Civil War: ThingPosted: 05/11/2014
The Marvel event Civil War remains the quintessential summary of comics during the 2000s. Lots of government politics, wildly blurred moral lines, and more superheroes hitting other superheroes than supervillains. Hell, Iron Man became the Marvel universe’s main bad guy for two years. But some amazing stories came out of Civil War and the aftermath (plus who doesn’t want an answer to who-can-beat-who arguments? Spoiler alert: Thor) and I’m always a supporter of writers trying to shake up the status quo a bit. Though through ll the emotional torments and ruined friendships, no one came out of Civil War worse than the Fantastic Four — I mean, besides Goliath and Captain America because of their whole dying thing — and this week we’ll take a look at some of their moments during this crisis. Let’s read some scenes from Fantastic Four #538-541, written by J. Michael Straczynski and drawn by Mike McKone. Heads up, the Thing may have been the only level-headed superhero in the entire event.
Just in case you aren’t familiar, I’ll quickly summarize the issues up to this point. The New Warriors, a brash group of young superheroes, ambushes supervillains Nitro & Friends in a populated suburban area. They soon realize that Nitro’s basically a living bomb and he wrecks the whole town, killing hundreds of people, and causing the country to go into an uproar. A bill gets passed in Congress that all superheroes must de-mask, register with the government, and quit all that vigilante stuff. Iron Man becomes the leader for the pro-registration team while Captain America goes into hiding as the anti-registration leader. Cue mass fighting in the streets for months. We pick up here.
Y’see, in the wave of anti-superhero actions, some jerks beat down the Human Torch outside a club. Using clubs. As for Yancy Street, they’re like the drunk cousins you see every Thanksgiving: always causing trouble and the Thing’ll have to shove them into a cab ride home, because y’know, they’re family.
I would say that the Thing lies between a rock and a hard place, but he’s already both of those. Mr. Fantastic sits as Iron Man’s number two while the Invisible Woman seeks to sabotage and ruin the government’s plans. With the Human Torch in a coma, the Thing’s torn between two (subjectively) awful sides. And truthfully, both sides have faults the size of Fin Fang Foom — a practical lose/lose for poor Ben Grimm.
No more shrugs and watching from the sidelines for the Thing. Clobberin’ time has made way for decision time. By midway through the event, the anti-registration side comes off as the good guys if mainly because the good guys are always whatever team Captain America fights on. But let’s not forget that both teams engage in some morally ambiguous actions. Iron Man imprisons captured superheroes in the Negative Zone. Captain America openly boosts his manpower with known supervillains. So as the Thing gets forced into a corner, it’s essentially picking the lesser of two spandex-wearing-laser-eyes-zapping evils.
Luckily before he needs to choose a direction to throw his punch in, a more important situation arises. When superheroes are busy fighting superheroes, that leaves supervillains free to enact their own dastardly plans unhindered.
Drunk cousin analogy or not, Grimm’s Yancy Street family just lost one of its own. I’m sad too. You figure that the Thing would have enough frustration seeing the Fantastic Four break apart, watching his friends combat each other, being an orange rock monster, etc., so as the pot boils over, the Thing makes the only logical choice. The decision that he should have made a long time ago.
We forget that despite 99% of superheroes living in the United States (and 98% in New York City), other countries must have their own radiation accidents or chemical spills or mad scientist experiments creating their own superheroes as well. So when the Thing flies to France to enjoy some baguettes and xenophobia far away from any internal punching conflicts, he soon finds himself obligingly helping out Paris’ version of the Avengers. Because why not? Still, at least for a few issues, the Thing has a happy ending:
On Wednesday and Friday, we’ll look into how the Civil War Mr. Fantastic and the Invisible Woman fractured their marriage and the subsequent repairs. Get ready for some heartbreak.