Reading Marvel’s ‘Civil War’ and ‘AvX’, or “The counterpoint of Marvel Characters”

Lately we at Noumenal Realm have gotten very much into comics and graphic novels. Although we mostly read the Marvel stuff, there are a few indies and other things that we pick up on from time to time. I would like to discuss an issue that has been on my mind for a while. That is the interesting personal perspectives of certain iconic Marvel Characters in recent years. I will talk about Captain America vs. Iron Man and then briefly the more recent Cyclops.


Steve Rogers vs. Tony Stark: allies and opponents


In the Marvel Civil War storyline, there was a discussion about registering superheroes. The heroes divided into a pro-registration and anti-registration camp. For me this was a really politically salient narrative, in a decade where the discussion on curbing freedoms in the name of safety was a hot topic in the light of national security issues in the US and Europe, those Marvel writing bods touched on a nerve that divided the Avengers, and many other heroes in the 616 continuity.


Steve Rogers was anti-registration. People work from their own individual goodness to get involved with heroism, and it is not up to the state to both mandate and control this. Rogers also had a concern that registration meant that many heroes who kept anonymous, such as Spider-Man, couldn’t function as they remain anonymous. Heroes such as Spider-Man keep anonymity as a way of protecting those he loved, of course that never seemed to work for him in actuality.


Tony Stark was pro-registration. The government mandating superheroes would allow for a more centralised and organised distribution of the United States and their defence needs, if they were registered. There would also be a way of checking on heroes, think of the old phrase: “who watches the watchmen?”. By having a government approval, superheroes will have someone to be accountable to.


This difference in ideologies represents the truly beautiful and complex relationship that Stark and Rogers has. As people they are different, as political orientations go they are also different, but they also often work together for the same goals. The civil war storyline represents how fragmentation can happen from differing views, but perhaps how arguing out these differences is a necessary part of governance. For a comic saga that involved lots of ‘fights’, I very much enjoyed the political undertones of the civil war.


Cyclops and ‘Pax Utopia’


In the later ‘Avengers v X Men’ storyline of last year, Captain America and Iron Man had their own little revelations betraying a glimpse into their inner character. Iron Man was so desperate to find a way to understand and defeat the Phoenix force, that he discovered a spiritual faith, and began to think in spiritual terms, acknowledging the powers of characters like Iron Fist. Steve Rogers also had a revelation: that changing the world only comes through consent.


When, through a bizarre accident, Cyclops and four other X-Men the great power of the Phoenix force, they begin to remake the earth. There are scenes of bio-engineering and terraforming arid land, where the X-men impute themselves as a saviour to the world. Cyclops also proposes that the world’s representatives in the UN must accept world peace, so says the powerful Cyclops.


There’s that old saying of ‘power corrupts’. The Phoenix force fed into Cyclops’ ambition of the world, but also highlighted his darker aspects, such as his constant fear of being persecuted as a mutant, and never being approved by humanity wider. Cyclops’ forced peace, or Pax Utopia, is a definite reference to the old Pax Romana, which Kant considered as a viable model for world peace. If there were a single sovereign to rule all others, there would be no cause for war. Accept the Pax or face the consequences.


There were moments when the Avengers thought that it might be worth accepting this vision of the world, but Steve Rogers points out that such a peace was bought too easily. Real change has to be hard, has to be consensual and has to engage with people’s real disagreements and grievances. What Cyclops did was an oversimplification to world problems. I loved the AvX storyline for this insight I had in reading it. It’s also much easier than Michael slowly reading ‘The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire’, just saying.




The age of crossovers

There are just too many intellectual property crossovers right now. I saw a film that I quite liked recently, ‘The Wolverine’. I liked how the human side of the mutant character was emphasised. I liked the exploration of the psyche of Logan’s persona, his vulnerabilities and his outlook explored.


I have gotten quite big into Marvel recently. I am currently reading a volume from last year’s ‘AvX’ comic event, where there is quite a completist aspect about all the various series that tied into the story, and all the follow-up IPs since then. Due to work and other real life things, I don’t have enough time or energy to pay attention to more Marvel stuff, like Age of Ultron.


I wrote a while back about how I missed the ‘Earth’s Mightiest Heroes’ (EMH) Disney series. As it happens I am now following 3 Marvel animated series, and they all seem to have a decidedly purposeful intertwining. The problem is…there’s a slight inconsistency.


So the most recent Avengers’ series is supposedly a continuation of the series cancelled last year, but more re-formed to orient the recent interest in Marvel’s cinematic universe. However, in an episode that featured a flashback, it referenced something that points to how the new series (Avengers Assemble) is a continuation of EMH. However, due to transitive relations this would lead to some problems.


The recent Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H. features characters from the new Avengers series and Ultimate Spiderman, suggesting that they are in the same universe, the Avengers’ Fury character also references Ultimate Spiderman. However, the ultimate spiderman is a different character to the spiderman referenced in EMH (which is supposedly in the same continuity). Not least to mention how ‘Don’t Call me Power Man’ Luke Cage is a vastly different character between EMH and Ultimate Spiderman. Okay, so this is a kids show and these kinds of continuities don’t really matter.


There is something quick and easy about crossovers. DC has an upcoming Batman vs. Superman film coming up, for which the announcement of Ben Affleck has brought some notoriety. There’s more Marvel IPs coming out soon for the cinematic universe: Guardians of the Galaxy, in particular. Crossovers and team ups are also popular in action films. Note the success of the films Expendables and Expendables 2, which is an admittedly shameful guilty pleasure for me. The day my friends went to see the Expendables back in 2010 was so notable that it was a day that one of our friends met his now girlfriend, she has recently moved in with him and they are very much together. I think we can thank Stallone’s dream team making a film together as an efficient cause to their relationship. Perhaps cynically, I was recently drawn into the Fast and the Furious action films, when I found that cockneyed action hero hardman Jason Statham has a cameo at the end of the recent 6th outing of Vin Diesel’s action vehicle. This doesn’t even mention the capitalising of the pairing between Vin Diesel and Dwayne Johnson’s odd couple relationship.


So many things in popular culture emphasise the bigger and the bolder, the teaming up and the crossing over. There is a problem when we have too many characters, not enough genuine development. It seems culturally and in terms of consumption, there is a definite market and desire for such tastes today. I must admit, I quite enjoy the unusual pair-ups in Avengers vs. X Men. However with staple characters such as Captain America or Wolverine, I wonder how much Brian Michael Bendis can put in of personal insight into these characters. I see it as a potential tension, although Bendis manages it quite well.