Brother Against Brother, Quicksilver Against Scarlet Witch, Jamie Madrox Against Himself…



Marvel Comics' big summer crossover is apparently going to be an event called Civil War, a hero-vs.-hero free-for-all prompted by the introduction of a Super-Human Registration Act—basically a version of the Mutant Registration Act that's been a mainstay of the X-books for decades that doesn't irrationally distinguish between people with the power to level entire cities because of their freaky genes (who we keep an eye on) and people with the power to level entire cities because a gamma-irradiated mongoose spit in their baby formula. Folks like Iron Man and Reed Richards of the Fantastic Four end up supporting it; Captain America, Dr. Strange, Wolverine, and a bunch of others are opposed. Hijinks ensue.

The whole thing is being pitched pretty explicitly as a War on Terror allegory, with press kits describing the central theme as "How much freedom is it necessary to give up to have security?'" I've got to wonder though, is anyone here a sufficiently hardcore civil libertarian that if people existed who really could (say) wipe out the whole of humanity in a few minutes just by thinking really hard about it (as it's implied Professor X would be capable of in X-Men 2), you wouldn't maybe want someone keeping tabs on them? It's nice that they're trying to do something "relevant" and all, but setting it up in a world where there are thousands of people walking around with the equivalent of a few nukes worth of destructive power in their bodies probably skews the balance of considerations there in a way that makes heavier state surveillance seem like a better idea.

NEXT: Marriage Is So, Like ...

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.


  2. Julian Sanchez Mutant Hater!!

  3. I’m just impressed that a) you know who Jamie Madrox is and b) being able to work it into a geeky headline that all of, say, fourteen people would get.

  4. First they came for those with the Power Cosmic, and I said nothing…

  5. I read the other day where someone with a good background in biology and gene splicing could order the equipment off of the internet as well as the base material needed and in their basement cook up some ebola, or smallpox or anthrax or any number of other nasty germs that could kill 100s of thousands if not millions if released properly. What do you do about that? It is enough to make you a luddite.

  6. “I’ve got to wonder though, is anyone here a sufficiently hardcore civil libertarian that if people existed who really could (say) wipe out the whole of humanity in a few minutes just by thinking really hard about it (as it’s implied Professor X would be capable of in X-Men 2), you wouldn’t maybe want someone keeping tabs on them?”

    And you have to register them to do that?

    Come on, in the Marvel Universe, about 70 percent of the superpowered types live in the greater NYC area. And about 90 percent wear a gaudy costume. How hard can it be to keep tabs on them?

  7. Charles Oliver,

    So if my neighbor wears tights and a cape in a bad color scheme, it is probably a bad idea to screw with him?

  8. If some dude can level NYC with a single thought, what is the point of keeping tabs on him?

    Joe Policeman is going to stop him?

  9. Yeah, for serious. I mean, if you can wipe out entire cities with your mind, what’s Johnny Flatfoot going to do about it?

  10. Almost assuredly, John. If he has superpowers you’re in trouble and if he doesn’t, he’s probably dangerously insane.

  11. Joe Policeman is going to stop him?

    No way. But that’s why S.H.I.E.L.D. exists.

    God, I need a life…

  12. I’ve got to wonder though, is anyone here a sufficiently hardcore civil libertarian that if people existed who really could (say) wipe out the whole of humanity in a few minutes just by thinking really hard about it (as it’s implied Professor X would be capable of in X-Men 2), you wouldn’t maybe want someone keeping tabs on them?

    The answer of course, is to distribute the equivalent of Magneto’s helmet to everyone.

  13. I don’t know, it’s hard to care about a minor affair on Planet Earth with that stuff going on.

  14. Well, if I count right, I’m the 14th commenter so that’s it for the fourteen who D. McDeish figures would recognize the Madrox reference.

    Anything after this is a bonus.


    So, Julian would indefinite Guantanamo style incaraceration of Magneto types also be in the cards?

  15. God, Marvel has gotten so utterly bad in the past five years.

  16. WTF?

    There’s been a really disturbing anti-liberty trend over the past few weeks… that garbage against consensual polygamy on up… what’s going on with Reason?

    Very simply put, there are several people today who walk around, at this very instant, with the power to destroy the world. Presidents Bush and Putin come to mind. There are others who desire the ability to destroy the world, President Ahmedinejad for instance.

    Yet somehow, the last I checked, human society still exists, and somehow we still enforce laws, and somehow, we’re not all dead yet.

    What we need is some good-old fashioned puritanical fire to burn out these heretical statist impulses. Yes, cleansing fire…


  17. Is this kind of thread another reason why so few women post here? 😉

  18. John, for a good plague-designed-in-the-basement read, check out Frank Herbert’s The White Plague.

  19. If a million moms marched to protest legal superpowers, then you know keeping tabs on those people must be the right thing to do.

  20. The whole Marvel “stinking mutie” thing as thinly veiled anti-racism alegory got pretty old after about oh, 4-5 years. This was when I realized superhero comics were just soap operas with better dialogue and less sex, and precisely defines my comic-reading years.

    The occasional limited series is still worth a go (eg. Kingdom Come).

    Oh, and Batman would totally kick the crap out of Wolverine. Just sayin’.

  21. SPD,

    Nick Fury was way cooler when he was a “Howling Commando”.

    I too need to get a life.

  22. wow. . . I am impressed with the quicksilver vs scarlet witch reference. You guys are such nerds. I feel like that little girl in the bee costume from the Blind Melon video

  23. Yeah I got the Madrox ref as well, though I was never really a fan of him (are we just not going to say who his superhero persona is at all?) So is Tony Stark the president in this, I mean he’s got the reformed alcoholic thing going for him and all.

  24. Multiple Man? You’ve got be freakin’ kidding me!

    At least Captain America will stand up for the under-dog in this one instead of Marvels’ more recent portrayals of him as alternately the world’s biggest Boy Scout or a gov’t killing machine…

  25. That sounds an awful lot like this (work-place viewing disclaimer: shockwave-flash music video with cartoon violence, gore, and at least one crotch-kicking)

  26. Multiple Man has quickly become one of my favorite superheroes over the past couple of years. Definitely check out Peter David’s Madrox minseries.

  27. God, Marvel has gotten so utterly bad in the past five years.

    apparently you never read “Secret Wars 2”.

  28. Let’s see. Marvel, CIVIL WAR, someone’s even referenced Secret Wars already – and hey, Henley even linked to it – so how come I have to be the first one to mention the Marvel Comics Secret Wars Reenactment Society?

  29. I haven’t bothered to keep up with comics very much, but this might be worth reading…

  30. if people existed who really could (say) wipe out the whole of humanity in a few minutes just by thinking really hard about it… , you wouldn’t maybe want someone keeping tabs on them? – J.S.

    Robert Mayer first addressed this back in 1977, in his novel Superfolks, wherein his Supeman pastiche, code-named “Indigo”, is made a bargaining chip in the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks.

    As for obscure references, the one about Bob Frank takes the cake!


  31. Julien, I thought the same thing when I watched the X-Men movies. There really was a subtle social point to be made (to what limit does our belief in equality under the law extend?), but unfortunately, the movies always shied away from this point by making anyone who opposed the “good” guys as out-right evil. In fact, I ended up rooting for Striker by the end of the second movie, largely because the “good” guys kept making his point by killing soldiers who were just doing thier jobs, attacking but not killing police officers, and otherwise generally putting themselves above the law and abusing their power.

    Fortunately, we do not live in a world were such extremes in natural ability exist, but if we did, equality under the law may not be an appropriate idea.

  32. From “Powers: The Sellouts”

    “Short of a nuclear attack (which we now see he has full capacity of walking right out of just fine…), level eight or higher, and Walker knows this– level eight or higher, and we as a society are just praying to dear god they’re good folks.”
    “Level nine? We– we only said that because anything higher than that would have scared people into a… a… we only said that so people could handle him. […] I’m telling you that it ends when he decides it does.”

    As long as we’re really playing in the mindset of this-stuff-is-real:

    Anyone with the potential to destroy the world either isn’t going to register, or even if he or she does, the registration will do nothing once world-destroying time comes. The Brady Bill can’t stop nuclear proliferation.

    The Registration Act applied to all somehow seems more offensive than saying to (switching universes) Doctor Manhattan, “Look, if you’re going to stay on earth, we’re asking you really nicely to pretend to follow our orders.” Manhattan, who is exactly who actually needs to be controlled, can’t be *controlled*; he can’t even be kept-an-eye-on unless he consents. Ditto for Xavier, really– or for Superman. Yeah, in a world with people like that, I want there to be an agency of the government keeping an eye on them the way the government monitors uranium– but registration seems irrelevant to that task.

    Those who *can* successfully be controlled are those to whom the logic doesn’t apply. A registration act can successfully make life hard for your Spider-Men, Daredevils, and Nite-Owls. And, yeah, I suppose at that point civil liberties concerns are relevant.

  33. I’m a level 10 vice president

  34. I’m amazed no one here seems to look at this Superhero Registration Act and think “Gun Control”.

    That said, if any Marvel character reads Reason, that man is Luke Cage. And I bet he reads Ayn Rand, too.

  35. When I saw the name Jamie Madrox, my first thought was the guy from Twiztid. I’m trying to figure out whether that’s better or worse than thinking of the superhero formerly known as Multiple Man.

  36. Hey cool!

    A post about comics! I have a sweet collection including Amazing Fantasy 15 (only good condition though).

    And TOTALLY agree on Marvel going downhill. Too much crossover.

    Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE comics, but you must NEVER EVER take them seriously. Simply accept the fact that you are a loser reading about people with superpowers in tight panse and enjoy.

    Has anyone ever been to a comic convention? What the hell is it about comic collecters and body odour? The should hand out deodorant on entrance.

  37. The Madrox in-joke reminded me for no apparent reason of Robert Donner’s character on Mork & Mindy, whose autobiograpy was “by Exidor, as told to Exidor.”

    One of the implied conditions of domestic law and reasons why social contract theory has strong facial plausibility is that human beings are relatively equal in their strenghts and weaknesses. Even would-be tyrants must sleep, after all, and are thus vulnerable and dependent on the protection of others. This is precisely the reason why international law in the age of the modern nation state is, at most, merely an extension of law governing persons and not states, themselves.

    Thus, personifying nation states for a moment and applying Mr. Sanchez’s observation to the likes of Iran and North Korea, is it not in any nation’s self-interest to develop nuclear weapons and thus, at least partially, bridge the enormous power gap between it and, especially, the U.S.?

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.