Making Iron Man the Villain of Civil War (2006) is Why the Comics Event Failed

 

Screen Rant wrote one of their frustratingly sugarcoated history pieces, this one about Tony Stark’s place in the atrocious Civil War crossover from nearly 15 years ago:

 

Throughout the pages of the Marvel Comics event Civil War, Captain America and Iron Man face off in a battle of convictions that leads Tony Stark down a villainous path.

Written by Mark Millar with pencils by Steve McNiven, Civil War sees a crisis unfurling across Earth-616 after the villain Nitro blows himself up setting off a nuclear level explosion in a suburban neighborhood. In the aftermath of this tragedy, the Superhuman Registration Act is passed and presented to the heroes of Marvel Comics with the orders to register as government agents or cease all vigilante activities. Captain America takes up the anti-registration position, citing that in a world where heroes work for governments those in charge will determine who is and is not the enemy. On the contrary, Iron Man takes up the pro-registration position… and becomes the public face of the cause.

Throughout the conflict, Iron Man develops into the main villain of the story with many of Tony Stark’s actions showing a descent towards authoritarianism. After recruiting a roster of Pro-Registration heroes, most of whom already had public identities, Stark also allied himself with “reformed” villains who were released under the watch of the government to help keep the peace. He went on to develop the oppressive technologies needed to imprison the fugitive Anti-Registration heroes led by Captain America. Although Iron Man believed he was acting for the betterment of the people, in reality he was using the same logic that countless other world-ending villains have used before him. His argument that the ends justify the means is nothing new to Marvel Comics, with characters like Thanos, Kang The Conqueror, and Magneto using a similar justification in their plans for world domination.

 

Missing so far is whether turning IM into a villain was justified. Or whether the ends justify that sort of means. And what did anybody who read the crossover at the time think of Tony’s portrayal as a de facto villain? Or how, shortly after, Captain America was killed so that resurrected Bucky could take his place? Or, how this whole mess served as the catalyst for One More Day, the Spider-Man story that erased Peter Parker’s marriage to Mary Jane Watson through a deal with Mephisto?

 

Stark’s most villainous act is also his most Shakespearean as he plays his relationship with Peter Parker against the Web-Slinger, convincing Peter to reveal his identity as Spider-Man in a live press conference. Stark gives Spider-Man a brand new Iron Spider suit in exchange for his allegiance, secretly placing a number of tracking devices and controls into the armor. When Peter joins Tony on a visit to Prison 42, the faculty designed to hold their super-human prisoners, he discovers that many of the imprisoned are being held without trial or access to a lawyer. Not only was this imprisonment illegal but Prison 42 was located within the Negative Zone, a life draining alien universe composed entirely of anti-matter where time moves faster than on Earth. Peter is outraged by this overreach and immediately protests this. During his attempt to flee with Mary Jane and Aunt May, Iron Man attacks him and sends several “reformed” villains to capture the Wall-Crawler. Peter barely escapes with his life thanks to last minute aid by The Punisher, and later makes a public reformation on his support of the Superhero Registration Act and exposes the many atrocities being carried out due to its enforcement.

 

 

Again, this was all part of the plan to get rid of the Spider-marriage, and if I’d been one of the mindless readers who wasted money on Civil War at the time, I’d feel embarrassed afterwards that a protracted story written as a leftist metaphor for the Patriot Act was also an excuse to put Spidey in a position to make faustian deals with Mephisto shortly after. Not to mention lead to situations where Mary Jane was horrifically misused out of spite. It goes without saying the jail in the Negative Zone is obviously an allusion to Guantanamo Bay, and at this point, I wouldn’t be shocked if Tony were behind the attack on May Parker that led to Peter miserably falling into a puddle of guilt, and again, making that deal with Mephisto costing his marriage to Mary Jane.

 

While Tony Stark’s attempt to find a way to control this destruction can be seen as valiant by some, it is his quick transition towards fear mongering that reminds readers of the adage that even the best intentions can go awry. MCU fans will remember his creation of Ultron in Avengers: Age Of Ultron started out with Tony’s hope that a suit of armor all around the world would help keep the peace. Later, when The Avengers are presented with the Sokovia Accords in Captain America: Civil War, Stark makes the argument that if they don’t sign the Accords then they will be forced to eventually. A showing moment of his personality, where Tony knows that if needed he would force his will upon the rest of the team because he felt he knew best. While it can be argued that Iron Man was trying his best to save the world, in reality Civil War shows us that our favorite superheroes are closer to becoming villains that we thought.

 

Because, in the warped minds of these columnists, the fictional characters are all real people whom they’ve bumped into on the street, right? It doesn’t take a genius to guess the people writing these trashy columns aren’t really dedicated fans who recognize why positive characterization pays much better than negative. I thought we were supposed to be rooting for Tony, and instead, we’re supposed to scowl at him as though he had been created as a villain? It’s just sad.

Civil War led to much of the disasters comicdom’s since been collapsing from. One more reason why I disapprove of Marvel’s movie division using it as the basis for one of the Captain America films.

 

Originally published here.

Avi Green

Avi Green

Avi Green was born in Pennsylvania in 1974, and moved to Israel in 1983. He enjoyed reading comics when he was young, the first being Fantastic Four. He maintains a strong belief in the public's right to knowledge and accuracy of facts. He considers himself a conservative-style version of Clark Kent. Follow him on his blog at Four Color Media Monitor or on Twitter at @avigreen1

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