It seems that Marvel can’t cop a break at the moment. First it’s a billboard where the X-Men villain Apocalypse chokes current X-Men hero Mystique which has been claimed that it promotes violence against women; now the comic book giant is under fire again for the death of a character in their movie co-op event Civil War II.
Now before I get into the comic books and the issue that has come about, I’m going to say this about death in the Marvel Comic Book Universe: It’s a joke. Death is such a non-issue in the overall scope of things that even the characters inside some of the books will joke about how no one stays dead for long. Hell, once upon a time there was a saying in Marvel Comics itself that went: “The only people who stay dead in comics are Gwen Stacy, Bucky, Jason Todd, and Uncle Ben,”. Well so far everyone except Uncle Ben has come back to their mainline comic books in some form over the past decade… And even that is debatable given the context of an upcoming Spider-Man event called “Dead No More”, which is set to start in the Fall of 2016.
But enough about those who are coming back, let’s take a look at someone who has recently been killed off in Civil War II and the outrage that’s spawned from it.
Now I’m not going to go into Civil War II in depth at the moment since the event has just started, but to give you an idea of what the event is about.
The basis of the plot revolves around a new Inhuman called Ulysses, who can see the future. Captain Marvel wants to use the new Inhuman as a way to stop major events before they happen. Iron Man, who has been a futurist for many years, opposes the idea of using the young man as a fortune teller device to stop things from happening without knowing the why they are happening. This leads into The Avengers stopping an attempt of invasion by The Mad Titan Thanos thanks to the prediction by Ulysses. During this battle, both She-Hulk and War Machine are injured… Which leads into the problem as you’ll see through the pages below. (You can click the image for a higher resolution version of the pages)
So there you have it. James “Rhodey” Rhodes is the first official death in Marvel’s Civil War II event.
Now I’m sure you’re asking yourself “Why is this a big deal?”. Well my friend, let me show you something that was posted not too long after this news was broken to the world… Or at least Social Media.
I'm still angry about the Civil War II spoilers so let's talk about how death in comics only guaranteed to be temporary for white characters
— stitch-zilla (@stichomancery) June 4, 2016
Yep, we’re heading down that #BlackLivesMatter road once again.
Those of us who remember the original Civil War, and I’m not talking the movie that came out not too long ago, that there was a C-List Black Superhero called Goliath that was killed by a robotic Thor. Back then, we didn’t have the ultra-leftist idealism that we have today with things like ‘progressives’ and ‘Black Lives Matter’ groups shouting at the ‘injustices in today’s culture’ while trying to create a society where anyone who isn’t a Straight White Male are meant to be untouchable in media such as TV, Movies, Video Games, and Comic Books (Not actual books. 50 Shades of Grey is a-ok with those groups despite its subject matter).
Back then there was no outrage, we just accepted it and were more pissed off at the fact that a robotic Thor was involved in the series and the overall issue of the Superhero Registration Act that was turning a lot of our beloved heroes into criminals in the eyes of the law. I guess we were just a bunch of neanderthals back then.
Am I disappointed by the death of Rhodey? Yeah, I am. The guy has been the centrally balanced thing in the Iron Man books and was a huge support in Tony Stark’s life. He even had his own series a few times that was a lot better to read than it was to read Iron Man. But that had nothing to do with the fact that Rhodey was black, it was because good writers had me invested in the character the Rhodey was. Hell, reading Civil War II Issue 0, I was excited to see what the future had in store for Rhodey, especially after he had a meeting with “The President” (Since we’re in an election year, and in an attempt to keep the book from being dated, Marvel went with the “President in the shadows” approach).
Rhodey, aka War Machine, is being asked to run to be the first Superhero President of the United States (At least in the new main Marvel Universe. Captain America became the President in the Ultimate Universe storyline “United We Stand”). Fuck Trump, Hillary & Bernie, this is the guy I’d be voting for… If I was an American and allowed voting.
While this would have been a great thing to see happen, the death of Rhodey sorta puts all that to a stop. Now there are sites out there, along with a lot of people on Twitter and Tumblr, that say Rhodey will never get a resurrection because he is black. This is a load of bullshit and created so sites like Craptaku can get clicks and more ad revenue. Anyone who actually reads comics for longer than the Marvel movies have been around will know that Rhodey will be back sometime down the track.
The people over at Newsrama didn’t pull any punches when it came to asking why Rhodey was the one killed and if Marvel knew that they were killing a black character.
Nrama: Following up on that, you know as well as I do how conversations on the internet go. It’s only a matter of time before someone asks why the first confirmed casualty of Civil War II was a black man. Can you address the decision making behind killing off War Machine?
Brevoort: In terms of Rhodey, we were not unaware that killing Rhodey meant we’d have a story where an African American character dies, which is something that happens prevalently in our medium. That’s a conversation that we had. In our particular retreat where we talked about this, Ta’Nehisi Coates was in the retreat for the first time. He heard all of this, and afterwards, he sent a long missive to myself and Axel, which we forwarded to Brian and we all spoke about, in terms of what he thought the reaction would be and what the ramifications would be, that we had to consider that from all sides. And we have.
But the thing that makes Rhodey the only choice to be that character is that Rhodey is the one player who has a specific relationship with Tony, and a specific relationship with Carol. He stands firmly in favour of “predictive justice”, and chooses to act on Ulysses’ visions. Even though it costs him his life, it’s a choice he would make again, given the opportunity. His death serves to galvanize them in both of their trajectories in the way the death of any other character just wouldn’t. It was not necessarily a popular choice, knowing we’d get that response — and justifiably so. It seems like it’s always the black hero who dies in these kind of stories. But at least in this instance I feel like we stand on decent ground saying if there had to be a death, it should be Rhodey because of his relationship with the characters, not because of the colour of his skin or his lack of prominence in the Marvel Universe.
Marvel knows what they are doing when they do these types of stunts. Everything is weighed and measured with all outcomes thought of ahead of time. So all this backlash that has sprung up, Marvel knew it was going to happen. But they decided that Rhodey’s CHARACTER outweighed the colour of his skin… SHOCKING!! This actually surprises me since Marvel has been extremely quick to curry the favour of Feminist groups and Extreme Progressive Leftists through their books over the last year or so.
This isn’t going to be something that we’re going to hear about once and then it’s gone. People are about to put up a huge bitching campaign against the ‘racist’ Marvel Company (And their Parent company: Disney) and demand that Rhodey come back to life by the end of Civil War II, get his own solo series (which these complainers won’t buy) and have the people involved in the decision for Rhodey to die expelled from Marvel completely. Now I’m sure that Marvel will find some way to bring Rhodey back before too long, but the people responsible for the decision will not be removed from the company, just reassigned to other ‘safer’ books for a while.
None of this addresses the real problem: Outrage Addicts. The people who instantly jump on the racism/sexism bandwagon whenever something happens in an area where they know they are going to get attention. These things are never about a black man dying in a fictional medium, it’s about their sense of white guilt, or their own desire to be the exception to the rule and placed above all others. Until the day these people move on and find something else to bitch about, it’s going to be a constant ‘problem’ whenever something like this happens to someone other than a Straight White Male. But congrats to Marvel for thinking beyond the superficial idea of race.