was an indirect result of heroes interfering--this time Iron Man himself.
Finally, the ending showing Tony and Miriam on the ShieldCarrier drifting off into the sunset as though the war is over (I mean, come on? The “hero” riding, or in this case flying, off into the sunset with the “girl?” that’s so cliché it HAS to be a joke) when in fact there are still folks from Cap’s side who haven’t given up, that even though Cap surrendered, the “war” is still going on. Furthermore, even though it’s the end of the series, Tony says to Miriam that “it’s only the beginning” and that he has 58 more things left to do!
What I’m getting at is this: if Civil War is analogous to what’s going on in a post 9/11 world, then the main series of Civil War, with all it’s pretty pictures and action is showing what’s going on a superficial level; but what’s actually going on is all the behind-the-scenes stuff, the far more “sinister” stories like Speedball put-on-trial and becoming disillusioned, the Green Goblin working with a “traitor” to stir up trouble with Namor and the Atlanteans, and two reporters investigating what Iron’s Man “real reason” for supporting registration as shown in Civil War: Frontline. Just as critics of the Bush Administration constantly scream about how people’s fears were exploited to support certain actions, so too have the fears of the MU populace in supporting Tony Stark creating what amounts to a police state. And Cap, who is on the verge of defeating the pro-reggers, who realizes he’s going about things the wrong way, decides to turn himself in for the good of the country in what can only be seen as a heroic gesture; and yet, it’s Iron Man and his bunch who are celebrated as the heroes. Interesting, no?
Then again, maybe I’m actually putting too much stock into what’s basically a shoddily put-together enterprise of superheroes beating the crap out of each other, with heavy-handed political commentary added to make it seem more relevant and significant.