Saturday, May 5, 2007

Contribution; Or, Civil War: The Rebuttal

If you take posts on the internet to be a judge of people's opinions on Civil War, I am the only person on the planet who not only liked Civil War, but was on Tony's side (for the most part). In this post I intend, way, way too late for it to be of any interest to anyone, to show why I think that not only was the comic well conceived and for the most part well executed, but that 'in' universe, Tony's stance, whether or not Tony himself is a douchebag, is pretty much the only way to go.

As a Comic:

Progressing from the comparatively trivial the the profound, I'll start of by agreeing, and perhaps emphasizing what Exar said below; Steve McNiven's art is amazing.

Aside from that...

I think what people don't like about civil war shoots straight in from the tie-ins. Amazing Spider-Man's tie-ins were shit, for the most part insulting to the readers thereof, and diminished Spider-Man as a whole. No, I'm not talking about the demasking; I'm for that, actually. But basically, Spider-Man goes from sucking Tony's dick, to rebelling against him because he doesn't have a stomach for seeing people put in prison. Eric posted a quote from a friend of his on my blog about how he was 'with Spider-Man, taking the tagline of the series and putting his own spin on it. but basically, I see Spider-Man's position in Civil War as the worst; He's a dumbshit who picks the right side for the wrong reasons and switches to the wrong side for the weakest reasons. I love Spidey, and such is his lot in life, so I'm not screaming about how they took him off of 'my' side, but wow.
Reading Civil War #1-7 by themselves, they suffer a bit from rushing, and force some of the details into other books, but by themselves they are filled with snappy dialogue, amazing art and gripping cliffhangers. Sure, it was filled with some dumb choices; Why Pym couldn't shrink Goliath, I have no idea. But when you read utter garbage like Civil War: X-Men, it's hard to believe in the quality of this crossover.

Something like this was inevitable in a universe with any loose attachment to our world- it is an updating of the Marvel Universe to the post 9-11 atmosphere of fear and legislative control.

Can I say something for the forum geeks? I'm going to.
Marvel isn't on Tony's Side. They aren't on Cap's side, either. They're on the side that has you clenching your fist, angry and upset or righteously indignant, caring about the Marvel Universe the same way that wonks care about the politics of our universe. They thrill as you buy up books to support characters who are on 'your side'. They are in the business of telling good stories, not telling ones where everything is happy. Look at politics again; Elections over which people are bitterly divided have by far, far far the highest turnout. Correspondingly, divisive, controversial stories sell the most comics, and Civil War drives that home by being the best selling comic of 2006, and possibly the best seller of 2007, as well. (well, really, 52 sold more comics than any other comic last year, because there were like 30 published in the year; but 52 is really much more like 7 or 8 comics cut up and spliced together; and single issues of Civil War outsold single issues of 52 by wide margins.)

Now, as to why Tony's right...

I'm not going to argue about Tony's methods. While I myself hope that when I die, my friends clone me, Tony does a lot of dubious things in Civil war, and even more things that are confusingly written and leave a lot of room for interpretation (I think, for example, his hiring of Titanium Man in Amazing Spider-Man's prelude to Civil War was an attempt to show that the system is working- Exar thinks it was to precipitate the passing of the act)But Tony is not the living embodiment of registration, and there could be a registration act with or without him, and we should examine its merits and flaws, and they come in two parts.

1: Superhuman Registration, and 2: Superhero licensing and deputizing.

Superhuman registration is the tough ethical one. It's hard to put a stand on it, because when it comes down to mutants, it's racial profiling. OF course, there is a real, bonafide difference between a mutant, and say, a second generation Mexican-American; A mutant could explode you. Now granted, not all mutants can- in fact, most mutants can't, but let's discuss the ethical grounds for making a distinction.

One of the things about racial discrimination in our world is that it is unjust. Not hiring a black person because he is black is unjust, because we, as enlightnened people, know that all other things being equal, the color of a person's skin, or the shape of their genitalia, means jack-shit all about what they can or can't do. Similarly, that they can do and cannot do all the same things that we can do, so creating laws over color simply is automatically unfair; judging someone for a superficial difference that they can't control.

A mutant has a difference, and they can't control it; but it is often far from superficial. Many mutants have an immense power over the 4 freedoms of others, and worse yet, not all of them even have control over their powers. What good is being free an unregistered if a child with powers the likes of Cyclops is born to A backwoods family of Church of Christ Scientists? Not much. He's likely to kill everyone around him until the authorities are forced to put him down when he endangers others. And not having a law in place that makes it so authorities are authorized or required to help this child seems... stupid, to me. Granted, it does somehow ring of fascism, say, when a mutant like Beak is forced to register. But being registered is not itself an undue violation of liberty or privacy. Much like a warrant, the authorities would need to have reasonable cause to assume a person has powers, and then be responsible to conduct their dealings with a mutant with powers above the board, on the level, and in a way that preserves every freedom possible.

Essentially, powers or mutantdom become something akin to Driving; If you have powers, good for you; but if you are using them, you must register. While there are some legilative differences between this last stance, the right one, and what the law in the MU actually is, in practice, as shown in CW: the Initiative #1, in practice they are the same- A mutant who has the power to set fire to things has little to fear if he doesn't use his powers, or uses them only on his own property on his own time. Finally, a mutant compliant with these regulations is no doubt protected by the Equal opportunity act.

There's also the little racial matter that the Mutants are an endangered species, under protection from both the U.N. and the U.S. government and are all registered with the authorities before CW even starts.

When it comes to people who get their powers from 'happy accidents', their right are a little less clear. They're not being profiled for their race; they have been the recipients of radiation or genetic tampering. Their powers may very, very well cause them cancer or other diseases. They are not subject to even the gentle guiding hand of mother nature towards survivable traits. They may even be the result of alien genetic tampering (Nitro, Ms. Marvel, etc.)and literally sent here to kill us all. It sucks, but you have to legislate the part of them that is a national interest, and then do the right thing and protect the rest of their lives. Registration and Equal Opportunity protections are the right thing. With people like these, it's no longer profiling; nobody cares if their appearance simply changed, except possibly of compassion or attraction; it's focused right on where the public has a right to be concerned; mass public harm or infringement of liberties.

As for the draft...

While CW: the initiative #1 seems to imply that registering is the same as being up for the draft, Joe Quesada has been abundantly clear: Registering is not the same as signing up for the 'draft' so to speak; The 'draft' applies when you decide you want to use your powers to become a costumed crimefighter, and that when you do, you may be asked to provide cooperation and support in legitimate peacekeeping actions. Because Kirkman, the writer of the initiative, is a genius, I'm assuming that the revelation of the difference between the two to Cloud 9, the young heroine in CW:tI#1 either happens off panel, or that War Machine was intentionally misleading.
Taking aside the in-comic depictions in CW:tI, a draft seems draconian to us, but mandatory terms of service for citizens is fairly common in our world: the following countries all have mandatory armed services for citizens:
China (PRC)
Korea, South
Taiwan (ROC)

While many of these countries are not exactly shining examples in the fight for human liberties, the idea of citizenship as a privilege and service as a/the means of gaining that privilege is hard to really see as truly malevolent, draconian and fascistic. And if the draft works as Joe Quesada (marvel's Editor In Chief) implies, then it is not much different than obligations all of our nation's law enforcement must adhere to.

Finally, vigilantism.

Vigilantism is wrong. Period. It's against the law in America, and with good reason- First of all, having justice dispensed by a dispassionate system protects justice from being subsumed by revenge; it allows us a nationwide understanding of what is wrong and what is right. It keeps us from having 'justice' dispensed by a neighbor who thinks that what two men or women do in the privacy of their own bedroom is a crime against god, punishable by death.

Personal justice is of course wrong. I hope I don't have much dissent on this. Sure, an occasional act of citizen's justice, in line with the law of the land, is great. But when a guy puts on a pair of pajamas and goes out 7 nights a week to fight crime...

A police officer, in addition to being trained in how to protect the peace and the innocent, is also trained in the responsibilities of an officer of the peace. A police officer has regulations and training him telling him when to call for backup, when to read someone their rights, the liberties of suspects and how to respect them, and an order of operations for when people are in danger and crimes are being committed. Perhaps most importantly, a police officer is responsible to a chain of command and ultimately to the people if he discharges these duties improperly and recklessly. It is out and out wrong for a person to flout this responsibility simply because the person has powers. A court would throw out evidence gathered by an unlicensed, freelance detective working a case for a friend, and it would be intensely difficult for a jury to convict the kind of mugger that Spider-Man so often catches and leaves webbed to a lamp-post with some circumstantial piece of evidence webbed along with them. Apprehending people, subduing them, judging that they have violated the rights of others and then in turn compromising the rights of alleged wrongdoers in the service of the public good is a great power and should come with great responsibility.

No comments: