You would think I had said my piece about Captain America: Civil War, readers. Each main character has a descriptive post here on Thoughts on the Edge of Forever, and even the minor players have a post dedicated to them. Altogether, I have almost written myself dry on this subject. But there are a few final things which I want to discuss before I put Civil War to bed.
In the previous post we covered Zemo’s character and his plot to destroy the Avengers pretty thoroughly, but there was something about his plan which did not make it into that article. Zemo, as I said, believes that he has won and destroyed the Avengers, while the U.N.’s apparent victory has turned into a defeat after Cap’s rescue of his teammates from the Raft.
But, some ask, what about that battle at the airport? Surely we see the futility of it now. We see how Zemo played the Avengers here, having them fight over Bucky to destroy one another in the Leipzig Airport. We see now how empty Team Cap’s quest to stop Zemo was, since the evil commando did not go to Siberia to awaken the five Winter Soldiers but to kill them and our heroes. This battle is part of his victory, temporary though it will be.
Actually, readers, the airport battle had nothing to do with Zemo’s plan. It had nothing to do with Bucky, either, or the deaths of Tony Stark’s parents. In fact, this battle would never have happened except for the U.N.’s interference. Zemo’s original plan was to have Iron Man and Captain America fight over Bucky after he confirmed that HYDRA had used the Winter Soldier to assassinate the Starks. The rest of the Avengers would have fallen like dominos afterward.
You see, if the other Avengers had been at the Siberian HYDRA base when the video was shown, several of them would have pulled Tony off of Cap and Bucky while the rest went after Zemo. They would then have forced Iron Man to calm down before deciding what was to be done with Bucky. Probably, they would have simply let him go.
Tony would not have forgiven Bucky on the spot, of course. And Bucky would have accepted that, feeling it was too small a price to pay for his actions while he was under HYDRA’s control. Cap and the others would have kept the two of them apart until some sort of reconciliation could be reached. After that, while Tony and Bucky would not have been friends, Tony would at least have been able to tolerate him.
So in order for his plan to work, Zemo needed to confront Tony, Steve, and Bucky privately. He needed to separate them from the rest of the team and show them something that would enrage Stark. We will never know how he would have managed that feat alone because this part of his plan was handled for him by an outside force: the Sokovia Accords.
That was the causus belli in the German airport. Bucky was the catalyst and, from his point of view, wracked with honest guilt as he was he probably believed that he was the reason for the fight. But he was not the proximate cause of the airport battle. He was barely the secondary cause.
As for Team Cap’s quest to save the world from Zemo and the five Winter Soldiers, that was in fact a success. Zemo is locked up as of the film’s finale, which means that he cannot hurt anyone else. Even if he is only incarcerated for a little while he is off of the streets at the moment and that, as Martha Stewart liked to say, “Is a good thing.”
The other five Winter Soldiers will never cause anyone grief ever again. Even though Zemo is the one who killed them, the fact remains that they are not going to be able to turn Earth into a giant gulag or North Korean prison camp. And they are not going to be missed. Team Cap’s mission was, essentialy, accomplished by Zemo’s capture and the deaths of the other Winter Soldiers. It was not pretty and it did not go the way Team Cap planned, but the results are unquestionably healthy for the human race.
Zemo’s ultimate plan also did not work the way he intended, nor does it take away the fact that the fight at the airport was over the Accords, not Bucky and his checkered past. If Zemo had not put his plan in motion at this time and if Bucky had remained hidden, then the airport battle would still have occurred. The catalyst would have been different but the results would have been roughly the same. The Avengers would have split along the same lines; the only difference is that T’Challa would not have been in the battle.
If you are still unconvinced, readers, please consider this: four of the Avengers signed the Sokovia Accords, thereby agreeing to go wherever the U.N. council would send them and to follow their orders to a T. Four other Avengers refused to sign the Accords. They also refused to retire the day after the bill was signed into international law. They did not say it in so many words in the debates prior to Zemo’s bombing of the U.N., but they were thinking it.
Readers, it is possible to force a soldier out of the military, or a cop out of the police force. However, neither of these types of men will ever lose their military or policing instincts. Some will try to fit into other patterns of life, say by becoming a school teacher or an office drone. But others will find a way to keep using their skills. They will find a profession that allows them to keep doing what they do best and which will still provide them with opportunities to protect people the way that they were trained to do in these services.
This is one of the areas where the U.N. miscalculated. They believed that they could force the Anti-Accords Avengers to retire if they did not sign the document. But what if Cap, Sam, Clint, and Wanda, while not registered under the Sokovia Accords, started a P.I. service called – oh, I don’t know – Heroes for Hire? It would be a purely legal business where they could still use their skills to help people. Could the Accords stop them from doing this? Even if they could force Wanda and Cap to register as superhumans, the U.N. would be hard-pressed to put private citizens in prison for running a lawful business.
The Avengers are very creative people. The bureaucrats in the U.N. are as imaginative as stumps. They thought they had the anti-Accords Avengers over a barrel but that is foolish. Without the bombing in Vienna, Cap and the others would have found a legitimate way to stay in the game until the next world-ending crisis appeared.
This is the second mistake on the U.N.’s part. They want to control the Avengers so that they can have their own private force of superheroes at their beck and call. They want slaves who will give their political careers the sheen of glamour and legitimacy.
What they forget is that, thanks to SHIELD’s meddling with the Tesseract in The Avengers, Earth has landed on the cosmic map. Tapping into the Cube’s power alerted the more advanced peoples of the universe to the fact that humanity, though comparatively primitive and childish technologically speaking, was growing up. Having noticed that, they might then enslave us or think we could be taught to do other things. Or be trained as expendable foot soldiers. Or manipulated for our resources, or be scientifically reengineered for other alien purposes and whims, the way that Marvel’s Kree tried to reengineer humanity into an obedient super army centuries ago.
Just because the Chitauri were defeated and Ultron was destroyed, this does not mean the universe has forgotten that an Asgardian made a grab for Earth. If an Asgardian thinks that the Earth has value, that will turn everybody’s head – and not all those heads will be filled with pleasant thoughts. We in the audience know this because we have been fed glimpses of the Mad Titan Thanos throughout the Avengers’ films and the Guardians of the Galaxy movies. We know that Loki’s invasion attempt turned heads on the galactic scene.
But Marvel’s United Nations has not had these hints given to them, so they do not know this. The Avengers suspect it. Tony’s vision in the Sokovian HYDRA base still gives him the heebie-jeebies. He is not as frantic to put a “suit of armor around the world” as he was in Age of Ultron, but that does not mean he does not know that something is out there, waiting, watching, and ready to pounce on Earth when Earth least expects it.
Cap is not ignorant of this, either, but he needed no Scarlet Witch-induced vision to tell him of this threat. He remembers Thor’s words on the Helicarrier in The Avengers; that SHIELD’s testing of the Tesseract was a “signal to all the Realms that the Earth is ready for a higher form of war.” And if that signal has been broadcast to the universe at large then, sooner or later, someone is going to come looking for war. Cap is a soldier, a warrior. He knows war better than almost any of the other Avengers. He knows peace is only won through strength and constant vigilance. Just because he has to spend most of his time defeating Earth-bound threats does not mean he is not watching the skies at night, wondering when the hammer from the stars will fall.
So both Iron Man and Captain America are aware of the threats from space. Because the Chitauri have not returned and no other alien force has come to Earth, the U.N. has fallen for this illusion of safety and gone back to “business as usual.” Disregarding the potential cosmic threats, they have attempted to leash the Avengers to their left wrist via red tape in order to secure their own power.
This leads us to the U.N.’s third mistake: they have forgotten Thor and the Hulk. The U.N. knows that Thor is not on Earth and that Bruce Banner is in the wind. Neither they nor the Avengers have been able to find him. Though the team might have tried to discover Banner’s location, they stopped searching as of Civil War. It is doubtful that very many people outside of the Avengers know where Thor has gone and why he has left Earth. The team would not want to start a panic, of course, so it makes sense that they would not tell too many people Thor’s suspicion that they are being used as pawns in an elaborate, galactic game of power.
This ignorance on the part of the U.N. is also fed by the fact that they do not expect either Thor or the Hulk to return. They do not know Bruce Banner or the Hulk the way that the Avengers do. The Avengers may have stopped searching for Bruce but they have neither abandoned him nor given up hope of ever seeing him again. They know he is out there somewhere and that, when another extinction level threat rears its ugly head, Bruce will come running to help them.
They also fully expect Thor to return at some point, either when he has found the answers to his questions or when evil should come knocking on Earth’s door again. They know their two heavy hitters have not abandoned them; they have taken a leave of absence for an indefinite period of time and they will return when they are needed.
Like the Avengers, we expect to see Thor and the Hulk in Infinity War and its sequel. We know where they have gone and why, we know they will come back. The U.N. is so busy exulting in their faux power that they have not considered it. They have also not considered the ramifications of trying to force an alien prince and “a thousand pound green rage monster” to do their bidding. The odds here are in Thor and the Hulk’s favor; the U.N. has about as much chance of leashing them as it would have of chaining lightning or catching the wind. And look at how dismally the U.N.’s attempt to bend the rest of the Avengers to their collective will has gone so far!
The fourth mistake the U.N. made was shown in the first post-credits scene in Civil War. While they believe they have conquered the Avengers, the fact is that they have not. The U.N. forgot that Black Widow is alive and adept at disappearing; she will not be found unless she wants to be found. Bucky is still alive, as is Cap, and he is a man who does not leave his friends behind. He frees his teammates from their confinement in the Raft before the film ends. At the same time this occurs, Tony suddenly stops being amenable to orders, a “variable” in their equation which they did not anticipate. And without his friends in government custody, the U.N. has lost the greater part of its leverage against Tony Stark.
This means the six members of Team Cap are now free agents. They are watching for acts of injustice so that they can pounce upon the perpetrators and stop them from harming innocent people. They are waiting for the chance to come out of the shadows so that they may do their job in broad daylight once again.
This should make the people in the U.N. uneasy. How many illegal operations have they been running on the side while “governing” or “representing” their countries in the U.N.? What skeletons are in their closets which Cap’s Secret Avengers may discover and bring to light? What will be the price they will ultimately pay for trying to make the mighty Avengers an extension of their collective will?
The U.N. comprehends Cap and the Avengers as little as Zemo does. They are selfish people trying to understand selfless heroes. It is impossible for them to accomplish this feat because a selfish man, in his self-absorption, has lost his ability to imagine anything greater than himself. The selfless man does not surrender his imagination or intellect by yielding his self-will but, in his forgetfulness of himself, he becomes able to “see the bigger picture” and to recognize Someone far greater than he is.
Another mistake the bureaucrats at the U.N. make is that they believe the people of this planet to be a resource to be used, a species to be managed, drunk with power as they are.
The people are coming or will come to realize this. In the Marvel Cinematic Universe this means that, while their governments signed the Accords, the people themselves did not. The Secret Avengers are left apparently friendless in the world, but that is not true at all. They have T’Challa sustaining them as he shelters Bucky from the world’s prying eyes. They have Sharon Carter waiting in the wings to give them aid. They have Natasha Romanoff as an ally. They have, possibly, Nick Fury and his associates feeding them information and/or resources. They have the support of Clint and Scott’s families, who believe in and trust them (though for Scott’s ex-wife and her new husband, that may be problematic). They have, perhaps, Hank Pym and his daughter as allies (this is, again, the author’s own conjecture).
Most importantly, the Secret Avengers have the support of ordinary men and women who know they owe them. These people may not be able to express how they know that the Accords are evil, but they instinctively understand that any treaty of this sort is wrong. Thus they have not turned their backs on the Avengers.
Remember, readers, that the U.N. does not represent the United States. It barely acknowledges our interests in the world. Nor does the U.N. represent everyone in Nigeria, the rest of Africa, Australia, Europe, Asia, or South America. In Marvel they don’t even represent all of Sokovia. The penny ante dictators and politicians in the U.N. who have come to love power forget that the millions of citizens they supposedly serve have loyalties of their own. They forget, in fact, that the people often do have a greater devotion to truth and virtue than they do.
The Secret Avengers do not lack for allies. They will not be looking for them, but they will soon find them, in places and at times when they least expect them. As selfless heroes more concerned with others than themselves, they will be surprised when a storeowner lies to the authorities and says they have not seen anyone matching the Secret Avengers’ description. This will be in spite of the fact that they are actually hiding within the store at the very moment these authorities are questioning the storeowner. The team will be surprised when a stranger, upon recognizing them, offers them monetary or medical aid while promising not to turn them in to the government. They will be surprised when someone who knows they are the Secret Avengers flies them to a place they need to be and promises to throw the authorities off their scent.
In short, they will be surprised by the generosity of ordinary men and women who know that they owe a handful of extraordinary people their very lives. This will be their edge against the tyrants in the U.N. in Infinity War and its sequel. This will be their reason for fighting Thanos. This is why they are heroes.
I am going to leave it here for today, readers, and come back with the final points about Captain America: Civil War tomorrow. This is a long farewell, I know, but I hope it will be worth it.