Tag Archives: William Hurt

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 – The Final Questions, Part 1

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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.

Related imageJust 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.

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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).

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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.

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Captain America: Civil War – Helmut Zemo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But they are all alive.

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

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

‘Nuff said, readers. ‘Nuff said.

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Captain America: Civil War – Vision

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Sometime back I was watching Captain America: Civil War – again. During this viewing I noticed something very interesting and rather disturbing.

At the beginning of the movie, as the battle in Lagos ends, we watch Crossbones blow up three floors of a skyscraper. We are treated to a view of citizens huddled in the bazaar in terror, while Cap and Wanda gaze upward in horror as they realize that people have died in a blast which was much bigger than they anticipated. Steve calls Falcon and tells him to get emergency responders on the scene as fast as possible, while Wanda collapses to her knees in grief…

And then we cut to Tony having a public therapy session with a room full of his best friends – and however many people are watching his speech on television, youtube, facebook, snapchat, and I have no idea what else.

It hit me while watching this that these scenes are very jarring in the way that real life actually is. Here, Cap and Wanda are standing amidst Crossbones’ explosive carnage. Then we cut to Tony, who is having a public psychotherapy session with thousands of his closest friends. The two scenes are light years apart. One shows mourning for the loss of life while the other demonstrates an intellectual distance from real mourning, real sorrow, and real death.

Now, Cap and Wanda did not intentionally kill twenty-six people in Lagos. This is something which no one in the movie – and no one reviewing the film – pauses to note. It was an unfortunate, heart-wrenching, horrible accident. Miles and miles away, physically and mentally, Tony is mourning a mistake he made in his teens. He did not say good-bye to his mother the day she died. There is no real comparison for the two scenes.

Allow me to explain. There is no one in that MIT auditorium – or very few people – who have dealt with what Cap and Wanda are dealing with in Lagos. This includes Tony. I do not mean that he has never seen anyone die before. He has, and he has helped some of those people die. And I mean the terrorists and HYDRA agents when I say this, not the innocents caught in the crossfire during a battle. [Author rolls eyes at the insinuation of the pack of idiots who believe otherwise.] Tony actively avoids killing innocent people on purpose, just like the rest of the Avengers do.

What I mean is that Stark has not dealt with death. He has not accepted it. This is made manifestly clear by the fact that he is still not reconciled to the deaths of his parents. He has not “processed [his] grief” over his losses. Translation: he does not want to admit that he was a total brat to them on the last day they were alive, when he could have treated them with love and respect instead. Well, yeah, Tony, you could have done that throughout your entire life, too!

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This leaves him at a distinct disadvantage when dealing with the deaths of others, such as the son of the woman who emotionally ambushes him in the back hall of MIT. Tony is insulated, just like those kids in the auditorium, from facing reality thanks to the belief – which they and Tony share – that technology can cure every problem and conquer every aberration. This includes, naturally enough, death. It is the one thing which we all run from on a daily basis. Most of us do not admit it, realize it, or are really prepared to face it someday. Only the very, very lucky are capable of these things.

Cap and Wanda do not have this cocoon. Thanks to Crossbones and other villains, they have both seen death before. Wanda lost her parents at age ten, a more tender age than Tony’s presumable sixteen, when HYDRA murdered the Starks. And she sensed her twin’s death in Age of Ultron. She has seen death up close and personal throughout her young life and properly mourned for those she has lost.

Cap fought in World War II. He saw the Grim Reaper in action plenty of times during that conflict, and he has seen him in the battles from Loki’s invasion attempt onward. He has mourned his losses and accepted the deaths of his friends, just like Wanda has. This means that neither Cap nor Wanda is insulated from death. They have seen it too many times not to know what it looks like. And so they are not insulated from the pain and sorrow that come with it, either, two other things which Tony and the MIT students have never truly faced.

I bring this all up in relation to Vision for the simple reason that, like Tony and these MIT students, he is insulated. Unlike Tony and many others in that auditorium, he is not willfully insulated. He is a new being, a child genius living in a synthetic adult body. He is, in a word, innocent, and this is because he lacks real-world experience.

This is why he backs the Accords. Having no human experience prior to this past year of his life, he has no frame of reference for such mysteries as sorrow, love, death, grief, and pain. He also has no firsthand experience with these things. The only way he understands them is through science, mathematics, theory, and the reports of others.

The former do not get you very far in this fallen, mysterious world, readers. Reports are not equivalent to personal experience, either. They are simply that – arid, dusty records.

Yes, there are things that can be scientifically identified and defined and mathematically calculated in this world. We also have theories of all kinds coming out of our ears. But – as a for instance – can you seriously look inside yourselves, readers, and say that all your thoughts are the results of chemical reactions in your brains? That the reason you are thinking about a great piece of art, a wonderful song, or this very movie we are discussing right now, is all the result of a series of chemical reactions in your bodies/brains?

That is utterly impossible, and if you are honest with yourselves, you will see that. One can say they feel hunger because the body’s chemical reactions are telling one’s brain that the stomach is empty and needs filling. But one cannot say he is contemplating a movie simply because a series of neurons are firing in his brain. The neurons firing are only an indication that he is thinking. They do not prove what he is thinking about, and anyone who claims otherwise is either being extremely unreasonable or making a complicated sales pitch.

Vision, however, has not recognized this truth. He is a totally synthetic being. His body is made of vibranium, so all its components are mere mimics of the human body. His brain and personality, although based off of the previous Stark butler, the human Edwin Jarvis, were once a computer system named after said butler. Nothing about him is natural, physically speaking. He is a synthetic, not a “real,” person.

But this does not prevent him from wanting to become a real person, just as the Velveteen Rabbit wanted to become a real rabbit. Vision is trying to learn how to be human. This is proven when he phases into Wanda’s room, thinking that the door being open is a sign that she is not in the room, is open to having guests, or something like that. He never does get to explain why he thought that, because the door was open, it was okay for him to ghost straight into the room.

Whether or not Vision picks up on Thunderbolt Ross’ thinly veiled threats is hard to tell. One would think he would have detected the belligerence in the man’s tone, but without any previous experience with bullies, it must not have clicked that the Secretary of State was being a controlling jerk. So it is not surprising when Vision decides to support the Accords, citing the modern philosophy that “strength incites challenge, challenge incites conflict, and conflict…breeds catastrophe.”

If that were the case, then no one would ever get anywhere. You cannot live without some inherent strength, readers. Babies cannot grow up to become children who become adults if they do not get stronger as they grow. The fact that some are born physically stronger than others is irrelevant; true strength comes from the will, a product of the mind, not the body.

This makes conflict an inescapable fact of life, since we are fallen creatures prone to sin. Pride, the root of all the world’s ailments, is always one of our weak points – especially if we believe ourselves “the best and the brightest” person/people in the room, and that we “know what is best” for everyone else.

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Vision has never been sick in his short life, nor has he ever been proud. And the only one he knows of who could directly challenge his strength was Ultron. Thor, along with the Hulk (possibly), might have been threats to him. No one else on Earth, normal human or otherwise, can hold a candle to him, physically speaking. Aware of this, Vision does not want to use his strength for the wrong things. That is why he is an Avenger, after all.

He also understands that not everyone trusts him. The Avengers are the exception because they know him. They may have their issues with him, but they do trust and appreciate him. The rest of the world…not so much.

This is the other reason why Vision accedes to the Accords. In order to convince the public that he is not evil, he agrees to be shackled to the U.N. as a lapdog. What he and none of the other pro-Accords Avengers realize is that he is not a lapdog. None of the Avengers are. They are all individuals with free will. They have all made a commitment to, as Vision so eloquently stated in Ultron, defend life. They are the good guys, and Vision seeks to mollify the suspicious into believing this truth.

He needs to brush up on his Tolkien. With the notable exception of T’Chaka, almost everyone behind the Accords is a Saruman. They want to control everything, to be worshipped in place of God. Some are trapped in their own rhetoric while others are megalomaniacs hiding behind the cloak of rationality. Like Saruman, they do not impose their collective will on the Avengers by absolute force at first. They impose it by traitorous whisperings through their own version of Gríma Wormtongue, a.k.a. Thunderbolt Ross. And because Vision is completely innocent, he falls for the lies because they appear coherent. They “look fair and feel foul.” (The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring.)

Vision is not big on feelings right now, as he still relies on science to understand the world around him. The arguments for the Accords are not sane, of course. Evil never has been sane. And do not gasp in surprise that I said evil in relation to Thunderbolt Ross and the U.N. Was or was not Saruman evil? He had his puppet Wormtongue poison the mind and will of King Théoden of Rohan and his niece, Éowyn. Then he invaded and tried to destroy Rohan when his attempt at subtlety was foiled by Gandalf. He tried to kill Frodo after the hobbit spared him, despite the damage the fallen wizard had wreaked on the Shire.

Saruman. Was. Evil. So are many of the bureaucrats and politicians behind the Sokovia Accords. So is Thunderbolt Ross.

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The next time we see Vision, he is trying to cheer Wanda up while keeping her confined in the Avengers’ Compound. The scene is cute on a number of levels, not least for those of us who know the history of the romance the two shared in the comics. (They were married for a couple of decades in the books.) In a way, this scene is reminiscent of many a high school drama story: Vision is the typical geeky science whizz kid trying to impress the most beautiful girl in school. He absolutely adores Wanda, who does not seem ready to reciprocate his budding feelings, although she definitely likes him and considers him a good friend. He did save her life, remember. It is hard not to like someone for doing that.

After this awkward, then sweet, then awkward moment, Vision disappears for a while. When Clint arrives at the Compound to pick up Wanda and take her to Germany to meet up with the rest of Team Cap, his distraction interrupts Vision’s version of sleeping. Turns out androids can sleep standing up. Or, in Vision’s case, he sleeps by hovering above the floor in an upright position.

Suitably distracted by Clint’s explosives and the resulting fire, Vision leaves to see to the problem – allowing Clint to enter the room, set up a trap for him, and try to get Wanda out of the building as fast as he possibly can.

Vision is understandably unhappy about this. I mean, friends do not set off pyrotechnics outside their friends’ house in order to lure them out on a wild goose chase. And friends’ do not steal their friends’ crush.

Without doing a full review, we already know that Clint has no romantic inclination toward Wanda at all. They are friends; mentor and student. Her brother died to save Hawkeye’s life, and he owes him for that. The best way to pay the debt is to take care of his sister. Plus, Hawkeye convinced her to become an Avenger. That makes her his responsibility in situations like this.

I am not entirely sure that Vision sees it that way. He is learning to be human by degrees, and I think part of the reason he got a little testy is the same reason that a jealous teenager with a crush would. Wanda is his idol, and that means NOBODY ELSE gets to touch her, even if she lets them.

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Getting trapped in an electromagnetic field probably did not help his mood. So when Clint has to give Wanda another pep talk, Vision has time to escape his trap and turn the extraction into a fight.

It is actually a bit terrifying – and I am not saying that simply because Hawkeye is one of my favorite Marvel characters. If Vision’s manner of stopping a friend is this harsh, then I would really hate to see him pull out all the stops in a fight with normal humans. The results would definitely not be pretty.

Vision incapacitates Clint easily, of course, stating the obvious fact that the archer is no match for him. “I know,” Hawkeye answers. “But she is.”

This makes Vision look at Wanda, who is drawing up quite a bit of power in her hands. “Vision, let him go,” she says, “I’m leaving.”

“I can’t let you do that,” Vision replies, totally ignoring the fact that Hawkeye is very close to falling unconscious in his tight, though not life-threatening (presumably), grip.

Wanda is not going to ignore that. And she shows it by making Vision drop him.

Vision is literally shocked by this. To his mind, Wanda has done the inconceivable by challenging him. Her ability to commandeer his powers notwithstanding, she has turned her back on the Accords he swore to uphold. It is likely that he feels she is turning her back on him by doing this as well, not to mention throwing away any chance of convincing “the public” that she is not dangerous. She is manifestly dangerous.

But so is Vision. So is Hawkeye. So is Captain America. So are Tony, Natasha, Scott Lang, Spider-Man, War Machine – all of the Avengers are dangerous. As Gandalf pointed out to Gimli in The Two Towers, they are “beset with dangers” because they are so perilous in and of themselves. It is the when and the where and the how they choose to be hazardous which makes them a different kind of dangerous than HYDRA, Zemo, or Ultron. They only become dangerous when it is necessary to save the lives of others or to protect their own lives. That is why Wanda decides to be perilous here and now. Vision was seriously hurting Clint, and she was not going to let him be hurt any further than he already was.

She is also done with letting “the public,” Ross, the media, and the U.N. hurt her. In his attempt to make her turn away from her choice and back (he thinks) to him, Vision tells Wanda, “If you do this, they will never stop being afraid of you.”

Wanda has one of the best comebacks I have heard out of a character in years: “I can’t control their fear, only my own!” Vision is letting the fears of others control him.

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Okay, you say, but what about Wanda going all-out in the airport battle? She does go all-out, but she does not go wild. She fights in a very controlled, methodical manner. This is because she is done being afraid of herself and what she can do. That does not mean she is going to go completely insane using her powers. If that were the case, she would have done more than throw Natasha into a trailer. She would have hauled off and seriously injured her. She did not.

As for her attacks on the other members of Team Iron, let’s face it: metal suits are great protection. That means the bar for causing actual damage to the person wearing the suit is pretty high. Remember, ten cars landing on his body only gave Tony “multiple contusions.” Those are not broken bones, those are bruises. They might be big and painful, but they are not going to rob him of life and limb. They just make it uncomfortable for him to move, as he is left really sore by the hits.

None of Wanda’s tactics when she fought War Machine, Iron Man, and Black Panther qualified as deadly because they were wearing very good protective suits. She could throw plane parts and cars at them all day long, and all they would have afterward were A LOT of big bruises. And equally sore egos.

But Vision cannot really claim the same thing, now can he?

We will get to that in a moment. For now, let us inspect the minutiae of the fight after Vision joins it. Is it not interesting that, in order to bring Team Cap to a halt, Vision ends up drawing the proverbial line in the sand? “I dare ya ta cross this line!” Bugs Bunny used to say.

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“Captain,” Vision says after lasering a line in the concrete, “I know you believe in what you are doing. But for the greater good, you must stand down.” Okay, Vision, but who decides what the greater good is? You, or the U.N.? I would think that, if you could have your druthers, you would let Cap and the others go stop Zemo. Right?

Oh, but wait. You signed away your right to choose when you acquiesced to the Accords. So I guess that means you have to do what you are told, even when it is something you do not want to do. Hmmm. You did not factor that into your equations, did you?

One of Vision’s first acts after Scott Lang grows to Giant-Man is to save T’Challa from a bus the big guy kicked. Very cool move and reminiscent of the comics, where Vision could and would use his density shifting ability to block such attacks. I always thought that was a neat power to have. But he later uses this same ability on Giant-Man’s ribs. Ow, that is kind of mean. After disorienting Scott in this way, he flies through him and out his back. Seeing Bucky and Cap running toward the jet, Vision decides to stop them by dropping a control tower in their path.

The most interesting thing here is the look on his face. For the first time ever, Vision actually looks angry. Why is he angry? And, more to the point, does he even realize he is experiencing a human emotion?

It does not appear that he does realize this. Following this attempt by Vision to stop the guys Wanda, in an astonishing display of strength, holds up the tower so that Cap and Bucky can get to the jet. For those of you wondering why she could handle this and not Crossbones’ Viking funeral, the tower was collapsing, not exploding. There is a BIG difference between those two things. Then War Machine hits her with his sonic and she lets go of the tower, which collapses all the way.

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But why was Vision angry when he shot the tower’s base?

There were probably several reasons. For one, Cap is among the most reasonable people that Vision knows. That he should persist in what Vision believes is an error to the point of engaging in combat with his pro-Accords teammates must have made the android pretty cranky. Like a teenager insisting his father is wrong, Vision lashes out at Cap without seriously examining his own position to see if he actually is in the right.

It is somewhat similar to Vision’s own comparison of the Accords to an equation. Say someone asks you to add ten and fifteen. But instead of hearing the person say ten and fifteen, you hear ten and sixteen. You therefore add these two numbers together and get twenty-six. The person who asked you to add the numbers hears your answer and says, “That’s not right.” You say it is, but you forget to mention that you added ten and sixteen, which makes twenty-six. The person who asked you to add the numbers looks at you like you are crazy and maintains that you have the wrong answer to his question.

So you do the equation again, without changing the numbers. You get the same answer and tell it to the person who gave you the equation. He still says the answer is wrong. Now you start to get mad as you redo the equation, still using ten and sixteen instead of ten and fifteen, as you were asked. The entire scenario devolves into a vicious argument as you continue to claim that twenty-six is the answer, while the other person continues to say it is not.

This is Vision’s problem right here. Although Cap states the parameters of the Accords in the plainest language possible in the Compound, Vision turns the simple addition problem into a far more complex equation. He does not do this on purpose; he does this because he is following the modern idea of rationalism. This rationalism is a false equation. But because it adds up, Vision does not realize this. He is adding ten and sixteen, not ten and fifteen, and does not see his mistake.

So the fact that Cap and the rest of the Avengers on Team Red, White, and Blue keep insisting he has the wrong answer makes Vision angry enough to stop being careful. This is why he knocks over the control tower. Although he does not realize it, Vision is acting like a young child who is too angry to listen to the teacher explain to him why he got the equation wrong.

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Next we have the scene of Vision touching down beside Wanda as she recovers from War Machine’s sonic blast. It is obvious here that the writers are going down the same road as the comics. Comments from the Russo brothers about Avengers: Infinity War have confirmed that Vision and Wanda are going to be doing the Romance Two-Step in the next film. This scene could not be a clearer hint.

Then we come to War Machine yelling in Vision’s ear, telling him to get Sam off his back. Vision turns and looks up. He sees Sam, focuses visually on the wing pack, and fires his laser.

But even before Falcon dodges the shot, Vision’s aim is off. Instead of hitting Sam’s wing pack, he shoots higher than Falcon’s previous position and hits Rhodey’s arc reactor. This results in Rhodey tumbling out of the sky to land in the dirt two hundred feet below. The impact shatters several vertebrae and leaves Rhodey at least partially paralyzed.

Vision, we notice, looked pretty angry when he fired that shot. And War Machine was the last one to attack Wanda. Was this a case of unconscious payback?

I highly doubt it, for one reason and one reason only: Vision was looking at the thrusters on Sam’s wing pack when he fired. He was not looking at Rhodey at all. So why did he miss? His concern and budding love for Wanda? That was part of it. Another, bigger part was simple irritation. How do we feel when we are getting yelled at and told to do something right now?

Here is another teenage allusion: Mom asks teenage daughter to take out the trash. Teenage daughter is on the sofa texting her BFF. She says she will get the trash in a minute. Two minutes later, Mom reminds daughter to get the trash, since daughter has not done what she was asked. Daughter shouts back that she will. Five minutes later, Mom is yelling at the daughter to get off the phone and take out the trash right now.

Furious, teenage daughter jumps up off the couch, goes to the kitchen, yanks the bag out of the trash can, ties it up, and heads outside. She wrenches open the back door, stomps outside, and slams the door shut behind her. Later, a crack is found in the older, weather-beaten door jamb, and it is deduced that the teenage daughter put it there in her fit of pique when Mom told her to take out the trash. Does that sound like what Vision did after having Rhodey snarling in his ear two or three times?

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Yep, it does.

In this scenario, Vision missed for the same reason the teenage daughter in the hypothetical scenario above cracked the door jamb. He was focusing on Wanda, on being there for her in her injured state. Then Rhodey begins yelling at him to take out Falcon. Of course, being occupied with Wanda, Vision does not automatically turn and fire at Sam. So Rhodey yells again, louder and more insistently. Like an irritated teenager, Vision turns and shoots in Sam’s general direction. It was a close shot. But close only counts with horseshoes and hand grenades. And in combat, close in not always good enough – especially where the lives of your teammates and friends are concerned.

There is also this to consider: up until Rhodey told Vision to take out Sam, Vision had not shot anyone in the battle. He had not shot anyone in any previous battle in the movie, either. He shot the concrete, he knocked over the control tower, he rammed Ant-Man, whom he could have shot when the other was ant-sized….

But he never actually shot any of the members of Team Cap. Then Rhodey tells him to make Sam’s wing pack a glider. He was telling Vision to actually shoot someone, and shoot to harm.

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Vision has never shot at another human being before. The only other person Vision ever shot was Ultron, and he does not count because he had no soul. He was an inhuman monster that needed to be destroyed. Sam is neither inhuman nor a monster. He is an Avenger and Vision’s friend. How are you supposed to be okay with shooting down a friend – a friend who did not attack you at any time during the battle?

This is probably one of the other reasons Vision missed. He was either planning to miss and make Sam pull away, or he had one moment of conflict in his mind about the morality of shooting down a friend. That one moment of doubt, combined with his concern for Wanda, was enough to throw his shot off course so that it hit Rhodey’s arc reactor and knocked him out of the sky.

Not long after Rhodey hits the ground, Vision flies over to see if he is all right. He is obviously shocked and horrified by what he has done. Vision really was not aiming for Rhodey, and he certainly did not mean to hurt him. But he has, just like that teenage girl did not mean to damage the door jamb, but she did.

This is Vision’s first real lesson in the fact that actions have consequences. And it is a pretty hard lesson. He has severely injured a man he considers a friend, a man who was his teammate. The fact that he did not mean to do it does not change what has happened. Vision’s concern for Wanda, his reservations about shooting down Sam, distracted him in a very human way. And that threw off his extraordinary calculating abilities, leaving Rhodey very badly hurt.

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When we last see Vision, he is sitting at the lounge table in the Compound, playing with a chess piece and staring off into the distance. Chess is a game of strategy. It is very good for the mind. There are even programs for veterans suffering from traumatic memories and battle shock – known these days as PTSD – using chess to help them get back on their feet. (Totally cool idea!)

Vision’s mind does not need improving or bringing back into balance. What he is doing here is trying to figure out where in the Sam Hill everything went wrong. Having him playing with a chess piece, a game of clear strategy with lucid moves and end results, shows that Vision is trying to retrace his steps and understand his mistake.

Now you and I, readers, could tell him that it all went wrong when he sided with Tony and signed the Accords. This is because the Accords were designed to split the Avengers down the middle and destroy them from their inception; they were never about saving anyone or preserving people’s safety. If that was the case, then German Special Forces would not have sent in a chopper with a mini-gun to turn Bucharest buildings into Swiss cheese. They did.

The Accords were never for the good of the Avengers or the human race. The Accords were designed so that the Avengers who signed them would be the only Avengers, while the rest got swept under the rug and forgotten. That was the U.N.s plan. That was Ross’ plan.

It is not working very flawlessly, is it?

The fact that this was the intended design of the Accords does not make Tony a villain. It makes his decision to sign them stupid as hell, but nobody’s perfect. And this is what is really bothering Vision; he was designed to be perfect. But he is not. And he has to come to face that fact in the most uncomfortable way possible – by hurting a friend.

So, readers, there is only one question left to ask now. Which side will Vision join before helping the Avengers gang up on Thanos in the next Avengers films?

We will have to wait and see!

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Captain America: Civil War – Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Right?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Black Widow

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

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

And Natasha is here….  Why is she here?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Captain America: Civil War – Secretary of State Thaddeus “Thunderbolt” Ross

Image result for thunderbolt ross civil warIt has been a while since I saw a film villain who made me grit my teeth and grip my armrests in pure, frustrated anger.  Captain America: Civil War’s Secretary of State, Thaddeus “Thunderbolt” Ross, has achieved what even Loki managed to avoid.  He earned my undying ire.

Oh, sure, I do not like Loki.  He invaded the mind of one of my favorite characters and turned him into a killing machine for three days.  That is not a way to win Brownie points with me; he has my lasting dislike for it.  And, in truth, there is very little daylight between Loki and Ross.  The difference is that Loki has a twisted sense of humor that manages to make the audience laugh.  Remember that “Ta-da!” of his after he, Thor, and Jane, had escaped to the Dark Elves’ homeworld from Asgard?  I have to admit, it was a funny line and it made me smile.

Ross had no funny lines in Civil War.  Come to think of it, outside of his appearances as the Red Hulk in Agents of S.M.A.S.H.,Ultimate Spider-Man, and now Avengers Assemble, Ross has never really demonstrated a sense of humor.  In previous cartoons and comics, he was always bellowing like an angry bull or shouting with fury.  Not a friendly characterization, to say the least!

In Civil War, though, Ross leaves his bullhorn at the door for the most part.  He speaks softly here and carries a big stick.

That “big stick” happens to be the Sokovia Accords.  After the accident in Lagos, Nigeria, the U.N. dispatches Ross to present their ultimatum to the Avengers.  And Ross lays it all out in his speech when he first shows up in the Avengers’ Compound: the governments of the world have decided they can no longer tolerate the Avengers as free agents.  And they cannot accept it in part because the team is based out of the United States, is made up mostly of American citizens (Tony, Rhodey, Clint, Cap, and Sam are all native U.S. citizens while Natasha holds U.S. citizenship), and therefore the Avengers have an inherently American penchant for policing injustice abroad as well as at home.

Image result for avengers age of ultron quicksilver diesDid anyone else notice that when Ross listed what the Avengers had done for the world, he never mentioned that they had died for it?  Quicksilver is swept under the rug in this film, not by the Avengers but by the government, whose proxy is Thunderbolt Ross.  The Secretary of State never mentions that the Avengers, too, suffered a personal loss in the disaster in Sokovia.  Pietro Maximoff was a member of the team for only a short time, which is surprising (NOT) since bureaucrats are naturally inclined to fuss over whether or not all the i’s have been dotted and all the t’s crossed…

But the fact is that Pietro Maximoff was accepted by the Avengers as a member of the team.  It was not put down on paper and made official because time was of the essence.  But it was a fact, just as it is a fact that Quicksilver died in defense of his country and mankind at large.

It is a fact Ross ignores, thereby forcing the Avengers to ignore it.  Why?  Because Quicksilver’s heroic death does not help his agenda.  Throughout Civil War, Ross continually plays the guilt card on the Avengers.  If he were to mention Pietro’s death, it would lessen the impact of that trick because then the Avengers could turn around and point out the fact that they lost someone in the disaster in Sokovia as well.

So Ross does not give them a chance to bring Quicksilver into the debate.  He makes sure the argument is all about them and whether or not they should sign the Accords.  And he does this by playing off of their guilt, or attempting to play off of it.

You see, the guilt card has no more effect on Steve, Sam, or Clint than a bug buzzing by their ears would.  These men have known remorse and loss, having persevered through it several times already.  Steve lost several friends in World War II, most notably Bucky on that mission in the Alps.  Then he lost everyone and everything he knew during his seventy year hibernation.  Sam lost his wingman in Afghanistan on a night mission.  He has had to live with the knowledge that there was no way he could have saved Riley, while still feeling he should have saved him.  Clint was used to kill a number of people over the course of three days in Loki’s scheme for world domination, and he saw Pietro die to save his life and that of a young child.  But he made it through the remorse he experienced after these incidents in one piece, mentally and morally.

Ross is therefore unable to play on these three Avengers’ guilt because they were mature and endured it, finding the light beyond.  As Cap explains to Wanda, they learned to live with their failures.  They accepted them, and so they have control of their sense of shame.

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Sadly there are two Avengers who do not have control of their sense of blame.  The guilt card hits home with Tony and Natasha, as they have kept their “guilt wounds” open and fresh over time.  Tony has been carrying remorse over the fact that he wasted his life in frivolous pursuits while allowing Stane and others in his company to deal his weapons under the table to America’s enemies.  He thereby allowed a lot of bad people to kill innocents all over the world (i.e. Pietro and Wanda’s parents), as well as the American soldiers his weapons were meant to protect.

Now he is again being confronted with people who blame him for their losses, such as the woman in the back hall of MIT.  Not once, you notice, does he think to remind this woman and others like her that he lost a young teammate in Sokovia, too, and therefore he has some idea of what she and these others are going through.  Also, now that Pepper (who may still be dealing with the psychological aftermath of receiving the Extremis serum), has pushed herself away from Tony, he feels guilty about “losing” her.  Instead of doing something about this, he just accepts the blame and adds it to the pile he is already carrying around.

Natasha’s vision in the boneyard in Africa, courtesy of Wanda Maximoff, demonstrated that she still feels a great deal of guilt over her service to the U.S.S.R.  As I have said elsewhere, she has not yet forgiven herself for the crimes she was forced to commit.  She is still trying to “get even” with the past, and that is not going to work, for the simple fact that the past is gone.  All she and the rest of us have now is the present.

Ross knows that these two Avengers will be easy to guilt trip.  Neither of them had good support structures growing up; Tony essentially hated his father for his success while Natasha’s only family was the government, which abused her from childhood.  Tony’s poor relationship with his father, who built a business empire from the ground up, meant he only had a sympathetic understanding from his mother, whom he was closer to for that reason.  As long as Ross shows him some sympathy, Tony will quite literally roll over to meet his demands so that he can make the pain of his guilt “go away.”

With Natasha, however, Ross uses a different tack.  Natasha’s upbringing by the Soviet Union taught her that the government could – quite literally – do anything to her and get away with it.  Ross just has to threaten her and, no matter how vaguely phrased the warning, she will get the message:  Fall in line or we will hurt you and no one will be able to protect, help, or save you.

Rhodey does not need the guilt card played on him.  He has been trained by the Air Force to follow orders no matter what.  All Ross has to do to get him onboard is flash his medals and present the Accords as an order from the top brass.  Boom – Rhodey signs on the dotted line faster than you can sing the Air Force anthem.

Image result for thunderbolt ross civil warYou might think that Vision would leave Ross bemused as to what to do, since he is a synthetic being.  But Vision has to be the most easily suckered member of the Avengers after Rhodey.  Ross presents the Accords to him as an equation, a mathematical theory, and he sees the law as inevitable.  Chalk up another signature for the U.N.

As for Wanda – hah, piece of cake.  Her error in judgment in Lagos has left her feeling guilty.  That is why he plays footage of the destruction from Crossbones’ bombing, not to mention film from the other battles we have seen the Avengers fight over the years.  It is to target Wanda and the others, to make them feel more guilt.  With those images of Lagos hovering in her mind’s eye, Wanda will naturally want to prevent future mistakes of a similar nature.  Her signature will be the first one on the paper.

Except that Wanda surprises Ross by pushing the Accords to Rhodey.  I bet he did not see that coming.  (Shout-out to Pietro! 😉 )

Did Ross think he could get Cap to sign the Accords?  It is hard to say.  Having dealt with soldiers who are trained to simply follow orders, and being accustomed to shouting down those soldiers who questioned him, it is possible that Ross believed he could basically order Cap to sign the Accords and the First Avenger would do it.  But in light of the SHIELD/HYDRA war from The Winter Soldier, this seems to be a pretty stupid assessment on Ross’ part.  While my opinion of Thunderbolt Ross’ intelligence is not high, I think that he may have figured that Steve would be resistant to registration.  In fact, he probably wanted him to resist it – more on that in a minute.

Sam probably got lumped in with Rhodey in Ross’ calculations.  As a former soldier, Ross might have thought that Sam would roll over to the Accords when they were presented to him as an order, too.  However, in light of his aiding Cap in the previously mentioned war between SHIELD and HYDRA, Ross may have surmised that the Falcon would again side with Steve Rogers.

Either way, the team is divided about what to do with the Accords after Ross leaves, just as he wanted.  The seeds of Chaos are sown.  And they bear fruit sooner than Ross could have hoped when Zemo bombs the United Nations building in Vienna, Austria, and frames Bucky Barnes for the deed.

But we do not see Ross again until Berlin, after Cap, Sam, and Bucky have flown the coop.  As he berates Tony and Widow, Ross lets a very important fact slip out.  I had to watch the film again carefully to really take notice of the trip:  Ross said that if Cap had not interfered in Bucharest, Bucky “would have been eliminated.”  This means that the intent of the people in charge was never to capture and incarcerate Bucky.

Sharon Carter’s statement that the Task Force had been given shoot-on-sight orders is one thing.  Up against a super soldier with a metal arm, most normal humans do not stand a chance.  Giving them permission to shoot-on-sight hopefully will preserve their safety.

But sending in a military chopper with a mini-gun to shoot up a city block in order to bring down the Winter Soldier is way too much.  This all adds up to a very frightening fact:  Ross and his bosses wanted Bucky dead from the beginning.  It was never about capturing, containing, or imprisoning the Winter Soldier.  It was never about finding justice for those killed in the bombing of the Accords in Vienna.

Image result for civil war buckyIt was about murdering Bucky.  Not killing him in self-defense, not killing him to protect the public, but to murder him on account of a crime he had not been definitively proved to have committed.  He was presumed guilty, not innocent, based on his past record and not on any new evidence.  The evidence the Task Force, CIA, and Ross did possess was circumstantial, bordering on coincidental.  But they ran with it anyway.

Ross and the U.N. never questioned ANYTHING about the circumstances of the bombing. They planned to kill Bucky as soon as they knew where he was.  The bombing simply gave them an excuse to feed the public and to avoid answering awkward questions about what they were doing.

If that does not chill you to the bone, readers, then nothing will.

In light of this fact, how does Tony’s prior statement to Cap about Bucky being transferred to an American “psych-center” hold water?  Tony believed what he said, I am sure, and Cap bought the idea until he found out about Wanda’s incarceration in the Avengers’ Compound.  In light of Ross’ statement that the initiative was to kill Bucky from the beginning, though, I find any suggestion of his transfer to an American psychiatric hospital highly suspect.  What was to prevent the men transporting him from killing Bucky in transit, and then claiming afterward that he “…broke his restraints and attacked/killed some of our men, so we had to kill him”?

The answer is:  nothing.   They could have done this easily – governments around the world have done this numerous times, without serious difficulty, to people they wanted silenced and out of the way.  If Cap had not “interfered” in Bucharest, then Bucky would have ended up dead at the governments’ collective hand.

Another thing to note is that, in this interview, Ross again plays the guilt card.  Immediately after mentioning that Bucky would have been “eliminated” in Bucharest, he rubs the fact that the Winter Soldier killed several Germans before he escaped in Tony’s face.

What he neglects to point out is that parties unknown set off the EMP bomb which knocked out the cameras and electronics for the base.  Therefore, no one but Cap, Sam, and the psychiatrist know what really happened while the lights were out.   Another thing which Ross does not mention in his little tirade here is the fact that the psychiatrist the Task Force called in is not among the dead – and he sure as hell was not walking around the base!

Image result for thunderbolt ross civil warWhy did Ross leave these details out, hmm?  Did he believe that Tony and Natasha did not deserve to know these things, or that they did not need to know them?  If I had to bet, it was the latter.  Ross left these facts out intentionally, just as he “failed” to bring up Pietro’s death in Sokovia: these specifics did not serve his and his masters’ agenda.

This is why Cap would not condone or sign the Accords.  In this film, Ross proves that he is no better than Nick Fury.  Actually, he proves that he is worse.  Fury may use any means necessary to get the job done, but he has never guilt-tripped any of the Avengers into fighting a battle or cleaning up one of his messes to the extent that Ross does in Civil War.  Ross does nothing in this film but bully and berate the Avengers who have signed the Accords into doing what he wants them to do, hounding them to do it his way, or they will be pushed aside.

The proof of this comes after Ross states that he will have to be the one to bring in Steve, Sam, and Bucky.  Natasha then asks him pointedly, “What happens when the shooting starts – are you going to kill Captain America?”

I can hear the “voices of moderation” chiding Ross right now:  “No way,” “Cap’s too important,” “He’s a national symbol; if you kill him no one will ever forgive you for it.”

But Ross dispels all of these valid arguments in one little sentence:  “If we’re provoked.”  To the masters behind the Accords and their deputies (Ross), even Cap is expendable.  Especially when he stands in their way, demonstrating by his actions that he knows they are tyrants – although they say otherwise – and that he is not going to bow to them today or at any time in the future.

This blatant threat sends Tony into panic mode, and he “wins” a thirty-six hour deadline from Ross to bring Cap, Falcon, and Bucky in alive.  He never stops to think that, if Ross and the U.N. consider Cap disposable, then he is no safer than Steve despite the fact that he signed the Accords.  It never occurs to him because his ego is too damn big.  Tony believes he is indispensable, and he is right, from our perspective and that of the Avengers.  Every human life is far more important than we can truly apprehend, as the Avengers (including Tony) know for a fact.

Ross and his puppet masters, however, have a very different, very selfish view of the lives of others: Tony and the Avengers who have signed the Accords are only important as long as they toe the government’s established line.  Once they step out of line, as the anti-Accords Avengers have, then they become threats which have to be eliminated.  Just like Bucky, they can be killed out of hand any time it becomes convenient.

We are going to detour here to look at the airport battle in Germany.  It is an amazing fight, from a visual standpoint.  Everything from Hawkeye’s newest arrows to Ant-Man’s growth to Giant-Man, from Panther’s fighting skills to Spider-Man’s first appearance in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, is visually spectacular.  We could watch that battle time and again, and still we would notice things we had missed before.

But for the moment, let’s step back from the battle and watch it from Ross’ position.  To us, while visually stunning, the battle is also heart wrenching.  Aside from Ant-Man, Black Panther, Spider-Man, and to an extent Bucky, all the people involved in this fight are friends with each other.  We have traveled with these characters for years and know that they care about each other.  Now we are watching them fight, not in a friendly way but in an angry, dangerous manner.  Team Cap, though they fight hard, are not fighting with the intent to maim and kill.  Team Iron is at least willing to maim, if not kill, and that makes the battle all the harder to watch.

But from Ross’ perspective, this is exactly what he desired.  The Avengers on Team Iron have given him precisely what he wanted: another battle which he can use against them, more damage he can exploit to control them.  He has to be enjoying every minute of this as only an enemy can.

Because, readers, who benefits from this battle?  Does Team Cap?  Bucky and Steve grab the Aveng-jet and run, but the rest of their team gets locked up in the Raft to rot.  Does Team Iron benefit?  They help lock up their own teammates in a maximum security prison built for the worst kind of criminals, Rhodey ends up with severe damage to his spine, and the strength of the Avengers’ team is more than halved.  Everyone but Rhodey and perhaps Vision abandons Tony by the end of the film.  Natasha walks out on him, T’Challa leaves, everyone on Team Cap is off the grid and on the run, and Spider-Man is back in NYC doing his own thing.  How does this help Team Iron?  At least Team Cap is still together – and they have gained a couple of new members in the process: T’Challa and possibly Black Widow.

The only people who benefit directly from the Avengers’ battle at the airport are Ross and the pencil pushers in the U.N.  How do I know this?  Tony shows up at the Raft after the fight to see Sam and tell Ross about Zemo, only to be informed that he is grounded until further notice.  Ross explains that the mission is “out of [Tony’s] hands” after the “stunt” he pulled in the Leipzig airport.  Notice, Ross never says, “We’ll take it from here” or the equivalent thereof.  He just says the issue is no longer Tony’s concern.  And he is using the airport battle – which he orchestrated – as a reason to push Tony away from the search.

Then he lets Tony into the command center for the prison, where Iron Man sees Wanda on a monitor.  She is huddled up in her cell, wearing a straight jacket and an inhibitor collar.  Presumably she is just cold and lonely, but how do we know the guards did not “have a little fun” with her before they snapped that straight jacket on her, huh?  When was the last time she ate or had anything to drink?  Does Ross have the environmental controls in her cell set to a comfortable level?  It did not look like it to me.  The guys were not shivering; they looked to be at least warm, if not fed.  Wanda did not look like she was warm; she looked dangerously close to contracting pneumonia!

Speaking of the guys, what does Ross do when Tony goes in to see Sam and Clint gives him a piece of his mind?

Related imageRoss smiles.  It is not a big smile, but it is there.  I saw it both times I went to the theaters to watch the film, but it is harder to see on the smaller screen.  Ross smiles because he has exactly what he wanted; the Avengers are divided, the team members who refused to sign up to be his puppets are incarcerated, and he has all the ammunition he needs to keep Tony in line.  If Tony starts “misbehaving,” all Ross has to do to keep him obedient is threaten to hurt the incarcerated Avengers – or suggest that he will throw Tony in with them.  Just like that, Stark will roll over and play dead for him.  He plans to “break” Tony’s “back” at the first opportunity.

Still think the Accords are a good idea?  Still think Ross is not a villain?  He is, and he is just as bad as, if not worse than, Loki.  Both Ross and Loki are control freaks.  Loki wants to control people so that he can be lauded and adored for the rest of his life, because he felt he was in Thor’s shadow while they were growing up.  That is what makes him a full-tilt diva who “….wants flowers [and] parades” in his own honor.

Ross has a different aim in mind.  He does not want adulation and veneration.  He wants control for its own sake.  Remember how, in the comics, Ross was always berating and yelling at Bruce Banner?  Why do you think he did that – not just to Bruce but to everyone else around him, including his own daughter?

Ross is obsessed with having power over others because he is a small man with a small mind, who wants to be an important man in a big world.  He is a tyrant.  How does someone small become someone big?  Well, foregoing the gamma ray method, there are several options.  Most of them are highly unpleasant and end right where Ross is:  the small man gets his hands on the levers of power, where he gleefully begins to make everyone else’s lives miserable so that he can prove he is in charge.

Fury never went this far.  I do not like him especially, but the fact is that Fury worked his way up the ranks to Director of SHIELD because he saw the threats multiplying like mosquitoes and knew that, at the bottom of the ladder, he could never protect as many people as he needed.  Ross does not care about the threats facing humanity, the world, or the United States.  Not like Fury does.  At best, Ross considers these dangers minor worries.  Most of his attention is centered squarely on his own navel.

This is what drives everyone away from him: the U.S. soldiers he commanded in the army, Bruce, and most importantly, Betty.  Why did Betty never get along with her father?  Why did she leave him?  She left him because he did not care enough about her to sacrifice his own ambitions and desires for her happiness.  Ross always blamed the Hulk for taking Betty from him, but who is responsible for the Hulk’s creation?  Yes, Bruce might eventually have become the Hulk even without Ross breathing down his neck.  But it was Ross’ constant push for him to hurry up which made Bruce try the gamma experiment too early.  It was Ross who determined that the Hulk and Bruce Banner were monsters who were unworthy of saving, and that they were better off as his personal cannon fodder.

This is what drove Betty away.  Ross’ single-minded pursuit of his own agendas left no room for her, and after a while, she got tired of trying to insert herself into his life.  All he did when she managed that was push her out again.  Bruce always made time for her; he always put her ahead of his own wants and needs, to the point that he left her to protect her.  Is it any wonder that she preferred him to her father?

Ross can play the guilt card on Tony and Natasha so effectively because his own hubris has anesthetized him to any sense of personal guilt.  Despite this, he knows when other people are feeling guilty and how to use that guilt to get what he wants.  He drove his own daughter away from him, although he will stridently state that it was Banner who took Betty from him.  While he knows, deep down inside, that the reason Betty left is his fault, he has moved beyond the realm of caring.  He is no longer man enough to admit that he did wrong by his daughter and has given up any idea of trying, as far as he is able, to repair the damage he did to their relationship.  He is a self-righteous, self-absorbed coward who has become numb to the love of God and man alike, just as all the other narcissistic bullies in the world have before him.

Tony should have known this.  He should have known what Ross was like from Bruce, or at least from reading the file on Bruce’s life.  But either he did not know, or he decided not to hold Ross’ past against him.  Big mistake, because Ross is still carrying that past on his back and committing the same sins of pride he has been for years.  The guy will not learn.  If Betty could not teach him, then it does not look like anything short of a miracle will.  The heart attack he had was not enough to qualify; it is going to have to be something bigger.

Thanos knocking on the front door might work, but we will have to wait and see about that.

The last time Ross is present in Civil War, he is just a voice over the phone.  He is calling Tony about a break in at the Raft, where Tony’s anti-Accords teammates are being held.  Before Ross can spit out more than one sentence, Tony puts him on hold.  Tony knows who has gone to get Wanda, Clint, Sam, and Scott out of prison.  And while he probably still has some anger issues to work out with Cap (not to mention some maturity issues to work out with himself), he does not want their mutual friends to remain confined.  So he lets Ross scramble to find a way of stopping Cap himself.

It does not take a professional gambler to tell you that the odds of Ross arriving at the Raft in time to see the con-trail from Cap’s jet are low to nil.  The Avengers are going to have some teamwork bugs to work out in Infinity War, and Tony is going to have to make some very big mea culpas.  But Cap has forgiven Tony for his performance in the Russian HYDRA base – his sending the letter and the phone to Tony is proof positive of this.  It is Tony who has to learn how to forgive here.

The big point for Ross in this scene is that his schemes are starting to unravel.  We do not know what Tony told him about the battle in the HYDRA base; either Ross knows most of the details or he knows nothing about it.  Whichever is true, the important item here is that he has lost four of his bargaining chips with Tony.  Team Cap is free and on the lam, so Ross cannot hold Clint, Wanda, Sam, and Scott’s health and safety over Tony’s head to make him behave.  What is more, with Team Cap free, Ross has five rather angry people who want him tossed out of office roaming the world.

I hope that is helping him to sleep easier.  😉

Another significant thing to note about Tony’s putting Ross on hold is that it shows Tony is reverting to his previous stance.  We all know Stark does not want anyone to be his “director.”  He resented Fury whenever the SHIELD leader would yank his chain, and Fury actually cares about him, just like he cares about all of his people to some degree.  That is the difference between him and Ross; Fury still possesses a certain amount of empathy and understanding for other people.  Ross does not, and so he is yanking Tony’s leash a whole lot harder than Fury ever would.  That is a mistake which the notoriously thoughtless Thunderbolt Ross may soon come to regret.

Some of you probably still entertain the idea that Ross is not a villain.  Well, that is simply not true.  Ross is a villain, plain and pure. While he may not seem to be a villain of quite the same caliber as Zemo, it is only because there are certain lines which he has not yet crossed.  I cannot say that he will never cross them – his statement that he would kill Cap and not lose sleep over it suggests he is fairly willing to burn such bridges as Zemo has.  Whether or not that will happen, though, is something we will have to watch for.  Ross is not a man to turn your back on, period.  He is a sour-tempered cur, but that does not make him any less dangerous.  If anything, it makes him more so.

Well, readers, that concludes this character post from Captain America: Civil War.  Stay tuned for more posts coming out as time goes by!

Avengers Assemble!

The Mithril Guardian

 

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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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