We are on the brink of Civil War. Not the Civil War of all those years ago, brother set against brother, but a battle born of its legacy nonetheless. Divisions have been drawn, and the first casualties already claimed. And this week’s events have escalated tensions even further still. It started when a law enforcement agent made a prediction about the potential danger posed by an individual who, despite this detainee’s attempt to deescalate the situation, to prove his peaceful intentions, was swiftly executed.
Predictive policing is at the heart of the controversial shooting of Philando Castile by a Minnesota police officer less than seven days ago. Whatever implicit or unrecognized biases Officer Jeronimo Yanez may or may not have held that factored into his interpretation of Castile’s intentions, it was the split-second prediction that the motorist was reaching for a weapon which motivated Yanez to preemptively open fire. Immediately, the country became divided in its support for or against not merely Yanez but the nation’s police as a whole, a division which became further entrenched when, in response to the shooting in Minnesota, sniper Micah Johnson assassinated five officers in Dallas, Texas. On the one side were those who called for the police themselves to increase enforcement so as to restore law and order, and on the other were critics of the militarization of local law enforcement and their increasing penchant for predictive policing – profiling, as they’d call it.
The shooting of Philando Castile bears a striking similarity to the events of Civil War II #3, out today. Carol Danvers, of the U.S. Air Force and Alpha Flight, plays the part of the militarized law enforcement, as does the posse she brings to detain Banner. Whereas Castile was confronted as part of a traffic stop over a broken taillight, Banner’s confrontation by Carol was clearly extrajudicial. She trespassed into his personal residence sans a search warrant (which no judge would ever authorize on the evidence of “a vision”), and in further violation of his Fourth Amendment right against illegal search and seizures of papers and effect, Hank McCoy hacked into Banner’s secure files (which would render that evidence and related testimony inadmissible in the issue’s court case).
It was then that Banner admitted to having a concealed weapon of sorts in the form of recent injections of gamma-irradiated dead cells, similar in nature to the process which first turned him into the Hulk. At the same time, he insisted that it was his intention not to Hulk-out – not dissimilar from Castile purportedly informing Yanez of a licensed concealed weapon which he was carrying in the car. Yet at that exact moment tragedy struck. As Yanez interpreted Castile’s arm movements as reaching for the aforementioned gun, Clint Barton interpreted the agitation in Banner’s voice and a green glint in his eye as evidence that he was about to transform into the Hulk and commit manslaughter – undoubtedly prejudiced by Ulysses’ vision, as Hulk’s presence, while often destructive to property – on only an infinitesimally small percentage of occasions result in loss of life, especially of late with the Doc Green version of the jade giant. Had Danvers’ not insisted on predictive policing, would Barton have been there, bow at the ready, arrow aimed at Banner? Would he have otherwise reconsidered before what was at best assisted-suicide and at worse premeditated murder of one of the smartest men in human history? Would Castile be alive if the state did not dispatch armed agents over non-aggressive offenses such as broken taillights and expired registrations?
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Aside from the coincidental connection to the political turmoil affecting both the Marvel Universe and our own, Civil War II #3 was most interesting for its meta-textual commentary (intended or not) on the modus operandi of Marvel as a publisher throughout the Postmodern Age of Comics, particularly the systemic removal of its most iconic characters in pursuit of greater representation of previously marginalized demographics. Banner was not assassinated so much by Clint Barton as by Marvel editorial for the purpose of establishing Amadeus Cho as the new Hulk. To this, Tony states within the issue what many longtime fans have articulated online:
“He killed a hero. A founding member of the Avengers was assassinated on his own front lawn… This is not what we’re supposed to be doing… You couldn’t leave this fucking alone and now another one of us is gone. Who’s next on your hit list…?!”
Who’s next is none other than Iron Man himself. Whether Tony survives the Civil War against Danvers or not, his mantel is reportedly being passed on. I’ve recently been critical of the Distinguished Competition for becoming overly reverent of their classic character, suffering a debilitating case of ‘90s nostalgia throughout their Rebirth titles. Marvel is suffering from the opposite, having a deficient respect for the character who built the House of Ideas. Save for Secret Wars and the Hickman run leading into it, the last five years of the publisher’s history bears little resemblance to the five decades prior. Perhaps we should start a hashtag: #SuperheroLivesMatter. In the wake of the Minnesota and Dallas shooting, sane voices on both sides are calling for an end to such violence, saying enough is enough. In the wake of Barton’s shooting of Banner this week, I’m saying the same to Marvel: stop killing off half your heroes and turning the other half into villains; enough is enough.