A recent comic book “mega-event” ended this month when Marvel published issue seven of Civil War. The series introduced the concept of a registration act that would require all heroes to reveal their identities and work more closely with whatever government was in office at the time. Heroes were divided in their support for the measures, and (not surprisingly) conflict ensued. Pro-registration forces were led by corporate/financial powerhouse Iron Man, while those who would challenge the act fell in step beside Captain America.
I think my frustrations are just the all-too-common result of broken-hearted fanboyism. I may be out of touch with the character (as I don’t currently read any of his titles) but I appreciate Captain America as a symbol of what was once right about the USA. Having him stand up to his own government was fitting in a few different regards. I’d hoped that this logic and the consequent narrative validity would continue through to resolution, but… it didn’t. That logic disappeared with a tiny whimper when Cap surrendered, and then ordered his forces to do the same.
Captain America surrendered.
Done properly, this might have been a significant character moment in a history that stretches back more than 60 years. In this context, however, it’s illogical, disheartening, and awfully convenient for the writers. More than any other superhero, I expect Cap to know that liberty has its costs. Sacrifices are made in times of war, and they certainly are not limited to armed forces. Collateral damage is a terrible thing, but it isn’t a new aspect of conflict–look back to Cap’s own war, where civilian death exceeded soldier death by more than 50%.
Yet in the final issue of Civil War, rather than risk the populace further, Captain American decides he would rather have everyone live in a world with fewer freedoms? Doesn’t this cast a depressing light on any parallels drawn to issues in the world right outside your door: censorship, privacy, American foreign policy, basic human rights?
“Don’t trust your instincts, ethics, or past accomplishments; do what what your government tells you to do or they will use force to deny you further rights.”
Now I know why Cap was crying.²
Enough about comics, but more about the world’s only superpower. As I’ve noted before, John Hodgman is also an example of everything that is (or once was) right with America. I bring him up again because his almanac of complete world knowledge is available for FREE (as in beer) to Canadian iTunes customers this week. Spring into action!
1. The Internet was invented so that people could argue. Especially about comic books.
2. Please excuse the melodrama, but I like to think it’s allowed when discussing mediums where melodramas flourish–like RPGs and comics.