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Eight Reasons Why Civil War Is Dumb

A. David Lewis, writer of Mortal Coils and the Harvey-nominated The Lone and Level Sands, has long been a champion of comics as a true art form, and currently teaches English at Northeastern University, where he does indeed sneak comics into the curriculum wherever he can. He first posted this article on his blog, Loose Pages.

Can we just stay on the fence?
1. We did this already. It was the '80s, and it was called the Mutant Registration Act. Read a back issue.

2. All superhumans must register themselves with the government, so as to become licensed employees through S.H.I.E.L.D. Isn't that kind of what Captain America already did years ago? So, if he's in compliance with the registration act itself -- in fact, its model -- why is he on the run? Because he wouldn't force others to register? Or because he was given an order by his "employer?" Can't he just say no and, effectively, quit (or be fired)? Doesn't that make him still registered and compliant with the law?

3. Speaking of Cap, the Avengers used to have de facto government approval and clearance thanks to his S.H.I.E.L.D. status. (Ms. Marvel, too.) Why is that not possible here? A known hero vouches for an unidentified hero. There's some legal precedent here, whether it's the FBI assigning field deputies or simply a court defendant being released into the custody of a reputable family member or counselor. If Cap says Spider-Man is cool, then it's Cap's neck on the line should Peter fuck up, but the government only needs Spidey's ID if that happens. Where's the problem here?

4. Further, like Cap, aren't some heroes already pre-registered? Reed Richards, Hank Pym, Ms. Marvel, etc. -- Folks whose alter ego is public knowledge or were already once employed by the government. How exactly is this a Civil War if they're already assigned to a side? Can they defect? (If so, see point 2 above.)

5. How does the government know the guy claiming to be Daredevil and wearing his outfit is Daredevil? Could Ben Reilly have registered to be Spider-Man, leaving Peter both off the hook and operating under the radar?

6. In response to point 5, the only way someone masquerading as Daredevil would be caught is if, say, Spider-Man says, "Hey! I know who Daredevil is, and you're not him!" For that matter, aren't everybody's secret identities already known around the superhero community? Iron Man could download everything from the Avengers' computer, Xavier's files, and Lord knows where else, making the whole law moot. Cloak wouldn't need to register: Xavier already read his mind and turned in his notes! (And don't they have any half-decent telepaths in S.H.I.E.L.D. to get the info surruptitiously?)

7. Is it illegal for the Young Avengers to fight crime out of costume? Like, could they do it in their street clothes without getting targeted? Would using their Social Security Number as a codename be compliant enough?

8. Finally, this has to be the stupidest waste of tax-payer dollars ever. Superhero vigilantism used to be a free service, conducted pro bono. Now, not only will the government pay registered, licensed superheroes (nice deal for them), but it's going to waste money and resources tracking down those superhumans who will do the job for free? Folks, that's as close to the lunacy of the illegal immigrant debate as I can think of! (But not close enough to be an interesting, worthwhile parallel.)

While I'm all for the "Is the 'secret identity' a required element of the superhero?" debate (raging on as it has in Daredevil, Identity Crisis, Spider-Man, and so forth), this is a ridiculous, shoddy plot around which to tentpole a big summer event.

It's fun to watch hero fight hero, sure; it's the Marvel tradition. But, a Civil War? Pshaw, c'mon! This makes less sense than a civil war reenactment. Let Wanda make it all a dream, ok?

A. David Lewis

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