Civil Words – Civil War #4

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Hey there, I’m Cian, that’s Colm, and this is our weekly read-through of the Marvel comics series and basis for next summer’s Captain America sequel: Mark Millar’s Civil War.

Our story so far: a law requiring superheroes to register themselves is passed and Marvel’s Avengers characters split into two factions: the Pro-Registration side led by Iron Man and the Anti-Registration side led by Captain America.

Last issue ended with the two sides coming together for a big fight, which was interrupted by a very-angry Thor showing up on Iron Man’s team.

So since this issue is more or less a giant fight scene and it’s immediate aftermath, let me ask you Colm: not just in comics but in all of pop culture, what’re some of your favourite big battle scenes?

Colm: Well the one that immediately springs to mind is the Battle for Helms Deep in Lotr The Two Towers!  Helms Deep for the big huge vastness and everything in between, Cap America vs Winter Soldier (The first fight) in the movie Winter Soldier aaaaaaaaaaand… hmmm not sure about the third! What are your picks then Cian?

Cian: Well sure you can’t beat that last fight from The Avengers for sheer style and fun. And because I still have a weird soft spot for the Matrix sequels, I’ll admit the Neo versus a huge crowd of Agent Smith’s in a playground is still a guilty pleasure of mine. And for Number 3? Hmmm, difficult. Ooooh, I know: towards the end of the first volume of Fables an entire issue is given over to laying-out how a hypothetical battle between the US Military and an army of all the bad fairy-tale characters would play out. It is, needless to say, loads of fun.

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Okay, but to our story: Picking up from last issue, Thor shows up, growls a cheesy and oddly aggressive one-liner, then absolutely wrecks the Anti-Reg team. Just bowls ‘em over like pins.

And then he turns and round and shoots Goliath straight through the chest. Now granted, the impact is slightly lessened because Goliath isn’t a character I’d ever really heard of before or after this story, but still…Thor just cold executed that guy.

Colm: Yeah dick move Thor, especially after Hank Pym had just bullied Goliath because Hank Pym is an asshole in general! Yeah the Anti-Reggies are going down faster than Gandalf in the pit of Khaza-Dum! Cap and Iron Man get into a brawl that leaves Cap broken, bruised and thoroughly beaten! His life is saved by Hercules and Falcon though, while Sue Storm takes it upon herself to stop Thormanator from obliterating the anti-reggies.

Cian: Heh, “Thorminator”.

(I find Evil Thor very hard to take seriously, even as he’s effing people up, cos of the teeney little metal hat with the wings on it. I really want him to show up with it on in the movies just once, acting all cool and like “Aww yeee, thas’ right, check out mah new look…” – and then all the other Avengers collapse laughing at him and he takes it off, red-faced.)

But it’s not as bad as it seems: turns out this guy is just a clone of Thor Iron Man made from a strand of hair he found on his sofa. And, um, isn’t making murderous duplicates of your friends normally something only the bad guys do in superhero stories?

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Colm: I’m sure at one point they laughed at his hat! Just like they probably laughed at Hawkeye when he tried to sign up!

Y’know I think its a lot worse than it seems, If Tony Stark made a Thor-clone, he probably has a clone of every useful avenger! Its a fine line between good guy and bad guy with Iron Man in times of war.

Cian: Yup, with his cloned copy of his dead friend murdering another one of his former friends, Iron Man is pretty clearly being positioned as the villain of the series.

Which is a problem because, well, as we’ve talked about before, as a fugitive who is going against the democratic will of the people and beating up law enforcement officers, Cap is also (unintentionally?) being presented as the villain.

(Also the bit where Clone-Thor’s (Clor’s?) eyes blink open in between panels is creepy as all get-out. The only example of a horror movie-style jump-scare done in comics I can think of?)

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So Colm, whose side are you on? And does it really even matter, if they’re both as bad as each other?

Colm: Well as it stand the Pro-Reggers have made all the bad moves, with laying a trap, tranquilizing Wiccan and Cloak, unleashing Thormanator and beating the shite out of everyone else present you can see how the Pro-Reg side is being made to look the villain!

But Cap and his crew are still going against the public’s wishes, have gone underground and are making no attempt to reason with the authorities! At face value you’d be persuaded to look at the Anti-Reg-Rebels but actually considering it the Pro-reggers are just making mistakes while trying to accomplish the most good. This situation brings to mind a quote from good ole Tywin Lannister: ‘we look like fools and they look like heroes’.

I remain Pro-Reg, I still don’t want super-powered titans dispensing their own brand of justice! Unless they are Superman. Always trust Superman.

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Cian: I”m still Pro-reg too. It seems like they’ve thrown in all the villainous stuff Iron Man’s side is doing: all the cloned friends, super-prisons, stormtrooper armies, and deals with super-villains, because if that stuff wasn’t in there they would just obviously be in the right?

But I feel like Millar’s attempt at balance backfired, and now everybody just looks like an asshole.

Cap’s some kind of weird “freedom extremist”: when a few of his colleagues decide they don’t want to spend their days punching their friends/normal policemen who are just enforcing the democratically mandated law, Cap spits after them “Let them go if their freedom means so little to them.” – Jesus, it’s a fecking cult of personality!

And Iron Man is just as bad and extreme on the “Security, Surveillance and Military Force” end of the spectrum: making killer Thor-copies from couch hairs and (as we see at the end of the issue) letting convicted murderers out of jail to track down (and, um, presumably kill?) his opponents.

So we have two poles, and neither is right, or particularly likeable. So, um, who are our protagonists now? I guess the guys like Spider-Man and Sue Storm who are willing to compromise and shift sides and take perspective from both points of view?

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Ooh, also, in among all the violence and murder, there’s also a quick, fun panel where Sue Storm uses her powers to make a force-field umbrella for herself. If you had superpowers, what’s a really mundane use you’d find for them? (For me I’d definitely use super-speed to catch up on my reading, and if I had Wolverine claws I’d never need to worry about buying a razor again…)

Colm: If you had Wolverine claws and used them for shaving Cian, you’d cut your head off! Id use fire powers to cook my dinner juuuuuuuuust right!
Also I’m just after realising: Johnny Storm, who fights insane monsters and Doctor Doom, gets KO’ed by some fool with a bottle, not great heroic standards Johnny!

Y’know, if you had superspeed it wouldn’t really work with the internet, you’d be scrolling and typing too fast for a laptop or PC to keep up with!

Cian: Oh yeah. Shit.



About the Authors:

The lovable slacker type, Colm Sheppard is into all things comic book. He enjoys good food, good stories and lengthy anecdotes.

A lifelong TV addict since his first episode of Sesame Street, Cian Sheppard works as an English teacher in Germany and thinks you look very nice today.

About English Den

Experienced, qualified and professional English teacher working in Warsaw, Poland. Interested in pop culture, and using pop culture to teach languages. Available for private or in-business classes. International classes also available on Skype. Contact for further information.
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