Or – “Why Do Ya Do Me Like You Do, Do, Do?”

cfl8.jpg

Mary Sue: A pejorative term for a character who is portrayed in an overly idealized way and lacks noteworthy flaws, or has unreasonably romanticized flaws. Characters labeled Mary Sues, as well as the stories they appear in, are generally seen as wish-fulfillment fantasies of the author.” Why would I start off with THAT definition while reviewing Civil War: Frontline? Two words: Sally @#(*ing Floyd. From day one of this series, Sally has been an unusually annoying and omnipresent character, the central figure telling the “behind the lines” stories of how the Civil War affects the “real world” of the Marvel U. She’s been strident, unlikable, unreasonable, rude, and flat-out obnoxious, a caricature of every “tough broad” reporter in every two-bit “All The King’s Men” ripoff ever written. And this month she crosses the line from harpy straight to rabid b!+ch, without passing “Go” or collecting her $200 bucks. All this, and the shocking reveal of the REAL reason for the war, after these brief messages!

cfl1.jpg“Byyyy Mennen!” Welcome back! So, what’s my damage with Sally Floyd? It’s pretty simple, really. Sally has been portrayed as a character who is all about TRUTH, and exposing the folly of the powerful and the corrupt, a person who won’t stand for hypocrisy, so much so that she’s willing to put her career, her LIFE on the line to show people the truth. Okay, I can buy that, up to a point. After all, Ben Urich is also in the book, and he’s been doing that dance since Miller was on Daredevil two decades ago. And Ben also has aspects of caricature, formerly a hard-smoking nebbish with no life and a crumbling marriage, a man who had a story to tell, regardless of the men in power who wanted their secrets kept. But Ben also acts like a person. Sally Floyd is like a shorthand version of what a “hip, internet reporter” would act like, and she really shows her own hypocrisy in this issue…

This one kicks off mere moments after the cessation of hostilities in Civil War #7 (about which I already said this), and we see where Sally spent the better part of the hostilities: hiding in a subway station with a group of bystanders. “Stupid, selfish idiots,” spits Sally, as she surveys the state of the city…

IMAGE REMOVED BY MARVEL LEGAL DEPARTMENT

I have to say, that’s a much more frightening and personal image than the long-shot of destruction from CW7, and it really gives a sense of immediacy to the proceedings, and then we hear the Joe Bob totals…

IMAGE REMOVED BY MARVEL LEGAL DEPARTMENT

Okay, taking into account that Typeface is obviously dead, that leaves five corpses to be determined later. It infuriates me, after the way the death of Goliath (certainly not a major hero, but one of the first African Americans to headline his own book) was mishandled, that Marvel is playing coy with the deaths. I strongly suspect that they haven’t DECIDED who bought it yet, the better to crack the internet in half again in a few weeks. Once the smoke has cleared, we see Ben Urich and Miss Snotty Pants being led into a maximum security cell at Ryker’s Island prison, to see the most famous casualty of them all, one Steven Rogers, leader of the resistance forces.

Cap (who, puzzlingly, is allowed to keep his CHAINMAIL costume in PRISON) sits down with them, and one of the first things he says is an apology. When they interview Tony Stark later, he asks, would they please tell him how sorry he is about all this? Urich asks Cap if he did what he did out of pride, and the Captain responds that pride never entered into it… “I have sworn an oath to defend America from external forces, and from WITHIN. If that means standing against my own government, rejecting a bogus law asses by my own superiors, then I suppose that’s what it means…”

IMAGE REMOVED BY MARVEL LEGAL DEPARTMENT

Ben understands, and sympathizes, but wonders why the decision to stand down couldn’t have been made earlier? After all, it’s been an indeterminate amount of time, and the law was already PASSED. The most they could have hoped for was discussion AFTER the fact, right? Cap responds that he did what he though was right for America, and then Sally takes it upon herself to be the voice of a generation. Sadly, though, she also comes across as feeling very much like the voice of the writer and Marvel Editorial, explaining how “in the real world” we’d all support the Registration Act. If I’m supposed to suspend my disbelief that these people were EVER allowed to operate (with government assistance, in some cases), how exactly am I supposed believe that they’ll be better off under a mountain of red tape? After all, a real hero obeys the law, don’t they? Y’know, except for the laws that would stop you from wearing a mask, beating on strangers, leaving wreckage in your wake, and causing mass destruction. Besides, Sally knows what a REAL hero should be.

IMAGE REMOVED BY MARVEL LEGAL DEPARTMENT

Wait, WHAT? Captain America doesn’t know anything about America because you can beat him at Trivial Pursuit? Are you frickin’ kidding me? I cannot believe that ANYONE would be able to distill this down to some pop culture references, and try to use that to convince The Captain (and by extension, me, the reader) that he was misguided all along? Sally continues her rant, bringing it all back around to the point: It’s all about HER. “I resent the fact that I ever had to hide in a subway station in the first place. You people set yourself up as some kind of army, but I don’t remember voting for you. If I’m gonna pay for an army, they’d better be answerable to me!” Yes, because the regular armed forces are on call 24/7 to respond to your wishes and desires, right Sally? She tirades against a man who has, without pay, without regard for his own safety, without demanding any glory, saved her planet a couple of dozen times over. A man who fought in a war to make sure that there was a frickin’ country in the first place, and this woman has the gall to make the argument that America WANTS the registration act, as though it were something VOTED upon rather than rammed through congress by an amoral billionaire who thought he knew which way the wind blew. Most of all, her argument boils down to “This whole thing is bad because it inconvenienced ME… Thanks for keeping the Skrulls from destroying us, and all, but now you suck because your war hit too close to my home.” %#*@ you, Sally Floyd.

In the remains of the chaos, we see the city and country trying to rebuild itself after the chaos, everyone still jumpy about the prospect of an Atlantean invasion, wondering when it’s all going to go to hell again. We see Skyhawk of the Earth Force flying over Seattle to show that everyone will be safe now (because nothing says safety like a winged guy in baby blue spandex), and then Ben and Sally go to get… the REST… of the story. Anthony Edward Stark welcomes them to his humble million dollar penthouse, and the interview begins. Tony talks smugly about his “100 Ideas,” and Urich asks the logical question of “Why stop at 100 ways to save the world?” Tony quips that #100 was “Think of another hundred things.” Because of this scene, for the first time in months, I don’t hate Iron Man. He’s very charming, very sincere, very well-written, much more so than at the end of CW7 where he comes across as trying to get into Miriam Sharpe’s peasant skirt. The conversation turns to the revelation that Ben and Sally dug up, of a traitor in the Pro-Reg forces, and Ben drops the bomb…

IMAGE REMOVED BY MARVEL LEGAL DEPARTMENT

Ben asks the questions that I’ve been asking for months: Why would a super-powered villain use a rusty revolver for murder when he has super-strength? Not only that, the chaos caused a stock market change that (thanks to Tony knowing what was coming) netting Stark over 90 BILLION dollars. NINETY BILLION! Isn’t securities fraud a FELONY offense? Ben tries to take the curse off it by pointing out that all the money was laundered (another felony) and put in an account to provide health and life insurance to firefighters, police officers… and registered heroes. BUT IT’S STILL A CRIME, BEN! Urich, long used to being an apologist for super-types with emotional problems, used this information to run the numbers…

IMAGE REMOVED BY MARVEL LEGAL DEPARTMENT

Aha. The “futurist” angle comes into play again. So, rocketing your former pals into another dimension was designed to be a big “Scared Straight” routine? Interesting… I find myself thinking that the main impetus behind the Civil War is Tony’s inability to understand people. Rather than convince his friends & comrades that he’s correct, he took the shortcut and manipulated them all to prove he’s right. Sally explains the last pieces of the puzzle, because she’s the designated Pro-Registration character.

IMAGE REMOVED BY MARVEL LEGAL DEPARTMENT

And at that moment, I accepted Anthony Stark’s actions and motivations for the last year. It clicked for me only because of the way I interpret that last panel. Tony isn’t angry at them for figuring it out, he’s angry that someone would have the presumption to think that this was all for the best. He’s still, after all, the same naive kid who thought that dressing up as a big gold refrigerator and punching the $#!+ out of things would make the world a better place. He’s ashamed of what he’s done, what it’s done to the world, the superheroes, and he’s ashamed most of all of what happened to Captain America, a man to whom he owes his life 100 times over. The reporters leave, and Tony is left alone with his thoughts, and we see the ending I wish CW7 would have had…

IMAGE REMOVED BY MARVEL LEGAL DEPARTMENT

A real emotional reaction from a human being, not the smarmy public service announcement/spin control that we saw on the helicarrier. Tony’s actions finally make sense, at least to me, and seeing actual remorse (from both him and Cap) puts the series in real perspective for the first time. That said, I still can’t support his actions, but at least it makes sense. Tony’s an orphan with a fortune. He doesn’t even consider the possibility that people might listen to him, he’s hard-wired to use his money and influence to “help” them along to what he considers the correct decision. Jenkins made the whole thing look easy, and I can see why they kept this revelation under wraps throughout the series…

Marvel has, from day one, seemingly made a concerted effort to make anti-registration look better to the readers, I think the better to shock us with the ending they knew was coming. That’s cool. Unfortunately, the heavy-handedness of some of it made for awkward story-telling, and the constant course correction and quickie tie-ins (Civil War: The Return, anyone?) damaged the entire event as a crossover. And I’ll say it again: I’m ignoring a lot of what I know about human nature and the law to assume that anybody would ever be allowed to operate as a superhero anyway, and to have Marvel suddenly take the position that it’s more “realistic” to have them all as federal employees essentially collapses the whole conceit. They have, in essence, pointed out the ridiculousness of the underpinnings of the whole superhero genre, and made it the central point of the new universe.

I’m completely torn on this issue. As much as I loved the entire Iron Man sequence, and feel it single-handedly saves a character I considered damaged almost beyond repair, I hated every word out of Sally’s mouth. She’s supposed to be the accessible ground-level character, but her worldview is so small, and her perspective so self-referentially blinded, that I want to slap her. This series, too, ended with a whimper rather than a bang, and I suspect that in a perfect world, Civil War and Front Line could have been streamlined and presented as ONE coherent whole, with the main story and subplots intertwined in a style I like to call “storytelling.” Given that I loved half of this issue, and hated the other half, I give it the official Final Grade of Civil War: 2.5 stars, right down the middle.

25stars.jpg

The Author

Matthew Peterson

Matthew Peterson

Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture!

And a nice red uniform.

Previous post

World War Hulk is Coming

Next post

Thunderbolts #111

6 Comments

  1. Stephen Schleicher
    March 1, 2007 at 3:42 pm — Reply

    Wait? Sally is narrow minded and only thinks of herself? From your description of the witch, it sounds like Marvel nailed the vast majority of the American people, no?

  2. Brent F.
    March 1, 2007 at 5:12 pm — Reply

    The biggest problem with this issue was the third account of how the Sentry registered. What is it about this particular character that made his story slip through the continuity checks so frequently during the Civil War?

  3. March 1, 2007 at 10:15 pm — Reply

    I think they’re making it a plot point. Maybe something about The Sentry’s nature is making him have continuity slips? :)

    After all, the “forget me not” spell wasn’t all that long ago, was it?

  4. Scott
    March 3, 2007 at 8:56 pm — Reply

    Interesting analysis, although you miss mentioning how Ben and Sally’s willingness to bury the lead on Stark totally betrays any claim they had on journalistic integrity.

    In addition, having evidence of these crimes, can’t they be co-indicted for conspiracy when they eventually come to light?

  5. March 4, 2007 at 8:10 pm — Reply

    They almost certainly could. The main thrust of this series (as well as Civil War proper) has been the very un-Marvel notion that the ends justify the means, but that doesn’t change the fact that Ben and Sally are now part of the conspiracy to cover up illegal acts.

    I’m pretty sure the law would prosecute them all equally.

  6. Greg MacKenzie
    March 14, 2007 at 11:01 pm — Reply

    Here’s the thing…in issue #7 it is clearly Reed Richards handing the formula over to Osborn. To me
    #11 ends with Tony breaking down because He’s just been given evidence that He’s been betrayed
    by the only other person with that kind of access, or as Reed puts it, “the last person They’d guess
    in a million years!.”

You know you have something to say, say it in the comment section