Tuesday, April 29, 2008

The Other Shoe

Since this is International Iron Man Week, here's a question that's been bugging me lately.

We all hate Iron Man now, because he turned super-fascist and caused the Civil War and imprisoned heroes and got himself appointed boss of everybody. But maybe we should hate him even more than we already do.

We know from Civil War Frontlines #11 (The Worst Comic Book Ever Published®) that Tony Stark engineered most of the events of Civil War, in order to convince more heroes to register. We know he staged a fake assassination attempt on the Atlantean ambassador, for the same reason: to use the threat to encourage more masks to sign up to be government stooges.

But...what if that's not all he did? Take a look at this page from New Avengers: Illuminati #1 (not the mini-series, but the one-shot that was the precursor to Civil War). Tony Stark has summoned the other Illuminati because he's become aware of a pending bill in Congress: The Super Hero Registration Act. This is before Stamford, mind you. But Tony argues that the bill will inevitably pass, and that the Illuminati should get out in front of this thing and publicly support it. When Namor and Black Bolt and Dr. Strange express doubts, Stark lays this rap on them (click each panel for a more readable size):

So, before Stamford, Tony Stark lays out an exact road map of all of the events of the Civil War, including the death of Black Goliath. Exactly. Hell, if you read this page, you could have skipped the Civil War mini-series and not missed anything.

So what? Well, even if Tony is a "futurist," it's not at all credible that he could predict the future in that level of detail, is it? He knew it would be a team of young heroes would accidentally cause deaths (why not an old team?), that it would happen on TV, superheroes dying (well, Black Goliath, at least)...did he have a crystal ball, to know so much in such detail??

We could chalk it up to Bendis being a crap writer, who, rather than give Stark some original dialogue, just cribbed from his copy of the Civil War plot outline.


Look, we know from CWF #11 that Stark was manipulating events post-Stamford to get the results he wanted. He knew building a prison in the Negative Zone and roughing up good guys and provoking a war with Atlantis would fulfill his goals. He's that level of a master manipulator, apparently.

Well, what if he was doing the same after the Illuminati rejected his plea to get on board?

What if Tony Stark was behind Stamford?

How else to explain that events flowed 100% exactly as Stark predicted they would? How else could he know that a team of young heroes would screw up on TV, unless he set it up? How else could a clown group like the reality-show-making New Warriors, who hadn't found real villains in "six months," stumble upon a hidden group of of major bad guys, "all on the FBI wanted list" and "totally out of their league?" (quotes from Civil War #1). How could he know it would happen that way? And how could the Warriors suddenly "accidentally" move up in weight class? Unless Stark tipped them off...

Once Namor et al refused to join him, Stark knew the only way to guarantee passage of the Registration Act was for the scenario he laid out to come true. So he implemented the plans he had already laid (excuse me...predicted). He used Extremis to track down some sufficiently powerful fugitives, tipped off the producers of the New Warriors, and waited for the incident.

Maybe he didn't know so many would die, maybe he didn't know it was next to a school. But based on what we see in NA:I #1, I have no doubt that Stark actually set those events in motion to advance his agenda.

So Stark's not just a fascist, he's a mass murderer, too.

Enjoy the movie!


Anonymous said...

I get the sense Marvel was at one time serious about making Tony Stark/Iron-Man a Marvel villain (ala Hal Jordan in the mid-90's DCU), but then backed away from the edge of the cliff (which I suspect had something to do with the Iron-Man movie).

I don't read many current Marvel titles these days, but the Tony Stark appearing in the Captain America title seems properly heroic and non-fascistic. Plus, anyone with an I.Q. over 100 sounds like a fascist when Mark Millar is writing him (in Mark's world, smart people KNOW EVERYTHING), so I don't really see the "Tony as Murderous Manipulator" thread going anywhere...at least for now. Maybe once the hoo-hah from the movie dies down, they'll resume their "Tony as Anti-Christ" storyline.

snell said...

I wonder how valid the "don't screw with the character when a movie is coming out" theory is these days.

They've gone topsy turvy on Hulk. They've got Batman R.I.P. ready to run when Dark Knight breaks, and Morrison probably isn't the guy you want writing the book anyway if you're expecting some influx of newbies anyway.

I suspect that, given the number of singles that are sold these days, the movie makers just don't care what the writers/artists do there. And apparently, the comics creators aren't too worried about it (which is a good thing, methinks).

Anonymous said...

This is why I get my Iron Man fix from Marvel Adventures. It doesn't suck. Then again, IM's gone downhill since Grell got in there and had Tony drop the secret identity in some backstory to save a puppy in the road. Not even close to Spidey's umasking-that-never-happened-now. (Anyone else think Mini-Marvels makes more sense nowadays?)

No writer since (granted I dropped the title when Tony became Secretary of Defense, and I'm considering taking some of the issues between Grell and SoD out of the collection entirely to make some space in my boxes) has done any better. I tried NA, but dropped THAT just before Civil War. Oddly, it was Luke Cage suddenly decided to swear that broke the camel's back. Odd, because of everything else wrong, past the first arc, but I have a Heroes for Hire that gives a reason for him to not swear. So I'm not surprised to read comments from your blogs that Bendis ignores continuity. Maybe he should stick with the Ultimate Universe?

-ShadowWing Tronix

Unknown said...

This is a very interesting theory. I wonder, as Mark noted, if at some point Marvel was truly going to push Tony to that level of villain, but what with him being a major character in the MU and a big time film coming out, they decided at the halfway point to take it in a new direction and tried at every turn to justify his actions.

I think it would be interesting if this was still the case; at this point though, the only way it wouldn't both a.) prove critics who said pro-reg were obviously the villains RIGHT and b.) do more damage to the character than has already been done is to make him a Skrull (which I guess could still happen).

I can also completely buy this as sloppy writing on Bendis' part; the writer obviously knew how Civil War was going to go and could have just constructed that entire speech to add some more credibility to the character once the ball got rolling.


Unknown said...

I don't think they were going to push him to the level of a villain. It's just a very poor and botched storyline that got out of hand.

Individual issues of Iron Man, Captain America, and various crossover appearances IM had in the Sub-Mariner and World War Hulk series last year made "heroic" sense on IM's part, but only if you grant a LOT of leeway. You have to swallow Stark's side of the Civil War as well as swallowing the other side of it, and neither point of view makes a heck of a lot of sense in the end.

I haven't read any mainline Marvels since then because I see no end in sight with the CW storyline. Until Marvel's heroic characters can interact again without this awful mess hanging over their heads, I will not buy their mainline books.

I have no idea how they will end this storyline. I don't think they can without a Crisis-level reboot of the entire MU.

Anonymous said...

I don't hate Iron Man. I hate the small band of "superstar" hacks that made him what he is today.