The US government places blame on the reckless behaviour of unlicensed individuals and groups, but tries to remedy this by empowering government-approved and sanctioned groups to combat the rest. Who is right? How do you best navigate or utilise the chaos that ensues?
This is the situation created in the aftermath of Marvel's hugely popular Civil War storyline, which divided allied heroes such as Iron Man and Mr Fantastic from Spiderman, Captain America or Luke Cage in a seemingly permanent way.
The question is: what overpowered forces can be allowed to be active day-to-day? What is the role of the unregulated do-gooder in the community, and can such role models be allowed without some kind of formalisation?
The question of the media is sometimes touched on as well, as government-endorsed heroes must be made to appear victorious,despite the facts. When the government's “Avengers: Initiative” is launched to train or re-train B-list heroes at boot camp, in order to provide a super-powered force in every US state, the “superman-controlled state” seems close – closer when you appreciate how the truth about their missions is kept from the public, and their enemies, once captured, are carted off to the negative zone without trial for the foreseeable future. In this new world, everyone seems to be grasping for the final say on how these teams should be run, and the motivations are more than suspect. For instance, old foes like Norman Osborn (the Green Goblin) and Taskmaster (who trained several major villains) are given influential positions in the new order, whether for the money, the freedom or the power it is unclear. So we are left to ask: when does peace-keeping become oppression? And when does education become political indoctrination? How should communities interact with their policing?
The New Avengers comics following Civil War show an outlawed group of former Avengers being attacked by a group organised by the Hood, who sees the chaos amongst superheroes as an opportunity. The Hood's promises to his villains are better than what the government offers – so that out in society, greed can not be relied on to procure loyalty.
The afore-mentioned Avengers: Initiative comic is almost as dark in content, and violent, despite a colourful, manga or TV-inspired design. It also happens to be one of the best Marvel books I have read recently, more shocking and bigger in scope than some of the recent Iron Man stories or the impressive espionage-focused Captain America series. In Avengers: Initiative the concept of having leaders with dubious moral fibre running a boot camp for heroes with a variety of strange powers is a perfect way to get inexperienced teenagers into terrifying danger. And as we see them get confident with their powers, or traumatised and disillusioned, we worry about the personal motivations of some to be part of the programme. The first volume ends with a neat whodunit, for instance, where many on the training base are suspects and which only the reader finally finds out the real solution to. The first two volumes pour in shock after shock and well-define some interesting characters, but so far the third, which links with an alien invasion, is less punchy due to there now being too many characters to follow. I wish we could have stayed mainly with the batch of heroes from volume two.