Amongst all the news of more, many more superhero blockbuster movies to be put out by Marvel, was one announcement that made very happy, until it didn’t:
11:16 a.m. — Feige points out the Russo brothers in the audience, and says, “they reinvented the franchise of Captain America, they shattered and changed everything going forward, and they will be back for Captain America 3.” The subtitle for the film (out May 6, 2016) will apparently be Serpent Society. (Some disappointed faces in the crowd, hoping for Civil War.)
After that Avengers 2 footage showing the hard feelings between Rogers and Stark, Feige says he’s been having second thoughts about that Serpent Society subtitle for Captain America 3. A new title card appears, giving the fans what they want: Civil War.
Maybe I’m alone in this, but I’d much rather see Captain America versus the Serpent Society, rather than a movie rethread of what was probably the dumbest story Marvel has ever published (perhaps second only to Alice is a skrull). It’s not just that Civil War made no sense and makes even less in the movies, for all the reasons John Seavey lays out here, but that it goes against the very core principles of the Marvel Universe: righteous rebellion against overbearing authority.
Let’s not forget that Steve Rogers himself was a premature anti-fascist when he socked Adolph Hitler on the jaw, a year before the US would enter World War II. Or that the foundational act of the Silver Age Marvel Universe is the Fantastic Four stealing their rocket from the army to launch into space, against the wishes of the military brass.
Civil War went against this, by arguing that the establishment is right, that superheroes cannot be trusted without supervision by a quasi fascist, paramilitary organisation.This is supposed to be realistic, like heroes using torture, but it’s a very adolescent sort of realism. Despite the attempts to dial down the worst effects of the Civil War, much of the MU still suffers from this sort of realism, of endless stories of heroes torturing and killing and forming shadowy groups to take the though decisions that can’t be left to lesser people and the even more endless talking about it. Marvel’s cinametic universe also suffers a lot from this, but this is more an artifact of the post-Bush political landscape it was constructed in, rather than a deliberate decision to piss on seventy years of Marvel history.
The Serpent Society on the other hand, for all that it’s used here as a dumb punchline, was actually a pretty good attempt at creating a realistic supervillain group, one without delusions of grandeur, not wanting to rule the world, just wanting a proper dental plan and decent legal coverage. that’s right, the supervillains team up to form a union, to defend themselves not against the heroes, but the harsh realities of Reagan’s economy.
It’s a typical Gruenwald sort of story, where you have a core of realism in an old school, bronze age capes vs capes superhero story. Gruenwald always worked within the confines of the monthly superhero comic grind, a fact that might have worked against the recognition of him as a writer, at his best when he was on Captain America. Having a bunch of second and third tier snake themed villains team up for union benefits is brilliant, makes complete sense in the context of the early eighties Marvel Universe, but isn’t the sort of easily recognisable, signposted “realism” you have to hit comics fans over the head with for them to get it.
But still, wouldn’t you’d rather see Captain America, the ultimate Roosevelt Democrat, taken on a bunch of unionised everyman supervillains banded together because of the economic regression than whatever the movies will make of Civil War, no matter how much shipping fuel a Tony/Steve catfight will give the fanfiction writers?