Note: Spoilers ahead, if you care about comic book superheroes…

Captain America #25

I’m talking about comic books, actually. You see, I’ve finally finished reading Marvel Comic’s “Civil War,” a seven-part series that could be a parable of Nazi Germany or U.S. politics. In it, the government decides that to prevent superheroes from running amok, they must all be registered and controlled. Anyone who doesn’t fall in line will be killed or sent to a special prison on Ryker’s Island. You may have heard that Captain America was killed during this series, although that isn’t technically true. He is the leader of those who oppose these new rules, and at the end of the series he’s actually alive but in prison. He dies later on, in the aftermath covered by other comic books (see Captain America #25).

A lot of people have taken “Civil War” as an allegory of what’s happening in the United States, what with our civil liberties being eroded by the Bush administration and our involvement in a war in Iraq that’s getting messier and more horrible by the day. If that’s true, then it’s a very depressing conclusion, as the Marvel series ends like this: Captain America is in jail, the superheroes of America are either scattered underground or have agreed to the new world order, the man who engineered the new rules–Tony Stark–is basically in control of everything, several superheroes are dead, and Spiderman (who initially supported the superhero registration initiative) has been outed–putting his family, including Aunt May and his wife MJ, in mortal danger. Not to mention that the Fantastic Four has been split, with two new members replacing the originals. Worse, Captain America is in jail practically of his own will. During the climactic battle of the comic book, he stops the fighting and surrenders when he realizes how terrible it is for the superheroes to be fighting each other. But the defining moment is when regular people attempt to hold him back. If the citizens are against him, then I suppose he believes the war isn’t worth fighting.

If only President Bush would follow that line of thinking and stop the madness.

I’ve always loved scifi and superhero fantasies as a way to hold a mirror to society, to explore our innate humanity through stories we can’t tell any other way. But I understand that Marvel was really just trying to shake its universe up and change the status quo, not create a political parallel on a grand scale. Nevertheless, comparing “Civil War” to reality has me depressed about the direction of our country, the way we’re perceived in the world and the Bush administration in general.

Maybe I’ll go watch the Disney Channel with my son. That will be more cheerful.

Helen, 34, in Glenview, Illinois, USA

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