Historiographical Essay On The Civil War Captain

Warning: There are spoilers ahead for the Avengers: Infinity War Prelude comic. If you don’t want to know anything, turn back now!

Somewhere between Captain America: Civil War and the upcoming Avengers: Infinity War, Steve Rogers grew out a magnificent lumberjack beard and got a new costume. But the man formerly known as Cap hasn’t just been chillin’ in Wakanda while waiting for the next crisis to strike! This week, Marvel released the Avengers: Infinity War Prelude comic, which serves as an in-canon story about the gap between the two movies. Today’s Nerdist News is declassifying those events and getting you up-to-date intel on some of your favorite Avengers.

Join host and America’s favorite substitute Avenger, Jessica Chobot, as she runs down the biggest revelations from the Infinity War Prelude. Starting with Steve, it appears that his renegade Avengers have become a three-person anti-terrorist strike team. Steve, Falcon, and Black Widow have united to take on Earthbound threats who have armed themselves with Chitauri tech from the Battle of New York while Hawkeye and Ant-Man have left the team to reunite with their families.

The Scarlet Witch and Vision have also left their respective sides and apparently reconciled on the way towards a real relationship. Vision’s even using his human disguise that was glimpsed in the Infinity War trailer. As for Bucky, the former Winter Soldier may be in for some very good news. Despite going back in suspended animation at the end of Civil War, Bucky’s mind is being rebooted by Black Panther‘s sister (and possibly the smartest woman in the world), Shuri.

But where’s Tony Stark in all of this? It’s not clear if Tony knows that Thanos is coming, but he is constructing the new Iron Man armor from the trailer. It’s also apparent that Tony feels abandoned by the rest of the team, and he’s contemplating facing the next threat alone. All of this was just from the first issue. Next month, Avengers: Infinity War Prelude #2 will catch up with Marvel’s cosmic characters and possibly shed some light on where the Guardians of the Galaxy have been in the four-year time gap between Vol. 2 and Infinity War.

What do you think about the revelations from the Infinity War Prelude comic? Let’s discuss in the comment section below!

Images: Marvel

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When last we left the Avengers, reformed warhawk Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.), aka Iron Man, was cleaning up his own militaristic mistakes—namely, the creation of a sentient super-robot-gone-psycho named Ultron (James Spader)—by designing a better, more morally conscious machine in the form of Vision (Paul Bettany). That plot gave Avengers: Age of Ultron a schizoid political dimension in which go-it-alone techno-warfare heroism was seen as both the cause of, and solution to, the world’s problems. It was a shrewd tack that allowed the film to appeal to both sides of the aisle to the tune of $1.4 billion at the global box office. And likely to the chagrin of Clinton and Sanders backers during this heated election year, it’s mostly absent, it turns out, in Captain America: Civil War.

Helmed by Captain America: The Winter Soldier directors Joe and Anthony Russo, Marvel’s latest picks up shortly after Ultron, with Iron Man, Captain America (Chris Evans), and the rest of their superpowered crew facing criticism from both a public and a government—led by Hulk nemesis Thaddeus “Thunderbolt” Ross (William Hurt), who’s now secretary of state—convinced that the damage left in the wake of their missions, when coupled with their autonomy, makes them a threat.

In response to the destruction of Sokovia at the end of Ultron, 117 nations come together to concoct the Sokovia Accords, placing the Avengers under the control of a U.N. council. Iron Man is for this legislation, largely because he continues to be guilt-ridden over the collateral damage produced by his armored ass-kicking. Captain America, however, sees it as a terrifying shackle that could be exploited by untrustworthy politicians—a paranoia clearly born from his Winter Soldier revelation that covert agency S.H.I.E.L.D. was actually controlled by Nazi-esque villains HYDRA.

Tensions come to a boil when Captain America’s long-time buddy Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan), aka the brainwashed, metal-armed killer Winter Soldier, is framed for a bombing at the U.N. during the signing of the Sokovia Accords. That terrorist act further convinces the world that the Accords are necessary—including King T’Challa (Chadwick Bosman), aka Black Panther, whose father died in the explosion—and it sends Cap off on an insubordinate mission to protect Bucky, whom he’s sure is innocent because, well, Cap is borderline in love with his old childhood pal. In doing so, he finds himself on the opposite side of a war with Iron Man.

Before long, the two testosterone-fueled superheroes are facing off, each with their own cadre of superpowered supporters.

Like their more general action-movie brethren, most superhero fantasies are inherently conservative in nature, positing independent vigilantes as the surest way to peace, justice, and the American Way. While famed New Yorker critic Pauline Kael’s censure of Dirty Harry as fascistic (a “right-wing fantasy [that is] a remarkably single-minded attack on liberal values") may have been going a tad too far, her overarching point—that the violent protagonists of such movies derive their might and virtue from their disobedience to the law, and their confidence in their own unassailable moral compass—still holds true for today’s crop of costumed do-gooders, whether they hail from Marvel or, as evidenced by this past March’s similarly themed Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, rival DC Comics.

As with its predecessor, Civil War wants to paint both sides of its politicized argument as reasonable (if only because those stances are taken by its two most popular characters). And yet here, that line-straddling feels strained to the point of disingenuousness.

Convinced that the American superpower has reaped more bad than good, and thus must be checked by both the government and the U.N., Iron Man—no matter his love of weaponized suits of armor—comes to embody the more self-critical, dove-ish, nanny state-advocating Left. Meanwhile, Cap’s opposition to imperious federal oversight, and his belief that he knows best and should be allowed to act accordingly in whatever international jurisdiction he sees fit, marks him as a figure of the Right—replete with a sidekick, Falcon (Anthony Mackie), who performs both surveillance and tactical strikes with his own personal aerial drone.

The fact that these characters once held opposite positions—Iron Man the armament-loving bad boy free agent (decked out in Republican red), Captain America the dutiful by-the-books soldier (outfitted in Democratic blue)—lends the film some dark irony about the way global conflicts warp deep-rooted convictions. But make no mistake about it: Civil War is the moment at which the Marvel Cinematic Universe most clearly embraces its conservative ethos.

While Iron Man’s attitude seems practical, it’s also ultimately demarcated as wrong. The outside-the-law Captain America is this film’s unqualified hero from the start, when he’s presented as the righteous alternative to Iron Man’s collaborative cowardice. And it’s solidified by its conclusion, when his conspiracy theory hunches are proven correct—thereby proving he’s more trustworthy than Iron Man, Thunderbolt Ross, the U.N., or any other administrative body. Furthermore, Bucky, the friend he’s driven to protect, is a case study in what happens to superbeings when they’re controlled by governments: they’re transformed into murderous, amoral assassin-slaves.

As such, Civil War's liberal inclinations feel far more half-hearted than in its precursors—although Marvel’s ideological confusion remains ever-present. Captain America may be a right-leaning rogue, but his tacked-on romance with blonde beauty Sharon Carter (Emily VanCamp) feels like a feeble attempt to counterbalance his homoerotic bond with Bucky. And Iron Man’s sudden pro-parameters attitude seems so at odds with his self-determination character—as evidenced by a finale in which he lets his hunger for vengeance outweigh all other concerns—that his Sokovia Accords support comes across as a narrative device engineered to instigate some chaotic superhero-on-superhero mayhem.

Civil War is thematically too all-over-the-place to be reduced to facile political equations (Captain America does not equal Trump; Iron Man is not a proxy for Hillary Clinton). Nonetheless, in its celebration of lone-wolf heroes brazenly acting on their own (unassailable) whims, unfettered by pesky bureaucratic authority, it stands as an example of Marvel’s evolution toward a fundamentally more conservative philosophy.

At least, that is, until Spider-Man: Homecoming, whose nerdy wall-crawler—now firmly established as a member of regulation-loving Team Iron Man—may very well yet turn out to be a millennial superhero who Feels the Bern.

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