Tag Archives: Black Widow

Captain America: Civil War – Helmut Zemo

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I really struggled when writing this post, readers, not because I doubted my own convictions – I believed from the start that Zemo was evil. Marvel, while turning a great deal in its comic book universe(s) upside-down and inside-out at the moment, was not going to change that fact for Civil War. Zemo has been an antagonist for too long; we all knew he was going to be the villain. My problem is the excuse implicit in the storyline that people would use to defend Zemo’s actions in the film.

Zemo’s grudge against the Avengers in Captain America: Civil War is based on his family’s dying when, in the previous Avengers film, Ultron raised half of his small country into the sky before trying to smash it into the Earth to destroy mankind. Zemo was smart enough to put his family up in a house outside the city before this occurred. Naturally, he did not anticipate the city getting lifted off the ground and bits of rock falling from it to land on top of his home.

There are people who would defend Helmut Zemo’s hatred for the Avengers and his diabolical plan to destroy them. Their arguments, in effect, would say, “But his family was killed! He was mad with grief! What right do you have to call him evil?! All he wanted was retribution for the deaths of his family!”

Retribution is not ours to seek any more than revenge, for which retribution is often a synonym. It is wrong and only causes more pain for more people. It breeds an endless, vicious cycle of violence, death, and darkness for everyone in the world. As for Zemo’s being “mad,” the proper understanding of its meaning is someone who is a danger to himself because he cannot take care of himself. It is not someone who stalks a group of people for a year and then tries to kill them. Zemo does not clinically qualify as “mad” or “insane.” But he does clinically qualify as evil.

How do we know this? He tells us. Zemo condemns himself in his own words, basing his choice on hatred and jealousy. After telling T’Challa about the deaths of his family, he says, “And the Avengers? They went home.” He says this as though it makes everything he has done and all those he has killed worth the cost. While I hate to break his soap bubble, I must ask: just what is it that Zemo expected the Avengers to do after destroying Ultron, saving humanity, and preserving the lives of as many of the civilians still in the city as they could?

What more, in short, could they have done to make him their friend? They could have gone back to the city after the battle and helped with the clean up.  But would that have won them Zemo’s respect? Would he have felt better if Thor, Cap, and Iron Man had helped him dig his family’s bodies out of the rubble? Would Zemo have felt better if they had helped him to bury his family? Would their tears over his loss have made him feel avenged (pun intended)? Since Zemo was ready to commit suicide after accomplishing his “mission,” this seems highly unlikely.

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You are probably wondering why I am making such a fuss about this, readers.   I take issue in this case because the writers did so, in order, I believe, to show how empty Zemo’s philosophy is.  I am also making an issue of this because those who professionally review films – the docents of decency, the perpetually petulant masters of modernity, and other “reformers” of reality (a.k.a. the culture Nazis) – have made this a tenant of their belief system. This belief and their system are both solipsistic and false.

How do I know this? There are several ways. Why, for instance, did the writers have Zemo deliver the above lines in these specific words and in this tone?   What is the big deal about the Avengers going home when their job (save the world) is done? How is it a crime for the Avengers to swoop into a certain place, stop the bad guys, and then go home to recover, the way that policemen and soldiers do? Just what is wrong with that picture, readers? Enlighten me, please; what is wrong with this situation?

The fact is that there is nothing wrong with it – absolutely nothing. The Avengers went home after Age of Ultron because they did not come to Sokovia as conquerors. They came as defenders of both Sokovia and mankind. No one – Avenger, commando, politician, civilian – could have predicted Ultron’s plan to raise the city and make it a destroy-the-human-race meteor. It was a surprise to everybody.

Before the city lifted off it was swarming with drones trying to kill those left in the city. The Avengers were busy protecting these people, leaving them precious little time to discern Ultron’s mad scheme let alone to chase down every bit of flying rubble coming off of the metropolis.

The team’s main concern was to stop Ultron and thereby save mankind. This included protecting the residents of Sokovia from homicidal drones. Intercepting debris from the airborne city was not a consideration due to the necessities of combat against overwhelming foes. It was not due to indifference and it was most certainly not due to selfishness on the part of the Avengers.

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Yet Zemo is unconcerned with these very obvious facts. Why should he? It is clear to him what happened. The Avengers showed up, destroyed the maniacal machine, and went home to a heroes’ welcome.   They did not care about his people or his family. They cared about getting the glory for saving the world. That was their plan all along, as evidenced by the fact that they did not return to Sokovia to clean up the mess, nor did they prevent the disaster from occurring in the first place. In fact, they are responsible for the entire debacle; Tony Stark created Ultron. If he had not done this, then everyone who died in Sokovia would still be alive. The evident conclusion one must reach is that the Avengers do not care about anyone but themselves – right?

No, it is not. We know it is not, readers, because we have walked beside these characters through ten plus films. We have seen them selflessly put their lives on the line to protect the masses. We know that the Avengers truly care about saving as many lives as they can. They are as altruistic as one could wish of mortal man. Even Tony Stark, who is still too self-centered, remains willing to put his life on the line for strangers he will never meet. The Avengers are in the fight because it is the right thing to do, and most of them would be quite happy to skip out on the fame they have gained while doing their jobs. They cannot escape it and so they ignore it as best they can.

This is how we know that Zemo’s profile of the Avengers is mistaken and selfish, not to mention blatantly foolish. It is not because we like the characters or are attached to them that we believe they are heroes. We are certainly attached to them, and we definitely like them. But that is because they have proven time and again that they are willing to do heroic things to protect others. It is hard not to like someone for that.

Considering his background, you might think that Zemo might understand that combat is not a place where one feels “an overwhelming sense of control,” to quote Nick Fury. You might even think that Zemo could recall battles which had not gone according to plan, where people whom he and his team were supposed to protect were killed in spite of their best efforts. You might also think he would recognize that the Avengers were in that same boat in Sokovia and thus they could not be held accountable for the loss of his family.

Here we come to the important distinction between Zemo and the Avengers: Zemo led a “kill squad.” He and his men were not just commandos; they were government-sanctioned assassins. This makes it likely that Zemo and his men had little care for the lives of others. The exceptions would have been the lives of those closest to them, such as Zemo’s wife, son, and father. He may not have a problem murdering a family in another country but he would have a problem with whoever killed his family.

This is not the Way of the Avengers. When the Avengers kill, they do it to save lives. They do not do it lightly or enjoy it when the time comes to pull the trigger. They do not lose sleep over it, but if they can avoid dealing out justice on the battlefield they will spare their enemies – although they may later wish that they had not done so. They could have killed Loki in the Tower at the end of The Avengers, readers. Thor was not exactly feeling chummy with his adopted kid brother at the time and, in The Dark World, he threatened to kill Loki himself if he was betrayed.

The team had all the logic in the world to convince them to finish Loki then and there, but they chose not to do this. They instead sent him to Asgard to stand trial and receive Odin’s judgment. Despite their moniker, the Avengers are not prone to dealing out what most people would think of as revenge. They stop – or ‘Avenge’ – evil by defeating the bad guys, and by saving as many people as they can when the crisis blows up in an unforeseen manner.

One of the reasons why Zemo decides to destroy the Avengers is he is used to killing. As an assassin he became accustomed to the idea of being judge, jury, and executioner. What is more, he came to like playing these roles.

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There are four things he did which prove this. One, Zemo killed a former HYDRA operative and a psychiatrist without blinking an eye.   Two, he detonated a bomb outside the U.N. building in Vienna without any qualms about the innocents who would be caught in the blast. This was in spite of his claim to the HYDRA agent that he would not enjoy using “bloodier methods” to get what he wanted.

Three, after he had control of Bucky Barnes in the German base, Zemo ordered him to kill the soldiers who came to put the Winter Soldier back under restraint. Without orders Bucky might very well have just stood there until Cap and Sam arrived to calm the situation. But to further destroy Bucky’s already blackened record, Zemo ordered him to kill these men in cold blood. He stood by and watched these men die, then feigned a bad injury to lure Cap and Sam into the room so Bucky could attack them. I can just feel the remorse radiating from him in these scenes where he used “bloodier methods” to get what he wanted, can’t you, readers?

Four, Zemo expected Iron Man would kill Bucky and then Cap would kill Iron Man. Or he believed that Cap and Iron Man would kill each other after Bucky was dead. Why did he think this? He said he studied Cap and the rest of the Avengers, did he not? Enough to realize suddenly that there was a bit of green in Cap’s blue eyes, he said. So why did he not expect Cap to save Bucky, while at the same time avoiding killing or truly harming Tony Stark?

For a professional such as Zemo, this kind of miscalculation is astounding. He is a practiced killer; if he wants to take down a target or convince a target to kill himself and another person, he has to study his prey very carefully. He had a year to study the Avengers and plan how he would kill them, or convince them to kill each other. So why, when you come to the most crucial point, did he fail to suspect that Cap would prevent Tony from killing Bucky, while at the same time not murdering Stark himself?

The reason he failed to completely destroy the Avengers – to kill them all or convince them to kill each other – is that he does not understand them. He did not, does not, and will never comprehend them as long as he maintains his choice to do evil rather than good. This is shown most plainly by his underestimating Captain America, the Galahad of modern literature. He expected Cap to react to pain and loss as he would. But Cap is not like other men; he is different. Where most men can achieve only a “good” status in this world, Cap has achieved a “great” status. This is not perfection but it is very, very close to it.

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Now some of you are going to say, “But what about Steve’s vow to kill every HYDRA operative after Bucky fell off the train in the Alps? That was revenge!”

No, it was not. What Cap specifically said was that he would not stop fighting HYDRA “until every HYDRA agent is dead or captured.” (Emphasis mine.) This means that he would capture and imprison those members he could, and kill those who resisted. He said and did this for the same reason the British wiped out the Thuggees, murderers who worshipped the Hindu death-goddess Kali. HYDRA is no better than the Thuggees; they need to be exterminated so that innocent people intent on living peaceful, happy lives will be safe to live and work as they choose.

Nothing that Cap said or did after Bucky fell from the train in The First Avenger was vengeful. He was not motivated by a desire for payback. He wanted the world to be free of the evil that was HYDRA so that Bucky’s sacrifice – and the sacrifice of thousands of other men on both sides of the war – would not be in vain. So that the world would be free of HYDRA’s evil once and for all.

By his own admission, Zemo was not trying to free anyone in Civil War. He was trying to destroy a team of people who routinely put their lives on the line to protect mankind from the evil without and within it. He wanted revenge, not justice. He wanted payback, not freedom. He was and remains willing to let the entire world fall into death, destruction, and slavery so that he can feel he has revenged the deaths of his family.

Readers, what is so admirable about Zemo’s choice? Why should we, as viewers, sympathize with a character that is willing to condemn the whole human race to an evil fate just so he can feel vindicated on behalf of his dead loved ones? Should we sigh, wipe away a tear, and say, “Yes, we feel your pain,” or “We understand you,” to a character who would throw away every human life on the planet to satiate his lust for blood? No, we should not. But this is what some people want us to do for Zemo.

I will not do this. I will not commiserate or identify with a character that would gladly doom millions to death and millions more to slavery in order to get vengeance for his family, who were unfortunate casualties in a battle. As Rocket Raccoon pointed out in Guardians of the Galaxy, “Everybody’s got dead people. That’s no excuse to get everyone else dead along the way.”

Zemo has no excuses for his choice to destroy not only the Avengers but the people they protect. He wanted to throw the rest of the world under the bus to fulfill his desire for vengeance. No one has the right to do that. But that is what Zemo tried to do with the world population when he targeted the Avengers in Captain America: Civil War.

Later, at the end of the film, we watch Martin Freeman’s character, Everett Ross (no relation to the General turned Secretary of State), visit Zemo. He begins gloating to Zemo about how his master plan has failed.

Like Thunderbolt and the U.N., Everett Ross believes that Zemo’s master plan has gone down in flames whilst the United Nations’ own has succeeded. They have four of the six members of Team Cap incarcerated while Iron Man, War Machine, and Vision are leashed and awaiting orders. Black Widow, Captain America, and the Winter Soldier are wanted fugitives who will soon be found and locked up with their friends. The private police firm known as the Avengers is now legally under the direct control of the bureaucrats and politicians in the United Nations. Zemo, meanwhile, is locked up and out of the way. Yes, their plan has worked flawlessly whilst Zemo’s has not.

Slowly, Zemo smiles and says, “Did it?”

At these words we get to watch the smile gradually slide off of Everett Ross’ face. (It is such a satisfying thing to see!!!!) Zemo is correct to point out that his plan did not entirely fail. But the fact is that Zemo’s plans did not accomplish his true goals.

None of the Avengers are dead, as Zemo desired. Their strength is halved, but they are all alive, and this makes a future reconciliation possible. Zemo does not see this because, as stated above, he sees the Avengers through a glass darkly. He cannot comprehend the gulf between his mind and their souls. Part of his plan has been accomplished; the Avengers are no longer what they were. They are weakened, and severely so….

But they are all alive.

The Avengers’ advantage over Zemo is their heroism; it will defeat him every time. Like the phoenix of old, like the sun on a daily basis, the Avengers will rise again. And they will be whole and stronger than before when this happens.

Evil will never win the war, as Zemo believes he has. He has won a battle. But the war was won a long time ago, and the Avengers are on the winning side. Even the arrogant ones, such as Tony Stark, will be victorious in the end. Their strength is not their own. It comes from Another, and He is watching over them, as He watches over all those who serve Him. He is their strength. As long as Zemo stands against the Avengers, he stands alone against Him, the irresistible and unconquerable. He will win, and Zemo will lose.

‘Nuff said, readers. ‘Nuff said.

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Captain America: Civil War – Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow

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There is very little in the Black Widow’s life that is straightforward.  While competent and practical, Natasha has not always made the right decision in every situation.  This is normal enough; everyone makes mistakes.  It is part of being human.

The problem comes when a person refuses to admit and acknowledge that he has blundered.  Cap is quite willing to admit that he and his team have made mistakes.  It is impossible not to do so.  The idea that slip-ups can be eradicated from humanity is silly.  The sad thing is that some of the Avengers have been infected by this notion that accidents, errors, and mistakes can be “removed” from humanity.  These Avengers would be none other than Tony Stark, James Rhodes, Vision, and Natasha Romanoff.

Now Vision has an excuse, because he is a one-year-old who is still learning about the world from the position of an adult.  Tony, Rhodey, and especially Natasha, do not have any such shield.  They are older and they have far more experience.  They should know better; they should know how to close their ears to such siren calls.  Unfortunately, neither the guys nor Natasha appear to have learned their lessons.

Our first look at Natasha is in Lagos, Nigeria.  And one of the most obvious things about her appearance is that she has again let her hair grow out.  Changing hairstyles, however, are soon shown to be the least of the upgrades Natasha has made.  It is shown that she has also moved up to the full-bore “stingers” of the comics.  These neat little gizmos fire out miniature bolts or “stingers” which act as tazers, minus the strings.  They can deliver up to 30,000 volts into an opponent’s body and they hurt.

But apparently they do not bother Crossbones very much.  Perhaps he now has a far higher tolerance for pain than he did previously.  After Widow tries to zap him unconscious or at least dizzy, he simply rolls his neck and proclaims, “That don’t work on me no more!”  Rumlow then ungraciously beats her up and throws her into his own attack vehicle, tossing in a grenade for good measure.  Natasha downs the two goons sharing the improvised hearse with her, using one as a shield to block the worst of the explosion.  But she is still left gasping and groaning on the ground afterward.

Once she is able to get up and move around, her next act is to track down two of the four mercenaries helping Crossbones and possibly carrying the bio-weapon he has stolen.  Lucky her, the prey she is chasing happens to have the germ in hand.  And they are quite willing to drop the bug on the ground so that it will infect the city and spread out from there.  Only the timely arrival of Sam’s drone, Redwing, allows her to grab the bottled death and save everybody.

There follows a cute trading of quips as Sam tells her to thank Redwing instead of him, with Widow maintaining that she will not, under any circumstances, thank a machine.  Sam’s suggestion that she pet Redwing probably went over like a lead balloon, too.

The moment ends when three floors of a skyscraper are destroyed by Rumlow’s failsafe plan, twenty-six people are killed, and Wanda lands in the media hot seat for not paying as much attention to her surroundings as she could have.  Yay….

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With this big PR mess in the Avengers’ collective lap – the biggest since Age of Ultron – Secretary of State Thaddeus “Thunderbolt” Ross swoops in for the kill.  Raised in the Soviet mold from childhood, Natasha has never quite shaken off its the residual influences.  No, she is not a Communist or a Soviet, the main proof of this being her respect for and her love of children.  Under the Communist regime, children were taught to spy on their parents and report them to the government for any number of “traitorous” activities, especially teaching or practicing Christianity.

Natasha has not forgotten that the government is bigger than her, stronger than her, and if it decides to hurt her it can do whatever it wants to her – and no one will be able to stop it.  This is the legacy of the Red Room in Natasha’s life.  They not only made her their weapon, forcing her to kill people in their place, they abused her in order to make her their “hand.”  Along with the other girls the Red Room operators did their best to “mold” her to their design, resulting in a finished product without soul and scant – if any – of her individual self remaining.

Recognizing that the U.N. wants to shut the Avengers down, Natasha becomes afraid.  Having escaped from the prison that was the Soviet Union, only to become chained to a SHIELD that had been corrupted by HYDRA, Natasha truly desires to fight for truth, justice, and the American Way.  She wants to make a difference, she wants to save lives.  The best way to do that is by maintaining her Avengers’ membership.

But remembering all the things she has done wrong in the past, Natasha decides that she may need oversight at this time in her career.  She says as much in the discussion in the Compound.  Then Tony points out that she has, for the first time in living memory, publicly agreed with him and she admits that she wants to take her words back.  Even while she is holding out her hands and waiting for the cuffs to be slapped on her wrists, Natasha admits that she really does not want to do this.

That is what she said about the Red Room’s “graduation ceremony,” too, though, and we know her protests did not stop that.

The next time we see Natasha, she is talking to Steve after Peggy Carter’s funeral.  He knows that there is more than mere friendliness in her visit.  Though the vote was split on whether or not to sign the Accords as a team, Ross’ deadline has come and gone.  Natasha and the others have agreed to put on the invisible shackles the U.N. wanted them to wear.  That was obvious in the meeting.

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Having lost the last, best link to his old life, dreams, and aspirations, this news is more than Steve feels that he can bear.  You can hear it in the way his voice creaks as he asks, “Then why are you here?”  The die is cast.  The Rubicon has been crossed.  War is looming, because Cap will not rescind his membership in the Avengers, and he will not bow to the tyrants in the U.N. who are demanding that he kneel before them.  But some of his teammates, his friends, have done this.  This can only mean one thing: war.

This is the first time Natasha has ever seen Steve on the brink of breaking down.  She has never known him to be anything less than rock solid, just like the planet she stands on.  But with his voice nearly cracking, it hits her just how much pain he is in.  The loss of Peggy is bad enough; her death on top of the Accords, the division of his team, is overwhelming for him.  He is dangerously close to an emotional collapse.

Natasha’s reply is a shaky one as she tries not only to keep her empathy from spilling over, but to hold herself together despite her fear and the premonition of impending disaster.  “I didn’t want you to be alone,” she answers.  Following this, for the first time in recorded Marvel Cinematic history, she throws down the emotional barricade she uses to protect herself and hugs Steve.

It has to be one of the most powerful scenes in the movie.  I was stunned, and not by Cap’s emotions; I sympathized with him keenly.  But Natasha’s response to him was astounding.  She has never been what one would call touchy-feely; she prefers to keep her emotional distance from most people.  Bruce was a notable exception – and a surprising one.

This makes her hugging Steve Rogers when he is so emotionally low an enormous event.  They are close friends, but the only one Natasha has ever let inside the “garden gate” of her emotional domain that we have seen is Clint.  And they never touched each other in that encounter, since the circumstances and time were not on their side.  Her decision to hug Steve when he is at his lowest ebb, to be an emotional support for him in such a painful moment – this is huge, readers.  It is out of the usual bounds of her character.  Black Widow is typically the epitome of the “suck it up and move on” mentality.  And so when she ends up in the emotional dumps, it is her friends who need to support her.

But here she is, hugging Steve Rogers when he really needs a friend.  She is the one giving moral support, and to a man we think would never need it.  Here Natasha disregards all of her customary caution in order to be an emotional life preserver for Captain America.  It is a momentous decision, and it colors a lot of what she does later in the movie….

…Starting with her attendance of the ratification of the Sokovia Accords.  Having spent most of her life out of the public eye, Widow looks completely ill at ease amidst the dignitaries, journalists, et al within in the U.N. building.  But when a polite young black man comes up and addresses her, she manages to relax a little.

At least, she relaxes until the King of Wakanda, her conversation partner’s father, walks up and greets her.  Then she realizes the young man she has been trading easy banter with is none other than the prince and heir apparent to the kingdom of Wakanda:  T’Challa.

When T’Chaka brings up the fact that Steve has not signed the Accords and is not even attending the ratification of the law, Widow swallows.  Their last meeting being what it was, and the knowledge that she is essentially breaking faith with a man who has never broken faith with her, means that T’Chaka’s words make Natasha very uncomfortable.  Hiding her feelings as best she can, she thanks T’Chaka and then quickly but politely goes to find her seat.

Listening attentively to the King of Wakanda’s speech not long afterward, Natasha is almost as startled by his son’s warning shout as everybody else.  Then her well-honed combat instincts kick in, allowing her to help the person seated next to her dive for cover –

And then there is an explosion, glass is flying, and smoke is clawing its way down her throat.  By the time she gets up – and as an Avenger, I would think it was a very short time – Natasha realizes that several people have died in the blast.  King T’Chaka is among them, but his son has somehow survived.  The scene following the explosion, which shows T’Challa trying to find his father’s pulse and then breaking down into tears as it becomes clear he is dead, is probably the first thing Natasha saw when she got out from under the table.

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While she barely knows T’Challa, Natasha finds herself once again in the position of offering what comfort she can to a wounded soul.  Where Steve knew he needed the supporting strength of a true friend, though, T’Challa’s pain pushes everything except the ache in his heart away from him.  Natasha is not pushed back as far as some.  She was there and saw what happened; she understands at least a little about T’Challa and his relationship with his father.  So he does not push her away completely.  He makes it clear, though, that she can no more dissuade him from his mission to hunt down his father’s murderer than anyone else could.

Natasha watches him go and sighs.  What a hell of a day it has been for her.  As if things were not bad enough, now Steve’s old friend has been thrown into the mix.  And the new king of Wakanda is determined to kill him.  Yippee….

Things go from bad to worse when Steve calls her and asks if she is okay.  Hearing the European sirens on the phone line, Natasha realizes Steve is not far away, possibly watching her.  And if he is this close, then he knows that Bucky has been accused of the bombing.

Knowing Steve as well as she does, Natasha rightly surmises that he intends to go after Bucky himself.  Since he did not agree to the Accords, which are now law, this will make him an international vigilante and criminal, along with whoever helps him in any way.  That earlier foreboding of impending disaster growing inside her soul, Natasha desperately tries to make Steve reconsider what he is going to do.  But having been in a similar situation when Loki bespelled Hawkeye, she knows she will not be able to discourage him.  When Steve makes it plain he will be going after Bucky, to hell with the Accords, Natasha blurts out, “Why?!

Steve points out the obvious: if Bucky has truly gone off the deep end, only he stands a chance of bringing him in without dying in the attempt.  The other unspoken point which Natasha knows is that, if Bucky is somehow innocent of the bombing, Cap will not leave his old friend to be murdered for a crime he did not commit.

Now she has two people hunting the same man, each with totally different objectives in mind.  Great.  Just great.

Later, after German Special Forces bring Cap, Falcon, T’Challa, and Bucky in, Natasha cannot help rubbing Steve’s face in it a little bit.  “See?” she says.  “This is what worse looks like.”

Translation: “Now everybody wants your star-spangled hide along with Barnes’.  And Sam’s jet pack would go well with both, in their opinion. You have just made everything so much harder for all of us with your blind sentiment for this guy.”

The translation of Steve’s response – “He’s alive” – is this:  “I’d have done it for any one of you, Natasha.  And this war was not my idea.  It wasn’t Bucky’s, either.  I’m not blind, I know he’s not who he used to be, but the fact is that something else is going on here which we don’t see yet.  Keep your eyes open.”

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Natasha does this, which means that she sees Sharon Carter turn on the intercom so Steve can hear Bucky’s “evaluation.”  Instead of tattling on them, or going in herself to shut off the intercom, Natasha simply turns away and acts as though she saw nothing.  Why?

It is hard to say.  Maybe she has been playing with the situation in her head for the last few minutes, too, and has noticed that something is not adding up.  Like the others, she still assumes that Steve is too blinded by sentiment to see what a danger Bucky can be.  Either way, something must have been niggling at her, though friendship alone would have demanded that she “see nothing” for a moment.

Not long after this, the lights go out and Bucky gets loose.  Natasha knows that Steve and Sam have nothing to do with knocking out the base’s power.  It is not their style.  Besides which, Steve does not want to use underhanded tactics to clear Bucky.  He wants the truth.

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With Tony and Sharon’s help, Natasha attempts to bring down the Winter Soldier.  But things go about as well this time as they did before, and the pre-programmed detachment which has overwritten his mind means that Bucky is quite willing to kill her – again.  What is different this time is that it is T’Challa who comes to her rescue, not Steve.  (Working his way up from the bottom of an elevator shaft, he had a good excuse.)

After this battle Steve, Sam, and Bucky fly the coop.  Then Ross barges into the building as Natasha and Tony are licking their wounds, telling them that things have gotten out of hand completely again and he is the one who has been deputized to clean up the mess.  Natasha, growing more and more uncomfortable with Ross’ threats, finally growls, “What happens when the shooting starts – are you going to kill Captain America?”

It is her only ace in the hole: the U.S. government would not kill their beloved national icon –

Right?

Ross crushes that hope faster than he would a cigarette.  “If we’re provoked,” is his flat retort.  Tony, as desperate to protect Steve as Natasha is, talks Ross into giving them time to track down and catch the three on their own.  After all, there is no way any unit of men and women – short of the whole U.S. military, Ross’ bludgeon of choice – could bring down two Avengers and a former Soviet killing machine.

Ross agrees to the bargain, but states that they only have thirty-six hours, not the requested seventy-two.  He stomps off and Tony leans back in his seat with a tired sigh.  This is again a case of the remedy being worse than the disease – if the freedom to be responsible and to do your duty can be deemed a “disease.”  The Accords have not saved or helped anyone.  They have only led to more injury and death.  And, even without Bucky’s presence in this kerfuffle, the U.N. and Ross would be using the bombing to tear the Avengers apart.  Ross admitting that they will kill Cap if he gets in their way has nothing to do with his affection for his old pal Bucky.  It has everything to do with the fact that he is operating outside of Ross’ and the U.N.’s control.

Natasha and Tony discuss their options, with Widow observing that the numerical odds are not in their favor.  Tony asks if she has any idea of where the Hulk may be, to which she asks, “Do you really think he would be on our side?”  Thus the Hulk remains “lost” for the rest of the film, prompting the two to go off to recruit new allies.

Tony zips away to Queens to pick up Spider-Man while Natasha goes downstairs to recruit T’Challa, almost fighting a member of the Dora Milaje in the process.  I agree with the Black Panther: it would be highly entertaining to see the Black Widow in a match with a member of the King of Wakanda’s bodyguard/ceremonial wives corps.  While my money is on Natasha winning the engagement, the thing is that it would be an amazing duel to watch.  Popcorn and a soft drink would be mandatory for the viewing.

Now we come to the battle which has been brewing since Ross proposed the Accords:  the Avengers, divided into two factions, fight each other in an evacuated German airport.  Natasha has been sensing it coming, like the buildup of a thunderstorm in the air.  She knew it was on the horizon.  She just hoped it could be avoided.

But it cannot be circumvented, not now.  Things have gone too far – Team Iron has gone too far.  This is shown most pointedly when Natasha nearly kicks her old partner in the head, only to be stopped by the Scarlet Witch.

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Wanda’s response to Natasha’s attack is actually very controlled and not nearly as hard as it could be.  Remember, the girl dropped something like ten cars onto Iron Man’s head.  T’Challa and Rhodey both get harder treatment from her as well; she threw Black Panther about a football field away from Bucky to save his life, and she had no problem banging Rhodey in the head with whatever big, heavy metallic objects were nearby.  So she has no qualms about playing rough.

In marked contrast, she threw Natasha a much shorter distance.  Though she threw her hard enough to keep her down, she could have done far worse.  Instead, she just whammed Natasha into a small trailer hard enough to put a decent dent in the metal and keep Widow out of the fight.

This is probably where that scene from the trailer, which I noted early last year in the post “Captain America: Civil War – Trailer 2 Break Down,” came from.  While it is cut from the theater version of the film, I bet that the scene of Natasha standing up in front of that trailer, tears forming in her eyes, fits into the fight not long after Wanda tells Clint that he was “pulling [his] punches.”

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Why does Natasha begin to cry?  She begins to cry for the same reason that we flinched, whimpered, and bit back moans as we watched certain parts of the battle in the airport the first time.  She is watching her battle family as it is torn apart.  And she is realizing that this is not Steve’s fault; he is just doing his job.  Even if Bucky were not involved in this fiasco, Steve would be here.  He is, as Ultron pointed out, “God’s righteous man.”  He serves God, and when God’s laws are broken – as they were in Vienna – Cap is going to go after the perpetrator because it is the right and just thing to do.  The rest of the people on Team Cap are the same way.

But what about Team Iron?  Why are they here?  Spider-Man is along for the ride because he has stars in his eyes.  He is in awe of Tony; what is he going to do, turn down his idol’s request for help?  T’Challa is in the battle to pursue vengeance/justice for his father’s death.  Vision is here because – as the quintessential academic without real world experience – the Accords appear rational and therefore reasonable to him who is too “young” to consider the possible and probable secret agendas of those who have propagated this “law.”  Plus, they need numerical support to bring in the “rogue” Avengers.  Rhodey is here because orders are orders; he is a “perfect” soldier who follows orders to a T, whether he likes them or not.  Tony is here because he signed the Accords, thinking it would be a nice insurance policy for the team.

And Natasha is here….  Why is she here?

The question hits her like a bolt out of the blue.  Why is she here?  Why is she trying to hurt her friends?  She knows Steve, Clint, Sam, and Wanda very well.  She knows that they would never go against a law without a very good reason.  They would never drag a stranger (Ant-Man), into a fight without an extremely compelling motive.  They would never, ever fight their teammates without a damn good cause.  The fact that they are doing all of these things means that they have to have an earth-shatteringly good purpose for being here.

So who should she trust more – some empty suits in the U.N., or the people who have become her family?

The answer is obvious: she trusts and loves only the people who have proved that they trust and love her.  No matter her past sins and mistakes, no matter her foibles and flaws, these people care about her, who she is and who she can be.  The U.N. does not care about Natasha Romanoff.  They are using her, Tony, Rhodey, Vision – and through them T’Challa and Spider-Man – to gain control of the Avengers for their own purposes.  Not once have any of the Avengers ever used her.  They have given her nothing but their friendship and trust.

And right here, right now, she is breaking that trust, all in the name of protecting her friends and the human race.

This is why she leaves the main battlefield and retreats to the Aveng-jet, where Steve and Bucky meet her.  When Natasha says, “I can’t stop you,” to Steve, what is she really saying?  Is she saying, “If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em”?  Is she saying, “You’re going to go on no matter what I say or do, so I may as well throw my lot in with you”?

Or is she really saying, “I can’t stop you because you’re right, your cause is just, and I have made one of the biggest mistakes of my life by getting in your way and signing the stupid Accords”?

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The latter seems to be the more probable answer.  Instead of shooting Cap or Bucky with her stingers, Natasha zaps T’Challa – several times.  Getting out of the duo’s way and her own path, she finds that fighting is suddenly a whole lot easier.  She likes T’Challa, of course, but the fact is that he is hunting the wrong man and planning to hurt her friend Steve to do it.  She cannot and will not let that happen.

So she holds T’Challa long enough for Steve to get the jet in the air.  Then the jet’s landing gear does the rest.

When we see Natasha next, she is trying to reach out to Tony to make him straighten up and fly right.  She points out that Steve is not going to stop.  He cannot stop.  He has to be out, fighting for an honorable cause, promoting God, truth, and justice because it is his nature.  Tony and the Accords cannot take that away from him.  It is impossible.

So the only way that the two of them, along with Rhodey, Vision, and the other Avengers can survive is to join with Steve, not fight him.  Fighting him is fighting a losing battle; as El Cid (played by Charlton Heston) pointed out in the movie of the same name, “It matters not how many are the foes, my cause is just.”  A man on a just mission is unstoppable, because justice is one of God’s attributes.  Whoever is on the side of true justice is on God’s side.

Tony is in no mood to hear this, least of all from Natasha.  Rhodey’s injury in this foolish battle has angered him, but so has Cap’s persistent refusal to come to his side.  Tony wants to be liked, confusing it for being right.  That is why he refuses to let Steve go and to let Natasha off the hook for allowing Cap to take the jet, accusing her of holding tight to her history as a spy and an assassin playing both sides of the argument in the process.

This was the wrong thing for him to say to her.  For a start, it was cruel and childish; he said what he knew would hurt her most.  Second, it showed that Tony was in this fight now not because he believed it was the right thing to do, but because his ego was damaged.

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That is what makes Natasha angry enough to say, “Are you incapable of letting go of your ego for one god-damn second?”  Then she extrapolates, telling him, “We played this wrong.”  She is not just referring to the airport battle.  She is talking about the whole fracas with the Accords.  From the moment Ross threw the booklet down at their feet, she, Tony, Rhodey, and Vision have “played this” whole thing the wrong way.  They have been in it only for themselves.

Steve, Clint, Sam, and Wanda have been fighting for the greater good.  Team Cap has been fighting the real fight, the true battle, the just war.  They are the ones who have actually been fighting for a higher cause: the protection of the human race.  Team Iron has been fighting simply to justify their collective mistake.

Tony proves he is unmoved by her argument when he warns her that “they’re comin’” for Natasha.  The manner of his speech, the way he turns to face her, the sad smirk he gives her – it is all so condescending.  His body language screams, “I am warning you just because we were friends, not because you earned it.  You cost me my battle and my friend’s back.  You are dead to me.”  Like a petty child, he is not willing to stand and fight to protect her.  He will warn her under the radar that she has to run, but as for helping her to avoid imprisonment, she is on her own.

This is betrayal.  And it infuriates Natasha for two reasons.  One, it implies that Tony only cares about her when she agrees with him.  Otherwise, he could give a fig for her.

And two, Rhodey’s injury is not her fault.  Neither is it Steve’s, Bucky’s, or Team Cap’s responsibility.  Vision is the one who shot Rhodey’s arc reactor.  And, as a friend pointed out during another viewing of the film, Vision missed Sam even before he moved to avoid his shot.  Vision’s aim was off from the start.  Even if Sam had not gotten out of the way, the laser would have missed him and hit Rhodey.  Rhodey’s lifting up slightly and banking left probably saved his life.  It put his arc reactor in the line of fire rather than his direct center of mass.

So if Rhodey’s injury is Vision’s fault, what does that mean? Let me answer that with another question:  who is responsible for Vision’s creation?

That is right, Tony is.  He made Ultron, who made Vision’s body, which the Avengers then stole and Tony reprogrammed (with Bruce’s help).  When you come right down to it, the reason Rhodey was shot was because of Tony.  Tony helped bring the android which fired the shot into the world.  And this “civil war” which tore apart the Avengers began when Tony signed the Accords.  The entire mess can be laid right at his iron-booted feet.  Again.

Are the Accords truly “splitting the difference”?  How is signing up to be the U.N.’s lapdog working out for Tony now, huh, readers?

It is not working out for Natasha.  Right after warning Tony to “watch [his] back”, Black Widow vanishes from the scene, abandoning Stark rather than following him into further error.  Where she is and what she is doing now is anybody’s guess; whether or not she has joined or will link up with the “Secret Avengers” remains to be seen.  We can certainly hope that she will join them, but it appears that she, Team Cap, and T’Challa will be officially “off the grid” until Infinity War and its sequel.

It is going to be quite the reunion during the next Avengers film, nyet, readers?

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Captain America: Civil War – King T’Challa/Black Panther

Fans everywhere were practically over the moon when they heard that Black Panther/King T’Challa would be in Captain America: Civil War.  They also did a double-take when they learned he would be siding with Tony Stark/Iron Man in the movie.  T’Challa and Cap are very good friends in the comics, and it is rare for them to disagree over anything.  I cannot remember ever hearing about them arguing over something.  Not in the way that Tony and Steve have been fighting lately.

We do not see T’Challa until at least half an hour into Civil War.  In Vienna with his father for the signing of the Accords, T’Challa decides to take a moment to talk to Black Widow.  Natasha does not seem to recognize him, though when his father shows up the pieces fall into place very quickly.

Another odd thing is that, when King T’Chaka is making his speech about the greatness of the Accords, T’Challa is not sitting down in the audience of dignitaries, U.N. personnel, and reporters.  He is instead standing near the window behind and to the left of his father.  His arms are crossed and his posture indicates catlike ease and unconcern.  One could infer that he is bored out of his mind with the diplomatic proceedings.  His father’s implication that T’Challa has a palpable distaste for politics only reinforces this idea.

But this may be too easy an answer.  You see, T’Challa’s position in the room not only gives him a good view of the visiting dignitaries, U.N. workers, and journalists, it allows him to watch the buildings and streets outside.  Thinking about it now, I suppose T’Challa was acting as his father’s bodyguard.  He was watching, surreptitiously and under the cover of boredom, for attackers in the audience, snipers in the other buildings, and trouble on the streets.  So his ability to be surreptitious is pretty darn impressive!

This is how he spots the bomb squad checking out a van near the building.  Seeing the officers pull away quickly from the vehicle, T’Challa is just a little slower in shouting a warning to everyone else.  Natasha reacts in time, helping the person seated next to her to get under the table.

But T’Challa is not fast enough to reach his father, who also does not spring for cover immediately.  It is likely that he was too surprised by his son’s shout to do more than turn to look at him.  The bomb kills him, sends T’Challa flying, and kills a lot of other people on the floors below.

T’Challa was always close to his father, in the comics and in the film.  Unlike Tony, seeing his father die absolutely tears him up.

Any number of groups would want to kill several dozen of the politicos at the U.N. T’Chaka almost certainly had enemies who wanted him dead, too.  T’Challa was probably cataloging all of these people in his mind before he found out who was suspected of the bombing.  Once he learns it is the Winter Soldier, all other possibilities are forgotten.

Most people are going to lean on the idea that T’Challa went after Bucky simply for the sake of vengeance.  That is part of it.  How many of us could see someone we loved dearly die for no reason and not flip our lids over it?  Very few people could avoid that reaction.

The thing is that T’Challa is too reasonable to let pain and anger control him completely.  They are driving factors in his quest for Bucky, of course, but they are leashed emotions.  Most of T’Challa’s motivation here is justice.

Justice is not an amorphous idea.  Nor is it the “an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, a life for a life” mantra we inherited from ages past.  Justice is about making recompense to another person for some act committed against them.  It does not have anything to do with killing the man/woman who killed someone you loved.  That is revenge, and we have been warned never to seek that.  Revenge destroys not one life but two, and perhaps many other lives as well.

In this case, the bombing of the U.N. building was a futile event in that it destroyed lives.  A number of people – including King T’Chaka – were killed for no reason except to help Zemo gain his revenge.  They were not killed to protect innocent people but to destroy the Avengers.  Discounting Black Widow, T’Challa, and the security personnel, most of those within the U.N. building at the time were civilians.  They were, therefore, completely unprepared and unready to defend themselves if the need arose.

The attack was in this regard senseless and a waste of life, the most precious thing on earth.  Such a crime cries out for recompense, for punishment of the perpetrator.  That is the motivating force behind T’Challa’s decision to go after Bucky.

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Now there are several other things to consider here.  We are all attached, to some degree, to the film versions of Cap, Bucky, and the Avengers.  We are also attached to the previous portrayal of the Black Panther in the comics and cartoons.  This means we end up with a slightly skewed view of T’Challa’s character arc in the film, because we are looking at it through the lenses of past experience and deep familiarity.

What we forget is that, prior to this movie, T’Challa has never met any of the Avengers before.   Oh, he has heard about them.  He knows them by reputation.  But he does not know them as people.  He has never crossed paths with them up until he decides to speak to Natasha in Vienna.

Also, we forget that Bucky has been AWOL for two years.  During this time he has overcome his “programming.”  He remains unsure of himself, however, and he is riddled with honest guilt.  This makes him dangerous.  Everyone in the film universe knows he was HYDRA’s brainwashed attack dog.  They know his rap sheet is long and blood-soaked, and though they may pity him, they also fear him.  This is normal.  Even Cap is wary of Bucky and does not automatically trust him the way he once did.  Bucky is not the exact same person he was in the 1940s (thank you, HYDRA – NOT!!).

So it is utterly plausible for most people to believe Bucky went out and bombed the U.N.  Only Cap – and consequently Sam and Sharon Carter – stop to ask the pertinent questions about this event:  Why, after two years of hiding, would Bucky suddenly bomb a U.N. building?  What could he possibly hope to gain or to accomplish by bombing the signing of the Sokovian Accords?

The answer to these questions is: nothing.  Bucky had nothing to gain and everything to lose.  Whatever his personal feelings about the justice of the Accords, he was not going to come out of his hidey-hole and say anything about them – with his voice or with a bomb.  Definitely not with a bomb.  He has absolutely no motive to destroy the U.N. building in Vienna.

This is where T’Challa’s pain, grief, and anger have clouded his judgment.  He does not stop to think about these things.  After seeing his father die, we can hardly blame him.  Even Steve does not hold this against him.  When they first meet he is silent on these matters while in T’Challa’s presence.  Touching on such subjects would only drive him to further anger.

And Cap does not want that.  He knows T’Challa is a reasonable man.  It is evident in the control he demonstrates when he speaks and when he is in combat.  You cannot be that precise, that calm, without rational effort.  So T’Challa, Cap figures, is a rational man.  This means that to reach him, you have to be sensible in your response to him.  Emotion will not sway him to act; only clear reason will do that.

And in this moving world of shifting shadows, reason is what we desperately need.  It is what the Avengers need.

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In the police car taking the three of them to the German base, Cap ends up making his first probe of the Black Panther.  He knows T’Chaka was killed in the bombing and he knows T’Challa holds Bucky responsible for his death.  He understands that T’Challa’s grief is clouding his thinking.  But he says nothing until Falcon pipes up with, “So.  You like cats?”

Not helping, Cap thinks as he reprimands, “Sam.”

“What?” the other counters.  “Dude shows up dressed like a cat and you don’t want to know more?”

The subtext of Sam’s question was, likely: Cap, this guy is reasonable.  Sitting quietly is not going to show him you’re reasonable, too.

Thereupon Cap shows interest in the Panther suit, asking for confirmation that it is made out of vibranium.  This has to impress T’Challa, at least a little.  Most people would not think of vibranium right off the bat.  Tony’s suit can deflect bullets, too, after all.  But someone who has worked with vibranium for a long time would be able to recognize the metal when he came into contact with it.  Someone such as Captain America.

T’Challa does not want to show that he is even this impressed, though.  His father is dead, and he almost had his suspected killer right where he wanted him.  Then Cap stepped in and ruined the whole thing, getting him arrested in the process.

Still, it is not like telling Steve Rogers the origin of the suit and his fighting skills is going to hurt anything.  He explains the history of the mantle of the Black Panther, simultaneously hinting at his own upbringing as he does so.  Then he asks, “How long do you think you can keep your friend safe from me?”

Instead of taking the bait and showing emotional attachment, Cap stays quiet.  He looks away.  It is an admission that he cannot protect Bucky all the time, everywhere.  But the nuance of the movement also communicates that he is sure as hell going to try.

T’Challa’s attitude toward the Winter Soldier is not lightened by their next meeting, when he tangles with Bucky in the German base’s cafeteria to protect Natasha.  He has to notice the difference in Bucky’s fighting style in this battle, as it is hard to miss.  When they last fought, Bucky was making a determined effort to get the hell out of Dodge.  Now he is suddenly attacking and fighting with the cold, mechanical precision of a robot.

This is different, but apparently not different enough to shake T’Challa from his determination to capture and, if possible, kill Bucky.  Maybe the guy has a split personality, or maybe he was faking his desperation to escape.  Whatever the reason, it is not good enough to make T’Challa decide to let Bucky go, proved when he accepts Natasha’s offer of help in finding him.

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This leads us to the airport battle.  T’Challa joins Tony, Rhodey, Widow, Spider-Man, and Vision in squaring off against Team Cap.  The rest of the Avengers are there to enforce the Accords.  T’Challa is only there to get his claws into Bucky.

He has to have been apprised of the fact that Team Cap has grown by this time to include Hawkeye and Wanda Maximoff.  That does not initially concern him.  In contrast, the sudden arrival of Ant-Man is a shocker for him, as it is for the others.

But it is when the fighting really starts that T’Challa receives his most jarring surprises.  None of Team Cap’s members are fanatically claiming that Barnes did not kill his father or the other people in Vienna.  None of them are wild-eyed partisans, screaming platitudes at the top of their lungs.  No, they are all calm, rational, capable people.  And they are not there for Barnes.

They are there for Cap.

When he finally gets to attack Bucky, the Winter Soldier takes the time to mutter, “I didn’t kill your father.”  Again, this has to confuse T’Challa on a rational level.  First Bucky ran, then he fought like a robot, now he is talking?  How many emotional or unemotional faces does this guy have?!

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Thanks to his vibranium suit and Bucky’s reminder about his father’s murder, though, Panther gets the upper hand and throws him around.  But before he can strike a deadly blow, he is stopped by the Scarlet Witch.

This is surprise number two for the Black Panther.  Wanda has no stake in the fight between him and Bucky.  And, more than any of the others, she understands where T’Challa is coming from.  Yet she not only halts his attack, she throws him through the air, far away from the battle, to save Barnes.

Why would she do that?  Why would she waste time and energy protecting a murderer?

Then Ant-Man becomes Giant-Man, taking a stand between T’Challa and his prey.  He even splinters the crates the King of Wakanda is standing on in order to keep him away from Cap and Bucky.  Only Rhodey and Spider-Man’s attack saves T’Challa from getting picked up and tossed through the air like a doll – again.

Clint is the next member of the team to face T’Challa down as Bucky and Cap continue their mad dash for the Aveng-jet.  Again, T’Challa has to be at least mildly bewildered on a rational level.  Here is a man who has a family.  He has a calm, deadly focus that can only be maintained through cogent thinking.  And he is bold enough to face an unknown opponent in battle.  He is so audacious he can be flippant about his challenge to the new King of Wakanda: “We haven’t met yet.  I’m Clint.”

“I don’t care!” Panther retorts.  But is that true?  Clint has all the motivation in the world to stay out of this battle.  Yet here he is, fighting T’Challa, a man who eventually knocks him down and defeats him.  By rights, he should not be here.  But he is.

Why?  Why would he leave his safe, happy home to protect Barnes?

The last straw is when Black Widow uses her stingers to halt T’Challa, allowing his quarry and Captain America to escape.  By way of explanation, she tells him, “I said I’d help you find him.  I didn’t say I’d help you catch him.  There’s…. a difference.”

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It is very hard for Team Iron not to see Natasha’s actions as anything less than betrayal.  Panther is especially upset, since he felt he had an ally and a friend in her.  But the question is why she would turn around and help Steve.  The idea that Natasha helped him simply because she could not stop him does not hold water.   She could have fought and at least detained him and Bucky until T’Challa arrived.  He would have taken Bucky while she held off Steve.  And the fact is that Natasha Romanoff is capable of fighting Steve Rogers and keeping him very busy indeed.

Instead, she shot T’Challa with her 30,000 volt stinger, restraining him long enough for the two to get away.  Why?  Why throw away her security and position to help Steve?

These questions have to be rattling around in T’Challa’s mind as he follows Iron Man to Siberia.  Perhaps he also heard the news about the psychiatrist Zemo killed and impersonated before he took off.  Either way, he does not immediately attack the duo when Iron Man joins up with them.

It would have been the perfect opportunity.  The minute they all turned their backs, he could have pounced on Bucky and quite possibly have killed him before they could react.

But T’Challa does not do that.  Instead, he follows the three at a distance, keeping to the shadows, moving quietly.  He gets an up close and personal view of the hellish pit where Bucky was frozen, tortured, and made into a weapon.  He watches them meet Zemo, hears the former Sokovian commando admit to bombing the U.N., and probably hears at least part of the tape that shows Bucky killing the Starks.

As the fight between the three breaks out, Zemo makes a run for it.  And Panther is left with a decision:  Should he stop the fight, or should he prevent Zemo from escaping?

The fight in the base will resolve itself best without him.  If he butts in and tries to stop Iron Man, he will only make matters worse.  More importantly, if Zemo gets away, justice will not be served.

So T’Challa goes back upstairs and finds Zemo, who is looking out over the mountains.  Their discussion I no longer remember clearly, except for certain sentences, like the part where Zemo apologizes for killing King T’Chaka.  Hah; some apology.  The bombing was not necessary in the first place.  Zemo only did it to destroy something good and wonderful – the Avengers.  He did not care about the innocents he killed.  If he did, he would not have detonated the bomb in the first place.

This is the wages of revenge.  Instead of “only” ruining the Avengers’ lives, Zemo has ruined hundreds.  He killed Panther’s father, an innocent psychiatrist (I cannot believe I just said that, either), and a number of other people.  And for what? – To make himself feel better?  He is ready to murder himself now that his “task” is done.  I’m fairly certain that this is NOT a sign of “feeling better.”

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“Vengeance has consumed you,” T’Challa says, shaking his head a little.  His eyes, though, never leave Zemo.  The man has lived this long simply because he wanted to destroy the Avengers.  T’Challa does not need anyone to tell him that empty shell of a man, plus gun, equals suicide plan.  “It is consuming them,” he adds, meaning the fight in the base.

I would not go so far as to say that, although Tony’s actions are certainly driven more by feelings of guilt than by rational thinking.  T’Challa knows what that is like.  With his father’s real killer now seated in front of him, he has realized what Cap, and by extension his team, did for him.  Likewise, he realizes what Steve is doing his best for Tony in the base below right now.

Cap, Wanda, Ant-Man, Hawkeye, and Natasha saved T’Challa from making a horrible mistake.  By preventing him from killing Bucky, they kept T’Challa from turning into a murderer little better than Zemo.  Sure, T’Challa would have been remorseful once he found out that he had killed the wrong man.  But that would not have undone the deed.  By averting the action in the first place Wanda Maximoff, Scott Lang, Clint Barton, and Natasha Romanoff preserved T’Challa from that fate.  They saved his soul.

Cap saved his soul.  Not once.  Not twice.  Several times Steve stood between T’Challa and Hell, and kept him from jumping in feet first.

And T’Challa, an honorable man, knows that he owes Cap for that.  He owes his entire team for that.

He also knows that Zemo’s soul, perhaps not in the best shape to start with, is now little better than a dark pit.  The man has the unmitigated gall to apologize for killing T’Challa’s father in a pointless search for revenge.   Zemo was not pursuing justice and he knows it.  He is holding a grudge against people who did their best to save lives but who were still unable to save everyone, including his family.  Zemo is not feeling remorse.  His words are an attempt to placate justice with an excuse.

But as Panther says, “Justice will come soon enough.”  Either in this life or the next, justice will be served.  So when Zemo tries to escape the justice of this world through suicide, Black Panther prevents him from killing himself.  It is not out of pity that T’Challa blocks the shot and captures Zemo.  As he says, “The living are not done with you yet.”

Zemo did not want justice for his family.  He wanted revenge.  Panther did not want revenge, though his judgment was clouded with it.  T’Challa wanted justice for his father.  He wanted his father’s murderer to pay for what he had done.

In combat, he was willing, almost eager, to kill Bucky.  But when they captured him the first time, T’Challa was also ready to accept Barnes’ imprisonment.  Bucky would not be able to kill anyone in prison, after all.  At least, he would not be able to kill anyone who did not deserve it.

Now that he knows it was Zemo and not Barnes; sees what Zemo has become since he gave into his grief and rage, T’Challa decides to let go of his own anger and anguish.  He will always miss his father, who was stolen from him in a terrible manner.  But he no longer wants to kill to satisfy his fury and sorrow.

And since Zemo is so eager to die, the best way to punish him is to keep him alive.  Until the natural end of his life, hopefully, he will have to eat, sleep, and use the bathroom like everybody else.  He has determined that he has no purpose in life except the destruction of the Avengers.  With that accomplished, for the moment, Zemo will have to remain living in a world he has concluded is not worth his time.

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The final time we see T’Challa in the movie is when Bucky is put into cryostasis in Wakanda.  It is obvious here that T’Challa is thanking Cap and his friends for saving him from making a monstrous mistake.

But there is more than mere appreciation in his giving asylum to Team Cap and medical aid to Bucky.  Bucky is a victim, as much as T’Chaka was.  While his father is beyond his reach, Bucky is a clear and present case he can help.  He once wanted the Winter Soldier dead for a crime he did not commit.  It is his duty now to see to it that Bucky has a chance to find some measure of peace in this life.

And Team Cap is not a gang of criminals, though the law says they are.  As Charles Dickens wrote, “The law is an ass, and it has never been married.”  It would seem that T’Challa recognizes now the injustice of the Accords.  He understands that the Avengers have done their best to save as many lives in every crisis where they have been present as they can.  However, this does not mean they are able to save everyone, and to blame them for the misfortunes of battle is unreasonable.

Panther is too logical to tolerate the irrational.

This is why, when Cap reminds him that the officials may eventually come for Bucky, T’Challa smiles.  “Let them try,” he replies confidently.  They may come, and if they do, they will find they have bitten off more than they can chew.  Wakanda is as advanced as any First World country, and it is inhabited by very strong warriors.  So if you want to tango with them, go right ahead.  The rest of us will start knitting your burial shroud as you march off to get cut to pieces.

We do not know, as of Civil War, if T’Challa has had to register under the Accords as a superhuman.  I imagine the legal ramifications of forcing the monarch of a sovereign nation to obey international registration laws are more than slightly complicated.  And T’Challa is smart enough to tie the U.N. into legal knots they would be centuries untying.  If they try to put pressure on him, they are going to regret it – big time.

Considering Cap’s statement of “if they find out he’s here,” it does not sound like Team Cap will be living as ex-pats in Wakanda between this film and Infinity War.  Cap said “he,” not “we.”  As I have stated before, they will probably drop in for a visit every now and then, or whenever Bucky is woken up for a new treatment.  T’Challa will most likely be there to meet them when they come, and I suspect that he will be supplying them with money, aid, and tech until Infinity War as well.  He may even call on them to help him out under the radar!

It would be nice if we got a glimpse of Team Cap in Wakanda during the Black Panther movie in 2018.  I have my fingers crossed that at least Cap will get to pop in and have a few lines.  Background appearances for the others would be the minimum appeasement for me.

But we will have to wait and see what happens in 2018.   Until then –

Secret Avengers – Assemble!

The Mithril Guardian

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Spotlight: Strong Women – A Return to the Question

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We had met as equals, rarely a good thing in such matters, for the woman who wishes to be the equal of a man usually turns out to be less than a man and less than a woman.  A woman is herself, which is something altogether different than a man. – (Emphasis added.)

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This quote is from The Walking Drum, written by Louis L’Amour.  While Mr. L’Amour is best known for his Western fiction, the truth is that he wrote a great many other stories as well.  He served in World War II and “yondered” much of his early life.  He was many things and he saw many things.  The Walking Drum is a novel he wrote – and it is set in the twelfth century.

Why start a post off with this quote?  Because it is a timely admonition.  A woman ends up being less than herself when she is trying to be something she is not.  And yet we have no end of “experts” proclaiming that women are equal to men.  It makes the observant wonder just what they are selling.

The research I did for the post “Offended, Insulted, and Not Shutting Up” is what got this article rolling.  And before anyone asks, no, I have not shifted my position on Marvel’s decision to make Jane Foster the latest version of “Thor.”  It is a stupid decision which they will soon learn is not helping them.

My research into the opinions of others regarding “Thorette” allowed me to find comments and articles that expressed what I have thought for some years.  They were not all as delicate in their statements as I would have been but, to borrow a line from Mr. Spock and the Vulcans, that is part of the wonder of living in a world of “Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations.”  With this research tumbling around in my head, I began to think not only about “Thorette” but about what the intelligentsia says we are to praise in the female characters being created these days.

This brings us back to the question I asked in the previous “Strong Women” post.  Just what makes a strong woman?  Looking at “Thorette,” it seems safe to say that many writers and artists think a woman is only strong when she has an above-normal muscle structure.  This sort of physique also happens to look good in some form of armor-plated swimsuit or underwear, which conveniently guarantees a male audience of some size.  (These are probably not the guys a girl should accept the offer of a date from, by the way.)

Being a curious observer, I have a question to ask the writers and artists at Marvel and elsewhere.  Do they know how many female fans Carol Danvers has?  Do they know how many women are in Thundra and “Thorette’s” fan clubs?  Has anyone taken a poll of female Marvel fans to ask them what they think of these characters – not to mention what they think of all the other heroines on Marvel’s roster?

If Marvel were to poll its female fans, I believe that they may get answers like mine.  For instance:  I have never liked or admired Carol Danvers.  And I cannot seriously contemplate Thundra, a character from an alternate dimension where women are the dominant sex, without stifling the reflexive urge to throw up.  She has to be one of the few characters Marvel has created which I find utterly repulsive.  I know and prefer her only as a convenient villainess.

My opinion of Jane Foster/“Thorette” is well documented.  Jane Foster has been warped and nearly destroyed as Marvel’s writers, editors, managers, et al attempt to gain fashion and political points from her “new look.”  But what they fail to comprehend – or perhaps to admit – is that she looks horrible!

Now, does everyone feel this way about these characters?  Hardly.  But in my humble view, these female characters do not appeal enough to be worth any kind of money.  Judging by “Thorette’s” anemic reception and the letters Marvel received about Carol Danvers years ago, I do not think I am that alone in disliking them.

What kind of female characters, then, impress me?  Allow me to pull out another quote from Mr. L’Amour to illustrate my answer:

 

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A man you can figure on; a woman you can’t.  They’re likely either to faint, or grab for a gun, regardless of consequences. – from Chancy

 The Cherokee Trail

These are the kind of women who fascinate me, and whom I wish to emulate.  Remember, fainting can easily be faked.  How is a man to know a real faint from a false one without putting himself in danger?  Louis L’Amour’s female characters are like this.  They are iron-willed women who have bones of steel.  They can handle a pistol, a rifle, or they can use some other object as a weapon.

You will not find any of L’Amour’s female characters holding up stages, taming broncos, or riding the range as cowgirls, it is true.  But you will find women in his stories that are leading cattle drives, managing ranches, and defending their homes from Indians or bandits.  And plenty of his women are quite happy to back up their men in a fight by holding a shotgun on the group of ruffians looking to make trouble.  The women in L’Amour’s novels of seafaring and in his football stories are no different.  Admittedly they do not carry guns in the vicinity of a football game, but they are just as determined and forceful as the frontier women who were their ancestors, in spirit if not in fact.

What does all of this have to do with Marvel?  The comic book company already has a Rolodex of formidable heroines.  To name a few, there is the Wasp, the Black Widow, Mockingbird, Wanda Maximoff, Silverclaw, Jean Grey, Rogue, Storm, the Invisible Woman….  The post “Offended, Insulted, and Not Shutting Up” has a more comprehensive list, if you would like to learn of more heroines in Marvel’s Universe(s).

The fact is these women can all hold their own in a fight.  Yes, these characters have an extra asset of some kind during combat.  Mockingbird and Black Widow have extensive hand-to-hand combat training, while Storm, Rogue, and Jean Grey have mutant powers.  Many other female characters within the Marvel brand also have superpowers.  But a pistol or a rifle is an asset, too, and no frontier woman who wanted to survive would shun either weapon because it was not natural to her.  It was often the only thing standing between her and harm – or death.  You respect that kind of tool; you do not toss it aside.

So do any of these Marvelous assets cheapen who these women are as characters?  No, they do not.  Nor do they enhance their characters; they are simply stand-ins for the rifles, pistols, or the various weapons women have used throughout the centuries.  Sometimes they are even extensions of the abilities women have always had:  intelligence, mental agility, and outright strength of will.

As a result one never knows just what any of these heroines are going to do in a given crisis.  One can never know just how they are going to play the game, how they are going to react to the villain’s bait.  They may play on his arrogance or they may pretend to be simpering, frightened damsels.  Whatever they do it is bound to be interesting and exciting, for the simple reason that it has the potential to be totally unexpected.

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Carol Danvers or Thundra, in comparison, can always be counted on to hammer at a problem until it goes away.  Why is this so?  It is so because they are women who are less than women.  The writers have decided to make them something they are not.  As a result, they have personalities that are as stilted as a puppet’s limbs, making them very uninteresting.

The other heroines do not have this built-in handicap.  They are women who are not afraid of being women.  This means that they do not think like the men around them.  This gives them their edge in a battle.  It is not their superpowers, skills, or weapons.  It is who they are as people, as women.

When these heroines are safely captured, they are often deemed by the villains as no longer a threat because they cannot use their powers, kung fu, or technology.  With Danvers or Thundra this is usually a true assessment.  They are not used to thinking outside the box – or thinking much at all, from what I have seen.  In a pitched battle they simply react.  This makes them relatively easy for their opponents to overcome or dispatch.

Many of Marvel’s other heroines, however, never stop thinking.  They are always watching, listening, assessing, and working out a plan of some sort.  If the only possible plan they can make is to wait for back up, then that is what they have to do.  Their male counterparts have experienced similar crises, though you will not hear these mentioned by very many critics.  If they could survive the wait and not be diminished by it, then why can’t their female counterparts?

From Marvel to DC, from Star Trek to Andre Norton’s Witch World series, from Star Wars to Howl’s Moving Castle and its sequels, there is no end of proof that women can be as bold and brave as the men in their lives – and they can be as bold without compromising their womanhood.

This is what modern writers, filmmakers, and artists no longer consider.  In fact they are actively running away from this truth because it has become passé to portray a woman as she actually is.  Instead a fictional heroine must be displayed as something other than a woman.  You go to the theaters to see the latest films and most of the women in these movies have no problem cutting off men’s heads or disemboweling them.  Not only do they have no physical problem doing it, which many of them should, but they also have no moral qualms about doing it.

Image result for wonder woman filmThe Wonder Woman movie out next year promises to be a case in point.  I was once a big fan of Wonder Woman.  This was not because of her strength or because of her Lasso of Truth.  No, I liked her because of these things and the fact that she was still a woman.  Throughout her adventures with the JLA, Diana learned to respect and like her male teammates, to appreciate their abilities and welcome them as friends.  Later series even had her dating Batman!

But recent rewrites by DC Comics have turned Wonder Woman into a bloodthirsty man-hater.  It is true that in the coming film she is going to fall in love with Steve Trevor (portrayed by Chris Pine).  While she is doing that, though, she will also be happily carving men to pieces and telling women that being secretaries is the equivalent of slavery.  You would think she came from an alternate universe and not an island inhabited by Greek warrior women.

All of this detracts from the real power of women.  By portraying a woman as what she is not, these writers and artists are not elevating women.  They are demeaning and demoting them.

The fictional heroine who easily encapsulates what a real warrior woman can and should be is Éowyn of Rohan from The Lord of the Rings.  Secretly joining the Rohirrim’s army as it marches to battle in Gondor, she is the one who defeats the Witch-king, the leader of the Nine Ringwraiths or Názgul.  Merry, taken into Gondor by her when she wore the guise of a male Rider, helps her with a well-placed sword-thrust.  But it is Éowyn who ultimately strikes the fatal blow and wins a great victory in the glorious Battle of the Pelennor Fields.

Still, many Feminists go into apoplectic fits over Éowyn’s role in The Lord of the Rings novels despite her amazing display of courage and fighting skill.  Why?  They do this because Éowyn leaves war behind forever when she decides to accept Faramir’s proposal of marriage after recovering from her battle with the Witch-king.  That particular passage reads thus:

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Then the heart of Éowyn changed, or else at last she understood it. And suddenly her winter passed, and the sun shone on her.

‘I stand in Minas Anor, the Tower of the Sun,’ she said; ‘and behold! the Shadow has departed! I will be a shieldmaiden no longer, nor vie with the great Riders, nor take joy only in the songs of slaying. I will be a healer, and love all things that grow and are not barren.’

Image result for eowyn and faramirThe thing Feminists do not understand – or the thing which they absolutely refuse to accept – is that Éowyn’s triumph in battle does not define her.  She did an amazing, wonderful thing, which most other people could never accomplish.  Her decision to marry Faramir does not render her defeat of the Witch-king any less; rather, her decision to marry is the reward she earned in that fight.

Éowyn’s part in the Battle of the Pelennor Fields does not define her identity, and most Feminists want that stereotype to define and limit her.  This is most of Éowyn’s own problem in the trilogy until she falls in love with Faramir.  Up to that point, she believes that battle will give her satisfaction.  Poisoned along with Théoden by Wormtongue’s whisperings, in her confusion and slow descent into despair Éowyn decides that only death in battle will give her a chance at glory and renown.

Now, readers, the fact is that death is not a fulfillment of life.  It is the end of life, and if you ally yourself with death, you are allying yourself with the Enemy.

In Minas Tirith – originally named Minas Anor or ‘Tower of the Sun’ – Éowyn finally comes to see that battle is not where she can be most useful when she is at last confronted by Faramir’s genuine love for her.  Being a warrior is not her calling, although she can certainly wield a sword as well as any man.  Her vocation in life is being a woman, a wife, and eventually a mother.

Through Éowyn the author of the trilogy, J.R.R. Tolkien, demonstrates that a woman is not made by her fighting ability.  She is distinguished by her will, her womanhood and – if she is lucky – by her motherhood.  “For the hand that rocks the cradle is that hand that rules the world.”  Mothers shape their children, daughters and sons both.  These daughters and sons will grow up to change the world through the things they do, the things they create, and the children they bring into the universe.

Modern media has largely forsaken this understanding of womanhood at the behest of the Hegelian/Nietzschean complex, the modern incarnation of Sauron.  There has been a war going on for the past century or three which most have not paid heed to.  This has led to nothing but a lot of pain for women, who have been persuaded as a group to throw away the knowledge that they once possessed. Their honor is their womanhood and it is our societal honor to know them as such.

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This is why I have taken issue with Jane Foster’s identity change, not to mention the identity change of several other formerly male characters.  This is why I have written two posts on strong women.  It is an attempt to remind women of what we truly are and what we can actually achieve.  For when women stop valuing themselves as women, society stops valuing them as well, and then that society sooner rather than later treats them like chattel.

ISIS does this on a daily basis.  Slave traders and sex traffickers rely on such attitudes to do “business.”  The shout of “I am Woman, hear me roar!” has led to nothing but pain and sorrow for millions of women.  They have chosen to debase themselves.  This means they are no longer worthy of special respect and value to men.  For if women do not value themselves as women, as potential wives and mothers, then why should men?

Does all this mean that a woman cannot fight?  Pshaw.  Éowyn fought, did she not?  It is not possible that she forgot how to swing a sword after marrying Faramir.  She simply did not make a living fighting – and for the record, neither did he!  The heroines of Marvel Comics fight; the women in Star Trek and Star Wars fight.  The will to fight is the influential factor.  Just ask the mothers and wives who grabbed a gun to help defend against Indian raids or bandits back in the Old West!  Or those that defend themselves and their families similarly today.

But if a woman wants to make a career as a warrior, she cannot try and be the equal of the men.  This can never be, for the simple fact that no amount of human interference – psychological or scientific – can overwrite what she is.  And if a woman decides she wishes to be a “shieldmaiden,” then she had better be prepared for what could happen to her on the field of battle.  Torture, the loss of life and limb, rape – these are just some of the risks which I can see ahead of a female soldier.  An enemy who does not value life – and there are many of those today – can be abominably creative in the management of prisoners.  Just ask Dean Koontz.

Han and Leia

Does all this mean that I believe a woman should not be prepared to fight?  Civilization is a very, very fragile construction.  One small thing goes out of whack and entire nations fall to their knees.  Women definitely need to know how to defend themselves.  They have always needed to know this.

But what women need to relearn is that it is not battle which will define them.  Battle does not define a man, so how can it define a woman?  A man or a woman is defined by who and what they are.  A man is defined by his manhood, a woman by her womanhood.  That is all there is to it.

This is not weakness.  It is not slavery.  Knowing who and what you are is not a defect; it is a strength.  Being proud of being a man or a woman is what gives one the will to fight, to protect oneself from those who do not appreciate you for who and what you are.  Muscles, weapons, skills – these are the tools.  They are not the determining factors.  We, men and women, are the weapons.

Until writers at Marvel, DC, Star Trek, and elsewhere figure that out, though, we will have to endure continuous watered-down portrayals of heroines in many stories.  Until these “artists” ask themselves, “What really makes a strong woman?”, they will continue coming up with the wrong answers.

Readers, I will give Mr. L’Amour the last word on this subject:

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She’ll stand to it.  There’s a likely craft, lad, and one to sail any sea.  You can see it in the clear eyes of her and the way she carries her head.  Give me always a woman with pride, and pride of being a woman.  She’s such a one. – from The Warrior’s Path

Amen, readers.  Amen!

The Mithril Guardian

A Review of Avengers Assemble’s “Captain Marvel”

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It is no secret how this blogger regards Carol Danvers.  I prefer to ignore her existence entirely as a general rule, being particularly insulting when I do mention her.  But there are certain times when this character must be acknowledged and mentioned, or even discussed at length.  Having seen the Avengers Assemble episode “Captain Marvel,” it seems that this is one of those times.  I have largely left my disparaging comments at the door.  This is an entirely different kind of post from previous articles.

One of the men who helped to create the Carol Danvers solo series reportedly stated that a reader of the comics, “…might see a parallel between her [Carol Danvers’] quest for identity, and the modern woman’s quest for raised consciousness, for self-liberation, for identity.” (Did anyone else miss the point of that convoluted quote?  I did.)

This description by writer Gerry Conway opens a window into Danvers’ role in the Marvel Universe(s).   From his suggestion it is possible to see that Carol Danvers is intended to be the Feminist epitome:  she is stronger than most of her male compatriots, faster than them, she shoots energy beams from her hands, and she is nigh indestructible.  Feminism’s consistent cry that, “Women are just as good as men,” is perfectly played out in Danvers’ character.

However, the results are far from flattering for women.  Captain Marvel’s most endearing quality is her superpowers; in creating the Uber Woman, Marvel missed the mark by a good many miles.

This is something which Marvel Comics seems to have tacitly recognized, although they have not admitted it aloud in interviews or writing.  Instead they told us in the early 2000s that they were “determined to have the character take center stage in the Marvel Universe.”  Apparently they have chosen to use this time to do this.  They have changed her codename to Captain Marvel, given her a new suit, and a new personality in order to make her a more central character in their universe(s).

But so far these changes have not made Danvers any more important to the brand than she has been for the last five and a half decades.  It is also worth noting that Marvel has tried relabeling the character in the past.  Carol Danvers has worn two other alternate codenames since she debuted as Ms. Marvel; these were the monikers Binary and Warbird.  Neither of these names lasted very long – the writers inevitably ended up falling back on her original codename after trying to make her new guises “stick.”

Why did they have to return to her original name?  Marvel Comics has never definitively stated any reason why, to the best of this writer’s knowledge.  But if I had to guess, it was because her new names were unable to generate an appropriately large and suitably well-paying fan base.

If at first you don’t succeed, however, try, try again.  Marvel is attempting the same rebranding trick now.  This time, though, they have gone a step further by overhauling Danvers’ personality.  Previously Danvers simply changed suits and codenames, while her personality remained intact.  But if the Avengers Assemble episode “Captain Marvel” is any indication, her new characterization is no more helpful than her previous deportment.  If anything, it is far more exasperating.

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Instead of continuing in her former mild-mannered, polite aspect, Danvers’ debut episode within the Assemble universe shows her rudely cutting across the male Avengers’ courteous pleasantries and interrupting their valid questions or comments.  But the most aggravating of all is her continuous, offhand dismissals of the men’s warnings and help during combat.  Her attitude, once about as offensive as a pebble’s, has been altered so that she is snobby, arrogant, and Matronizing.  Where she once could not be heard for being polite, now she cannot say “Hello” without it sounding derogatory.

This is not a winning portrayal for the character, and it only gets worse as the episode progresses.  During the show Danvers repeatedly mocks the male Avengers when they extend their assistance and friendship.  She scoffs at their suggestions that she may need their help in the present or in the future.  She also scathingly refuses their offer of a place on the team – which she eventually receives anyway.  Danvers looks down on all the men on the team during the episode.  Yet this should be hard to do if she is supposed to be as good as they are, shouldn’t it?  If they are on the same level, she cannot look down on them.  She has to look them in the eyes.

This does not occur within the show at all.

As for Danvers’ hypothetical “friendships” with the male Avengers, those appear to be non-existent by all but the most desperate measurements.  The most frustrating of these “amities” within the episode is the supposed Air Force/Army rivalry she shares with Cap.  It is true that the U.S. Army and the U.S. Air Force have something of an affable rivalry.  So do the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Marine Corps.  But this theoretical source of contention between Danvers and Cap within the episode is nothing less than a thinly veiled attempt to make Captain Marvel look good, while at the same time putting Steve Rogers in her shadow.

What happens, entertainingly, is the reverse.  As he does in most cases, during the show Cap stands above Danvers without half trying.  Cap demonstrates his usual magnanimity, courtesy, and the benefits of his experience during the show.  And he does this with his usual just-a-kid-from-Brooklyn charm.  Danvers on the other hand suffers in this “rivalry.”  She comes across as a small-minded, bigoted, and egotistical fool.  She disdains Cap’s assistance, his generosity, and the benefits of his experience.

This is not a way for ANY character, new or old, to make a good impression on viewers.  It is the best way to lower the audience’s opinion of her.

Falcon is similarly discriminated against by Danvers in her dialogue with him.  Left to fawn over Danvers as if she is a great heroine whom he has always wanted to meet, Sam receives no real reply for his manly deference.  In answer to his admiration Danvers persistently sidelines him in conversation and belittles his ability in combat – until Sam’s considerable technological and flying skills are needed to help save the day.  Then she is all praise and pats on the back.

Sam Wilson deserves better than that, people.  He has earned better.

Thor is also left to play the stereotype.  Thor is made to look like a callow buffoon during the adventure; throughout the show he is clearly supposed to represent the man who is emblematic of the “modern Neanderthal” who would rather smash things than think.  This “requires” Captain Marvel to “rein him in” on several occasions.  She literally grabs hold of his arms in one instance, which is utterly infuriating.  Why?

The Prince of Thunder is entirely capable of thinking, being particularly clever in his own right.  While Thor may prefer banging down the front door to picking the lock on the back entrance, the fact is that he is adaptable to the situation at hand.  To portray him as a backward, muscle-bound rube demeans not only the character but his audience.

We are not amused.

But what stood out to me the most when I was reflecting on this episode is the fact that Danvers and the Black Widow never exchange pleasantries, let alone dialogue, within this show.  Unlike most of the guys, Natasha does not bother to try and interrupt Danvers while she brags about saving the team from being “exploded.”  Most important to note, she also does not join in the other woman’s steady verbal abuse of the men.

I believe that this is something the writers overlooked, and that in future episodes they will try to rectify what I have pointed out.  However, I also believe that there can be no commiseration between these two female characters over the “vanity” of men.  There are two reasons for this.  First, Natasha was conceived as a genuine female character and legitimate heroine from the start.  She was not created as a bone to be tossed to the Femi-Nazis.  Having clawed her way up and out of that mentality when she defected from the Soviet Union, Natasha is determined not to fall back into such a trap.

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Second, while Captain Marvel now bashes the guys simply for being men, Natasha respects and appreciates her male teammates much as she always has.  She recognizes the value of her male friends not only for what they can do, but for who they are as men.  For instance, their manhood is what makes them naturally concerned for her welfare because she is a woman.  Even when she is in a situation which she can handle (or believes she can handle) herself, they do not leave their natural male concern for her at the door.

Natasha does not scorn this concern from her male teammates, as Danvers does.  Rather, she welcomes it.  Yes, it can irritate Natasha if the guys are not quite quick enough to figure out her plan and they begin to question her, fearing that she is preparing to do something rash or particularly dangerous.  But if she does end up in over her head, then she knows they have her back, even when she thinks she does not need them there.  The male Avengers’ evident desire to keep her safe does not enslave the Black Widow.  It frees her.  Natasha knows her male friends have her best interests at heart.  They do not want to exploit her, they want to protect her and be there for her.

Why am I so certain of this?  How can I be sure that the writers not only overlooked writing dialogue for Natasha and Danvers but that, if they tried to do it so that the two agreed on the “ineptitude” of men, such a discourse would ring false?

I can be sure of this fact because the Black Widow has been exploited by men in the past.  She was subjugated from her earliest years by the men (and the women) who created and maintained the Soviets’ Red Room program.  She was an expendable tool to them.  This resulted not in self-liberation for her but in a non-existent childhood, during which she was expected to behave and function as an adult.  This was then followed by an early adulthood completely devoid of compassion, friendship, happiness, and respect.  The men in charge of the Red Room did not value Natasha – they used, manipulated, and abused her.  And while they did this they considered her to be “just as good as a man” at her job.

We know how Natasha feels about this.  She regrets her past sins while under the Soviets’ control, and she was so determined that they would never get the chance to mistreat women again that she shut down the original Red Room program, presumably with extreme prejudice.  In the episode “Seeing Double,” the writers established 2R – the rebuilt Red Room program – in the Assemble universe.  Natasha’s first round against Widow wannabe Yelena Belova showed that she desires to end this new program of enslavement in the Soviet mold, too.  Looking at her attitude in this case, how can we think that the Black Widow would turn around and support a twisted feminism which views women in the same unsavory light that the Soviets did?

The male Avengers, unlike her Soviet handlers, do not use, manipulate, or abuse Natasha.  Only the most confused would claim such lunacy.  Natasha is a member of the team by her own choice, and her male friends never ask her to take risks outside of her ken.  On the occasions the risks to her during a mission are considered too high by the men, she usually takes those on herself, always over their protests.  When this happens, she does not accuse them of believing that she cannot handle the crisis.  The Soviets, remember, considered her expendable.  The male Avengers do not.

If you contrast the Black Widow with Danvers, you will see just how boorish, petulant, and childish Captain Marvel’s new characterization is compared to Natasha Romanoff’s.  As an immediate example from the episode under discussion, Black Widow illustrates her high opinion of her male friends when she asks Hawkeye what happened on the mission in Helsinki that Danvers had mentioned.  His emphatic “Do not want to talk about it,” earns an affectionate smile from Natasha, not a scoff of irritation at his imaginary “manly stubbornness.”

Now weigh Natasha’s fond expression against Danvers’ sneering “You’re adorable” remark after Hawkeye saves her from a Kree drone missed in an earlier battle.  It puts everything in perspective and easily demonstrates which woman is the better heroine and person.  Danvers was in the process of asking for help from the Avengers when Hawkeye acted first and destroyed the drone.  He was kind enough to not only to save her from the device but to “spare” her the need to ask for aid, repaying her for her help in Helsinki.  And yet she responds by treating him as though he was a teenager showboating for the lady?  Which knucklehead wrote that brilliant little bit of dialogue?

In their attempt to make the Uber Woman when they revamped Danvers’ character, Marvel Comics has instead made an uber failure.  Carol Danvers is supposed to represent the 21st century woman?  I would rather be represented by a stray cat.  A female cat may be haughty, but at least she never pretends to be anything less than she actually is.

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“But, Mithril,” I hear some of you complain, “everybody says/knows Carol Danvers has been popular throughout her history!  You cannot help but admit that, even if you do not think she is particularly great!”

Okay, let us say for the sake of argument that Carol Danvers is, actually, as popular as Marvel Comics insists she is.  If this is so, then why have they changed her codename throughout her career?  Most heroes who have had many codenames over the course of their history have had to do this in order to find the one which “fits” them best.  It is a bit late in the game for Danvers to still be searching for the perfect moniker.  Her first codename worked just fine.  I know this because I cannot shake the habit of using it in verbal conversation.  I would use it in writing if it would not confuse the issue, but that is not possible since Kamala Khan started using the call sign Ms. Marvel.

And if Danvers is so popular, why did Marvel feel it necessary to say in the early 2000s that they planned to make her “take center stage in the Marvel Universe”?  If she has “always” been popular with the fans/readers, then they should not have had to do this.  They have not done it with the Wasp, the Invisible Woman, or the Scarlet Witch.  In fact, almost all of their other leading heroines’ monikers remained the same coming into the new millennium, and have remained unaltered.  Why does Carol Danvers need special attention if she has always been – and continues to be – so popular?

Why has Marvel given Danvers such a radical personality alteration?  Costumes come and go over the years, but personalities are seldom revamped in this manner.  If Carol Danvers is – and always has been – as popular as they claim, then why has Marvel Comics had to strive so hard over the course of her existence to make her impress their readers?  Why can she not stand on her own two feet, like all of Marvel’s other famous heroes and heroines have down through the decades?

The Avengers’ Mansion/Tower is popular as well, readers.  It is prominent in almost every comic because it is the team’s base/home, and plenty of stories begin or end there.  Stan Lee said that he used to run into people on Fifth Avenue who were looking for the Avengers’ Mansion.  It was popular enough to prompt people visiting New York City to go out and look for it.

Is it possible – just possible – that Carol Danvers has been “popular” for the same reason as the Avengers’ home?  After all, if the writers and artists place Danvers in every comic they can besides her own solo series, then they may rightfully claim that she is popular based on the fact that she is present in many of the books they are selling.  They do not have to sell record numbers of issues from her solo series for her to be popular.  They just have to sell comics where she is present in some manner to make her so.

The fact of the matter is that Carol Danvers is a token player.  And since token players have no real use or value to readers/viewers, they are almost impossible to keep afloat for as long as Marvel has managed to maintain Danvers’ existence.  This is a feat of determination which deserves applause as such.  But in terms of helping the company, it is just an attempt to maintain an idea which has proved to be more harmful than helpful.

Personally, I think the company would be better served focusing on the heroines they have who are actually emblematic of real women.  Because the character of Carol Danvers will ALWAYS be inferior to these other heroines, and no amount of cosmetic changes or personality alterations will amend that fact.  This is the truth, readers…

… whether Marvel Comics likes it or not.

Until next time,

The Mithril Guardian

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Some Captain America: Civil War “Easter Eggs”

There were a lot of “Easter Eggs,” as they are called, in Captain America: Civil War. I did not see them ALL, but I noticed/thought of a few to share with you, readers.

For one, is it not interesting how much the Accords anger Sam Wilson/Falcon? This may hearken back to the original comics. In the “mainstream” Marvel universe, the government had tried to control the Avengers back in the 1970s (I think). They reduced the team’s active roster to seven individuals whom they selected.

One of their choices was Falcon, who loved being an Avenger. Already a long time partner of Cap’s in the other’s solo series, Sam was happy to finally be a part of his friend’s exclusive superhero club. What he did not love about the arrangement, though, was why the government put him on the team.

The government wanted the Avengers to be a “more diverse” team, and so they added Sam to the active roster simply because he was black. No other reason. Not his fighting skills, which he had honed at Cap’s side; not his empathetic link with his trained falcon Redwing – heck, not even his wing pack was the reason they chose him to be on the team!

No. They chose him because of his race, so they could make a political point/gain a political advantage from his life. Yeah, that is super flattering, isn’t it?

Sam’s attitude with his teammates was genial, fun-loving, and practically sunny during this time. His relationship with their government liaison, Henry Peter Gyrich, was stormy and antagonistic. He hated being a token player, and he was not afraid to say so in front of the public. Sam wanted to be an Avenger on his own merit – which he was, in the eyes of his teammates. But the government put him on the team just to make a statement.

And Sam hated that.

So his dislike of the Accords in Civil War could be seen as a nod to this, in a way. Sam fears he and his friends will be locked up in a dungeon somewhere to rot if they sign the Accords, and his fears are well founded. History has shown that when one signs one’s freedom away it is almost impossible to get it back. The only way Sam and the rest of Team Cap regained their liberty in the movie was through outside help from Steve. And even now that they can breathe the free air again, the law considers them criminals. Outlaws with no Sherwood Forest to inhabit, Team Cap is going to have to do some fancy flying until the Infinity War films.

I think they can pull it off, though.

Now, about that fight Clint and Vision had when the archer went to pick up Wanda at the Compound. In the original comics, Hawkeye is (or maybe now was) the same age as the Maximoff twins. He became enamored of Wanda and was always flirting with her. The Scarlet Witch never returned the favor; she did not hate Clint, but she certainly seemed to find his advances annoying.

When Vision came along, Wanda fell head over heels in love with the android. After a while, the Vision developed his own personality and reciprocated the Scarlet Witch’s feelings. The two announced that they wanted to get married, which caused a huge ruckus. Quicksilver, for one, did not want his sister marrying a synthetic man.

And Clint was not happy about this sudden competition for Wanda’s affections, though by this point the battle was already lost. Neither Wanda nor Vision would be swayed, and they finally tied the knot. After they did this, Hawkeye left the Avengers because he could not stand to see the Scarlet Witch married to someone else.

Thankfully, this romantic triangle is NOT part of the film! Hallelujah!!!!! I am soooo happy!!!!

Okay, fan victory lap complete. Next!

Right, I said I was going to give you a bit of trivia about Wanda. When Tony goes to the Raft, the first inmate he sees is the Scarlet Witch, who is wearing a straight jacket and shivering in her prison cell. The manner of the Maximoff girl’s incarceration here is probably a nod to X-Men: Evolution. In that television series Wanda’s father – Magneto – had her locked up in an insane asylum because she could not control her anger, which made her probability manipulation powers run wild. While she was there she ended up wearing – guess what? – a straight jacket. She did not enjoy it in that series, either.

The inhibitor collar we see Wanda wearing in her last scene during the movie was not part of her incarceration in Evolution. However, such collars are a fixture of X-Men lore. These devices are the only things the comic book authorities have which are capable of suppressing mutant powers. Heh, I guess Disney/Marvel got something mutant-related into their films under Fox’s nose after all!

As an interesting side note, while I do not know how likely it is, if the film writers want to keep pulling plot points and tidbits from the comics, we may see Wanda in a mid or end credits scene in Doctor Strange this November. In the original stories, Wanda’s probability manipulating powers were so hard for her to control that she went looking for help to get them totally under her command.

Her choice of tutor, however, was rather… unconventional. Agatha Harkness, a bona fide witch/sorceress from Salem, Massachusetts, taught Wanda enough magic for the younger woman to make her “hex” power more stable and reliable. In doing this, Harkness realized that Wanda had great potential in the realm of magic. This led to Strange calling on the Scarlet Witch from time to time for help fighting his occult enemies. Eventually, Wanda tapped into this magical potential, becoming the “mainstream” Marvel universe’s most powerful sorceress.

This led to her going loopy at least two, perhaps three, times in the “mainstream” comics. She destroyed the Avengers (and Hawkeye) the first time. The second time, she eradicated most of the mutant powers on the planet (along with Hawkeye, temporarily). The third time, everything else in the Marvel “mainstream” universe was also flying haywire, so Wanda’s mental instability in that event was almost negligible.

Wanda’s powers in the films have so far given no real sign of being out of her control. Still, the writers could pull anything out of their hats between Civil War and the Infinity War films. This is speculation, of course, but it bears mentioning.

Now, about the Raft itself. In the comics, the Raft is a high security super villain prison. Not that you could tell, since it has been subject to prison breaks in the past. Designed to be something of an East Coast equivalent to Alcatraz, the Raft is farther out in the Atlantic in Civil War than it is in the comics. In the books, the Raft is on an island. In the film, it is an island! (It is also, apparently, kept under water until the people running it are expecting visitors.)

During the comic book Civil War, Tony and the government enforcers for Superhero Registration working with him incarcerated captured anti-Registration heroes in an inter-dimensional super villain prison known as 42. 42 was really not a safe environment for the captured heroes. Of course, since Marvel was determined to make Tony a villain (they had succeeded last I looked), this hardly mattered to him or his bosses. The heroes under Cap’s leadership who were caught were bundled off to 42 without a trial, public or otherwise, and left to rot with the criminals they had spent their lives bringing to justice.

The film, of course, could not handle the intricacies of such a prison, so the Raft was substituted in its place. That is all right by me. I do not think I could have handled 42 being jammed into the movie! The Raft was a perfect substitute – especially since its only inhabitants were the guards and the imprisoned members of Team Cap. A picture is worth a thousand words, and the Raft said a million in fewer than ten minutes.

Now for Baron Zemo. Yes, in the movie, he is not a baron. (Whoop-dee-doo, so what?) In the comics, Baron Helmut Zemo is the last of a line of German nobles who have historically had an unhealthy habit of becoming evil. It practically seems to be bred into them, a trait passed from father to son as some sort of weird genetic inheritance. I do not know if there was ever a “good” Zemo in the whole family tree.

Baron Heinrich Zemo, in the comics, was one of Cap’s World War II enemies. A Nazi scientist, Heinrich Zemo had just managed to make a super glue so powerful nothing could break the adhesive. Cap showed up at about that moment and, during the ensuing battle, broke the container for the glue. The liquid spilled onto Heinrich Zemo’s head, which was covered by a hereditary hood/mask.

The mask was then permanently stuck to Heinrich’s face by his own super glue. It made eating and a few other things a bit of a problem. After he was awakened by the Avengers, Cap eventually faced Heinrich for the last time in Brazil. Light from Steve’s shield, reflected back in Zemo’s face, threw the Baron’s shot way off course. The misfired bolt started a rockslide, which killed Heinrich Zemo. Cap saw to the Nazi’s proper burial – which is more than Heinrich Zemo would have done for him – and went home.

A few years later, Zemo suddenly showed up again. Except this Zemo is not Heinrich; it is instead his son, Helmut. The guy has hung around ever since and been nothing but a plague. He can usually be seen leading his own team of anti-Avengers, which he calls the Masters of Evil.

This is one of the things from the “mainstream” comics to make it into the Civil War film. Helmut Zemo having a wife and son is new, but his father – that is old hat. In the comics, Helmut Zemo’s entire vendetta with Cap is based on the fact that he believes Steve killed his father in Brazil. The younger Baron is unwilling to distinguish between his father’s mistake and Cap’s lucky timing. Cap made his father miss, and it does not matter to Helmut that his father’s death was, basically, inadvertent. It happened, Cap was there, and so it is his fault.

Gee, that resembles Zemo’s grudge with the Avengers in the film, now doesn’t it?

In Civil War, Zemo holds all of the Avengers responsible for the deaths of his family, including the demise of his father. Though the inclusion of the senior Zemo is a seemingly throwaway bit of story, it is actually a nod by the writers to the original storytellers. Nifty little trick, I must say.

Attack 2

This is going to surprise some people, but the next thing to point out is that amazing internecine battle at the German airport. I do not know of any Avengers battles taking place in airports in the “mainstream” comics. They probably happened; I just do not know about them. But there is an X-Men battle from the original comics which took place in an airport that I know about. And unfortunately, this airport was not empty when the fighting started!

While seeing the Professor off on a well-earned vacation one day, the X-Men were confronted by a villain calling himself Eric the Red. He had taken control of Alex Summers/Havoc, the younger brother of Scott Summers/Cyclops. (Yes, I know this order has been reversed in the new X-Men films. Another reason I hate them.) Havoc knew he was being dominated, but he could not fight off the villain’s influence. Still, he was able to talk to his older brother and the other X-Men, proving that he was aware of what Eric the Red was doing to him.

Lorna Dane/Polaris, Havoc’s mind-controlled girlfriend … not so much. She was completely under the Red’s spell, and the fight spiraled out of control when she knocked Jean Grey a good one.

Storm retaliated in kind out of fury, since she and Jean were tight friends. This counterattack by Ororo in turn enraged Havoc. Mind control or no mind control, you did not want to go after his girlfriend. Not if you wanted to keep breathing!

It is a long shot to see a parallel between these two battles, I admit. But heck, the Marvel universe is full of long shots! They both took place in an airport. If nothing else, that is an odd coincidence!

Then there is Tony recruiting Spider-Man to Team Iron. When Spidey at last realizes he was used as an “ace in the hole” by Tony Stark for Civil War, there are going to be Whigs on the green. But for now, the important part is his new suit.

Uh-huh, I just said the important part of that scene was Peter Parker being given a new suit by Tony Stark. During the “mainstream” comic book civil war event, Spidey was convinced to join the pro-Registration side of the argument by Iron Man. He revealed his identity to the world, and Tony gave him an electromechanical suit which could sprout three extra legs and shoot repulsors from the hands, among other useful tricks.

In the film, this idea is presented in a slightly different manner. Parker cobbled his original suit out of old fabric in the movie, adding a set of secondhand goggles so he could better process information. The whole effect was far from intimidating. It was not even very appealing.

Tony states he needs an upgrade, which we get to see at the German airport. This suit, while it resembles the original outfit for Spider-Man in the comics, definitely has some Stark flair added to it. The fabric is high grade, almost like a suit of nanite skin, and there are camera lenses in his mask, enabling Parker to focus in on an object, person, or some such. (The lenses can also widen to show his shock when Ant-Man becomes Giant Man!) His webshooters are also more tricked-out than they were previously.

Although the results are different, the gift is essentially the same. Tony thought Spidey’s old suit in the comics needed a little more Iron in order to better protect him. In the movie, however, Parker really was in dire need of a new, better suit. Tony messed up a lot of things in Civil War, but we have to admit he did a very good thing for Spider-Man here!

Finally, there is King T’Challa. Many will already have put this together, but here it is again. In the “mainstream” comics, the mantle of Black Panther is passed down from one warrior in the royal family to another. King T’Chaka is not mentioned as ever having been a warrior or the previous wearer of the Black Panther mantle. More’s the pity.

Anyway, in the comics, T’Challa took the responsibility of being the Black Panther after his father was defeated and killed by one Ulysses Klaw. T’Challa, a child of maybe thirteen at the time, managed to scare Klaw off – destroying his right arm in the process – after the mercenary had betrayed and killed his father. T’Challa’s uncle ruled Wakanda as regent until the prince was old enough to undergo the trials he needed to pass to take up the mantle of the Black Panther. Once that was done, T’Challa suited up, kicked Klaw’s backside, threw him in prison, and became king of Wakanda. Following on that success, he joined the Avengers.

This is similar to the story we see in the film. T’Challa only dons the suit of the Black Panther after his father’s death, so that he may avenge him. In the film, Bucky is the one who takes the rap for killing King T’Chaka, which brings T’Challa into the fight on the side of Team Iron.

A last interesting note is that, in the “mainstream” comics, Panther at first declared neutrality in the comic book civil war event. But he and his wife, Ororo Munroe/Storm, eventually sided with Cap when it became clear Tony had completely gone off the deep end and was going to run everything into the ground, probably killing someone along the way. Unfortunately, the Marvel writers still managed to have him do that. Sorry, Panther.

Well, readers, I have delivered on my promise to discuss the hint I mentioned about Wanda’s incarceration – and then some! So as of now, I will sign off and give you all a chance to have fun elsewhere.

Avengers Assemble!

The Mithril Guardian

Captain America: Civil War – Sam Wilson/Falcon

Anthony Mackie is the best choice for Falcon that the film directors could have made. I liked him right from the get-go. And, while I sympathize with the actor’s wish that his costume was more like the comic book hero’s, the thing is that he still has a neat outfit.

Like his part in The Winter Soldier, Mackie’s Sam Wilson is still “doing what [Cap] does, just slower.” In this film, however, his role in Steve’s life has grown and changed somewhat from its initial parameters. How do we know this?

While Natasha is the only Avenger from the previous iteration of the team to remain an active member, Sam’s position on the new team actually seems higher than hers. Natasha is acting as Cap’s second as a trainer for the “New Avengers.” On the battlefield, though, Sam Wilson is Steve’s right-hand man.

During the fight in Lagos, Falcon consistently acts as Steve’s second. His close bond with the First Avenger has strengthened by this time. Where the two were casual war buddies in The Winter Soldier, they have now upgraded to trusting teammates. Sam followed Steve in Soldier. Now, in Civil War, he backs his friend up on and off the field of combat. It is not following so much as “sticking with” his close friend.

It is interesting to note just how vehement is Sam’s refusal to sign or acknowledge the authority of Accords. In Civil War, Sam and Rhodey have a loud, angry argument about the Accords. Their best friends sit this part out. In comparison to their heated exchange, Steve and Tony argue far more calmly. If they had been having an on-air debate, they would have been the ones on the TV screen, not Sam and Rhodey.

Sam does not need his drone Redwing to tell him that the Accords are chains with hungry maws, determined to steal his freedom and that of his friends. He can read between the lines just fine. When Steve asked Sam if he was happy “to be back in the world” in Winter Soldier, Falcon replied that the number of people “giving [him] orders [was] down to about…zero? So yeah.”

Wilson has shown he is a responsible, calm, and clearheaded man. He can make his own decisions and live with their results. The fact that the U.N. thinks he is a brash, swaggering teenager not only rankles his self-respect; it is a downright insult to him.

“How long will it be before they LoJack us like a bunch of criminals?” he asks Rhodey pointedly after Ross’ visit. War Machine, the “model” soldier accustomed to taking orders without question, is horrified by Sam’s claims. Falcon knows that what Cap says a few minutes later is perfectly true: agendas change. And when the agendas of the people in power change, the agendas of those who serve them have to change as well – whether those people like it or not.

Everyone is startled when Steve gets up and leaves after he receives a text message telling him Peggy Carter has died. When we next see him, Sam is sitting beside Steve in the church, attending Peggy’s funeral. The silent statement is that he will support Steve anytime, anywhere. No matter the crisis, he is not going to abandon his friend.

It is kind of cute when he elbows Steve after noticing Sharon is the niece of the other’s now deceased girlfriend. Cap is not particularly happy to have this secret exposed so publicly, which Sharon knows. Her speech is as much an apology/explanation to Steve as it is public praise for her dearly departed aunt.

But the poignant point for Sam here is that he saved Steve some minor embarrassment. Once Sharon started talking, Steve would have looked up immediately and had less time to compose himself. Sam saved him and Sharon that trouble. His quick action kept the matter discreet for all concerned.

This rapport between the two makes it hard for Sam to adjust to Steve’s friendship with Bucky. Of course, part of this is the fact that Bucky has never been very nice to Sam. If my calculations are correct, he tried to kill Sam at least twice: once on the Insight Helicarrier in Soldier, and again in Germany after Zemo reactivated his programming.

It is not that Sam really hates Bucky. He says, “I hate you,” later on but I do not think he truly meant it. It was just a way of blowing off steam and annoyance. No, Sam’s problem is that he is Steve’s close friend, too. Sam’s wariness of Bucky is due to the fact that he has only known him as a bad guy. He has none of Steve’s memories of the numerous times Bucky saved Cap from being worked over by a big bully in a back alley. Sam and several others fear/accuse Steve of being too blinded by his affection for Bucky to see how dangerous the former assassin is.

While Steve is lenient toward Bucky, he also does not completely trust him. Their old friendship does not blind him to his friend’s ability to commit more heinous crimes. It simply means that he is not going to recoil from Bucky and treat him like a ticking time bomb. He is wary but not in a way that will reinforce his friend’s feelings of guilt and loneliness. After all, readers, Sam and Steve were in the warehouse where Bucky woke up following their escape from the German Special Forces base. And Sam did not finagle Bucky into that vise on his own!

Sam’s suspicions mean that he does not behave in his usual warm, friendly manner to the former HYDRA operative. One of the best demonstrations of this is when, while they are both seated in the VW Bug, Bucky asks him to move his seat up and Sam says, “No.”

Now, Bucky knows he has thrown Sam around a fair bit in the past. At the least, he remembers their battle on the Helicarrier. So to Bucky it makes sense that Sam would distrust and dislike him. He does not really like and trust himself, either, proven when he practically asks to be put in cryostasis in Wakanda at the end of the movie.

But this hardly dispels his aggravation with Sam. After all, Bucky knew Steve before Sam was even born. Sam does not know Steve nearly as well as Bucky still does. The clown car the three used as a “getaway car” is representative of the small space which they share in orbit around Steve. They are both close to him, but to get too close to each other in the process will lead to a catastrophic collision!

Can one have two best friends who do not feel at least slightly jealous of each other? This question is never really settled within the film. But the scenes which show Bucky and Sam skating on the edge of shoving each other away from Cap are unbelievably fun!!!!

There is also a rather big discrepancy in the smiles Sam and Bucky give Steve after he kisses Sharon. Bucky’s smile is large and awkward; mostly because he is reminded once again of how “invisible” he is compared to Steve. Sam’s smile is much smaller, more relaxed, and happy. His friend is getting more accustomed to his place in the world and is finally showing interest in someone other than those who help him with his job. Progress is slow, Sam figures, but that does not mean it is impossible.

When Sam shows up again, it is in the parking garage where Hawkeye and Wanda are waiting to join the fight. Then Clint kicks a sleepy Scott Lang out of the van, and Sam gets a questioning look from Steve as the new recruit completely geeks out.

Sam knows Scott does not look like much to the others, but he also does not want to explain how he knows Ant-Man can be of use to the fight. Sure, the guy is a newbie who is too enthusiastic. But Sam is NOT going to admit he got beat by a guy who can shrink to the size of an insect. It was embarrassing enough when none of the others were there to see it. If they found out, he would never hear the end of it.

The next proof we have that Sam is Cap’s second-in-command comes during the airport battle. He is the one who finds the quinjet Team Iron used to get to Germany. And when the opposing Avengers finally face each other, it is Sam who asks, “What do we do, Cap?”

Natasha and Spider-Man both throw Tony an “Are we really going to do this?” look, which he ignores. No one on Team Cap looks at Steve that way. They know what they have to do, although they do not want to do it. Sam’s question was for all of them, “Do we have to do what we think we have to do?”

Unfortunately, the answer to that question is yes. Zemo has to be stopped, and the only way to get to him is to find some aerial transportation. Clint’s chopper is out of commission, and the other planes on the tarmac are either not fast enough or they are too far away. The only viable transportation the team can get their hands on is the quinjet.

And Team Iron is standing in their way.

As the Avenger vs. Avenger battle progresses, it becomes clear to Sam and the others that the only way to win this fight is for Steve and Bucky to go to Siberia as a duo. They cannot all get to the quinjet; the other Avengers are too powerful and know them too well for them to simply knock them out and keep them down.

When Cap states they need to draw out the flyers, adding that he will take Vision, Sam puts the kibosh on the plan, both as Steve’s second-in-command and as his close friend. “No, you go!” he replies. “Both of you! The rest of us aren’t getting out of here!”

Instead of reprimanding his friend, Steve accepts his sharp retort and his reading of the situation. He allows Sam to call the next play. Sam does not break a sweat as he is handed command of the four Avengers who will remain behind, telling them that what Cap and Bucky need is a distraction.

Scott Lang answers the team’s need for a diversion by reversing his shrinking ability to become Giant-Man, perfectly distracting Iron Man, Spidey, and Rhodey. Clint holds T’Challa at bay, allowing Cap and Bucky to make a run for it.

Sam watches as Ant-Man and Hawkeye are knocked down, followed by Wanda after she prevents a building from dropping on the two men’s heads. Once the jet takes off, Tony and Rhodey make a run for the engine.

Falcon, the only operative member of Team Cap, goes after them. That is when Rhodey calls on Vision to get Falcon off his back. Vision, distracted by his concern for Wanda and his sudden doubts over the rightness of the fight, misses Sam and hits Rhodey’s arc reactor. In a telling move that shows the high-mindedness of Team Cap, Sam dives to save War Machine at the same time Tony does.

Neither man is able to make the save. Their suits cannot go that fast toward the ground without getting them killed in the process. Rhodey crashes into the dirt and suffers severe spinal injuries as a result.

The scene must bring back some pretty bad, ugly memories for Sam. He saw his old wingman, Riley, shot out of the sky on a night mission in a similar way. Knowing how hard it is to lose a friend, Sam empathizes keenly with Tony, summed up in his statement of “I’m sorry.”

Tony’s response, unsurprisingly, is to childishly shoot Sam in the chest via his right repulsor.

When we next see Sam, though, he does not hold any ill will toward Iron Man for being shot. He understands how hard it is to watch a friend die; it is no stretch of the imagination to think of how hard it is to see a friend injured for nothing. No, Sam shows more concern for Rhodey than for his own injury at Tony’s hand. What gets him mad is Tony’s apparent attempt to play the “good cop” to Ross’ “bad cop.”

Of all the Avengers in the Raft, the one Tony goes to for information about Cap’s whereabouts is Falcon. Why? Because of the incarcerated Avengers, Sam is the one closest to Steve. Of all the scenes in the movie which show Falcon as Steve’s right hand man in Civil War, this is the absolute clincher. All four members of Cap’s team knew they were supposed to go to Siberia to stop Zemo.

Only Sam knew precisely where in Siberia they were going to go.

Our final look at the Falcon is at the end of the movie when, for some reason, he turns around in his cell. Slowly, Sam starts to smile at someone the audience cannot see. We can guess from the mess in the rooms leading to the cells who the person is, but we get positive confirmation when Steve steps out of the shadows and smiles back at his buddy. The other Avengers, while not losing confidence in Steve, have probably begun to wonder if maybe it would be safer for him if he left them in prison.

Sam alone is absolutely certain Steve will wade into the Raft, ready and willing to punch his way through the U.S. Navy guards watching them, to get his people out. His smile is not a non-verbal “what took you so long?” so much as it is a, “This is a really stupid thing to do from some people’s perspective. But you will never think it’s stupid. Nice to see you, Cap.”

Steve’s answering smile says, “Nice to see you, Sam. Those bars look bendable. Or would you prefer I used the key?”

Wherever Steve chooses to go between Civil War and the Infinity War films, Sam will still be “do[ing] what he does, just slower.” The two will never be as close as Steve and Bucky are, but that does not prevent them from being strong friends. Steve has enough room in his heart for Bucky and the Avengers; no one can say he has a “heart which is two sizes too small.” It is not even one size too small. Steve cares about all of his friends. Just because he understands and connects with some better than others does not mean his affections are limited. He cares about them all equally – even those on the side of the Accords.

Sam and the others will probably be “off screen” until Infinity War. If they show up in the films in between, I will not be complaining but celebrating! It would be awful to have to wait so long to see them! But, whether they appear in the intervening films or not, they are still the Avengers.

Ever higher, readers!

The Mithril Guardian