Tag Archives: Hawkeye’s family

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!!!!!!

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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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Captain America: Civil War – Wanda Maximoff/Scarlet Witch

Okay, I have an apology to make here. In the posts where I talked about the rumors that were circulating prior to Captain America: Civil War’s release, I rather disparaged the character of the Scarlet Witch. I was not exactly nice to some of the other characters either, and for that I also apologize. The movie did much better by its heroes than most of us thought it would. “Anger, fear, aggression – the Dark Side of the Force are they…” Obviously, I need to start practicing some Jedi calm when it comes to checking out rumors of any kind – but especially those found in the Internet mill.

Anyway, without further ado, let us turn our attention to the character that we came together to discuss: Wanda Maximoff, a.k.a. the Scarlet Witch!

Wanda is the first Avenger we see. Sitting at a café table in Lagos, drinking coffee (or tea), she is dressed incognito. After a moment, someone addresses her over the comm. asking her to describe what she sees. Her list of observances is small, and they add up to “a quiet day on a quiet street.”

Then the rest of the Avengers, her teachers, go on to point out what she has missed. Steve goes first, mentioning that there is an ATM up the street. He lets her remember that where there is an ATM, there are also cameras. He then draws her attention to a Jeep further up the street. Wanda says it is “cute.”

Natasha tartly breaks in and points out that the vehicle is cute and bulletproof. “Which means private security, which means more guns, which means more trouble for somebody, probably us,” she adds. When Wanda reminds them of her powers, the Black Widow tells her that “looking over [her] shoulder” has to become “second nature.” Sam lightens the mood by accusing Widow of being paranoid. Natasha turns the tables on him, and Steve reminds his crew that they are looking for Crossbones, not an afternoon chat.

This scene is sweet because it shows Wanda’s position on the team. She is the “greenie” – the new kid on the job. Her abilities are impressive, wonderful, and fascinating. But they are no substitute for training in the arts of observation, close combat, and the other fighting disciplines “normal” people must use. To over-rely on her powers puts her at risk of harm.

Another great thing about this scene is how it reinforces the relationships Wanda has with her teammates. Sam, acting in the capacity of a good friend, takes the sting off of Natasha’s brisk, motherly reprimand. Steve’s gentle questions and quiet prodding easily skid across the thin line between the positions of mentor and trusted father figure. Though Wanda’s connection to Clint is far stronger in that regard, it is impossible not to see the paternal affection with which Steve treats her.

After this brief lesson in observation, Sam and Steve figure out that Crossbones’ target is not the police. It is instead something much bigger – and far more sinister.

Following on Steve and Sam’s heels, Wanda arrives at the IFID building in time to help Cap get inside. Sam helps protect her back as she gets rid of the knockout gas Crossbones and his men, who were possibly HYDRA agents like himself, used to render the employees in the building unconscious.

We then lose track of Wanda until Rumlow tries to blow up Cap and a city bazaar. That is when the Scarlet Witch, who has followed Steve while Sam and Natasha hunt down the bio-weapon, contains the blast with her power. In order to keep the people around them safe from the explosion, Wanda throws the flaming HYDRA agent into the sky, where he can incinerate himself and no one else.

However, she throws him too close to a nearby skyscraper. Also, the bomb vest’s explosive yield is higher than anyone anticipated. Whatever explosives Rumlow used/concocted, they packed more of a bang than TNT (which rates a 1 on the explosive scale) or C4 (which rates something like a 1.4 on the same scale).

So when the bomb goes off, instead of dissipating in midair as a firework display does, it blows out the middle floors of a skyscraper. The blast, which did not look terribly big in the bubble Wanda had around it, vents sudden fury into the building. At least three floors fall victim to Rumlow’s failsafe plan.

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Wanda watches in horror along with Steve as the explosion kills twenty-six people. Since he is the leader of the team, Cap takes point on the accident. It is easy for us to see he holds himself responsible for what happened. He leaves Wanda where she is, perhaps feeling that she does not need to get too close a look at the carnage. Even without her mental powers, she has to know that people have died in the blast. And, naturally enough, she blames herself for their deaths.

Now, readers, this explosion is not entirely Wanda’s fault. Sure, she released her hold on the bomb too soon. Yes, she threw the whole concoction too close to the building. But she did not intentionally blow up three center floors of a skyscraper and kill twenty-six people. It was an accident.

But the academic/journalistic complex; which in Age of Ultron would have supported and empathized with Wanda when she was an activist/HYDRA “secret weapon,” is not inclined to cut her the slightest bit of slack now. No, since she is an Avenger, they lay all the blame for the mishap on her. It does not matter to them that her desire was to save lives. Nor are her youth and inexperience factors which they will take into account. All that matters is that she is outside the control of the ‘elites.’ And whatever the ‘elites’ want, their toadies in the media will bend over backwards to get for them.

This is why there is such a large journalistic attack on Wanda throughout the first half of Civil War. As a member of the Avengers, a private police force which goes around hunting HYDRA and its allies, Wanda and her friends have a big, fat political target painted on their collective back. The media, who were wailing and screaming for heroes during Loki’s invasion in The Avengers, does not want them around for such “mundane things” as stopping the theft of a deadly bio weapon. (Gee, I wonder why…?)

Other than when aliens are raining from the sky, the Avengers are, essentially, an advanced, private police firm. Their operation in Lagos had all the hallmarks of a covert operation being run by the NYPD, NCIS, FBI, or some other agency which works in the government alphabet soup. Sam and Cap were out of sight and ready to move, while Wanda and Natasha were the undercover “eyes on the ground.” Their mission in Nigeria was no different than any other stakeout set up by the police –

Except that they were not on the leash of any government on the planet. They had no one telling them, “Do not engage. This attack has to go down so we can ride the diplomatic repercussions since we will never let a crisis (especially one created by us) go to waste.” This is antithetical to the Avengers’ creed which is the belief that every life is important, and crises are to be avoided. The Avengers were there to prevent a disaster – that bio weapon would have killed millions, give or take a few extra hundred thousand, if it had been released. The Avengers stopped it from falling into the wrong hands.

The people killed in Crossbones’ Viking funeral were an unfortunate loss. But their deaths were not the intent of Wanda or her teammates. Many, many more people would have died if Rumlow and his men had escaped with the pathogen. The death toll would also have been higher if Wanda had not contained the initial detonation and tossed the rest skyward.

Readers, we have to keep in mind that the rest of the team is not going to throw live grenades, bombs, or explosives at Wanda and tell her, “Hold the explosion in until it loses power.” That is cruel. Doing that could kill her – or them. This was something she did in a situation which required quick action and swift thinking.

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Under the circumstances, Wanda did some very fast calculating. If she had not contained the initial blast, Cap and the bazaar – along with the base of the skyscraper – would have been blown to pieces. Also, given her understanding of conventional explosives, throwing Rumlow sky high should have allowed the detonation to finish in a relatively safe manner. C4 will not vent that much power, and certainly not in the direction of the skyscraper. At most, C4 would have blown out the windows and wrecked a couple of offices, probably only injuring anyone standing in those rooms.

Wanda’s biggest – and only – mistake here was that she did not throw Crossbones in the proper direction. There may be a good reason why she made that mistake. Considering how expansive the explosion which hit the skyscraper was, we can guess that the initial detonation would have been much bigger if Wanda had not contained it. It is not easy to control so large an explosion for very long by normal means. Holding that sort of thing contained with her telekinetic powers would have put a serious strain on Wanda’s mind. As the explosion gained strength, it would have become more and more of an effort for her to keep it bottled up.

If you pull a rubber band to a certain length, readers, it will snap back and sting your fingers. Pull it too far, and the rubber band breaks, stinging your fingers even more than it did previously.

Minds are nothing like a rubber band. They are not elastic; they either hold out or they break. Wanda must have instinctively felt herself coming up on her breaking point, while at the same time she was struggling to get Crossbones’ suicide pyre up where it could not harm anyone else. This is likely the reason she tossed Rumlow too close to the building. She was concentrating very hard on holding the explosion contained. Wanda did her best and held out as long as she could…

But something had to give, and her natural strength is not yet up to the task of containing such a big bang – if it ever will be. Her reasoning for throwing it into the air, far away from everyone around her, was completely sound. She cut her power when she thought it would be safe.

Unfortunately, Wanda was not aware of how big the blast would become when released. And she forgot, or did not realize, that she was holding the blast too close to the skyscraper.

Anyone else in Wanda’s position would be just as horrified by the resulting destruction and loss of life as she is. When we next see Wanda, one month later, she is “moping” in her room and accepting the slavering media’s verdict on what happened in Lagos.

Steve comes in, shuts the TV off, and sits beside her. He knows what the media and the ‘elites’ do not even deign to consider: Wanda will never be able to forget that she threw the explosion in the wrong direction, and this led to the deaths of those twenty-six people in Lagos. She will carry that responsibility with her for the rest of her life. No one can take it from her, even if they or she wanted them to do so. It is her burden to bear – and his.

As he pointed out, he is as responsible as she is. Crossbones distracted him so he would not look for the bomb vest. If he had stayed focused, he could have prevented the explosion altogether. He was sidetracked, and that cost them all – mostly the people in the building who died and Wanda, a kid he is supposed to be protecting and teaching.

But if he can teach her how to win, it is also Steve’s duty to teach her how to lose. Cap knows that wallowing in guilt gets no one anywhere. Not every battle will be a win-win scenario; the initial objective (grab the bio-weapon) may be won while the secondary goal (protect all civilians) is lost. Sometimes it will be the other way around. On really bad days, both objectives may be lost. Combat is not a sure science and it never will be. “This job,” he tells her slowly, “We try to save as many people as we can. Sometimes… that doesn’t mean everybody. If we don’t find a way to live with that then, next time, maybe nobody gets saved.”

This is what Wanda struggles with for the first half of the film. What she has to learn here is that taking responsibility for one’s actions means mourning the mistakes, recognizing them, then picking up and moving on. “Moping” will not bring back those Crossbones killed – because it was Crossbones who pulled the pin. And if she continues to “mope,” then the next time she is needed, she may not be able to save anyone because she will not be focusing on anything but her last failure.

The reason this is such a struggle for Wanda is partly because she is a young girl raised in an age that has an extreme fascination with guilt. Also, youths tend to magnify their problems – even when they think they are not trying to magnify them. Experience is what helps the young grow up, but I do not recall a phrase that said becoming an adult was easy. If it was, everyone would do it, and we know this is unfortunately rarely the case.

Another reason Wanda is struggling has to do with the fact that she is under mental pressure/assault from several directions: Ross, the media, and the Accords are all hammering home the blame factor. In the comics and cartoons, Thunderbolt Ross’ Red Hulk persona had a certain charm. But as his human self, Ross has never been anything short of a raucous bully.

Wanda may sense this about him initially in the film, but what can she do? She lacks what the academy of nihilism likes to call “authority issues.” She trusts all of the authority figures – Steve, Sam, Rhodey, Tony, Clint, and Natasha – in her life. (Vision is smart, but he is a one year old. He has even more to learn than she does.) How can she tell Ross to buzz off? In this one respect, the former General has learned something of value (to him): politicians need only speak to enforce their will on others, rather than scream their throats raw, the way he once did.

As for the media, that is the same problem, but magnified in the hundreds, if not thousands. Many television reporters seem to be under the impression that being a reporter is akin to being ordained by God, the government, or some other entity with above-human powers of insight and understanding. This is the way they treat Wanda in the film. They and the talking heads ask what “right” has she to do what she has done.

They do not care that Wanda was under a lot of strain in that moment and was not focusing on much except keeping the fireworks display contained for as long as possible. They do not care about this because they are the wise ones; they are the ones who understand all higher things and the proper uses of every thing to frame every event. They would never have been there in the first place. That would be the only thing they got right; they do not possess the courage to enter a combat situation as a participant. They would rather watch the situation from afar, after the fact, and carp about the results.

How many of these hacks have telekinesis? How many of them have been in a combat situation? How many of them have had to telekinetically restrain a violent chemical combustion in a crowd of innocent people and, finding the bang is not getting any smaller, thrown it skyward while trying to maintain control of it?

None of them have done that. What is more, none of them would or will ever do that. They think they understand when they have no idea what it takes to have and use such powers in combat for five minutes, let alone for one’s whole life.

But that does not prevent them from pontificating about how such power should be used or maintained. That does not prevent them from making Wanda out to be a bloodthirsty monster. It does not stop them from saying a twenty-odd year old girl, who saw her mistake kill twenty-six people, should be locked up in a prison somewhere as though she was Hannibal Lecter’s niece. These jackals, who have not got enough courage as a group to fill a teaspoon, are picking on a girl with more guts than many people twice her age.

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The third barrier Wanda has to clear is the Accords. Ross’ handing the U.N. booklet specifically to her in the Compound is in fact a tactically brilliant move. Not only are the Accords named after her home nation, which she saw destroyed, but she holds herself responsible for the deaths in Lagos. Giving the Accords to her first, Ross probably thinks he has an easy win with Wanda. She is so distressed and confused that she will doubtless be the first to sign up.

Except that Ross, like Zemo, has placed his bets without considering Cap. In this case, he does not know how much influence Steve has over the Avengers. Cap put his trust in the twins (Wanda and Pietro) in South Korea during Age of Ultron. He trusted that they were really interested in saving lives and doing the right thing; that they were actually willing to let go of their desire for revenge and that they would not let him down. It is also very probable that he is the one who offered Wanda a place on his team. Steve has been watching her back, guiding and teaching her, since she joined the Avengers. Of all the voices raised in the debate over the Accords, his is the one Wanda harkens to first and foremost.

Also, Ross has forgotten that Wanda has been taken in by bright speeches and flowery words before. Baron Strucker called for volunteers to be tested for a human enhancement process in Sokovia, and Pietro and Wanda answered the advertisement. Taking the easy path out with Strucker went soooo well last time, didn’t it?

Once bitten, twice shy. Wanda was fooled once. She will not be taken advantage of again so easily.

So Wanda Maximoff, Ross’ oh-so-easy-mark, proves she has more mettle than he guessed. She pushes the Accords away – literally. She does not declare she will never sign them, but neither does she sign on the dotted line as fast as she can. If Steve did so, then Wanda would be inclined to follow him. But he is wary and will not sign, at least not until there are safeguards put in place. And so Wanda follows his lead….

….discovering soon afterward that Steve’s arguments have some very real-life concerns for her. With Cap and Sam abroad to attend Peggy Carter’s funeral, Natasha going to the signing of the Accords, and Rhodey and Tony off somewhere else, Wanda and Vision are left to “mind the house.” Or so she thinks. Later on, Vision admits she is essentially under house arrest until the puppet masters behind the Accords are sure she will not cause them any trouble. It is at this point that she realizes Cap’s fears are well founded.

Up until this moment, Wanda was free to go wherever she wanted whenever she wanted. While it is likely she had company on these prior outings, she has probably been out on her own just as often. And she lived with only Pietro for company from the age of ten. She is naïve and inexperienced in many things, but walking around town alone is not one of them. Now, though, she is being “locked in her room” by Tony Stark at the behest of Ross and the faceless, “silent, deadly men” who give him his orders.

Why? Why is she being interned in her own home? Lagos was a combat situation. She did not perform perfectly in that arena, but how can one equate the accident in Nigeria with running to the store to grab some paprika?

The answer is that the two cannot be equated. They are mutually exclusive events. Contrary to all the yelling on the TV, most people would probably be quite happy to either wave at Wanda or to avoid her out of fear, and that would only happen if they recognized her. It would be an idiot – or a pack of idiots – who would challenge someone with Wanda’s abilities just to show their machismo. All they would be proving was their stupidity and cowardice.

This idea that she is dangerous, however, starts to seep into Wanda’s mind after Vision’s admission. Maybe she is too dangerous to be allowed out. Maybe she is, in fact, a monster.

Scarlet Witch fights Vision in 'Civil War'.

Into this whirling maelstrom of self-doubt strides Clint a few nights afterward. As I said before, Wanda is not inclined to laugh off the fact that she almost stabbed Hawkeye in the forehead. While she trusts Steve as a father-type guardian, this is even truer of her relationship with Clint. Cap was the first one to believe Wanda and her brother could change. Clint, though, was the first to give her direct guidance when she needed it most. Steve understood her decision to protect her country and save lives. Clint understood her when she was having an emotional meltdown.

Their bond is stronger in this area because Clint is, actually, a father. Steve can “walk with Kings – nor lose the common touch,” but this is one area where Hawkeye has more experience on him. He has handled more childhood crises than any of the other Avengers for the simple reason that it comes with the territory of being a dad. Plus, Clint is practically always self-assured. Without that self-belief, he would never get anywhere.

And if she loses her own self-belief, Wanda will not get anywhere, either. Cap calls Clint to pick up Wanda for the apparent reason that he cannot just go and get her himself. But he might have had another motive for calling Clint. Even if he was not told about their “chat” in Sokovia, Cap still has to sense the fact that the two have a strong rapport. If anyone can get Wanda out of her funk, it is Hawkeye.

And he does, delivering her an ultimatum in the Compound, just as he did in Sokovia. “I need your help, Wanda,” he tells her. “You wanna mope; you can go to high school. You want to make amends, then you get off your ass.”

Though his delivery in this film is markedly different from both the comics and the cartoons, the point Clint makes is no less finely nailed home: either Wanda gets up and helps, or she stays home. Those are the only two options anyone in the Avengers’ line of work has. Do your job, or step aside and let everyone else do theirs.

Wanda does, most certainly, want to make amends for her mistake in Lagos. Wanda also does not want to get left out. And she does want to help Steve – not for the simple reasons that he is her mentor or because he took her in when she had nowhere else to go. She wants to help him because he is her friend.

She also wants out of the Compound. As she told Vision, she cannot control the fear(s) of others. But she can control her own fear. If she lets her apprehension rule her, she will become the monster others believe she is. She will fall to the Dark Side. So it is past time to put her fear aside and get on with her life.

There is no occasion for her to explain that to Vision in the Compound. Maybe she does not yet understand her situation enough to explain it at length. But she knows it, even if she cannot say it in the way I just have. She explained it to Steve in Germany as Hawkeye explained it to her: “It was time to get off my ass.”

Perhaps it is her memory of her incarceration in the Avengers’ Compound which is the reason Wanda holds nothing back in the battle at the airport. If they lose this fight, they will all get locked up – Clint, Wanda, Sam, Scott, and Steve. Bucky would most likely be killed. The stakes are too high for Team Cap to “pull… [their] punches.”

During the battle, Wanda is almost literally everywhere at once. She saves Bucky from Panther’s claws, reminds Clint that this is not a training session by tossing Natasha away, and drops about ten or more cars on top of Iron Man in quick succession. This emphasizes the point that she is not going to get locked up again. Not without a fight. If people want to be afraid of her, then Wanda Maximoff is going to give them something to fear!

If she is so desperate not to get caught, you may ask, why does she throw herself to the wolves along with Clint, Scott, and Sam? She could have bolted. She was the most powerful of the four remaining members of Team Cap. Even stunned by War Machine’s sonic weapon, she could still have made tracks and at least gotten into the city, especially after Vision left her to check on Rhodey.

The clear answer is that she is a loyal Avenger. Wanda understands the meaning of honor. She understands that when you give someone your word, when you make a promise to someone, breaking that bond of you own volition is to forever forsake faith with them to some degree. To quit when the going gets tough is to become a coward.

And while all the heroes in Marvel’s stories have flaws, NONE of them are cowards.

The loyalty aspect aside, Wanda knows as well as the others do that Steve will come back for them. The main mission is to stop Zemo and save as many lives as they can. If the price of saving lives is incarceration, then that is the price she and the others have to pay to see the job done.

And pay they do. Wanda, however, is subject to higher scrutiny than the men are. Their powers are all derived from their gear, skills, and technology. Her power comes from inside of her. There is no way to take it from her; it can only be suppressed. The way the Raft guards choose to do this by locking her in a cell, throwing an inhibitor collar on her, and wrapping her in a straight jacket.

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Although she knew Steve would come for her and the others, had to know that Clint and probably Sam are very worried about her, Wanda looked pretty miserable in her cell. Of course, it would be hard not to be despondent, since she is locked up in solitary. It also appeared that Ross and his cronies were not inclined to keep the room at a comfortable temperature. But maybe Wanda was shivering with fright and depression rather than cold.

If all the Avengers had signed the Accords immediately, this might have happened to her at the beginning. I doubt that Tony came up with that “Walking Weapon of Mass Destruction” quip by himself. It sounds like something which would have come out of Ross’ mouth. Witty as Tony is, he was quoting someone else when he said that.

Remember when I said Ross wanted control of the best weapons he could find? The government took lots of blood samples from Cap in the hopes that they could make more Super Soldiers in the future. This is likely where Howard Stark acquired the five packs of the viable Super Soldier Serum which Bucky stole in ‘91; the scientists had at last managed to synthesize a working serum from Steve’s blood. In the 1940s, the government and its scientists were at least willing to ask for his blood before taking it.

But would Ross and his masters in/behind the U.N. have asked Wanda for permission to “make more” powered people like her by asking her to take some tests so they could see what makes her “tick”? I highly doubt it. If the whole team had signed the Accords at the start, then they would have also signed Wanda’s one way ticket to a cell where she could be studied as a lab rat. Ross and his handlers – whoever they are, and whether he knows they are “handling” him or not – want more people like her. They want more enhanced humans and they want to be their puppet masters.

I imagine there were some tears shed when Steve and the others picked up Wanda. In her position, tears would be totally understandable, a sign of pent up stress and/or relief. The guys are not going to let her out of their sight any time soon, this is for sure!

If the writers decide to hold Wanda on the back burner until Infinity War, we will not be seeing her any time soon. Should that be the case, then it is safe to assume, for the nonce, that Wanda will be staying with Team Cap and doing some Secret Avenging until that time. One thing is for certain: Wanda’s powers are only going to grow. This means she will be a formidable opponent when she next appears on the silver screen.

What that will look like, we can but guess. Anyway, readers…

See ya around!

The Mithril Guardian

Scarlet Witch

Captain America: Civil War – Clint Barton/Hawkeye

As anyone who has followed this blog knows, I am a huge Hawkeye fan. In the comics, the cartoons, and the movies, I always look forward to seeing him. Captain America/Steve Rogers is also one of my favorite characters, something I have said before as well.

So to FINALLY have my two favorite characters in a Captain America film is UNBELIEVABLY GREAT!!!!!!!!!! 😀 What makes it even better is that Renner and the Russos at last deliver a truly vintage Hawkeye performance. Clint’s snappy patter, skills, and determination are all taken directly from the comics in this movie.

Clint’s part in Civil War is far more limited than I was hoping for. Now, I am not looking a gift horse in the mouth here, people! I am thrilled he got to show up in the movie at all! It is just that my enjoyment factor would have been higher if he had been in the movie longer.

But, yeah, you probably noticed that by now.

Anyway, on to the film! Some people are saying that Clint’s main reason for joining Team Cap was the debt he owes Wanda. Because her brother saved his life, he feels he is indebted to her. He also basically inaugurated her Avenging career in Sokovia, and so he is at least partly responsible for her growth into her role on the team.

True, true, and true…except for the part where these people say these are Clint’s only reasons for siding with Cap. Renner did not help much, saying before the film came out that, “Cap was the first guy who called.”

(*Author slaps forehead and growls in irritation at the general population’s inability to speak or write well.*)

No, Cap did not call Clint first. Tony did – through Natasha. She asked Hawkeye if he would sign the Accords and Clint said, essentially, “No.” Then Cap phoned a couple of days later, whereupon Clint left home, busted Wanda out of the Compound, picked up Ant-Man, and arrived in Germany within hours of the phone ringing.

What was that about Cap calling first again…? I think I missed it.

For those who say that Hawkeye was truly retired at the start of this movie, I have this to answer in response: Clint Barton, Hawkeye, hang up his bow for good? Don’t make me laugh! Being a hero is his job. And when his job needs doing, he will do it.

This is why he refuses to sign the Accords. Steve and Clint are both cut from the same cloth. Did you notice that, in Age of Ultron, Clint has two very large American flags on his property? One is hanging from the side of his house; the other is tacked up in the barn. And oh, yeah, there is a third, somewhat smaller U.S. flag pinned up over the tractor in the barn, too.

Clint seems awfully patriotic. Steve Rogers is, too, or he would not be Captain America. They both recognize the danger in the Accords, which the U.N. wants to force on them and the U.S. They both know that a government or governing body of any type is almost always run by people with agendas. And agendas are dangerous, because the people who have them often place more value on their schemes than on doing what is right.

Clint had to know that to decline signing the Accords while claiming retirement was a holding action at best. He also had to know that the location of his family’s house is now blown. Sooner or later, it will be discovered. If the writers have not had him move, he could be in serious trouble. (Which means that the writers will be in serious trouble with ME!)

If he is half as smart as I know he is, then Clint should have moved his family not long after returning to the farm at the end of Age of Ultron. He would not tell any of the other Avengers about doing this – Tony, Rhodey, Natasha, and Vision have signed the Accords. And Tony has now blabbed about the Barton family on film and video tape. What a typical, unfiltered, big mouth reaction. (*Author rolls eyes.*)

The one Avenger he might tell, if he has moved his family, is Cap. But he would only do that in private, when they were sure no one was listening. Natasha would be able to figure it out, eventually. They have worked together for years and therefore think alike on such matters. Heck, they have probably helped each other come up with contingency plans for this sort of problem!

The point here is that Hawkeye joined Cap’s team because, to borrow and paraphrase Emily VanCamp’s description of her character and Evans’, “They have similar moral compasses.” Clint and Steve both know the difference between right and wrong. When told to move by the world, they will both “plant [themselves] like a tree, look them [those who are telling them what is wrong is right] in the eye, and say, ‘No, YOU move.’”

Natasha knows this. It is why she is alive, as well as Cooper, Lila, and Nathaniel Barton’s “aunt.” She knows Clint’s claim of retirement is baloney and code for, “The U.N. can go bark at the moon. I am not signing away my freedom.” It is this certainty on the part of her two friends which leads her to question the Accords and her own decision to sign them.

This is going to sound like a fan rant, but follow me through please, readers. I loved it when Clint fired three arrows at Iron Man, only for them to get shot down. The basis for this scene is taken straight from the comics. Like many villains, Tony mistakenly believes Clint has finally missed his target…

Clint just smiles smugly and retorts, “Made you look.”

When Hawkeye shoots at you but does not hit you, then he was not aiming for you in the first place. Tony does not know him as well as he thinks he does if he had to learn that fact the hard way. Anyone who has known Clint for any period of time knows that this archer does not miss, whether he is using arrows, bullets, assorted bits of junk, or his own fists. Whatever the tool, Hawkeye’s aim is always true.

Speaking of the internecine fight at the airport, Wanda was right – Clint was pulling his punches with Natasha. He is physically bigger and stronger than she is. Their dance should not have gone the way it was heading. We all remember their duel on the Helicarrier in The Avengers. While I am sure Hawkeye was pulling his punches as best he could in that fight, the thing is that he was holding back even more in Civil War.

Black Widow was not.

It is understandable that Clint would hold back in a fight with Natasha. They are very close friends, almost as close as Steve and Bucky still are. On some level, I think Hawkeye never stopped believing in Natasha after she signed the Accords. He knew she doubted the rightness of what she had done, that she was worried she had made a mistake. He had faith that she would realize she had made the wrong choice and would reverse that decision sooner or later. In the end, he was right. And so he is glad he pulled his punches.

And that Wanda pulled Natasha’s.

Nevertheless, Clint takes Wanda’s admonition on not pulling his punches to heart for the rest of the battle. For Exhibit B to prove that he joined Team Red, White, and Blue out of loyalty to Steve and the belief that Cap was in the right, who held Panther off while Steve and Bucky ran for the quinjet?

Clint did. And while he is not as strong as Panther, Hawkeye put up a great fight. He knew he would not be able to beat T’Challa, or even stalemate him. Not for long, at least. But he was going to go down fighting – hence: “I don’t think we’ve been introduced. I’m Clint.”

The new King of Wakanda is not in the mood for witty banter, let alone name-trading, as he demonstrates with his pithy, angry, “I don’t care!” Clint knows that. But if he cannot get his digs in one way, he will do so by other means. T’Challa can be stronger than Clint all he wants, but he will never outdo the archer in the gallows humor department. Hawkeye will see to that!

To backtrack a bit, our first look at Hawkeye in the film is when he goes to pick up Wanda from the Avengers’ Compound. Wanda senses someone enter the room and, preparing for the possibility that the intruder means her harm, uses her power to grab a butcher knife from the kitchen counter and throw it at the potential cat-burglar.

She must have figured out who her “intruder” was before she hit him, because she stops the blade in the nick of time. Hawkeye stares at the knife as it hovers just in front of his forehead, briefly surprised. Then he smiles faintly. “Guess I should’ve knocked,” he says, calmly pushing the knife away with two fingers.

Wanda lets it drop to the floor and races over to him with a gasp. “Oh, my gosh, what are you doing here?” she asks, horrified. She came that close to killing a friend, and after her inability to fully contain Crossbones’ funeral pyre/revenge plot in Lagos, this near miss is no laughing matter to her.

But Clint brushes it off, apparently unconcerned. It was his fault, as he admitted. Someone sneaking into the room after an explosion draws out the Vision – what was Wanda supposed to think? She was prepared, which was a good thing. If it had not been him, she would have needed to defend herself. As it is, he is still breathing and in one piece, so no harm, no foul. Leaving a temporary Vision-catcher set up to keep the android out of their hair, he grabs Wanda and tries to bolt.

That is when Vision returns. Using his wit and fast mouth, Hawkeye waits until Vision is stuck in the electrical field generated by the arrows he planted for the purpose of holding the android in place. Satisfied that the field will keep Vision trapped for the necessary time to initiate an escape, he goes to leave.

Wanda does not follow him.

This scene was fantastic because it shows Clint’s teacher side. He understood how overwhelmed Wanda was when Novi Grad began to fly, and he understands her hesitation now. Like everyone else, she does not wish to make the same mistake twice – or a worse error. But her fear is crippling her. Never one to lose confidence in himself for more than five seconds, Clint once again restores Wanda’s self-assurance in two or three sentences.

Enough time for Vision to break free of his trap and make a fight out of what otherwise would have been a relatively easy extraction.

This following scene probably harkens back to the original comics from the early sixties, where Hawkeye and Vision had a “debate” over who held Wanda’s affections. However, in Civil War, though the fight is again over the Scarlet Witch, Clint has no romantic inclinations toward her at all. His attachment to her here is entirely different.

She is a kid he convinced to be a heroine, and she is being held under house arrest because she did her best and people died anyway. She did what she could to save as many people as she could, and the media have been tearing her to pieces ever since. She does not deserve that treatment, but the political hacks and media harpies are quite happy to ignore her youth and inexperience so they can further their agendas.

Clint, however, will not ignore these factors. He knows her. He cares about her. In some way, she has to make him think of his own daughter. If it was Lila in Wanda’s situation, Clint would want someone to watch out for her and take care of her. Wanda has no family anymore, and since the rest of the Avengers have either acquiesced to her imprisonment or are not able to get her out themselves, he will stand up for her because they cannot or will not.

Vision, who seems to be as smitten with Wanda in the films as he was in the comics, wants to protect her. Lulled by false rationalism and logic, Vision has decided that he and Wanda are too dangerous to be liked or understood by the public. But in keeping her “housebound,” Vision is not helping Wanda. He is only aiding in the crippling of her belief in herself. He cannot, however, see that…

But Clint can. When Vision breaks out of the trap, Hawkeye knows the android will not let Wanda go without a fight. And while he is not a super genius, it does not take a 190 point IQ (or whatever Tony has), to know that Vision far surpasses him in strength and power. There is no way any of the Avengers, other than Wanda and perhaps Thor or the Hulk, could hope to at least hold their own with the Vision.

So Hawkeye does not put all his chips on beating Vision. He knows he cannot do that. He also knows that Wanda is aware she is being imprisoned, does not like it in the least, and that she wants to help Cap as much as he does. So he fights and, as he knew, is put out of action by Vision. But so what if he cannot beat Vision?

Wanda can.

And she does, showing that Clint’s faith in her is not misplaced. Though they both like Vision and consider him a friend, the stakes are too high to waste time talking. Even if they had the time, Vision will not be swayed easily. So Wanda throws him down a hole to cool off…

Clint takes a moment to look down it, too, probably thinking, Boy, am I glad that’s not ME down there. But if Wanda wanted to defeat or incapacitate him, this is not the way she would do it. (The butcher knife would be more effective and less tiring.) And he knows it. Wanda’s demonstration of her abilities in that moment would have scared most people out of their skins –

It did not scare Clint because he does not see just her powers. He sees Wanda Maximoff, a sweet young girl working at learning how, when, and where to do the right thing with her amazing abilities. She will make mistakes as she learns, just like everybody else, but he has nothing to fear from her. He knows that.

And now, she knows it, too. This crisis of self-assurance over with, wrapped up, and taken care of, Clint tells her they need to make a pick up on the way to meet Steve. This leads us to the meeting in the parking garage outside the German airport, where Clint tells Cap he is “doing [him] a favor” and that he “owe[s] a debt.”

This is where people – including me – got a little confused. Remember when I said there was no way Hawkeye would hang up his bow for good? He loves his family more than words can say, but he still has a job to do out there. As he said when Vision returned from investigating his distraction, he “retired” for “like, five minutes” and the world went to hell in a hand basket. Message received: retirement is not going to work for him.

Some will say this is overconfidence or hubris, and while it carries a bit of the former, Clint told Wanda in Sokovia that saving the world was his job. Hawkeye is a fighter; he always has been. Like Steve, he has been standing up to bullies his whole life. In the original comics, those bullies usually held an authority position over him while he was growing up.

We do not know as much of his MCU back story as I wish we did, but it would not surprise this author if it was very similar to his “mainstream” universe history. Because, in the MCU, as in the original Marvel “mainstream” universe, Clint has no more patience for tyrants – big or small – than Steve Rogers does.

So even when he is happily married and playing with his children, Clint’s hands will occasionally itch to be holding a bow and an arrow, sighting an enemy and taking him down. Targets are great, but they are for practice. Hawkeye’s skills are not meant for the target range alone. He has to be out, just like Steve, actively making a difference. He is not made to sit on his hands. He has to be doing his job, at least some of the time.

He is lucky Laura understands that and supports him when he does it; Pepper should spend some time with her. Maybe then she will stay with Tony instead of marching off in a huff because he is still making suits and Avenging.

This is why Clint says Cap is doing him a favor. A year out of action is long enough for his hands to start getting very itchy for a good fight.

As for the debt, that goes without saying. Hawkeye is indebted to the Scarlet Witch for her brother’s sacrifice, and he is a man who pays his debts. The weight of that obligation is equally balanced, however, by his respect for Wanda and Steve, as well as the knowledge that tyranny is rearing its ugly head again. Despotism casts a long shadow, and Clint does not want that touching the lives of his wife and children. If he was unworried about it, he would not be living off the grid as he is.

Now we go to the last time we see the World’s Greatest Marksman in Civil War. When Tony goes to get information from Falcon in the Raft, Clint is the first one to “greet” the great “genius, billionaire, playboy, philanthropist.” Hawkeye is one of those “guys with none of that” who Steve once said were “worth ten of [Tony].”

Clint did not receive the codename Hawkeye simply for his keen eyesight and unerring accuracy. The man sees with his head and his heart as well as with his eyes. Although he may not always possess the vocabulary to express what he knows, the fact is that he knows this: “There’s right and there’s wrong. You gotta do one or the other. You do the one, and you’re living. You do the other, and you may be walking around, but you’re as dead as a beaver hat.” (John Wayne in The Alamo.)

One can accuse Hawkeye of many things, but being “dead as a beaver hat” is not one of them.

Tony tries to wriggle out of the lecture, but Clint will not let him. His own imprisonment, and that of Scott and Sam, is bad enough. They are fighting the good fight and the government, angry that they have remained out of their control for so long, has thrown them in jail ‘til they either sing “Kumbaya” or rot. Fine. That bites, but it was to be expected, and Clint can take a beating when he has to without giving in to his captors.

No, the worst thing about his imprisonment, the part which stings most, is that Wanda is not imprisoned with the men. His family is safe. He made sure of that before he left, I would think, probably guessing that Tony would open his big mouth and mention them when they met face-to-face at last.

But since the fracas at the airport, Clint and the others have no idea where Wanda is or what has happened to her. She is not imprisoned on their level; she is a girl and they are all guys.

That, however, is only half of the equation. The other half is that Wanda is the single enhanced member of Steve’s team besides Cap and Bucky. Ross, the guards at the Raft, and their collective bosses in the U.N., are all terrified of her power. They see her abilities. They do not see the person who uses them.

Steve does, Clint does, and Sam does. Doubtless, Bucky can see past her powers to the girl wielding them. Even Scott Lang sees her as a person. Remember when he is geeking out over meeting Cap? He turns to Wanda after a few seconds, points at Steve, and says, “Wow, Captain America… I know you, too. You’re great!”

No one on Team Cap sees a dangerous weapon when they look at Wanda. Tony, however, needs his eyes checked.

If you add this fear of Clint’s to Tony’s betrayal of the Avengers’ agreed upon leader (Cap), and the fact that he has been incarcerated as a criminal for doing his job, you have a recipe for a big bowl of righteous fury. Clint is quite happy to throw the whole soup of his displeasure in Tony’s face. Cap was right: Tony tore the Avengers apart when he signed the Accords. He has betrayed himself, Steve, Clint, Sam, Vision, Rhodey, Natasha, and – worst of all – Wanda.

The betrayal of Wanda is the worst because, of the Avengers, she is the weakest. Not physically or in terms of power quotients. No, Wanda is weak because she is inexperienced and needs guidance from people she can trust, people who care about her and will protect her. She is a child who needs teaching and attention – not house-arrest, fear, and jeers.

Tony called her a “Walking Weapon of Mass Destruction.” He held her under house arrest in the Compound. Now, the government has taken her and locked her up, adding a straight jacket for extra insurance. (I hear it is not impossible for people to get out of those things. The fact that Wanda did not free herself says a lot about her – and a lot about the people who put it on her in the first place.)

Tony has the good sense to be ashamed for the first half of Clint’s reprimand. Clint knows it will not last, and he makes sure to give Tony both barrels as fast as possible, reloading just as quickly. Tony does not like it, further endangering his friendship with Clint by throwing the matter of his family in the other man’s face and asking why he did not sign the Accords for their sake. The mention of his family in a bugged and camera-filled cell, when they are a secret he revealed to Tony with the utmost confidence as a close friend, makes Clint really mad.

Still, despite it all, there is evidence to support the fact that Clint is not willing to abandon Tony to his mistakes. He warns Tony to “watch his back” with Ross, since the Secretary of State, “might just break it!”

Clint’s warning, following on the heels of Natasha’s similar angry remonstrance at the Avengers’ Compound, has some effect on Tony. He does not tell Ross what Sam confides in him. Later, when Steve goes to break their mutual friends out of the Raft, Tony does nothing to help Ross. He puts the other man on hold, as he had promised.

So Clint is mad at Tony – and he is right to be angry at him. But he has not given up on him, just as Cap has not. That says volumes right there.

While the final scene where we see Steve stepping out of the shadows as Sam smiles at him is charming and applause-worthy, I kind of wish we could have seen Clint and the others’ reactions to Steve’s arrival as well. I love picturing the four trading quips as Steve unlocks the cell doors, then going down (or up) to the level where Wanda is being held so they can break her out. Alas, it can only be imagined. Unless Marvel makes a comic book about their escape, we have no other recourse.

Most likely, Clint will not stay in Wakanda as an ex-patriot. Neither, I think, will Steve. The two will perhaps make trips to visit the country so that they can keep tabs on Bucky’s progress or walk about more freely, but neither of them could stand to be away from the U.S. for very long. And Clint still has a family to take care of, so he would have more reason to go back than anyone else but Scott Lang.

No, I think Clint will return to his family, as Scott will go back to San Francisco to be with Cassie. Steve, Sam, and Wanda may stay in Wakanda for a little while longer, but they will return to U.S. soil as well. Wakanda is a nice country, but America – that is home. And there is no place like home.

The three can easily go off the grid together and visit Clint from time to time when they come back. Because Natasha disobeyed the Accords, there is a chance that she will hook up with them, or that they will find and “recruit” her. From now on, Team Cap will be the “Secret Avengers.” They will do their job without the “oversight” which Tony, Rhodey, and Vision must put up with. This will give them ample time to get stronger and more prepared for Infinity War, Part 1 & 2.

It will also give Tony time to reevaluate his choices, allow Vision a chance to do more calculations, and who knows? Perhaps Rhodey will wake up to reality by the next Avengers’ film.

We can but hope. Until then –

Let’s do this, Secret Avengers!

The Mithril Guardian

Avengers: Age of Ultron – Thor Odinson

Okay, okay, settle down! There is no need for that much cheering! I know Thor has not been the center of a post on this blog before, and that may lead some to believe he is not well liked by yours truly. It is true that I have never been extremely fascinated with the Prince of Thunder, as others are. Why? Well….I do not really know. Thor just never caught my attention the way that other Marvel characters did. I like him – just not the way many of his fans do.

However, his strength, courtesy, and fierce fighting ability have always impressed me. From the time I saw him in Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes! to the couple of comics that made their way into my collection which featured him, I have respected Thor Odinson.

This made his first movie in 2011 a bit of a disappointment to me when I initially viewed it. Here is the Prince of Thunder, star of his very own movie, and he is acting like a spoiled child…? All I could think was, “This is not the Thor I have gotten to know. Why did they make him such a petulant baby?”

Kind of a scathing opinion, I know. But you Thor fans should be happy to hear that my attitude toward the first movie starring the Thunderer has softened significantly since that early viewing of the film. First impressions are often wrong, and mine was mistaken.

In contrast to his appearance in Thor, the son of Odin came out swinging (literally!) in Marvel’s The Avengers. THIS portrayal of Thor was much more enjoyable for me. Since The Avengers was on my ‘to watch’ list before Thor, it may explain my disappointment with the prior film. I did not realize how much Thor had had to grow and change before The Avengers.

The Dark World continued his story arc, and while the plot may have been a bit thin in places, it was a genuinely good showing for him. Anyone could have been fooled by Loki’s death scene; though we can rest assured that as soon as he is unmasked, the Trickster will be rubbing Thor’s nose in the fact that he was hoodwinked. Again. (Ouch.)

Regardless, Thor came out of The Dark World stronger than ever. He became a true prince, worthy not only of using Mjolnir but of ruling Asgard. How do I know this? The acid test is that Thor understands by the end of the film that being a king is not all fun and games. He knows now that there is “more to being king than getting [his] way all the time.” (Pardon The Lion King reference, readers, but it was begging to be done!)

And this brings us to Avengers: Age of Ultron.

WOW. Thor did very well in this movie. Understandably, he is shown to still be unfamiliar with Earth culture here. But Thor’s naturally limited knowledge of Earth and its cultures does not, after a point, interfere with his friendships. To start off, we will discuss the Avengers Thor seems closest to since the team reassembled sometime between The Winter Soldier and Age of Ultron.

First up, Cap. As was discussed at length in the post “Avengers: Age of Ultron – Captain America/Steve Rogers,” Thor and Cap are very good friends. This is especially interesting because of their different backgrounds. Thor and Steve share similar attitudes, it is true. They protect the innocent, fight for truth and justice (though Thor is a little more emphatic on the ‘fight’ part of that clause), they are each loyal to their values and friends, and they are both in positions of authority.

Where they diverge is that Thor, by his birthright, is heir to an entire realm. He could be a complete wimp (which he is NOT!), or a total fathead with an ego to rival Jupiter (which he almost was), and despite these flaws he would still be the rightful heir to the Asgardian throne.

Thor, however, has become humble enough to turn down his birthright, at least until such time as he cannot avoid taking it up. In contrast, Steve is a commoner. His parents were not rich or well-off by any stretch of the imagination, and he lived in very poor conditions – possibly even before the Great Depression.

Now, just for the sake of clarification, let me say that being a soldier is not the same thing as “following orders,” something Whedon had Cap say in The Avengers. A soldier is not a robot or a puppet, and his function is not to simply “follow orders.” If a soldier is stuck behind enemy lines, or is in some other way unable to get in touch with the guys in charge, then how can he “follow orders”?

Good soldiers are not reliant on orders a hundred percent of the time. They are trained to be true to a code of conduct, the center piece of which is usually patriotism (love of country), and the willingness to defend their fellow citizens against outside aggressors or – God forbid – internal threats.

Too many people today see soldiers as mere marionettes or war machines (sorry Rhodey). Not so. Soldiers are men trained to serve and protect at all costs – even that of their own lives. If you train soldiers to be machines that respond to commands instead of individuals with the brains to accomplish their missions when the situations they are in get worse every minute, then you do not have an army, navy, marine corps, etc. You have robots you can sacrifice at will.

Soldiers are human beings. And human beings are NOT robots.

Soldiers are the thin line of defense between regular civilians and the bad guys. They are asked to deal with horrible, terrifying situations no one should have to experience. But they respond to the call anyway, often without realizing that in doing so they are signing up to be expendable.

Even those who do realize they are agreeing to be “pieces in a game” (thanks, Peeta), will still sign up to be soldiers willingly. They sign the contract and agree to defend their otherwise defenseless fellow citizens. This is why soldiers, true soldiers, are loved by their nation. And this is why traitors are hated so bitterly, as much by the country they side with as the one they betray. A traitor is someone whose only interest is themselves and their own well being. Why should others trust and love them, when they trust and love no one except themselves? (Brutus or Benedict Arnold, anyone?)

The point of the discourse, readers, is that Cap and Thor are in reversed positions. Steve is a soldier; Thor is a prince. The age old order would state that Thor ought to be the man in charge. His is the birthright, and therefore the responsibility of leadership. Right?

In the opening sequences of Thor, the son of Odin would have agreed with that sentiment. But he has learned humility since then. Humility is not, as the popular notion would have us believe, a groveling or simpering attitude toward others. Nor is it excessive self-deprecation, i.e., a great chef may say that he is a simple cook to avoid getting a fat head. (And by saying this, the chef is getting a fat head; because he is making himself proud of his self-perceived humility.)

Real humility is what Thor has shown since he first appeared on the silver screen (in a good way) in 2011. He is a prince and a great warrior. But these things do not prevent him from making breakfast for his friends Erik Selvig, Jane Foster, and Darcy. His heritage does not prevent him from falling in love with a mortal woman, or admitting that he does not have all the answers. And his humility allows him to acknowledge that Cap is the better leader of the Avengers.

This all means that Thor, who already knew how to lead, has learned to follow. In the comics, Thor is reported to have said that not only is Steve the only mortal he will take orders from, but he will follow him to the “gates of Hades” if Steve is leading an attack on the place. (Guess who he would side with if he was in Civil War – and yeah, I know Thor’s clone was on Tony’s side in the comic book conflict. That just goes to show he was a FAKE!!!)

Cap and Thor’s friendship is not founded merely on a “you are better than me” mentality. It is based mostly on respect. Thor, along with anyone else who has half a brain, recognizes Cap’s moral authority over him and the rest of the team. For that reason he is quite amenable to Steve’s leadership and willingly defers to him. It is not about who has the better résumé or pedigree – it is about respect.

Stargate SG-1 and Stargate: Atlantis had similar friendships between Earth humans and alien humans. Jack O’Neill, leader of the four man SG-1 team, commanded the respect of the Jaffa member of the group: Teal’c. That was why Teal’c joined the SG program, let alone followed Jack’s orders. In Stargate: Atlantis, Colonel John Sheppard commanded the respect of the Satedan warrior and former Wraith runner Ronan – who was not known to respect too many people prior to joining the Atlantis crew! And in Ultron, Thor and Cap show the respect they have for each other through dialogue, tag team tactics, and small gestures of mutual esteem.

This brings us back to the hammer lifting competition Hawkeye began, doesn’t it? What does Thor think of Steve since the latter budged his hammer? It gave him a start, for sure! But if Thor could warm to Vision’s ability to lift Mjolnir, I do not see him grudging Steve use of the weapon.

Does this mean he would have been able to accept Steve lifting the hammer during the after party at the Tower? A debatable point …. perhaps. It was a competition, and Thor was being razzed pretty badly by Tony and (to a lesser degree) by Clint. If Steve had lifted the hammer and proved beyond anyone’s doubt that he was also worthy, Tony and the others would never have let Thor hear the end of it. So Thor would have been in a “bit of spot,” as the British like to say, if Cap had lifted the hammer at the party.

This is, as I have said before, the reason that Steve left the hammer on the table. He budged it. Just touching the hammer should have let him know that he could lift it – a slight tingle of power (unbelievable power, at that), racing up his arms, the hammer vibrating with anticipation, the movement as it shifted in response to his slight tug…. He could lift it. Mjolnir let him know he could.

But doing that would allow everyone present, already poking fun at Thor, to howl with triumph as Steve lifted Mjolnir. Poor Thor would be sitting there, stunned, as the jeers and catcalls flew in joyous exultation when it was proved that he was not the sole beneficiary of Mjolnir’s loyalty.

Steve was not going to do that to Thor. As much as Thor respects him, Steve admires the Prince of Asgard in a similar way. So instead of raising the hammer and giving Thor a “there-you-go” smile, Steve just shifted it. Not enough for everyone to see – but enough for Thor to notice, to remind his friend not to get a swelled head. “Being worthy is a neat trick,” Cap essentially said, “but the enchantment says ‘Whosoever holds this hammer, if he be worthy, shall wield the power of Thor.’ It doesn’t say that you alone can wield it. Anyone who is worthy can use it. Even a kid from Brooklyn.” 😉

Then, to prove that he has no interest in using Thor’s toy, Steve lets it go, raises his hands in rejection, and walks away. Galadriel did something similar in The Fellowship of the Ring, except that she had to make a bigger point to Frodo. Anyone, even the mighty Galadriel, was susceptible to the One Ring’s incredible lure. But temptation can always be refused, as the Lady of Lothlorien refused it. In a similar way, Steve Rogers refused the temptation to take the “power of Thor” for himself.

With that subject ‘hammered’ to death, we will continue down the roster. It is interesting, as I noted in previous posts, that Thor would abandon the battle on Baron Strucker’s HYDRA base in Sokovia to bring the injured Clint Barton to the Aveng-jet. The last time we saw the two in The Avengers, they were arguing over who had first dibs on Loki’s carcass. And Thor still enjoys a good scrap, as all Asgardians do, so leaving in the middle of a fight for any reason is a notable decision of his.

In Ultron, Thor offers to take Clint back to the Aveng-jet for preliminary medical treatment. This is probably a nod to Thor’s original, secret alter ego in the first Marvel Comics: Dr. Don Blake. Thor’s secret identity in those stories as the lame American doctor of Scandinavian descent meant that he had extensive knowledge, as Thor or Blake, of medicine and healing. In other words, he was one hell of a doctor – even as the mighty Thor!

This made him invaluable in a life-or-death situation during the early comics, and the Avengers’ inability to reach Blake when Thor wasn’t present on Midgard often left the team scrambling to find a doctor at least half as capable as he was. It was rare that Thor/Blake had no idea how to help an injured Avenger, as shown in “Even Avengers Can Die!” for instance. (See the post on Marvel Masterworks #2: The Avengers for details on that comic book story – unless you hate spoilers, of course!)

You would think, readers, that when Hawkeye starts the hammer lifting competition in the Tower, Thor might have been inclined to verbally batter his irksome teammate. Conversely, Thor says, “Be my guest,” and gestures toward the hammer. This shows that he respects Clint – even when the latter is being something of a jerk – and is quite willing to humor him.

Thor also does not appear to be utterly bowled over by the revelation that Clint has a family. He seems a little surprised, perhaps, but also accepts Clint’s secret with more equanimity than Tony or Bruce. Cap is only a few seconds slower, as the revelation is a bit of a shock for him and hits him in the wounds Wanda reopened in the African boneyard.

Thor’s “easy” acceptance of Clint’s secret family may be due in part to the fact that his mind is primarily occupied with the vision Wanda showed him in South Africa. Although, considering the frown he shot at the billionaire genius when the other said, “This is an agent of some kind,” about Hawkeye’s wife, this may be a wrong assessment. Thor is much more polite and courteous than Tony ever has been in the film franchise. That would be the reason he shot Tony a “don’t be rude” look for smarting off in front of – and about – their mutual friend’s wife.

On a lighter note, it is funny to see Thor step on Lila Barton’s LEGOs, then try to hide the damage under the table. It seems Thor has finally met a girl who is unimpressed with him. Lila is not happy that her dad’s friend just broke her toy, and it is obvious Thor retreats an inch or two when Lila glares up at him. He is a mighty warrior, but how exactly does one apologize to a friend’s young daughter for accidentally breaking a toy one did not see? They do not really cover that in etiquette classes – Asgard’s or Midgard’s etiquette classes – and that makes Thor’s retreat a hundred percent understandable.

From what I know, Thor and Hawkeye have never truly been at odds with each other in the comics. Oh, I am sure they have argued – and if Clint never took verbal potshots at the Thunderer in the comics, then he was either very sick or unconscious. Clint will shoot his mouth off to anyone, friend or foe, no matter how powerful they are!

Despite this, Hawkeye and Thor are shown to have a fairly strong friendship in Ultron. Though he does not understand why Thor would help bring Vision to life in the Tower, Clint seems willing to believe that Thor would not activate the new being just for kicks. He is more dubious of Wanda’s opinions, but she can manipulate minds, as we know. She brought down the whole team, and Clint’s been on the inside of a “mind control thing.” That kind of thing leaves one naturally wary of trusting a person capable of messing with other people’s brains.

Still, this wariness was directed toward the Maximoff girl. If he had had the time, Clint might have asked Thor point blank, his expression somewhat perplexed: “Just what are you doing here, exactly? First you plan to choke the life out of Stark for building Ultron, then you turn around and help bring this new android of his and Ultron’s to life? There really should be a point to all of this.”

And Thor probably would have responded by shrugging in a “yeah, I know, but listen” manner and gone on with the explanation he gave in the film.

Thor and Clint’s friendship is not built on the same kind of respect that is the base of the son of Odin’s allegiance to Cap. Hawkeye and Thor are not peers; they have very little in common with regard to their backgrounds or skills. But Clint does respect the Prince of Asgard – and not because of his rank. He has a high opinion of Thor’s dedication to protecting the Earth, as well as his humility. You have to have some respect for a guy who is willing to abandon a battle midway through for your sake, readers. It is rather ungrateful if you do not, first and foremost; more to the point, it is stupid not to appreciate the gesture.

It is possible that Thor respects Clint precisely for his penchant for throwing jibes that are aimed as well as his arrows. Clint is a complete mortal – he has none of his teammates’ assets. Yet he still faces everything they fight against without complaining, even when he is injured. It is hard not to admire a guy who will take a pounding and pick himself up afterward to keep on fighting. Clint is not an incautious man. Thor learned that when he found out the archer had a family. But he is a brave man and Thor, like all Asgardians, holds courage in more esteem than any other characteristic.

Plus, it helps to have someone who is willing to say, “You’re getting a fat head, pal,” without showing fear of the possible repercussions. As Thor learned when Cap budged the hammer, Clint was partially right: the enchantment was not a trick, but the prince of Asgard was getting cocky and sliding toward old, bad habits. Clint probably knew deep down that he did not have a prayer of being able to lift or move Mjolnir. But he figured someone on the team did, and whether or not he suspected that person would be Cap, Thor still learned that he was not the only Avenger capable of lifting the hammer.

This was slammed home to him especially when Vision handed him the hammer Steve had so ceremoniously refused to lift a couple of days earlier. Thor is shown talking to the android on the balcony not long after this, while the team is gearing up for the showdown with Ultron.

We have no idea what they are speaking about, but Thor is arguably the one Avenger capable of outmatching Vision’s power. He also knows that Vision has just been “born.” Ultron went berserk after he was “born,” and that was despite J.A.R.V.I.S.’s best efforts to calm him down! Thor does not want Vision to follow the same path, so it would make sense that he would take special care to talk to Vision, making sure he had not just helped Tony Stark compound his first mistake.

Another mark of Thor’s growing friendship with Vision is the chat they have in the church in Novi Grad. Finally, Thor gets to talk about Mjolnir with someone who knows the weapon almost as well as he himself does! Cap, after all, never actually lifted the hammer. He knows it is powerful, but he does not know how “terribly well-balanced” it is or how to “avoid losing power on the swing,” and so on. Thor, not necessarily the most trusting Avenger, shows a great deal of faith in the Vision when he tells Cap and Tony not to worry about the android keeping the Mind Stone. It remains to be seen if he is right not to worry, of course, but it is quite the gesture on Thor’s part.

Thor’s relationship with Natasha and Bruce is not easy to determine right off the bat. Obviously, Widow should not have asked the Thunderer for a report on the Hulk’s job at the Sokovian HYDRA base. (Seriously, what did she expect?!?) Coming from a realm where it is still bad manners not to treat a woman like a lady, Thor certainly seems to hold Natasha in high regard as a friend and fellow warrior, to a lesser extent than he regards Sif. But the fact is that he’s known Sif longer than he has known Natasha. We know that Jane Foster holds his heart, but Thor appears to consider the Black Widow a good friend and capable teammate.

For her part, Natasha shows Thor a great deal of deference. She does not accept the challenge to lift Mjolnir, saying self-deprecatingly, “Oh, no. That’s not a question I need answered.” What she was saying, of course, is that she knew she was not worthy. She had nothing to prove in the competition and nothing to lose by avoiding it. That about sums up her friendship with Thor right there.

As for Bruce, I do not think Thor was very angry at him for helping to build Ultron. Most of his ire was directed at Tony, since he was the mastermind behind the plan. Besides, Bruce admitted that he had been wrong to help build Ultron. Instead of apologizing for building a “murder bot,” Tony defended his actions. Since Tony can talk almost anyone into doing practically anything, for that reason, Thor probably decided to let Bruce slide.

Considering the fact that Thor tried very hard to walk back what he thought was a compliment on the Hulk’s performance at Strucker’s base, it is reasonable to assume he is sympathetic to Bruce’s issues. He makes it clear that he respects the Hulk for the other’s strength. But he also respects Bruce for the strength it takes to control the “Beast.”

Thor’s friendship with Tony is somewhat rocky in this film. It was never the greatest to start with – which is Tony’s fault. Who went and knocked the Prince of Asgard off a cliff again? Oh, yeah: Tony Stark, the self-described “genius, billionaire, playboy, philanthropist.” Tony, as a Marvel fan, I have something to tell you. You are brilliant – unequivocally so. But you ain’t that bright!

Now, Tony and Thor actually have a lot in common. They were both “born to the purple,” and – for a certain amount of time – they were both idiots. No, Thor never sank to Tony’s lows, but he was still a monumental egotist.

The point where they diverge is in their separate reactions to their past sins. Tony has reacted by feeling guilty and trying to make up for the wrongs that he committed in the past. This has led to him making successively worse mistakes in his present. Thor, on the other hand, reacted by finding and then walking the straight and narrow road. Where Tony refuses to take correction when he makes a mistake, Thor is quite willing to listen when Cap, Hawkeye, or one of the others says, “Time to make a course correction, big guy. You’re slipping again.”

It might be that this is one of the reasons why Thor is so ticked with Tony for building Ultron. Making up for past mistakes is not possible. You can say, “I’m sorry. Please forgive me,” but then you have to live with the other person’s response and the consequences of your mistake. You cannot get even for the past, as a friend of mine says. “Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery,” as Master Oogway from Kung Fu Panda said. Tony is too busy feeling the weight of his past while fearing and peering into the future to see beyond the end of his own nose. Thor, on the other hand, knows the next half of Oogway’s admonition, “…today is a gift! That is why it is called the present!” and he therefore lives accordingly.

The reason Thor “doesn’t get” why Earth “needs” Ultron is because he understood that Ultron was not necessary. Earth had him and the Avengers as its champions. And if they fell, others would rise. Thor clearly has a great amount of faith in the human or ‘mortal’ race. Tony does not, and furthermore, he will not admit that. He tried to justify building Ultron, essentially disrespecting himself and all of humanity with the statement that Earth “needed” Ultron for protection from outside aggressors. That really got under Thor’s skin and made him angry.

Now unlike Tony, Thor did get a glimpse of future events when Wanda messed with his mind. He knows that the dancing of dead Asgardians in Hel was probably an illusion – but there was truth mixed in with the fantasy. That is what he goes to find when he searches out Eric Selvig and the “water of sight” after leaving the Barton farm.

But does this mean that Thor’s vision in the dream well changed his attitude toward Iron Man? After all, he helped activate the Vision.

No, I do not think Thor’s faith in humanity has been shaken just yet – if it ever will be. Thor understands that his vision was not a prophecy of destruction but a warning. He knows the future is not written in stone, that these “shadows” need “not remain unaltered.” Somewhere down the line, one simple act of kindness or goodness can upend an evil plan like that. (*Author snaps fingers.*) Thor realizes that his vision was a notice that he and his friends were being used. Through his dream he learned that things are about to get much, much harder. And they are going to get hard very fast.

This again highlights the differences in Thor and Tony’s reactions to past sins. Thor’s response to his vision was different from Tony’s reaction to his hallucination. He did not act in fear; he looked for answers. And when he found those answers, he pursued a specific course of action to prepare for the battle he knows is building somewhere on the horizon.

Thor realizes in the dream well that the Infinity Stones have something to do with the coming storm. Knowing what he does about the Infinity Stones, Thor recognizes that they have to be guarded. Locking them up in the basement on Asgard or the core of a dead, dark world are not good enough precautionary measures. These powerful rocks have an ungraciously bad habit of being discovered by the wrong people and then being used for destruction.

The Stones have to be hidden, yes, but they also have to be kept separate. And they need to be protected. This is why the Tesseract is in Odin’s basement, the Collector was given the Aether, the Nova Corps is keeping the Power Stone… and this is why Thor helped bring Vision to life. The Infinity Stones are powerful enough to wipe out and then remake the universe a number of times over when used together, according to Marvel lore. They cannot be entrusted to just anyone. (This, naturally, makes one wonder why Sif and Volstagg gave the Aether to the Collector. Whatever Loki has up his sleeve, it is going to be nasty.)

Thor saw Vision in his…vision. And he saw him as an ally. Learning about Tony’s latest science project, he recognized the android from his vision and helped bring the creature to life.

This is why he spends so much time with Vision prior to the battle in Sokovia. Thor wants to make sure that this new being understands the universe around him, his place in it, and the very important job Thor is entrusting to him. He is handing Vision the job of watching over his friends while he leaves to take care of other business. Essentially, he is entrusting the keys to his treasure vault (Earth and the Avengers), to a totally new being with zero experience. He does not want to hand that responsibility off to just anybody. Whoever he entrusts the Avengers to has to be of good character and a worthy person. Lifting Mjolnir kind of gave Vision the bulk of the necessary “street cred,” as it were.

But it was not enough. Thor trusts his hammer, but he also wants to interview the candidate. That is what I think he did at the Tower, in the church, and before he left Midgard. His questions, hurried as they may have been, were answered to his satisfaction nonetheless. This is the reason he tells Cap and Tony not to worry about the Vision. “He can lift the hammer, he can wield the Stone. It is safe with the Vision.”

Tony is not willing to do that sort of thing. Instead of relying on his friends, he tries to “control what won’t be,” to quote the Vision. Thor learned long ago that this is stupidity of the highest order. While he eventually mellows toward Tony again – perhaps remembering that, in the past, he was as capable as Tony of making similar, or worse, mistakes – he learned and changed. Maybe, just maybe, Thor hopes, Tony will learn, too.

Then the more impatient part of him adds, He’d better learn it soon, or I AM going to hit him this time around.

Well, readers, this is not the glowing report I was planning to write about Thor’s part in Age of Ultron, wandering off topic as I did. But Thor is not easy for me to write about. I enjoy him, but not as much as other characters. It is hard for me to get inside his head after a point.

Hopefully this article was still illuminating to some degree. I really did like Thor’s portrayal in Age of Ultron, and this post is my first post talking about him. So, without further ado, readers…

For Asgard (and Midgard)!!!

The Mithril Guardian

More Marvel Fan Fiction: An Avengers’ Easter

Happy Easter, readers!!!  As you may recall, last year I put up a small fan fiction story set in the time before Avengers: Age of Ultron.  It was a Christmas story (or very nearly), and it was set in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.  When asked if I would do anymore, I said I would think about it.

Well, after thinking about it, this fan fiction piece is the result.  This story takes place on Easter Sunday and is the lead-in to Captain America: Civil War.  As a result, characters who were present in Age of Ultron  are mentioned or present herein.  This story may not fit into the Marvel Cinematic Universe; however, I wanted to tell a story set before Captain America: Civil War, and I wanted it to be on Easter Sunday.  

Unfortunately, I had no time to work Bucky Barnes/The Winter Soldier into this story.  There may be more fan fiction stories in the future, or not.  We will wait and see what happens.

I hope you enjoy the story, readers.  And, most importantly – HAPPY EASTER!!!!

The Mithril Guardian

An Avengers’ Easter

by The Mithril Guardian

Disclaimer: I do not own these characters.

Steve Rogers tried to keep a straight face as Lila Barton crept through the bushes near the Barton house. She was barely a foot away from a brightly colored egg that the Easter Bunny had hidden. Since he was not part of the hunt, Steve could not tip his hand and let her know how close she was.

Fortunately, Lila had an Easter egg-hunting partner. With a discrete flick of her fingers, Wanda Maximoff used her powers to send the egg rolling forward a little. It made a slight noise as it hit a fallen branch, catching Lila’s attention. Her hand shot out and grasped the egg. She stood up, holding her prize high so Wanda and the others could see it. “That’s thirteen!” she shouted excitedly.

“The boys only have ten!” Wanda laughed.

A few feet away, Sam Wilson and Cooper Barton shared a look. “We’d better pick up the pace, Hawk-kid,” Steve’s friend said.

“We haven’t checked the barn yet!” Cooper dashed off. “The clue in our egg – it sounded like the next one was hidden in the tractor!”

Sam followed the boy as Wanda and Lila put their heads together over their egg. It was plastic and contained a clue, either a hand-drawn picture or a riddle of some kind. Lila and Cooper were supposed to interpret the clue and use it to find the next egg. Whichever Barton sibling found their basket of Easter goodies first won the game.

Steve saw the little girl’s hands shaking with excitement as she puzzled over the note, a hand-drawn picture. Wanda had to turn the paper right side up. Once she did, Clint’s daughter shrieked wordlessly, then whispered, “It’s the squeaky fencepost! Come on!”

The two raced off, Wanda doing her best not to outrun the little girl. Steve allowed the smile he had been hiding to finally spread across his face.

It was good to see Wanda enjoying herself, he reflected. He and Natasha did their best to make sure she was included as much as possible in the new team’s pastimes. For the most part, it seemed to work. Wanda was fairly happy, all things considered. But every once in a while Steve, Natasha, or one of the others found Wanda alone, staring at nothing. When it did not seem like a bad time, they broke in on these moments of reverie and brought her to join the others. It really was not good for her to be on her own so much. If Pietro had survived the battle in Novi Grad, she would not have been alone.

Except he had died in that conflict protecting Cooper and Lila’s father: Clint Barton. Wanda had been alone ever since.

Steve knew no amount of friendship with him or the other Avengers, past or present, would ever fill the void in Wanda’s heart where Pietro had once resided. Nothing they did would make her forget her brother.

And Steve did not want her to forget him. He only wanted to make sure she was all right.

Light steps coming up behind him on the porch made Steve cock his head. A moment later, Clint was standing next to him. “She cleans up nice,” he said.

“And she fights like a cornered mountain lion,” Steve added. With Wanda’s help, Lila had managed to find the other egg hidden near the bottom of a fence post. They were looking at the clue together.

It seemed the two were having trouble with this note. They turned the paper around four more times before another squeal from Lila alerted the men to the fact that the girl had figured out the clue.

Clint offered him a can of soda as the two girls headed for the tree next to the house. Steve took it and popped the tab as both girls began prowling around the tree, trying to spot the next egg. “I’m glad Natasha twisted my arm into inviting you guys over for Easter,” Clint murmured.

“Yeah. Twisting’s the word for it.” Steve took a sip. He had not been aware of the matter for the first few weeks of the argument, but Natasha had almost physically dragged him into the debate which had raged for three weeks afterward. Clint had balked at the idea of inviting any of the New Avengers to his house for Easter, mostly because he was not sure how many of the “newbies” on the team he could truly trust.

He had finally caved when Vision and James “Rhodey” Rhodes had decided to decline the anonymous invitation to the equally anonymous Easter party. HYDRA was getting more and more active, and they did not want to leave their posts on Easter Sunday for fear of what HYDRA would do in their absence.

Truth be told, Steve had not wanted to leave, either. The only reason he had come to Clint’s party was because Natasha had volunteered to stay at the base with the rest of the team in his place. She had all but shoved Steve out the door early this morning with some teasing comments, making sure that he, Sam, and Wanda would all attend the party together.

Steve was brought out of his thoughts by the other man’s chuckle. “Force of habit, Cap.” He watched out of the corner of his eye as Clint took a swig of his own soda. “We almost never have anyone over casually, let alone for the holidays.”

“Sounds a little lonely.”

“Not as much as you might think. We’re company enough, most of the time. The only one we ever missed was Nat.”

“Sorry about…,” Steve began but Clint waved him off good-naturedly. “Don’t. We all know how busy you’ve been lately. I may live on a farm, but that doesn’t mean I don’t keep up with the news.”

They watched as Wanda suddenly beckoned Lila to her. The child ran to her at once. Wanda pointed up into the tree and Lila’s face fell. Both girls were wearing dresses, and neither of them could climb the tree to retrieve the egg in such attire. Not without getting into trouble, anyway.

Wanda leaned down and whispered something in the little girl’s ear which made Lila turn and look at her, eyes wide. Steve and Clint were too far away to hear her quiet, tremulous question, but Wanda’s reassuring smile told them she was sure of what she planned.

A little time was taken up with Wanda positioning Clint’s daughter beneath the tree. Then, using her telekinetic and energy manipulation abilities, Wanda carefully lifted Lila up to the branch where the egg was hidden. Once she was in position, Lila reached out cautiously and grabbed the egg. Then she held it up over her head for Wanda to see.

With a smile, the older girl gently brought Lila to earth again. As soon as she landed, the little girl leaned forward and hugged Wanda. Whether she did so out of relief or gratitude it was hard to tell, but Steve suspected the gesture was a mixture of the two emotions.

Wanda twitched, startled by the hug. Then she smiled and returned the embrace.

The two stayed that way for a moment. When Wanda leaned back, Lila looked down at the egg in her hand, as if she had only just remembered it. She opened the egg so fast that Wanda had to use her powers to catch the two halves of the plastic egg before they hit the ground. Lila unfolded the paper, her fingers trembling with anticipation.

As they tried to solve the clue, there was the sound of a door being thrown open. Steve turned to see Cooper come tearing out of the barn, Sam following him closely. It took a moment for him to realize they were heading toward the empty pasture on that side of the farm.

Clint had turned to watch them, too. Then a sudden shout from Lila made both men swing in the opposite direction. They were just in time to see the child take off toward the rear of the house, Wanda following her. Clint smiled.

“How’s the party going so far?” Steve asked, grinning himself.

“Honestly, I think I may have to start inviting you guys over every weekend for supper,” the other laughed. “Lila’s taken to Wanda like the big sister she never had, and every time I turn around, Cooper’s pestering you or Sam with a thousand questions.”

“Then you may want to avoid having us over every week,” Steve teased. He watched as Cooper came up with another egg. The boy was so excited he could not open it. Sam had to do it for him. “You’ve got a real good place here, Clint,” he added. He sighed inwardly. He had wanted something like this so badly….

But that was another life, he reminded himself sternly. He could not be a father now. Peggy had lived her life. He had to live the life he had left while he still could. Pining for the past would not change anything.

And deep down, Steve suspected that he had survived that crash seventy years ago for a reason. So far he had had several reasons shown to him: Loki’s attempted invasion, HYDRA hiding within SHIELD, Ultron’s birth and subsequent attempt to destroy the world. How much of a difference he had made in some of these events he was not sure. But the fact was that HYDRA might be running the U.S. now if he had not been alive to draw their ire. Again.

There were more reasons to suggest why he had survived, he suspected. What they were, though, he had no idea.

“Yeah. I guess I do.”

Something in Clint’s tone brought Steve out of his reverie and made him look at the younger man sharply. Clint was watching his son and Sam run to the next hidden egg, a shadow in his eyes. “Something wrong?” Steve asked.

“You been paying attention to the news lately?” the other countered, his eyes never leaving the open field.

Steve racked his brain, trying to recall the snippets of news he had heard lately. Nothing popped out at him, so he asked, “What news specifically?”

“This.” Clint turned away from the railing and walked toward the door to the house. Set next to the door were two chairs and a table. They had been put out on the porch expressly for the party. Steve followed him and watched as Clint picked up a red folder from the nearer of the two chairs. He had not seen the file there before. Laura, Clint’s wife, must have put it out when his back was turned. Or Clint had left it there before joining him at the railing.

Opening the file, Clint handed it to Steve. Setting his drink on the table, Steve took the file and began flipping through the papers in it. Most of them looked like they had been printed off of different news websites. They were all about the current Secretary of State, a man named Ross.

Ross… The name rang a bell, but it took Steve a minute to remember where he had seen it before: four years ago in Coulson’s file on Banner and the Hulk. “Ross is the new Secretary of State?” he asked, looking at Clint.

“I didn’t think you were that out of the loop,” Clint replied, frowning. “But you might have been on a mission when he was sworn in.”

“When was that?”

“Late last year. Just before New Year’s Day, actually.”

“We had to take down a massive HYDRA facility around that time,” Steve said, memory taking him back. “Sam took a serious hit in that battle. We were worried for a while that he would lose his spleen.”

Clint nodded. “Yeah. Not much time to look at the news with that hanging over your head.”

Steve looked back at the file and began scanning through the different pages, flipping them over as he went. He frowned at what he read. “He’s pressing for us to get registered? I thought we had settled that.”

“That was the pre-HYDRA uprising gang who agreed to let us alone,” Clint said sourly. “And they only did that because Fury wouldn’t give them the intel he had on us. He said he couldn’t find it.” Steve snorted. “Yeah, they knew he was lying. But they still couldn’t get anything out of him. Fury is good at that kind of stuff.”

“I’m beginning to regret letting him go after those HYDRA leads with his own strike team.” Truthfully, Fury had basically said he was going after some HYDRA leads, taking a special strike team of his own with him. Steve had not given him permission, and Fury had not asked for it. Still, this was a time when Fury’s political expertise would have been very valuable. “It doesn’t sound like he’s making much headway with this registration argument,” Steve added as he studied one of the papers more closely.

“Not at the moment, no,” Clint agreed. “But – how much do you know about this guy?”

“He was tracking Bruce for a while after he became the Hulk,” Steve said, recalling the file Coulson had shown him.

The other made a derisive noise. Steve looked up in time to see him cross his arms. “That’s the polite way of putting it. Bruce and the big guy were the white whale to Ross’ Captain Ahab.”

Instinctively, Steve slapped the folder shut. He had not known it was that bad. “Why?”

“The reason Ross went after Bruce was because the Gamma/super soldier project was under his direction. He rode Bruce hard to get it done yesterday, but Banner was too cautious for his liking. Ross is the reason Banner is the Hulk. Plus,” Clint added, “Banner and Betty Ross, the general’s daughter, were an item there for a while. It was a well known fact that ol’ Thunderbolt didn’t approve of his daughter’s affection for Bruce.”

Steve grimaced. That explained why Bruce had disliked being brought to the Helicarrier to help deal with Loki, as well as his distrust of government organizations and militaries in general. Not to mention his reluctance to go steady with Natasha. He had already run from one girlfriend; running from a second was an idea he probably did not relish. “Thunderbolt?” he asked.

“Ross’ nickname; they called him General Thaddeus ‘Thunderbolt’ Ross.” Abruptly, Clint turned his head. Steve followed his gaze and was in time to see Cooper and Sam heading back toward the house. They went to the woodpile and started scanning the chopped logs. Clint dropped his voice to a whisper so they would not be overheard. “The thing is, Steve, it won’t take much for Ross to get registration passed.”

When Steve frowned the younger man continued urgently, his voice still low. “Think about it. Maybe you didn’t see the news reports after New York –”

“I saw some of them,” Steve interjected quietly.

“They want us on leashes,” Clint continued fiercely, his voice hushed. “They have since New York. All it will take for them to win over the more reluctant politicians and the public is one mistake. One battle where things don’t go as planned, where too many innocent people get hurt – or killed. Then they will start knocking on our door ‘asking’ us to sign up and be their puppets. They thought they had us when the Hulk rampaged through Johannesburg. But with him off the radar, they lost their ammunition against the Avengers.” He looked back at Cooper and Sam as the other man, who had discovered their latest prize, tossed an egg to Clint’s son. The boy opened it at once. “Wonder if that’s one of the reasons he skipped out on us.”

Steve said nothing. As much as he disliked Clint’s assessment of the situation, the younger man was right about one thing. One day they might battle HYDRA or some other band of terrorists and be unable to prevent a lot of civilian casualties.

Theirs was not a clean-cut war. HYDRA chose the battle ground more often than Steve would have liked. Even with Wanda and Vision’s powers backing them up, the Avengers had trouble keeping their fights out of population centers. If HYDRA got off even one lucky shot, the Avengers would be called to account for it.

A thought struck him. “You keep including yourself in the team,” he said, looking at Clint. He did not raise his voice. “You figuring on coming out of retirement if this passes?”

“Never retired,” Clint answered in the same low tone, looking rather offended. “I’ve just been on leave.”

“You didn’t exactly make that clear when you left.”

“I didn’t want to get hauled off to attack a HYDRA compound once a week. I do have an infant son to help look after, you know.”

Steve smiled at him, and the younger man must have realized he was being teased, because he smiled back. “Not bad, old man.”

“This old man dropped you like a sack of potatoes more than once after you joined the Avengers, kid. Don’t get cocky.”

“Ooh, someone’s brushed up on his popular culture. Nice Star Wars reference, Han Solo.”

“So far, I think the originals are the best,” Steve confessed. Clint’s response was a genuine laugh, which sounded a little loud after their quiet conversation. Cooper and Sam glanced at him, and Steve saw the boy smile in response to his father’s amusement.

The two went back to their clue. With a shout, Cooper went tearing off toward the field opposite the house. At the same time, Wanda and Lila came running from behind the house. They were racing toward the barn.

Steve and Clint watched them for a minute before resuming their conversation. Clint’s expression had tightened again, more noticeably this time. “The thing is, even if I had retired, they would want a record of me,” he explained. “Where I could be found, what to use to press me back into the service again if I was needed – or if they just wanted me in the field.” He paused. “I can’t drop off the radar, Steve. Even if SHIELD still existed, they’d be after me like sharks after blood.”

Steve stifled a sigh. Clint was right, of course. He also realized why the younger man was so worried about registration. Whatever governing body was assigned to oversee the Avengers, according to Ross’ statements, would also be required to monitor them somehow. Ross had not suggested exactly how it would be done, but Steve suspected that whatever system was worked out, it would be a very invasive and controlling one. Ross’ statements were vague enough to allow any system to be put in place.

If Clint were to be registered, getting back home for even the weekend meant that the government would want to know exactly where he lived – which meant they would eventually find out where his family lived. And Clint had made it abundantly clear that he did not want his family to be public knowledge.

Steve could understand that. In their line of work, one could not help making enemies. And HYDRA was not above wounding or killing children, even those as young as Nathaniel Barton. If the existence of his family became public knowledge, Clint’s old enemies would have to work fast to beat HYDRA to the Barton farm. “Have you talked to Nat about this yet?” he asked.

Clint’s eyes shaded again, this time with pain. To Steve’s shock, the younger man broke eye contact with him and turned to stare at the porch.

Not once in all the time he had known Clint Barton had Steve ever seen him turn away from someone like that. And he had definitely never broken eye contact with Steve before. Not even when he had previously avoided questions about his personal life. “Are you two fighting?” he asked quietly.

“Not exactly,” Clint said at once. “But we haven’t been agreeing when this subject comes up,” he added reluctantly.

Steve swallowed. If Clint and Natasha were starting to come apart over this… they were almost as close as he and Bucky had been. Almost.

A vague feeling of foreboding settled in the pit of his stomach. This divergence of opinions did not bode well for the rest of them. If Clint and Natasha could become divided over registration, then so could the rest of the Avengers.

Clint had apparently come to the same conclusion, as evidenced by the distress Steve read in his redirected gaze. “Do you have any idea why she would favor this?” Steve moved the hand holding the file a little.

“Protection,” Clint said flatly. “She has a lot of red in her ledger, Cap. Bad, bad stuff.”

“She’s not like that anymore.”

“No,” Clint agreed. “But she hasn’t forgiven herself for it, either. And it’s the one thing Ross or anyone else in the government could use against her. Even with her record public knowledge…” He stopped and shook his head. “It’s the one place she’s vulnerable, Steve. More so than the rest of us. People will forgive you anything. I worked real hard not to turn into the monsters I was fighting. I’m not proud of everything I did, but I’m not as susceptible in that regard as Nat is. Hell, neither are Stark and Banner.”

Steve looked at the file again, trying to think past the rising anger and fear roiling in his mind. “How likely do you think it is that registration will get passed?”

“Too likely,” Clint answered immediately. “While you’re busy keeping the planet from turning into a nuclear waste dump or something like that, Ross makes the rounds on the Sunday morning news shows, and has a press conference after every battle you participate in. Every time he does this, he calls for our registration. Just because he doesn’t have much support now doesn’t mean he can’t get it.”

“If we’re careful, we might be able to avoid it, or at least stall him…”

“Cap,” something in the other man’s voice made Steve look at him again. The haunting pain had grown more obvious. “A man like Ross, dedicated to hating someone, will hate whoever helps him. He and his daughter still aren’t on speaking terms. They don’t even live in the same country anymore. He may not hate her, but he definitely isn’t happy with her.”

“Are you saying he hates us?”

“After New York, the public saw the good the Hulk could do.” Clint drew a deep breath and let it out as a heavy sigh. “Ross could still have gone after Bruce, except that Stark invited him to the Tower. Then the Avengers became a permanent club after SHIELD went down…”

“And Bruce became untouchable –”

“Because he was with us.” Clint nodded.

“And you think Ross hates us now, just because we’re friends of Bruce?”

“I’d bet that’s a big part of it. But I think he’s also going after us as a tactical strike. Take control of the Avengers –”

“And he can control who our members are.”

“Among other things, yeah.”

Happy, childish squeals rang out. Clint bit his lower lip in response. “Steve, we are in for it. No doubt. If circumstances don’t give him the ammunition to take us down, Ross might manufacture the bullets himself.”

“How?”

“You remember Senator Stern?”

“The senator HYDRA had?”

“He wasn’t the only one. There were others, as well as politicians overseas who were found to be in HYDRA.”

“Fury said a lot of rats didn’t go down with the ship,” Steve replied, casting his mind back to that discussion. “You think Ross is HYDRA?”

Clint looked him in the eye, his face taking on the determined, deadly expression it usually had when they were in a fire fight. “I think he hates us enough to make a deal with the devil,” he replied.

Steve grimaced. HYDRA qualified as servants of the devil. If Clint’s theory was right, then Ross might be willing to do HYDRA’s political dirty work. Even if the former general was not a HYDRA stooge, as Clint suspected he was, Steve did not doubt the man would still seize any opportunity to register them that came his way. Clint’s judgment of character was too good for Steve to start doubting him now.

Glancing toward the children and their adult helpers, Steve saw that the kids had found their goody baskets somewhere near the barn and were picking through their prizes. He and Clint were going to be swamped in a few minutes. They had to wrap this up, fast.

Steve held the file out to Clint. “You should move,” he said. “Find a place to hide.”

Taking the file, the other man shook his head. “We’ll be finishing up moving in the next few days… but I can’t hide. If I cut and run, they’ll be after me. And they will find me if I stay with Laura and the kids, sooner or later. No matter what happens, I’ll be in the coming storm.” His expression tightened. “I need to know I’ve got someone who will watch my back when this hits the fan.” He motioned slightly with the file.

So that was what this was about. Steve had known this was more than just a warning to watch his back. Clint had already begun preparing against the potential for registration, moving his family to a new location without telling the rest of the Avengers. Considering that Clint had admitted they were arguing, it appeared that even Natasha did not know he was moving his family – unless she had deduced his next move, which was certainly possible. She knew him best, after all.

Barring that, though, the one Avenger who knew for certain was Steve. And that begged the question: where would he be when Ross got the support he needed to pass registration? Would Clint be able to count on him for help, or would he have to go it alone?

Steve made eye contact with the younger man again. “If this ‘hits the fan,’ I won’t be able to get in contact with you. You’ll have to find me.”

“Man in a star-spangled outfit, carrying a vibranium shield. Somehow, I don’t think it’ll be that hard.” Clint smirked. But Steve also saw him relax a little. He had been nervous about this, then. Given his argument with Natasha, it was understandable. Steve wondered briefly if Natasha had volunteered to stay behind at Avengers HQ because of her ongoing argument with Clint. “Might be harder than you think, Hawkeye,” Steve wrinkled his nose at him pointedly.

The smirk became a genuine smile. Clint tapped the file with one finger. “I’d appreciate it if you didn’t tell anyone we were moving.”

“This conversation never happened.” Steve smiled. “I always wanted to say that to Fury’s face.”

“I know the feeling.” Clint ducked into the house. Steve picked up his drink, watching as Cooper and Lila packed up their baskets. Clint returned to the porch as they turned and ran toward the house. “Incoming,” Steve said, moving away from Clint to give the children room.

The two children thundered up the steps a few seconds later and mobbed their father at once, eager to show him what the Easter Bunny had left them. Mixed in with the chocolates and candy for Lila was a doll, while Cooper had received his very own “real-live” bow with his basket of Easter treats.

“I wish the Easter Bunny had left me one, too,” Lila said sadly.

“You’ll probably get yours next year,” Cooper said, trying to cheer her up. “Right, Dad?”

“Once she’s big enough to handle an actual bow, the Easter Bunny might bring her one. Now, remember, the candy has to last a few days. Not only do you two need room for dinner, I can’t keep up with you if you’re rocketing off the walls on a sugar rush.”

“Dad!” Cooper laughed. “You can always keep up with us!” Lila giggled.

“Not when you’re on a sugar rush, I can’t,” Clint teased, ruffling his son’s hair and leaning down to kiss his daughter on the forehead. “How about you go show mom what you got, huh?”

The two bolted into the house at once. When they were out of hearing range, Sam collapsed into one of the chairs with a sigh. “Man, and I thought you were hard to keep up with!” he said to Steve.

Steve shrugged and made a mock-serious face. “Well, Cooper’s much younger than I am. It stands to reason he’d be faster,” he said as seriously as he could.

Sam laughed. “How’s the spleen?” Clint asked, smiling and leaning against the door jamb.

“Oh, it’s fine. Nothing’s wrong with me except the usual.” Sam waved a hand airily.

“What’s that?” asked Wanda.

“Being mortal.”

“Hey, don’t go stealing my position on the team!” Clint growled in faux irritation.

“You kidding? You’ve been around since Medieval England. Bein’ a superhero’s easy for you, Robin Hood! For a guy like me, it’s harder than it looks!”

“Then settle for being a regular one!”

“Okay, kids, let’s not let this get out of hand,” Steve interjected playfully, sipping his soda. It had lost some of its fizz while he was talking to Clint, he noticed.

“What, I can’t have a conversation with this gentleman?” Clint asked innocently. Sam’s eyes, though, had locked onto Steve’s drink. “Where do you hide the sodas?” he asked. “I could use a drink.”

“I can go get one for you…” Clint began slyly.

Sam was out of his chair in an instant. “Forget it. If they’re not in the fridge, your wife will know where they are.”

“Third shelf, at the back.” Clint laughed, moving away from the door to let Sam in. As the other man disappeared inside, Wanda looked at Clint. “You have a very nice family, Mr. Barton,” she said timidly.

“Thanks. But we’re both Avengers, Wanda. It’s Clint.”

She smiled awkwardly and looked at the porch floor. “I…I wanted to say… ” She stopped and bit her lip. Sensing Wanda had something important on her mind but was nervous about mentioning it, Steve started to head for the door.

Her hand shot out and touched his arm lightly. “No, Captain. You can stay.” He stepped back, curious. What was Wanda up to?

Taking a deep breath, she looked at Clint. “Natasha told me before we left about what you did. That you named your second son after her, and after Pietro.”

It was the first time Steve could recall seeing Clint shocked and at a loss for words. He was glad of his own surprise; it meant he could not disturb Wanda as she went on with what she had to say. “Please, don’t be angry with her. She did not want you to have to tell me. She thought it would save you trouble if she told me instead.”

“I just –” Wanda paused again, swallowed, and then went on, clearly trying not to rush through her prepared speech. “I just wanted to thank you. For naming your son after my brother.”

For a minute, silence reigned. Steve held his breath as Clint stared at Wanda, who had dropped her gaze to the porch floor again. Then, very quietly, Clint said, “I never wanted your brother to die, Wanda. I never wanted to kill him. I thought about shooting him a couple of times, but… I never wanted his death.”

Wanda nodded. “I know.”

Clint sighed. “I am sorry – ”

Without warning, Wanda lunged forward and hugged him. Hard. Clint returned her embrace full force. “It is not your fault,” she murmured thickly. “I miss Pietro every day, sometimes so much that I feel as though I am being torn apart from the inside. But I am proud that he died to save another, and I am doubly proud now that I see he saved a man who honors and respects him, and who has preserved some memory of him… That he died to save a man who has a family.”

“I would not wish our childhood on anyone, Hawkeye, and I do not wish it for your children. Not now, not in the future. Never.”

They said nothing for a long time.

Steve remained frozen, reluctant to destroy the little scene. Whether or not this meant that Wanda would assimilate to their new team better, this was progress for her.

He also took the opportunity to sound out Nathaniel’s full name in his mind. Clint had never mentioned it. No wonder Natasha had broken the news to Wanda. Clint would not have told her, for the simple reason that he was not the type to parade such things about.

But the fact remained that Wanda deserved to know. And Natasha had saved Clint the responsibility of telling her. The two might be arguing, but so far it had not damaged their friendship seriously.

At that moment, Steve saw Laura glance through the doorway from down the hall. She took in the scene, then met Steve’s gaze briefly. With a quick nod, Laura turned and disappeared from view inside the house. No one inside would disturb them for a while yet, Steve suspected.

He was glad that Laura understood Wanda needed to deal with her grief. Maybe Clint needed to deal with it, too. Pietro had died saving him, after all. Perhaps that was why she was willing to let them be. Whatever her reasons, Laura knew they were connected by Pietro Maximoff’s death and needed some time to themselves.

Apparently, though, Wanda did not feel Steve needed to be excluded from the following discussion. He remained quiet unless asked a question as Clint and Wanda began to converse, sitting down in the chairs set out specifically for the party. Once or twice he added a mild comment. Mostly, he just stood by and listened, trying to figure out why Wanda did not want him dismissed from the proceedings.

With her hypnotic abilities, Wanda might want him present as a witness, able to tell the others – or even Clint – that she had not invaded the other man’s mind during this period of conversation.

That theory was weak, however. Wanda could hypnotize an entire block of civilians. She had done it in Novi Grad, Sokovia. And she had brought every Avenger but Clint to their knees before that. She would have no trouble manipulating both him and Steve if she wanted to do so.

It was when she asked for the specifics of Pietro’s death that Steve understood why she wanted him to stay. He and Clint were the only remaining Avengers who knew the details. Thor had been there as well, but he had left not long before Steve and Natasha had begun training their new recruits. They were the only ones who could tell her what she wanted to know.

“I sensed him die. I know Ultron killed him. I…saw him afterward. But I don’t know… ”

“How it all came together,” Clint finished for her. Wanda nodded silently.

Clint paused, then explained that one of the women aboard the boat he had planned to ride to the Helicarrier had been calling for a boy. He gave the child’s name and Wanda looked up. “I know her. The child was her brother. Pietro – ” Her lips quirked in a small smile. “Pietro liked to flirt with her.”

Clint chuckled, then sobered as he went on with the story. “I saw him easily enough. I don’t know how he ended up where he was – he was stuck at the top of a basement stairwell. Maybe the thin air got to him. He was barely conscious when I picked him up.” Clint paused for a long moment. “That was when Ultron made his strafing run.”

Steve grimaced. He and Thor had both been caught off guard by the robot’s barrage and sent to the ground. Neither of them had been hurt, but they were also unable to get up and help anyone in a hurry. Even if they had, they were not fast enough to have reached Clint and the boy in time.

Pietro had been. “I was the one who brought him onboard,” Steve remembered.

Clint took a pull of his soda. “Yeah. I brought the boy to his sister, and found that one of Ultron’s bullets had nicked me. I woke up later in the infirmary. Don’t even remember the ride to the carrier.”

Wanda looked away from them. After a while she spoke again. Her voice was soft, shaking with leftover grief. And remaining rage. “When I felt Pietro die, I forgot about the key. I was…consumed with anger. I went and found Ultron’s main body. He had been thrown from a great height into a train car, I think. He was heavily damaged. I got close to him…” She took a deep breath. “And then I ripped out his power core.”

Steve stared at her in shock. Ultron’s main body had been plated with vibranium, the strongest metal on Earth. If Wanda could reach in and rip out his power core through that, then she had been more powerful than they had suspected. And her powers were still growing.

“I made sure it hurt,” she added fiercely. “It was after that that the city began to fall. I almost welcomed death, but Vision found me and brought me to the Helicarrier…” Her voice lost the rage. Grief swallowed it and she stopped speaking at once.

Steve knew why. Wanda had spent her time on the Helicarrier beside her brother’s body. She had been utterly inconsolable, great sobs tearing through her for several hours afterward. It had been a long time before any of them had felt comfortable approaching her.

Clint put his hand on her shoulder. Swallowing what was doubtless a fresh set of tears, Wanda looked at him. She smiled wanly. “Thank you, for telling me what happened.”

Clint’s only response was a nod.

Another woman’s throat cleared and the three of them turned toward the door. Laura Barton was standing there, her expression grave. “I’m really sorry to intrude, but the turkey’s about done, and I need another set of hands in the kitchen,” she explained.

“Be right there,” Clint promised, standing up. Laura nodded once and vanished inside the house to give them privacy. Clint looked at Wanda, who met his gaze squarely. “I can’t bring him back, but if you ever need someone to talk to, the way you talked to him… ask Nat for my number. Okay?”

Wanda nodded. Clint gave her a slight smile in return. Then he turned and went into the house.

Wanda sat back in the chair as Steve pushed away from the porch railing. “We’d better go in, too, and get ready for dinner – ”

“What were you speaking about?”

Steve stopped and looked at her. “During the egg hunt,” Wanda elaborated. “I didn’t hear what you said, but I sensed his fear.” She nodded into the house. “For his family. For the Avengers. You felt fear as well. I know.”

He had wondered about that. Sighing, Steve walked over and took the chair that Clint had vacated. He thought for a few minutes before replying. “It sounds like there are people in the government who want to register us. Registering for certain things is fine,” he added. He wanted Wanda to understand exactly what was wrong with this form of registration, and what made it different from registering for a driver’s license or some such thing. “But this registration might hobble us; make it hard for us to fight HYDRA and other terrorists.”

“Why?”

“Because if politicians decide when we fight, where we fight, and who we should or shouldn’t use our powers to fight, they will own us.”

“You mean they want to make us slaves.”

Steve nodded slowly. “Essentially. They are right to be afraid of our powers. We should be afraid of them, too.” He looked at her. “If we abuse our powers, we’re no better than HYDRA or any of the others we’ve been dealing with for the last few months. We have to be careful.”

“Yes. But –” She frowned, trying to think of how to voice her distaste for this form of registration. Wanda really was still a child, in so many ways, he reflected. “But we’re not tools, we’re people. They shouldn’t have control of us, not as slaves,” Steve supplied.

Wanda nodded, her expression easing with the explanation. Then she frowned. “But why does he fear for his family?”

Steve glanced at his soda can, noticing that it was almost empty. He would have to be careful as he explained this. “I know Strucker and some of the other HYDRA agents were…kind to you and Pietro, Wanda –”

“After a fashion.” The girl shrugged.

“Clint has been their enemy. He’s fought against them, and against others. He’s made enemies as Hawkeye and as an Avenger. Those enemies want to kill him – or worse, break him.” Steve looked at her. “Strucker might not have come after Clint’s family, Wanda, but would the rest of HYDRA leave them alone?”

She paled. “But they don’t know –”

“No,” Steve agreed calmly. “But if we’re all registered – if Clint is registered – and he is still an Avenger… Then they will want to know where he goes when he leaves for R&R every chance he gets. Sooner or later, they will find his family and make them part of the record.”

“And if they do that, HYDRA or one of Clint’s other enemies could find those records.”

He did not need to say anymore. Wanda understood. She swallowed. “We can’t let that happen,” she said. Steve was pleased to note that her voice did not tremble, though the amount of ice in it was somewhat worrisome. “Hopefully, we’ll be able to avoid this,” he said.

“What if they try to force us to register?”

Steve sighed. Wanda was quick to recognize why. “We’ll have to fight,” she said softly, answering her own question.

Steve nodded. “Somehow. Otherwise, if his family is to stay alive…”

“He’ll have to leave them,” she said quietly. “Go into exile, possibly for the rest of his life.”

Again, all Steve could do was nod. Clint’s rationale had led him to the same cold conclusion. Somehow, they were going to have to find a way to beat this registration scheme. Not only to protect their own freedom, but for the safety and sake of the Barton family as well. Maybe even for other families down the road.

Steve finished his drink. He looked back at the Maximoff girl, who was frowning in no little fear at the porch flooring. “These are just shadows, Wanda,” he said softly. “We’ll worry about them tomorrow. Okay? Right now is a time for celebrating.”

“What exactly are we celebrating?” Wanda asked, sounding agitated. She was obviously still thinking about the problem of registration. “I know the religious importance of this feast day, but with all this – this danger – ”

She did not know the religious significance of Easter as well as she thought she did if she was speaking about it like that. “The world was in danger two thousand years ago, too, Wanda,” he interrupted gently. “Easter – the Resurrection of the Son of God – reminds us not to give up hope. That somewhere, somehow, in some impossible way, all the bad in our lives will be ‘turned into joy.’ That’s why we’re celebrating. That’s what we’re hoping for.”

Wanda searched his eyes and face. Whatever she saw, it made her relax. The color came back to her cheeks. “If you can hope for a better tomorrow, Captain, then so can I,” she said softly.

Steve smiled.

At that moment Lila, her voice clear and high, began to sing from somewhere in the house:


“Spent today in a conversation

In the mirror face to face with

somebody less than perfect…


I wouldn’t choose me first if

I was looking for a champion,

In fact I’d understand if

You picked everyone before me,

But that’s just not my story!

 

True to who You are

You saw my heart

and made

Something out of nothing – ”



Steve was not familiar with the song, but Lila’s parents knew it. Clint and Laura joined her after a few lines, while Cooper began playing the tune with whatever utensils or items he had to hand. They followed her until she reached the end of the song:


“He knows my name!

I’m not living for applause –

I’m already so adored!

It’s all His stage

He knows my name!

He knows my name!”

 

Standing up, he offered Wanda his hand. She took it and he pulled her to her feet. “It’s Steve,” he said quietly, giving her his arm. “Happy Easter, Wanda.”

She did not respond immediately. Then… “Happy Easter…Steve,” she replied, her voice hushed,

They went into the house together. “HAPPY EASTER!” the two Barton children shouted when they saw them. Clint and Laura echoed them. Beside Steve, Wanda called out “Happy Easter!” Sam and Steve managed to repeat the shout a moment later. Sam had been drinking and not been able to speak. Steve had been enjoying the scene too much to shout at once.

They settled in the chairs assigned them as Laura and Clint began to set out dinner. Lila sat next to Wanda while Cooper squirmed into the seat between Steve’s chair and the chair where his father would sit. Nathaniel was in his high chair next to Laura’s seat, watching the activity with a baby’s interest.

Steve wondered briefly if, had he and Peggy married, their Easter dinners would have been as warm and happy. Another life, Steve, he reminded himself firmly. This life he had to live for the Avengers – Wanda, Sam, Clint, Natasha, and the others, those actively serving and those who had temporarily retired. It also included Laura, Cooper, Lila, and Nathaniel Barton, in a roundabout way. They needed him. They all needed him.

I won’t let them down, Steve promised silently.

THE END

Avengers: Age of Ultron – Black Widow/Natasha Romanoff

Black Widow

Okay, I have to swallow a prognostication I repeated several times in my predictions’ posts, readers. Natasha Romanoff and Bruce Banner really do have a romance going on the side in Avengers: Age of Ultron.

It was, honest to goodness, a surprise to me. I did not believe Whedon would do it. But I also did not think Hawkeye’s family would be in Age of Ultron, so I am batting a thousand on several fronts.

All in all, the Natasha/Bruce romance was not so bad, in my opinion. Whedon may have made it a little sugary in places, but Natasha telling Bruce exactly how messed up she was by her Red Room trainers was very eloquent.

That scene also reveals Natasha’s low opinion of herself. She explained there that she sees herself as a monster. Never mind the fact that she is practically Hawkeye’s adopted sister, that she’s been an Avenger for almost three years, and has helped to save countless lives since Clint redeemed her from the “Dark Side.” She still has not forgiven herself for what she was trained, forced, and chose to do in her past.

That weighs her down. She has been forgiven by her friends and her “battle brother” has children who adore her like she was their blood aunt. But because she has not forgiven herself, she is still securely chained to her past, as we saw when Wanda hypnotized her in the bone yard in Africa.

Readers, we unfortunately cannot discuss Natasha Romanoff’s role in Age of Ultron without mentioning that there was a lot of rage about her portrayal in the film going around after the movie premiered. Though this is not something I empathize with at all, I have strong beliefs about the “rage” that sent certain people into a flurry of Internet activity. Also, this post is discussing Natasha’s role in the film, as well as her character, both of which were savaged in the hours following Ultron’s theater release. So the “rage” that ran rampant on the Internet has to be addressed.

Apparently, there were several groups who had gripes about Widow’s part in the film. One offended group said that having Ultron lock her up in a cell was demeaning.

Excuse me?! He rips her off the Cradle, flies her back to his base, during which time she is completely stunned by the impact of his attack. When she comes to in the HYDRA base Ultron commandeered in Sokovia, she finds herself facing an eight foot tall robot who could snap her like a twig – especially with his new, vibranium-plated body!

No amount of kung fu in anything less than the Iron Man armor would have protected her from him if he had decided to stop playing games and kill her. When faced with a metal monstrosity one cannot physically beat, the only sensible way to stay alive is to get as far away from it as one can. Natasha very wisely backs away from Ultron and into a room, which turns out to be a prison cell, where he locks her up (as he intended). She cannot bust the lock with the little equipment she has on hand, and he physically outmatches her. The only possible way she can survive long enough to help stop Ultron is to sit tight and signal her team – or rather, Bruce Banner – to come and get her out.  (Not to mention tell the Avengers where Ultron is.)

I see no problem with this scene, in so far as Natasha wisely keeps herself alive to fight later on. Any other captured member of the Avengers would have done something similar, as the cell was the nearest accessible point of refuge. And Natasha’s rescue, as far as I am concerned, was perfectly normal. It was also a great way to show that Beauty does not always need to rescue the Beast (sorry, Bruce).

Another crowd was apparently angry about the scene at Hawkeye’s farm, where we learn that Natasha was sterilized by the Red Room operators and, as a result, is unable to have children.

*Sigh.*

Okay, either these people did not – and do not – want to do their research on Marvel’s characters, or they take everything in the films at face value. Both of these attitudes are preposterous, because the filmmakers cannot, after a point, make up the characters and the stories out of whole cloth. Marvel will not and cannot let them do that if they are to preserve the integrity of their characters and storylines for their fans. It will not work, because the movies will not sell if it is attempted.

So I am sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but the fact is that in the “mainstream” comics, it was already a well established fact that Natasha Romanoff and the other Black Widows were all sterilized. The film version of the process is actually more thorough than the comic book depiction. In the comics, it was the Soviet version of Cap’s super soldier serum, which the Red Room handlers used to enhance their “charges,” that rendered the Black Widows sterile.

Was this a result of the Red Room serum’s inferiority to Dr. Erskine’s serum, or was it a planned “defect” the Soviets purposefully added to the mix? The point is debatable, but I lean toward the latter argument. If the Widows could not have children, it was “one less thing [for their handlers] to worry about.” And why should a Widow respect the lives of others when her own life had been so completely and carefully stolen from her?

The people who trained/raised Natasha wanted “a liar and a killer” who would do whatever they told her to do. They brainwashed her and the other girls, tore them down mentally and emotionally over and over again, until the girls could and would be whoever and whatever they needed them to be to get what they [the handlers] wanted. Natasha Romanoff was a tool, a slave, which they could remote control. They tried to erase everything – everything – in her that would possibly make her want to stop working for them. They did not manage to erase everything, which Clint figured out real quick, but the fact is that they wiped out a whole lot.

The most important thing they erased was Natasha’s ability to have children. All the brainwashing and training in the world cannot get rid of the potential that a female operative in Natasha’s line of work might have children. The one thing left that could probably unlock the chains the Red Room handlers had wrapped her in was that if, during a mission, a Black Widow had a child.

The child did not necessarily have to be born; it just had to be conceived. Once that happened, there would be no threat on earth, no chain under heaven, which could possibly convince Natasha or any other Black Widow to keep on playing the role of killing machine. Not when they had an innocent life they wanted – needed – to protect. The best way the Red Room could make certain that Natasha and the other Widows remained loyal slaves of the Soviet regime was to remove any chance that these women could have children.

The thing to remember, readers, is that Natasha can still lead a fairly normal life. This is something Bruce knows and she has not yet realized. Natasha cannot physically have children, but she could still get married and adopt a child or a number of children. She is fond of children. Bruce saw that at Hawkeye’s farm. In all truth, I think Natasha would make one hell of an adoptive mother. Having been deprived of her innocence, she knows how precious it is and is therefore willing to protect innocents – children especially – with everything she has. That is basically all you need in a mother.

But because Natasha will not forgive herself for her past, she has not moved on to that chance at a mostly normal life. She stays where she is, still chained by her guilt, by the idea that she is a monster manufactured by even worse fiends. Frankly, I am glad Whedon put this note about what the Red Room did to her in the movie. It ties back to the original comics and it adds a dose of hard reality to the film and the franchise. I think it needed to be there.

Of course, some other offended viewers also say that Natasha’s part in these scenes is demeaning because it makes her “less of a role model” for young girls. Pardon me for being so “backward thinking,” but I dare say that if Natasha Romanoff herself heard the words “role model” applied to her, she would laugh in the face of whoever called her such a thing!

Natasha Romanoff’s code name is the Black Widow, people. It happens to be a name she shares with a poisonous North American spider that is supposed to kill and eat its male mate. In her role as a Soviet spy, Natasha killed hundreds of people. And not just men, though they were very likely her primary category of targets. The stories about real black widows say that they kill and eat their male mates, after all.

But a deleted scene from The Winter Soldier shows the main villain of the film, Alexander Pierce, mentioning that Natasha had a role in something called the “Children’s War.” So it would appear that the Soviets were indiscriminate when they told Natasha who to target. If her handlers told her to take someone down, she did it. No reservations, no mercy, no regrets; she killed whoever they marked for death. End of one hellaciously ugly story.

So if the Black Widow, a.k.a. Natasha Romanoff, is a role model for young modern girls, does that mean we want our girls to grow up to be “liars and killers” like she was – and still is, occasionally? That is what Natasha would ask, and what she would see as the implication in people calling her a role model!

If Natasha wanted young girls to turn out like her, I do not think she would be letting Lila Barton draw pictures of butterflies or encouraging her in other traditionally “girly” pursuits. Considering Natasha supports the child in these activities, I think she wants Lila to turn out more like Laura than like her!

All of this is not to imply, readers, that I think young girls should not admire Natasha Romanoff. I admire and like her quite a lot, actually! However, I would be much happier if people allowed girls to admire and look up to Natasha for the right reason.

That reason is this: Natasha was raised to be a “liar and a killer.” But one day, she chose to be something else. She chose to do the right thing when she had been brainwashed and programmed into believing that making such a choice was to choose weakness. Despite years of training and programming, Natasha did something her handlers had believed was impossible for her to do: she made a choice of her own free will.

And that choice was to be someone good, someone who was not the “liar and killer” her handlers had spent so much time and energy molding her to be.

In making this choice, Natasha found herself. She left the Darkness behind and entered the Light. This is an extremely brave choice to make, something girls who admire Natasha should understand. Her choice had to have scared her to death on some level. Going from complete Darkness to bright sunlight for someone in her position is quite the change. But she did it anyway.

She was alone, seemingly, when she made this decision. But, as we know, she was not alone after she made her choice. No one who makes the choice to leave the Darkness for the Light ever walks alone; they are always provided with a guide of some sort. In Natasha’s case, her guide was Clint Barton, a.k.a. Hawkeye. This is the reason that they are best friends in the films. Hawkeye was there for her when she needed someone to help her learn to see in the brightly lit world she had just entered. Let’s face it; you are going to stumble around when you blink a lot. And Natasha probably did a lot of “blinking” in order to get her feet under her after she chose her new path. (So she was very lucky she had a guide with the eyes of a Hawk!)

All this talk about Natasha “learning to make choices for herself,” is from people who are not looking at her properly. Natasha has already made a series of independent choices, starting with the one where she said to herself, “I will do what I know, in the law written on my heart, is right,” and followed through. She then made the choice to join up with Clint and follow him into SHIELD. In making that decision, she chose to protect people. Then she chose to become an Avenger when Loki tried to take over the world. In The Winter Soldier, she chose to help Cap stop HYDRA, even when it meant letting the world see her gruesome past sins. After this painful episode, she decided to be an Avenger full-time.

Hulk SMASH

These are all very big choices that Natasha has made in Marvel’s movies, perhaps without truly realizing the full implications of what she was choosing. And in Age of Ultron, Natasha made another big choice. She chose to fall in love with Bruce Banner.

Think about it. She was very likely trained to believe that love of any kind was weakness. But she fell in love with Hawkeye as a brother figure, she who had never known even the love of sisters, since the Red Room violently discouraged the sisterly instincts of the Widows it manufactured. (Check out the Agent Carter episodes on the Red Room to learn more about that.) Then Natasha found sisterly love with her battle brother’s wife Laura, and learned to love like an aunt by interacting with the Barton children.

But with her own ability to have children gone, how could she possibly find love with a man? If she fell in love with a man who wanted children, how would he react to the news that she simply could not have any? How would she take being married to the man of her dreams but being without the ability to make their marriage a family life?

So she shut herself off from romantic love. “Love is for children, I owe him [Clint] a debt,” she told Loki in The Avengers. It was not a lie; it was a way of protecting herself and others from disappointment. Loki thought he had found a woman like Sif: a warrior female who loved battle but who would also willingly surrender her warrior duties to have a family at the first opportunity of finding real love. He never realized that Natasha did not have any such designs for her future, for the simple reason that others had denied her that dream long ago. The only thing she felt she had left was her job at SHIELD, and later, her job as an Avenger.

But in Age of Ultron, Natasha did fall in love – with Bruce Banner. And he could not have children, either, so it was a total win-win scenario for the both of them, right?

Sadly no, it was not, and Bruce knew it. Even if he could not articulate it, he knew it. Natasha, once she lets go of her past and starts thinking the way she should, will realize that normalcy is not something unattainable for her. She could easily fall in love with a guy, marry him, and adopt a few children. There is nothing abnormal about that process and, as I said above, I think Natasha would make one hell of an adoptive mother.

Yes, readers, Bruce also left Natasha because she threw him down a hole to awaken the Hulk so they could “finish the job.” Right when Bruce was perfectly prepared, for once in his life, to run off and leave the “job” unfinished. But I do not think Bruce hates her for it. The Hulk certainly did not look furious when he shut down the comm. on the Aveng-jet. But he did look very sad.

Why?

Because he and Bruce both know that they have no room in their life for anything or anyone normal. Bruce cannot be a father. It just will not work. Hulk cannot be a father either. There is nowhere in the world they can go without risking hurting someone. They can never give Natasha what they both know she deserves and is almost ready for: a husband and a family.

Even though the fact that Bruce and Natasha cannot have children is something they have in common, Bruce would not be the greatest adoptive dad in the world. The Hulk wants his say in everything in Bruce’s life. Bruce and the Hulk may be able to avoid being a threat to Natasha, but what about children? The Hulk has a soft spot for kids, sure, but not on a daily basis!

Natasha has not quite worked that out yet, from what we can tell. She fell in love with a man, for the first time in her life, and she knows that Bruce shut off the comm. to protect her. But – as of the end of Age of Ultron – Natasha may not yet truly realize just why and what he is protecting her from. Bruce can never lead a normal or semi-normal life. Never. Until the day he dies, he will always be contending for physical/mental space with “the big guy.” There is not room in his earthly life for anyone else.

But Natasha can have a mostly normal life, and Bruce knows it. He also knows that denying her that opportunity for such a life would make him just as bad as her old Red Room handlers. And he loves her too much to do that to her. The best thing Bruce can do for her – the only thing he can do for her – is to let Natasha go and find someone she can live a normal life with. He had to do the same thing for Betty Ross. If anything, Natasha needs the opportunity more than Thunderbolt Ross’ daughter ever did.

Before I sign off, readers, there is one more thing I should say about Natasha’s role in Age of Ultron. It was a good role, and viewed as she should be, Natasha Romanoff is a character any girl can admire and enjoy. She deserves that admiration, not for her skills or her knowledge, but for her decision to do the right thing, no matter how much it hurts her. Hopefully, she will keep up the good work. We will have to wait to see the end of Civil War to know just how well she gets off in Phase Three of Marvel’s film franchise.

As a fan of Natasha’s, I sure hope she makes the right choice again in Civil War. Otherwise, she will just be left with more guilt and sorrow. I do not wish that on her or anyone else, readers.

Excelsior!

The Mithril Guardian

Captain America The Winter Soldier