Saturday, September 15, 2012

When Idealism Meets Realism


Dissension In The Ranks


When resentments and disagreements boil over,
even allies can turn against each other in fierce battle that can bring the house down.

(And often does!)


FEATURING:

Captain America and Iron Man

It's probably no surprise to find these two featured here. They've butted heads more than once, yet I'd maintain they still have a foundation of friendship to fall back on--though trust may be another matter. I believe they'd trust their life to each other, certainly. But after all that's happened between them, I doubt Tony Stark would trust Cap any longer with a confidence; and Cap no longer trusts either Stark's judgment or his ability to make sound decisions for the benefit of others.

Perhaps that last one applies to Stark vis-à-vis Cap, as well, in a way. For Stark is a realist, as opposed to Cap's idealistic way of looking at situations. Stark knows that Cap has seen enough of war and conflict in order to be a top-notch decision-maker on the battlefield, as well as not being hesitant to make the hard call if the time came for one. But I think Stark just doubts Cap's ability to look at the "big picture" realistically. So as Avengers, these two men perhaps check and balance each other perfectly--which is illustrated very well in this scene, from their battle with the Molecule Man. In the climax to the battle, the Avengers finally have the Molecule Man on the ropes. The question becomes, what do they do with this person who has threatened to end all life on Earth?




It's not like Stark is going off half-cocked. He's listened to the arguments, and he's explored alternatives. But as Cap himself notes, time is running out. Stark selects what seems to be the only viable option--only to run head-first into Cap's conscience. I'd be hard-pressed to be the deciding vote, myself. But it's important to note that each man thinks they're doing the right thing. Equally important is that, in his own comic book, Tony Stark has proven repeatedly that he also has a conscience.

Nor were things any simpler when Cap was unaware that Stark and Iron Man were actually one and the same. You try running a multi-national business and being a super-hero and being a member of the Avengers at the same time. It was only a matter of time when those worlds collided--and Cap, being the virtual heart and soul of the Avengers, has finally had it with Iron Man dividing his time:




The two men manage to work out their differences, which are somewhat mitigated by the fact that Cap has also let the Avengers down, at least in his own eyes. It's not on the same level as his charges against Iron Man--but it allows the two men to find common enough ground to strike a truce, with each recognizing their failings:



Yet Tony Stark remains very much his own man, who it must be noted has single-handedly made a success of himself--as well as being a founding member of the Avengers, an organization which was handed over to Cap only after it was well established as a successful fighting force, in no small part due to Iron Man's contribution. Stark no doubt feels some pride at that; and while he's deeply respectful of Captain America the man, Stark feels he himself is also a force in his own right, with just as much moral ground to stand on as Cap. It's during the so-called "Armor Wars," when Stark moves to nullify his armor technology that's been usurped and adapted by criminal elements, that the differences between himself and Cap are bluntly laid out. Cap (as "the Captain") has come to take Stark in for overstepping the law in his quest to deactivate the stolen technology--whereas Stark, feeling he's seeing the "bigger picture" and working toward the greater good, feels he's justified in his actions. It's a fascinating collision of the minds of these two men:




To Cap, the situation is so black and white: Stark's mission, no matter how justified, cannot supersede breaking the law. Or, put another way, the ends cannot justify the means. To Stark, in this instance that's precisely how this situation is sized up--and he's asking Cap to trust him. Unfortunately, we know from the Civil War storyline that Stark's deep-seated belief in the correctness of his actions can be flawed--yet here, we don't yet realize the extent of that. Cap, at the end of this skirmish, is willing to grant that trust, at least for the short term--but I wonder if that decision would have been the same if it hadn't been forced on him by his inability to overcome Iron Man's armor.

It's no wonder that with the Super-Hero Registration Act and the events of Civil War, these two men became the de facto leaders of the opposing sides. And you can imagine Cap's opinion of Stark plummeting even further at finding out that Stark was the driving force behind the secretive Illuminati. The nature of their disagreement is such that there might not be--should not be--a resolution to it. Stark will continue, in one way or another, to act as he sees fit when the situation warrants--while Cap will continue to keep one eye on him. Just how long the two can continue being effective allies in such a stalemate remains to be seen.


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