Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Fascism in the Marvel Universe

A warning: if you're not following Marvel's Civil War or the aftermath, this post won't make any sense to you at all...

So, of course, Captain America 25 is impossible to get. This was done as a complete surprise, so the shops didn't know to order extra copies. But the sequence is reprinted in Avengers: The Initiative by Bendis (with the Thunderbolts vingette by Warren Ellis) -- which, by the way, is very very good. (Mighty Avengers #1 is also very good.)

I am really impressed that they decided to kill Captain America. I mean, I liked House of M a lot. It was incredibly well executed, but for all its world altering scope (reducing the mutant population from millions to 198), it was actually a much smaller, more intimate story.

Civil War -- which is the best one of these big crossover books I've ever read -- is truly an epic, paradigm altering event for the Marvel Universe. And they do it organically, not with the reset button, as House of M did (not to mention Crisis and its sequel at DC).

And a lot of people expect them to find a way to hit the reset button here, for e.g., on Spiderman outing himself as Peter Parker. But in the end, they actually went much further than that: they've abolished the idea of secret identities. In the Marvel universe, secret identities are no longer remotely legitimate for superheroes.

If you have a secret identity, you're--by definition--a supervillain.

Supervillains are no longer necessarily people with superpowers who are bad. They're people with superpowers who are unregistered.

Conversely, bad people with superpowers who do register -- and who agree to be implanted with controlling nanites -- can be heroes. They get a second chance, e.g., The Thunderbolts.

Then again, who knows if they get a choice on those nanites... Maybe they get them no matter what, even if they're being shipped off to the negative zone prison.

I know some people are gonna say this is problematic. They're abrogating civil rights, and "heroes" shouldn't act like that. And, while I agree they are abrogating civil rights, I think it's problematic in a good way.

All superhumans--not just all superheroes--have to register with the government now.

So a superpowered kid -- whether mutant or otherwise -- now needs a license to use his powers. For example, if he has the power to fly.

That strikes me as incredibly wrong, but I'm eager to see the ramifications explored on both the micro and macro levels, as Stark and Richards -- and all of them -- are forced to confront the consequences of what they have wrought.

Their brave new world (like all brave new worlds) has a dark underbelly: fascism.

Anyway... Who's takin' bets on how long before Stark falls off the wagon?