Tag Archives: Galahad

Captain America: Civil War – The Final Questions, Part 2

Related image

Yesterday we had a discussion about several Captain America: Civil War details which have not been covered in the character-centered posts here at Thoughts on the Edge of Forever. I went into specific detail about how Marvel’s United Nations’ assinine attempt to take control of the Avengers is a failure. I also showed that Team Cap’s quest to stop Zemo was not useless, nor was it the main cause of the battle in the Leipzig airport.

Today we will discuss the final item of importance in Captain America: Civil War, and that is the line-up of characters on both sides of the conflict. This line-up shows that the members of each team are counterparts to the other. One team is all about brains and synthetics; the other is all heart.

Related image

Cap and Tony are the epitomes of this equivalency between their two sides. Tony is the super genius, the billionaire, the playboy philanthropist who can build futuristic technology in a cave using nothing but “stone knives and bear skins.” He is accustomed to treating everything like an intellectual puzzle or a math problem. And yes, it is a useful, life-saving skill, as well as a viable superpower. But Tony has spent so much time developing this particular skill that he has nearly divorced his brain from his heart. Like a broken clock, his instincts will occasionally kick in and tell him to do the right thing. For the most part, though, he lets his brain run the show – even when he knows it is wrong.

Steve is on the opposite side of the scale. He can think critically and, although not a tech whiz, he knows how to use machines. It also does not take him long to figure out how to break them, something Tony regularly struggles to accomplish. Cap’s heart is, as we like to say today, in the right place. He instinctively knows what the right thing is. This is not what makes him special; even a murderer with a heart blacker than tar instinctively knows the difference between right and wrong.

What makes Steve extraordinary is that, no matter how difficult the decision or how much pain it causes him, he always makes the right choice. This is made plainest by his refusal to sign the Accords. How many of us, on seeing everyone else in the room agreeing to something we know to be wrong, challenge the status quo and speak the truth? How many of us, when we are told to do something we know is wrong, acquiesce just so we do not stir the pot and lose our friends? The answer is: too many.

Cap does not do this. He is not pushy, argumentative, or aggressive, but he is firm. When something he knows is right and good and true is challenged, he will confidently defend it. And he is so good at it, with words or with weapons, that no one can truly gainsay him when he speaks definitively on an issue. This is what makes him America’s Galahad.

And this is what angers Tony about Cap’s defiance of the Accords. He wants to be right, to be better, smarter than the old man for once. This is proved time and again in the film, such as when Tony tells Natasha she cannot take her words back in the Compound. As we see Cap answer his phone, we hear Tony say behind him, “Okay, case closed. I win.”

I win. How immature is that?! “I win” just because Natasha has finally agreed with him for the first time in living memory? Just because three out of the five Avengers present (I am taking Steve and Tony out of the equation) agree with him? Not every vote has been cast at this point, and yet Tony is still declaring himself the winner of the argument.

Readers, this is the reasoning of a petulant teenager. Tony already knows more about science and technology than Steve ever will, but for him it is not enough. This modern, teched out world is his world. He grew up in it; Steve did not. He ought to be right about important issues more often than Steve for this reason. But that is never what happens or will happen, in part because Tony is acting like a spoiled child.

Tony may be envious of Steve as well, which he implies by constantly referencing his father’s vociferous admiration for Rogers. But I wonder if the real reason he is jealous of Steve presently is because Steve is so much better than he is. Steve finished school and was acting like an adult even before that. Tony frittered away his life from the time he was sixteen until Stane had him ambushed in Afghanistan. Then he woke up and started acting like a semi-adult, reverting to his more childish tendencies when reality became too hard to bear. Maybe the reason he gets mad at Steve in the airport is because he is jealous.

It might also be due, in part, to the fact that he thinks he is turning into his father. Whatever filial affection Tony had for his father, it dwindled as he grew, so that now only embers remain. The idea that he is finally seeing what his father saw in Steve, and is coming to regard him in the same manner, may annoy him on some level. We all know that Tony wants to distance himself from his father, to be his own man. In doing this he is still playing the role of the spoiled child, which we see on display most in the airport and in the Siberian HYDRA base.

Image result for Captain America: Civil War - war machine & bucky

But what, you may ask, does this say about Teams Cap and Iron? It says that these teams are made up of heroes who resemble their leaders and that they therefore correspond to one another. Falcon and War Machine are the ones everyone will point to at once. But while the two are alike, they are not actually counterparts. Sam has known Steve only a short time and, though they are great friends, they still have not fully connected with each other. Steve and Bucky have known each other since childhood. In this way they are counterparts to Tony and Rhodey since they have known one another for years as well.

Image result for Captain America: Civil War - cap & bucky

We see when Rhodey tumbles out of the sky and lands in the dirt that Tony takes it personally when his friend is hurt. Steve and Bucky react similarly when the other is attacked, although Bucky’s long years of slavery and torture have made him react with less control than he once displayed when this occurs. On the HYDRA train through the Alps and when he would pick off HYDRA goons trying to bushwhack Cap, Bucky was calm, cool, and collected.

But because of HYDRA’s mistreatment of him, though he still has control of himself, there is now a harder edge to his fighting style. He is more brutal, with less finesse in his movements. This is nothing against him; he is not the man he once was. Like Wolverine the pain he has endured for so long has hardened him and given him an almost animal fierceness in combat. This is the reason for all those animal yells and screams he gives; for a long time, HYDRA reduced him to little more than an obedient, two-legged beast.

With Tony and Rhodey the roles are reversed. Rhodey has been fighting longer than Tony and so, even when he is angry, his maneuvers are controlled. As Tony demonstrated in Siberia, when he loses his temper his tactics take on a wild intensity that is more dangerous than Bucky’s. Bucky is perilous, certainly, but he only has one metal arm, and he has the will to keep himself under control. Tony is covered from head to foot in armor. If he decides not to be careful, he can bash a man’s skull in without half-trying. Though Robert Downey Jr.’s fight trainer said his style was modified so it would not look like he was “going wild and trying to kill somebody,” in the Siberian base Tony was trying to kill Bucky.

By comparison, Steve was most definitely pulling his punches. And despite his ferocious attacks, Bucky was clearly holding back as well. The two of them were obviously intending to stop Stark, not to kill him. He was just as plainly planning to at least kill Bucky and possibly to seriously injure Cap.

In this respect, Bucky and Rhodey are counterparts to each other. It is not something most of us recognize or think about because they never come into conflict in the airport battle. But they are comparable all the same.

Image result for Captain America: Civil War - scarlet witch and black widow

Natasha’s counterpart is obvious but, at the same time, easily overlooked. Wanda is the equivalent opponent to the Black Widow during the airport battle, though they only come into direct conflict once. They are not equals simply because they are the only women on their respective teams. That is too trite an answer and it looks at nothing but the surface. Just as Natasha was manipulated and “enhanced” by outside, evil forces, so was Wanda. Burning with a desire to protect her country and to pay back the man she believed responsible for her parents’ deaths, Wanda agreed to an enhancement procedure.

This is the one thing in her story that is different from Natasha’s; the Black Widow was never asked if she wanted to serve the U. S. S. R. in any way. She was picked up off the street somewhere when she could barely walk and subjected to a rigorous program that would have destroyed an adult who had agreed to the regimen. The two women are both growing out of the stilted worldview forced on them by totalitarian outsiders. They are growing away from this dark vision to the light of freedom.

Another connection between the two is that they both feel great guilt. In Civil War we watch Wanda make her first costly mistake in battle. It leaves her riddled with honest guilt and regret. She becomes mopey and dispirited until Hawkeye teaches her how to take control of her feelings and focus on the job at hand. By the time the two women confront each other in the battle at the airport, it is obvious that Wanda now has control of her guilt and can function properly in combat. Natasha does not accomplish this until she holds T’Challa in place to protect Steve and Bucky.

Image result for Captain America: Civil War falcon poster

Most people would say that Wanda’s equal is Vision. But Vision’s actual counterpart in the battle is Falcon. Like Sam, Vision’s powers are technologically based. Vision’s entire body is synthetic, something which cannot be changed.   Only his mind and heart can become human. Falcon already has this because he is fully human. In order to run with the Avengers, however, Sam has to rely on his suit to maintain his place on the team. He pointed this out in The Winter Soldier when he said that he does what Steve does “just slower.” In the Falcon suit, Sam can match Steve’s pace. It is what gives him his edge in combat. Without it he could not keep up with the rest of the team in a fight.

Image result for Captain America: Civil War vision poster

So where Falcon cannot physically match the rest of the team without technology, Vision is not yet able to match their emotions and reason because he is not only a physical and technological entity, but a child as well. He has to rely on logic and reason for the time being, though in the case of the Accords, he over-relied on logic. Logic, despite what the Vulcans would have you believe, is not the same thing as reason. Logic can be used to support good or evil; if you study the bad guys’ speeches, you will find there is logic in them. There was logic in Ultron’s arguments and in Loki’s. It was flawed, selfish logic, but it was logic all the same. There is logic to the Accords. We see it on display when Tony, Natasha, Rhodey, and Vision all say why they welcome the Accords.

The logic that Vision and Team Iron use in this film is very flawed. Rhodey’s logic for signing the Accords is that the document is the first major piece of legislation that the entire world has agreed upon. Also, a decorated former general is proposing it to him. Tony wants to stop feeling guilty and he wants to get Pepper back, so signing the Accords should make regular people and Pepper happy with him again. Natasha wants to atone for her sins, so she signs the Accords.

Vision’s logic is that the world is “filling up with people who can’t be matched. Who can’t be controlled.” What he is “too young” to understand – too unwise in the way of the world and humanity – is that no one can completely control another person without resorting to force. This makes Vision’s support of the Accords the most forgivable. He does not understand that his logic is flawed and unreasonable, nor does he know that the control of beings with free will always requires force. So his mistake is not to be held against him.

But the fact is that this is where Falcon has the better of Vision. Falcon is physically slower than most of his teammates without his suit, but mentally and emotionally he is as “fast” as the rest of them. Through his inexperience, Vision is usually behind the eight ball when it comes to reason and emotions when compared to the other Avengers.

Scott Lang and Peter Parker are very plainly equals. Spider-Man arrives on the scene because, overawed by Mr. Stark, Peter goes to Germany. Sam’s tapping of Ant-Man appears to bring Scott to Leipzig for similar reasons.

Image result for Captain America: Civil War spider-man and ant-man

The two characters are both science whizzes who have gained powers neither of them wanted. Spider-Man got his abilities from a radioactive spider bite while Scott was mentored in the use the Ant-Man suit by Hank Pym. This was because Pym sought to protect his daughter; Scott was, as he himself said, expendable. Both are new to the superhero gig, solo or with a team, and the two are instantly star struck by the men who call on them for help.

The differences between them are two-fold; Scott is not a kid. He has nothing to prove and more to lose than Parker does. One wrong move will get him sent back to prison, where he will miss more years of his daughter’s life. Despite this sword of Damocles hanging over his head, Scott answers Cap’s call and maintains his allegiance to the team once he realizes going against the law means doing battle with the other Avengers.

Scott does this because (a) Steve is honest with him upfront. He tells him in no uncertain terms that this mission will land him in trouble if he joins them and that if he does not want a part in it for any reason, the door is open and no one is going to prevent him from walking away. They will be disappointed, but they will understand if he does not want to land on the wrong side of the law. (b) Scott realizes that Team Cap has not requested his help simply for his skills, suit, and scientific knowledge. Those are big reasons, but they are not the only ones. Team Cap has requested his help because they trust Falcon’s judgement. And trust is something he values.

Allow me to clarify: Team Cap trusts that Scott believes in the same things they do and will fight for the same values they treasure because of Sam’s assessment of him. To have strangers put such faith in him – the new kid on the block who has less experience than the Scarlet Witch – is a humbling compliment and a huge honor. Scott does not want to let people who believe in him down, which we know from Ant-Man. He became the Ant-Man because of Cassie’s belief in him, her belief that he was a good man who would do the right thing no matter what.

Lang sides with Cap because of the team’s belief in him and his daughter’s belief in him. If the other five Winter Soldiers were to get loose and destroy the world, what would happen to Cassie? Would they kill her, or would the conditions of their new world order do that? Or would they condemn her to a fate worse than death – a life of slavery, with death as the only escape route? Scott will not let that fate befall his daughter and he knows that Team Cap does not intend to let that happen to her or anyone else. He sides with Steve and the rest because they are like him, and he is like them.

This is not the reason that Peter joins Team Iron. Tony does not see very much of himself in Peter. Peter does not see much of himself in Tony, either; he sees what he wishes to be. He sees the splash and dash; Tony is the tech master who has everything the tech geeks like Peter wish they had. He has the money, the looks, the tech, the money, the fame, the power, and the money that Peter and his aunt so conspicuously lack. How can he say no to the richest, most famous tech guru on the planet?

Well, there is one reason that he would say no. He cannot tell Aunt May about his powers because he knows she would not want him to get hurt, though she would be proud of him for his desire to use his gifts to protect other people. But the fact is that he is a minor without so much as a learner’s permit, let alone the training that the Avengers have had over the years which allows them to dish out and take massive amounts of physical pain. Being thrown in your locker by a football jock is not good preparation for combat injuries, readers.

Aunt May does not want her young nephew going out to get hurt when he is so unprepared for the world. If he were older, say around Wanda’s age, she might let him go, but the kid is fifteen! Wanda is in her early twenties; she legally and physically qualifies as an adult who can choose her own path. Peter does not. But when Peter points this out, Tony shuts the door on him. He wants Spider-Man on his team and he is going to take him whether the kid likes it or not.

And sooner or later, Peter is going to figure this out. Sooner or later he is going to learn about Zemo running off to Siberia, where he could have awakened the other Winter Soldiers. Peter is not stupid, and he is truly trying to do the right thing. Once he learns that Tony dragged him to Germany to stop Captain America from saving the world, he is going to be furious because it means that Tony lied to him. That Peter did the wrong thing thinking that he was on the right side of the argument. It will mean that he let Stark coerce him into what was not his fight, and it will reveal that Tony did not do this because he believed in Spider-Man. He did it because he needed an unknown variable in the equation.

I do not want to be Tony when that happens.

Now we come to T’Challa and Clint. You were, of course, expecting me to discuss them earlier in this post, given my affection for Hawkeye. That is one of the reasons they are being discussed down here instead of up there. Why does T’Challa go to Germany, readers? He goes because he wants revenge/justice for his father’s death. He has lost his father, a man he loved very dearly and with whom he was quite close. None of us would do any better than T’Challa if we were in his situation during Civil War. In the film, T’Challa joins the fight because of his family.

So does Clint Barton. I have pointed this out before, but the drum must be beaten until I have everyone’s attention: What did Clint have Fury do with the files on his family? He had Fury erase them. According to all the files on the planet, Laura Barton and their three children do not exist. Clint kept them a secret from all but one of his friends and his boss, mostly because he simply could not keep Fury out of the loop and make it work. His family lives out in the sticks without television, iPods, computers, and most other modern digital items. Why? Because Clint does not want them found by his enemies. He wants his children to grow up safe and happy, and the only way to do that is to act as though they do not exist after he leaves the house. How much of a wrench would the Accords have thrown into their happy, safe existence?

A big one. We know how Loki threatened to have Clint kill Natasha on the Helicarrier in The Avengers. It is no stretch of the imagination to think he would threaten Clint in the same way regarding his family. So would HYDRA and half of the mercenaries, assassins, drug lords, mobsters, hired killers, terrorists, etc., on the planet. They would happily and sadistically murder Laura, Cooper, Lila, and little Nathaniel Barton on film and videotape so that Clint would never be able to forget what his family suffered before they died.

If Clint signed the Accords the U.N. would want to keep track of his movements at all times. And when he left the team for some R&R – if the bureaucrats in the U.N. could be persuaded that he actually needed it – they would want a way to contact him in a split second if they “needed” to do so. That would mean they would want to know where he went for months at a time, why they could not find the place on a map, and why he wanted it kept so hush-hush. And once they learned about his family, if for some reason Clint refused to obey their orders, they could and would use the safety and happiness of his wife and children as leverage to get him to do their will.

The entire reason Clint joins Team Cap is to protect his family. If anything happened to them, he would go down the same road as T’Challa. It would not be quite as obvious; while they are both professional fighters, Clint does not react to grief and pain with hot anger. It might make his hands and arms unsteady and then he would not be able to shoot.

This bears greater explanation. As we saw in The Avengers, even when he is absolutely furious, Clint’s rage does not usually show itself in an explosive manner. It cannot for the simple reason that his primary fighting technique is to shoot from a distance. His is a ranged weapon; one false move can make him miss his target. So Hawkeye’s anger in combat more often manifests itself as icy ferocity, which is more dangerous than the blatant anger T’Challa demonstrates in Civil War. It means that Clint has not stopped thinking.

Both of these combatants are in the fight for their families. The two also have well-controlled fighting styles. Not withstanding his archery skills, Clint is also a good hand-to-hand fighter. T’Challa’s acrobatics, gymnastics, and hand-eye coordination show not only professional mastery of these arts but a great deal of control.

If you do not believe that Clint needs control and coherent thought as well, readers, think again. In order to fire his arrows, Clint has to maintain control of himself and keep track of such factors as the angle from which he is firing, the wind speed, the distance between him and his target, as well as the size, weight, and speed of his arrow. Archery is not only physically but mentally demanding; it does not take a genius to fire a bow but it definitely takes the ability to reason and think comprehensibly. If you do not believe me, readers, then check out www.archery360.com to learn more about the ancient art of archery.

This puts the two men on an even platform during the airport battle, and it is the reason Hawkeye introduces himself to the Black Panther when it becomes clear their fight is moving into close-quarters. Clint realizes that he is up against another expert and that this man is stronger than he is. His introducing himself is actually a sign of respect for an adversary whose advantages are superior strength, a metal suit, and a good deal of righteous anger. Clint cannot directly compete with any but the latter and he is not angry enough at T’Challa to lose his temper with him. He holds T’Challa for as long as he does through sheer determination.

Despite unceremoniously defeating Clint in order to follow Cap and Bucky, T’Challa does seem to respect the master archer for the same reason. After all, though he hits him hard enough to prevent the archer from giving chase, he could have simply knocked him cold. Instead, he knocked him over and gave him a monster headache. He knows a professional when he sees one and, despite his claim that he does not care for Clint’s introduction, he also does not seem to care to badly injure or permanently damage a worthy opponent. While it is a heck of an introduction, something tells me this is the start of an interesting friendship between the two.

Well, readers, this is all I have left to say on the subject of Captain America: Civil War. It has been a fun ride and I am going to miss writing about these old friends of mine until next year, when Avengers: Infinity War hits theaters. You may get more out of me about Thor: Ragnarok, but I doubt it. The film is sure to be a hoot – and I am glad to hear that Mjolnir will somehow be reconstituted after Hela destroys it. What is the Prince of Thunder without his hammer?

I will probably have some things to say about Avengers Assemble’s new season and the comics. But until the next Marvel movie to catch my attention comes out, or until I have some more information to form theories regarding the upcoming films, Marvel Studios is not going to be too hot a topic on Thoughts on the Edge of Forever. Wow. I did not realize how much I was going to miss them all.

Anyway, readers, go ahead and check out what comes next or what has gone before. I am not sure just what will come next, but we’ll figure it out as we go along. ‘Til then….

EXCELSIOR!!!!!!

Image result for Captain America: Civil War

Advertisements

Captain America: Civil War – Bucky Barnes/Winter Soldier

Well, masterleiaofasgard, here I go again! Let’s see if I understand Bucky any better now than I did previously.

In a prior post, I said that I found Bucky Barnes more relatable during Civil War than I did in Winter Soldier. That is not hard, since Bucky got the programmed automaton treatment in Soldier, as Clint had it in The Avengers – just with more ice. And, as Bucky said in The First Avenger, he became a bit invisible to a certain section of the population after Steve received the Super Soldier Serum. To be honest, my whole attention in The First Avenger was on the American Galahad because…. he is Galahad. So I did not pay his best friend the attention he deserved – shame on me!

But Bucky was neither the invisible man nor a pitiable human robot in Civil War. He was a man who had become an urban hermit. With HYDRA’s programming still locked up in his brain, going off the radar meant the bad guys could not find and “retrain” him. To stay away from them, though, meant staying away from his best friend – the one person on the planet who believed in him.

Perhaps Bucky thought – or hoped – his old friend would not miss him. He had new friends now, a good job, everything he needed. He was taken care of and… safe. Bucky could live with that. If he came out of the shadows, it would not be long before Steve lost his friends, his position with the Avengers, and everything else he had gained and earned after awakening from his nap in the Greenland ice trying to protect Bucky.

It was rather surprising and sweet to see Bucky shopping for fresh fruit in a Bucharest market. He even smiled. That is new. He was not much of a smiler in Winter Soldier, of course, and his grins in The First Avenger carried more swagger and bravado.

In this scene, his smile is not nearly as big. Instead it is a small sign of some comfort and happiness, showing that Bucky has adjusted to his new mode of living. It is not what he wants, necessarily, but it is better than being HYDRA’s attack dog.

Then, as he leaves the market, he realizes someone is watching him. Looking around carefully, he spots the person. It is a newsstand owner, who disappears after Bucky turns toward him. With a horrible sinking feeling, Bucky goes to the newsstand –

And finds he is the prime suspect in a U.N. bombing in Vienna.

Uh-oh. There goes his newfound peace and quiet. It is time to run, before he is killed. Or, worse, before a HYDRA operative or someone else uses the programming they burned into his brain to make him do their dirty work.

But he cannot run with just the clothes on his back. Going on the run, it is a good idea to have some supplies with you. And Bucky left his supplies at his apartment. He goes to grab them and get out…

And finds his old friend has done exactly what he knew he would do. The minute he was in trouble, Steve came running to help him.

Bucky does not want his help. It is not because he is angry at Steve that he wishes to avoid his old friend. Nothing which happened to him after the fall from the HYDRA train in the mountains was Steve’s fault. That was HYDRA’s doing, just like the experimentation which allowed him to survive the fall in the first place.

No, Bucky wanted Steve to stay away from him lest he get dragged down into the morass which is the result of the other’s long, forced servitude to HYDRA. He was not avoiding Steve out of anger. He was hiding in order to protect him.

But Steve does not want protection. He wants his brother back, even if it means fighting with the police, the government, and the Avengers. Nevertheless, Bucky still tries to escape. He has to stay away from Steve.

But the world has changed more than even Bucky realizes. He learns this when a guy with serious hand-to-hand combat skills, a vibranium suit, and a lot of strength tries to kill him. Only the timely intervention of a German Special Forces helicopter gives him the opening he wants to get away.

(I am curious. If the U.N. was so darn concerned about civilian casualties resulting from the Avengers’ battles, THEN WHY DID THEY SEND IN A CHOPPER TO SHOOT UP A CITY BLOCK IN BUCHAREST?!?! Methinks they do not actually care about civilian casualties at all – nein, readers?)

Unfortunately, from his perspective, Bucky does not escape. He gets caught, and he knows the only person who thinks he is worth saving is going to fight to protect him. His main concerns from this point on are that Steve will lose everything he has acquired by fighting for him, and that he himself will lose what little freedom he has had since The Winter Soldier.

That last fear is proved justified when a man posing as a psychiatrist uses HYDRA’s programming to force Bucky to kill again.

But, as he always has, Barnes’ best friend comes through in the clutch to rescue him. Bucky probably thinks it would be better if he was dead. Then Steve would be safe, along with sooo many other people.

When Steve asks what the fake psychiatrist wanted, Bucky tries to stave the question off. He does not remember it exactly. He does not even remember how he got from a prison cell to an old warehouse. But he knows whatever the guy wanted will lead to trouble for his friend.

Then he remembers what the infiltrator asked, and suddenly he realizes there is a threat too great for any of them to ignore, for any reason. “I’m not the only Winter Soldier,” he says, shocking and horrifying Steve and Sam. He explains about the others, a group of HYDRA’s best killers transformed into super soldiers. With the serum used on Steve in their bodies, everything inside is magnified. In Steve’s case, “good becomes great.” In the case of these guys, bad became much, much worse.

This guy – Zemo – has to be stopped, no matter the cost, before he releases these other Soldiers. So Bucky joins his old friend and the new guy (Sam) to bring down Zemo.

This is, as they say, somewhat awkward. Sam has his own rapport with Steve, and he is none too trusting of Bucky. Though he cannot remember everything he did to Sam, Bucky must figure that the distrust is well warranted. Most of their problem, though, revolves around the fact that they are both close to the same friend and do not want him hurt.

Hence his request: “Can you move your seat up?” and Sam’s flat, “No.” That wreck of a VW bug was not the only cramped space the two inhabited!

Bucky’s fear only mounts when he sees Steve kiss Sharon Carter. Great – now not only is he invisible, he is a wanted assassin with the blood of hundreds on his hands, dragging his best friend into a battle where he could lose everything – plus a new girlfriend. And, as icing on the cake, what girl is ever going to be interested in him now?

I think the phrase going through Bucky’s head at the time would have been something like, pardon my crudeness, readers: My life really SUCKS right now.

Then Steve drives out to meet the rest of his team, and Bucky gets an up-close look at them: Clint Barton, a man Steve did not want to haul out of somewhere private, personal, and apparently happy; as well as Wanda Maximoff, a girl who is barely out of her teens and a current media darling for all the wrong reasons. He knows their names and abilities – he has to have seen those in the newspapers at least, if not on television or on the Internet. The guy in the van is new, and he is definitely enthusiastic. Too enthusiastic, but he is in the fight now all the same.

These are Steve’s new friends. Three of them have been through battle and fire with him, and they trust him with their lives and the lives of others. Bucky does not think he is worth the effort to keep himself alive, and these people have no stake in his fate. But they are loyal to Steve, and since Steve believes Bucky is worth saving, they will follow him where he leads. Even if it means they have to fight the other Avengers.

Now being the center of this mess truly sucks. (Sorry again for the language, guys. Sorry, Cap! 😉 )

It only gets worse as the team falls to fighting. At least Bucky’s determined opponent is not, technically, Steve’s friend. But Bucky does not want to kill anymore. Nor does he want T’Challa to believe a lie. So he tries to explain that he did not bomb Vienna and kill King T’Chaka.

But the new Black Panther will not hear it, so determined for vengeance as he is. And all the while, the false psychiatrist is headed to Siberia, closer and closer to five human nuclear weapons who could wipe out the world….

Steve’s new friends know it, too. And they know this fight is a complete waste of precious time. They therefore throw themselves to the wolves (or the Panther) to buy Bucky and Steve time to get away. Once the two old friends are on their way, Bucky asks, “Am I really worth all this?”

Cap’s answer is a resounding yes, though it is an answer Bucky is not certain he can accept. But he has to admit that it feels good to be back with his old friend again.

Until they find the other five Winter Soldiers dead, and Zemo reveals his plot. Then Bucky realizes he has been the bait used to ruin Steve’s life, just as he was afraid he would be. And on top of that, he seems to have ruined another man’s life in the bargain: the son of his old friend, Howard Stark.

Battle ensues, and during the fight Tony has the temerity to ask him whether or not he remembers killing his parents. How can Bucky forget? How can he forget any of the faces of those he killed? He watched his hands put their lights out, and remained unable to stop himself from doing it. How can he distance himself from what he did – unwilling though he was to do it? “I remember all of them,” he tells Tony.

He remembers because there is no possible way for him to forget. Despite the constant memory wipes, HYDRA could not make Bucky forget who he was or where he came from. They could control his mind, not his soul. He fought for that, so hard that he never lost it. The price of that battle is that he remembers everything he did for the evil, secret societywhen he is clear-headed or not under the influence of HYDRA’s programming.

He remembers every kill, everyone HYDRA told him to destroy. He remembers the ones who deserved to die – HYDRA would not have wanted competition, after all. But the ones who did not deserve to die, like Tony’s parents, he will always remember more clearly. They were victims, as much as he was. But, from his perspective, they suffered more. Bucky will wake up, every night, for the rest of his earthly life, recalling those he killed and wondering, Why didn’t I fight back?

He could not fight back. Not physically. Not in a way that would have saved anyone. The only fight Bucky could keep up was the battle for his soul. And he won it – but at a high price.

If it was just the two of them, then perhaps Bucky would not have put up a fight. Maybe he would have let Tony kill him. But Tony is so determined to injure as he has been injured that he goes after Steve and Bucky. Bucky cannot – he will not – stand for that anymore than Steve will stand for an attack on him. Steve had nothing to do with the Starks’ murders; those are on Bucky’s conscience, not his. Tony’s attack on Steve is uncalled-for. He does it just to make himself feel better.

Bucky does not want to kill Tony. He killed his father and his mother, the last thing he wants to do is kill their heir, even in self-defense. But neither will he let Tony beat up on Steve. They are brothers in all but blood. Growing up, they stuck together through thick and thin. Neither of them liked bullies; that was why they joined the army in the first place to fight against the Nazis and, later, HYDRA. Bucky always protected Steve – even when Steve got big enough to handle himself.

Those old instincts are stronger than any kind of programming. They make Bucky go for Tony’s arc reactor. He cannot kill Tony, but he can shut him down. Only, in trying to do that, his metal arm is blasted off. Stunned by the loss, Bucky knows that he has now lost the same arm twice.

Despite lying dazed on the floor after this, Bucky still sees the fight which rages on without his participation. He sees it, and he sees the senselessness of it. Even more clearly, he sees what Steve is doing for Tony. He is fighting to save the younger man’s soul from his own anger and pain. Steve fought a similar battle for Bucky’s soul on Project Insight’s Helicarrier two years prior. He won that fight…

And against all the odds, Steve pulls it off a second time. Again, he wins the battle, for the simple reason that his cause is just. If Steve is willing to go to such great lengths for the two of them, then he sees something in both which they cannot yet see in themselves. Leaving Tony on the floor, unharmed but unable to fight, Steve steps over to Bucky and holds out his hand. You’re not done yet, Buck, the gesture says. You’re still you, underneath all the scars. You ARE still worth it. Will you let me prove it to you?

Steve never forces his ideas or choices on anyone. He lets other people make their own decisions. It is Bucky’s choice to stay on the floor, or accept Steve’s proffered hand. He can stay and die, or he can get up and rediscover that spark in his soul which resisted HYDRA the only way it could – by staying lit.

Bucky grabs Steve’s hand and allows his old friend to get him on his feet. I don’t see the way out, he admits with this gesture, while also acknowledging his physical weakness, But you do. I’ll follow the fellow kid from Brooklyn who was too dumb to run from a fight. Because you knew all those fights were winnable, and I didn’t. I don’t see how to win this one, but you do. So lead the way.

Then Tony acts like an absolute baby. That stings Bucky as much as it hurts Cap. They both know that Tony has regressed to a little kid in his anger. He is safe, but only because his armor has no power to follow his commands. Once it is back online, how long will he stay away? Neither Steve nor Bucky can continue the fight. They cannot continue to protect him. They are both too tired by the previous battle.

Yet again, Steve has the answer. If Tony wants the shield that badly, he can have it – minus Steve. Without Captain America, the shield is just a big metal “Frisbee.” Tony has not got the skill to use it. He never will. The shield is not a symbol, it is a tool. And Steve can use any tool he chooses in a battle.

Although he is unsure if it will solve anything, when Steve leaves the shield behind, Bucky is assured that at least Stark will not immediately chase after them. That they have time to get away, and the younger Stark has time to sit down, cool his heels, and allow his overheated reason and logic “circuits” to start working again. Tony has time to realize what Steve did for him, as Bucky found time to relearn just what a great friend Steve is.

However, there is the matter of the code words which HYDRA programmed into his brain. As long as he has those in his head, Bucky is a danger to Steve and everyone else on the planet. Zemo knows the trigger words, and others can find them – or get them from Zemo. Until they are purged from his mind, he has to stay out of the way of other people in order not to harm them.

So he goes under again. Doubtless, the Wakandan cryogenic freeze is less uncomfortable than the HYDRA process. It certainly does not seem to be as painful. Maybe, unlike during his naps in Siberia, Bucky will actually be able to get some real sleep this time.

Let’s just hope he does not outlive Steve while he is doing that!

Since Sebastian Stan has a nine picture deal with Marvel, and he has only used up three of those nine films, I think we might get to see him again soon. Maybe it will be in the Black Panther film that will come out in 2018. (If so, I want to see that movie!)

It would also make sense (to me) to bring the Winter Soldier into Infinity War, at least during Part 2. Going up against Thanos is going to require all hands on deck, and that means the Avengers will have to reassemble and call in every ally they can find. If the Wakandans are smart – and they are – they will give Bucky a vibranium arm to replace the one Tony blasted off. Then he can punch Thanos with it!

Until then, we will have to be satisfied with Civil War. That will not be hard. Although it is much more serious than the previous Marvel films, with more language, family fights are never fun. And the Russos were right; this was a big family row. Bucky will never quite fit in with the Avengers, but that does not mean he could not become their ally.

And no matter what, he will always be Cap’s best friend. If HYDRA could not undo that, then Thanos has no prayer of accomplishing the feat!

Catch ya later, True Believers!

The Mithril Guardian

Torches in the Dark

Captain America The Winter Soldier

Ideal (noun):

  1. A concept or standard of supreme perfection.
  2. A person or thing taken as a standard of perfection.
  3. A high principle; lofty aim.

Funk &Wagnalls Standard Desk Dictionary, Vol. 1, 1969.

“Mom, what does ‘humble’ mean?”

“Check the dictionary, dear!”

“Dad, what does ‘patriotism’ mean?”

“I’m a bit busy right now. Look it up in the dictionary and I’ll explain anything you have a problem understanding later, okay?”

 

I am one of those fortunate people who had parents who would tell me what a word I did not understand meant – once I checked it in the dictionary! If they themselves did not know its meaning, or were uncertain of it, they would grab one of the (many) dictionaries in the house and find the answer there. When I was old enough, they taught me how to do it.

For a while, I found it irritating, not least because some of the definitions were as confusing as the word I was looking up. But after a while I grew to enjoy it; these days, I could literally spend an afternoon perusing the dictionary just for fun.

Anyway, not long ago I was thinking about one of my favorite things in the world – fiction. I was thinking about how professional critics like to praise really nasty characters these days. You know the ones I mean – Hannibal Lecter, Dracula, Moriarty, or characters like them. And I was trying to figure out what these people see in such characters. What do they like about them? I wondered. What do they find so interesting in these black holes that are void of everything that makes a person good? Why do they hate the characters with principles and extol the characters that have none?

The only answer I was able to come up with is that a lot of these critics seem to hate the standards the good characters embody or aspire to achieve. As an example, one of the things I heard said about Captain America prior to The Winter Soldier’s release was that Steve Rogers had the “most colorful” uniform of the Avengers but the “least colorful” personality.

I was confused by the statement. “How can Cap be bland?” I asked. “He’s a great leader, a compassionate man, and he will protect people who cannot protect themselves. He’s magnanimous, he’s just, and he is someone who will stand up to evil no matter the cost to himself. What’s so dull about that?”

Apparently a lot, if you listen to some people.

In contrast to what they said about Cap, professional critics babble endlessly about the bad guys and how “great” they are. How much “depth” they have and how the reader/viewer/audience-in-general can “sympathize” with them when they see the reasons for their behavior.

I am not sure I sympathize with the likes of Magneto or Khan Noonien Singh. They are both men who will kill indiscriminately in order to gain power. After all, in a world ruled by mutants, should not the strongest lead? What government was Magneto planning to set up after he achieved global mutant dominance? If his rule of Genosha in Wolverine and the X-Men was any indication, he had a Fascist/monarchal government in mind. Khan’s ideas were about the same: “My race is supreme and I am the most supreme of them all. As for you – well, if you’re a normal human, then you’re just scum. If you’re enhanced, like me, then you’re simply less brilliant than I am.”

Nevertheless, I do pity Magneto and Khan. They are two brilliant men who squander their intelligence by trying to subject the world to their will. They are smart enough to help society in so many ways, but instead they choose to force their idea of perfection on everyone else. So they are unwilling to hear anyone say, “No, I don’t want to do that,” because those words offend their pride. Those words remind them that they have no business ordering other people to live by their twisted wills, and their pride will not accept that. It is this that makes them so pitiable.

However, while I feel sorry for these characters, I definitely do not sympathize with the likes of Hannibal Lecter or Moriarty. At least Magneto and Khan tried to be good initially. Lecter and Moriarty went bad almost the minute they were old enough to decide between up and down. Such a choice is not going to engender even a drop of pity from me.

“But how can the critics hate the good guys?” some may ask. “They never say they do!”

As a friend of mine likes to say, this is where language matters. And this is why it is a good idea to look up words in a dictionary – or read it just for fun.

Professional critics rarely state plainly that they hate fictional good guys. They know that anyone who likes fictional good guys will not listen to them if they state flatly, “I hate Superman/King Arthur/Frodo/fill-in-the-good-guy-of-your-choice because they’re good.” So instead they use language that makes the good guys seem weak, unreal, and thin. They label Cap a “Boy Scout,” old fashioned, or the old standby of “idealistic.”

Now you understand why I started this post off with a partial definition of ‘ideal,’ readers. The full definition has been cut in most modern dialogue so that its adjectival meaning alone is present. So when one hears phrases like “He’s very idealistic” or “He has great ideals,” one immediately thinks that the person being spoken of is not in touch with reality. They get the impression that the ideals the person espouses are “Capable of existing as a mental concept only; utopian; imaginary” (also from Funk &Wagnalls Standard Desk Dictionary, Vol. 1, 1969). In other words, ideals are about as tangible as rainbows and as real as the Sidhe of Irish mythology.

Yet the definition of ideal goes beyond that. An ideal is a “concept or standard of supreme perfection;” it is a torch in the dark that you take up to give you light as you walk around. An ideal is a goal, like a dream job or a trophy. If you want it, you have to work for it. And that is hard, daunting, labor to say the least.

The particular ideal(s) we want can be societal or personal. Societal ideals, such as justice and honor, are hard to achieve. Personal ideals such as compassion, self-sacrifice, and related virtues are even more difficult to achieve. I know – I have been trying to attain them and others for years. In fact I am still trying to reach them. So I know from my own small experience that working toward these ideals is a tiring vocation.

The thing to remember about achieving an ideal is that those who choose to pursue it are never satisfied that they have actually mastered it. For instance, others might consider a compassionate person a great hero, but that person will always feel as though they are not compassionate enough. So they practice it more and more, becoming even more heroic in the eyes of others. But in their own mind they will always sense that there is more for them to achieve – something that does not make the puzzle complete, something just over the next hurdle that they have to reach in order to be perfectly compassionate. And they will feel this way until they must transfer from this life of time to the life of eternity. Why? Because this life will never let them be perfect.

But you know something? That does not stop these committed people from continuing to work at being perfect – at least until they are in forevermore and do not have to worry about it. Because once such people are in forever they become as perfect as they can be.

So what does all this have to do with good guys and bad guys in fiction? Good guys are, as I said above, either the embodiment of an ideal or they are striving after an ideal. That ideal can be societal or personal, but it is an ideal all the same. Galahad is the ideal of knightly virtue, Cap crystallizes all the virtues that define the U.S. as a country in his personality, and Aragorn is the consummate model of a good and noble king. Other characters like Spock, Teal’c from Stargate SG-1, or Jason Bourne are all pursuing an ideal. Spock pursues the ideal of humility, recognizing that he and the entire Vulcan species are not superior to humans, while Teal’c and Bourne are each in pursuit of redemption for their past evil acts.

The most important fact about all these characters is that they are trying to be something better. Even Galahad, Cap, and Aragorn are not satisfied with their current levels of what we could call perfection. They are not as perfect as they can be and they know it. They are still striving after perfection. It will always elude them because, unlike us, they will be in this world for centuries to come. We will be here only for a short time, and one day we will be allowed through the curtain separating this life from eternity. They will not follow us because they are here to help keep us focused on the goal they are not designed to attain.

Some of the critics who go into raptures over the bad guys know this. What is more, they reject it. Why, I do not know. And as the old saying goes, “Misery loves company.” Rejection of ideals, of the race that we each feel the need to run toward perfection, leads to absolute misery in the here and now. And it is an awful thing to be miserable in solitude, because one knows precisely why he is miserable. Excuses for it make a thin shield which is only strengthened when more than one person is using them.

This is why, I believe, so much attention is being given to fictional bad guys by professional critics these days. No, not all professional critics are bad. But some are making everyone else toe their line, just as Magneto and Khan each tried to make the people of their worlds follow their wills. If there is no one to try and disarm these mistaken critics of their flimsy defenses, then they have no need to battle their own inner darkness and can sit pretty on it.

How can we combat this evil that they have accepted? By liking the fictional good guys and explaining why we like them. An even better method is to imitate the good guys’ virtues as best we can – after all, that is why they are here.

The best response, though, is to never stop trying to be better than we are today. Our own real competition is with our own bad tendencies. We are naturally inclined to choose good and not evil, despite what others may say. And as long as we stick with the good, as long as we fight to keep it and make it grow, we are running the great race and fighting the good fight. There is no greater challenge in life.

I do not know about you, but I enjoy a good fight. And if it is with my own faults, then that makes it an even better battle. I hope I win.

But more importantly, I hope you win your own inner battles, readers.

Until next time!

The Mithril Guardian