“In the Morning” to all you comic lovers out there! This week I’ll be looking at something that is rearing its ugly head in our comics and public forums recently. (I’ll wait to write it so you can guess and see if you are right.)
You’ve probably heard the age old question before, “If you could go back and time to when Adolf Hitler was a little kid, would you kill him?” This may sound weird, but the premise is based on the idea that if you killed Hitler before he did anything wrong, you would save millions of lives. Yet, the problem with this question is the moral dilemma that it poses to the audience: would you commit murder to stave off murder?
The pragmatist would say that this was a good trade. The ends justify the means, but is that really right?
Regardless, there is a term for this very situation: Precrime. Precrime is the motivation to commit a crime and the incentive to follow through. Now in the United States of America the suspect is innocent until proven guilty, but the notion of precrime brings this into question.
To this end, I would like to point out just two examples from this past week’s Marvel 616 comics that provide alternate views of the issue. The first is Uncanny X-Force #4.
In this story, Wolverine’s team of black ops killers are at the end of their hunt for the newly incarnated Apocalypse. The only problem is that this time around Apocalypse is a young boy. The team finally reaches their target when Psylocke decides that killing the child is not right. Eventually Wolverine agrees…and I won’t tell you the ending just yet.
For now, just remember who Apocalypse is. He is the oldest mutant born in 3000 B.C. bent on the extreme use of Social Darwinism. He is the ultimate Nietzsche “Will to Power” character. He is a killer that rules with an iron fist until the 39th century in some Marvel story lines. He does not give up and he does not give in. He is the ultimate totalitarian evil. So how hard is it to kill him in his current state? Not very. His threat is real and evident, and he would kill you without a second thought.
But what about before he becomes that person? What about the seemingly innocent child that X-Force found when they were looking for the genocidal maniac they were preparing for? How hard is it to kill that Apocalypse? Apparently, very.
The team decides to rehabilitate the youngster to fight for good instead of evil. But before they can act on this decision, Fantomex (a member of the team) puts a bullet in the child’s head. The team is stunned and silenced by the action. And most importantly, the reader is left to ponder whether or not the kill was justified.
A few things to take away here: 1. This story is basically the Hitler question from earlier, 2. The reader is meant to think about the kill as a controversial thing or else the writer would not have written the climax of the story in such a way, and 3. Apocalypse was definitely killed for things he was going to do, not things he was doing currently. So I would submit to you that this shines taking measures to punish precrime in a rather dubious light.
Now keep that in your mind as we move to the second example this week: New Avengers #9. In this back and forth story we see some of the New Avengers team staking out a warehouse or storefront that is being moved into. The new tenants are Superia and some left over H.A.M.M.E.R. agents. They are obviously up to no good; nevertheless, the question remains: have they done anything wrong yet?
While the team contemplates whether you are innocent before proven guilty (which I thought was a funny misquote, like they are definitely guilty and we are just waiting for the proof
), the Thing takes matters into his own hands, knowing that his precrime radar is never wrong. He leaps into action and asks if anyone wants to fight him fully expecting everyone to jump into a whirlwind of hot lead and furious fists.
Now I may be wrong, and the subsequent issues may bear that out, but I believe that Bendis used precrime as a mere plot device to edge away from character development and delve into action. Regardless of the intent, you (the reader) must read the message. Is Bendis saying that action against precrime is justifiable, or is he going to show us that the Avengers were wrong to attack an otherwise legal business? Does any action against this group fall under the category of a preemptive attack, or can we assume that suspicious activity no matter how innocent can result in civil freedoms and liberties being suspended?
I’m interested to see how these actions direct the course of their respective books in the near and long term. But even more so, I’m hoping for a drastic deviation of philosophy among the premier Marvel teams. Will the Avengers be the new keepers of security? Will the X-Men and the X-Force exercise the tolerance they so vehemently espouse? Stay with us to find out!