Tuesday, November 18, 2014

The Shape Of Things To Come

The incident in Stamford, Connecticut, as many Marvel readers know, led to the Superhuman Registration Act and the subsequent "civil war" which pitted those heroes who supported the Act against those who opposed being registered. But, 16 years (our time) prior to Civil War, after mutant registration hearings had died down, the U.S. government was exploring the registration of all super-beings in a series of hearings--and with the whereabouts of the Avengers unknown (despite already being a government-sanctioned group), the Fantastic Four's testimony was of particular interest.

The two-part story was constructed around a plot by Dr. Doom to use an "aggression enhancer" to stimulate a number of super-villains to attack the FF, which failed miserably and only served to become a backdrop to the testimony from various witnesses. But in hindsight, the extensive Congressional hearings, which revisited the legislative approach which Senator Robert Kelly first broached when proposing the Mutant Control Act, offer a look at the issue without the provocation of a tragedy driving it forward.

Before the FF appear, a number of other witnesses testify. Initially, the subcommittee was interested in registration in order to take advantage of the abilities of super-beings from a military aspect, and thus explored the issue along the same lines as a draft. Though in discussion, the conclusion proved to be somewhat distasteful:

Next up, a representative of the NRA, who provides a focal point for the subcommittee to explore the registration of super-powers in the same light as gun control. The witness proves to be an advocate for nonregistration, though in testimony that comes across as slightly self-serving.

Of course, no government hearings on super-beings would be complete without the presence of Henry Peter Gyrich, formerly of the National Security Council and at this point a member of the Commission on Superhuman Activities. Gyrich is in favor of revisiting the possibility of equating registration with the draft--and both Gyrich and members of the subcommittee offer disturbing overtones of what would one day in the future become law.

Finally, after being sidetracked by a number of super-villain encroachments on the hearings, the Fantastic Four are called for their testimony:

Thanks to Doom's device, there are more interruptions, leading one of the Congressmen, James Pertierra, to accuse Reed of arranging the attacks in order to sway the committee members into shelving the proposed legislation--a knee-jerk but not entirely unreasonable assumption, given the number of attacks being made along with the curious timing. Reed successfully dismantles Pertierra's inflammatory statements, leaving both himself and Sue to continue their testimony while the rest of the FF deal with further attacks from a safe distance.

It's of course high time that someone made the point with the government that an entity such as the Avengers only needed the government's cooperation, not its supervision--and that members of both the Avengers and the FF are often forced to make split-second decisions that no one in the government is equipped to second-guess. (I might argue that S.H.I.E.L.D. is perhaps qualified to do so--though in a battle, no one is going to be free to run a decision by whoever's on duty on the helicarrier.)

But once Doom's attacks are completely foiled, Reed is free to make more direct points regarding the Registration Act, and with a most surprising demonstration:

Aside from the swinging of a gavel, those jaws dropping in the room signal that the hearings on the Registration Act are over for the foreseeable future. As we would see at that later time, public outrage would negate any re-election shivers members of Congress might worry about.

Next time, we'll hear Iron Man make the case for a new Superhuman Registration Act.  And wait 'til you see who casts his vote in favor of it.

1 comment:

Colin Jones said...

Isn't it the case that Americans are allowed to bear arms ONLY IN TIMES OF INSURRECTION ?

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