How Civil War II Turned Captain Marvel Into a Supervillain

Greetings, general public whom I serve! “Postal Apocalypse,” io9's mail column, has returned for a second week in a row, so I’ve got a pretty hot streak going on. I’ll try to keep it up! Meanwhile, you’ve got questions about Civil War II, Rogue One, The Winds of Winter, the next Indiana Jones movie, and more. Coincidentally, I have answers.

The Assassination of Carol Danvers by the Knuckleknob, Marvel Comics

Jason M.:

Dear Postman of the future, I need you to tell me about the future by answering a question about...seeing the future.

Ignoring a lot of the secondary reasons most people hated Civil War II, the biggest area of discontent was how people hated the “character assassination” of Captain Marvel due to her outrageous support of Minority Reporting situations via Ulysses. One thing that shocked me is how literally every post, article, comment, and tweet I read said that anyone who would try to fight crimes that haven’t happened yet is horrible and wrong.

And yet...let’s say that something of this scale was all real. Like, a week from now a 50-story guy in a purple dress and the universe’s most fascinating hat showed up to LITERALLY EAT OUR PLANET. Or someone in an Eastern European country who studied science in the US before a horrible accident invented a time machine and was going back in time rewrite the US out of existence. If these types of planetary extinction events were possible (or even the casual cases of powered beings stomping down the street on a daily basis killing or injuring hundreds), wouldn’t you want, nay, demand that we use future-profiling it to stop crimes/events before they happen?

I think Civil War II’s biggest mistake was assuming that people would think of it in real-world terms, not comic-world terms. If some visions of the future could stop a gray dude who bedazzled an oven mitt from killing half the universe, sign me up.


I get what you’re saying, but the real problem is that Marvel was the one thinking about it in “real-world” terms. Had Ulysses’ visions been contained to preventing giant natural disasters like Galactus (and yes, although he is a big dude who wears purple, he has no more intent to do evil than an earthquake does) and/or stopping the biggest, most thoroughly evil supervillains’ plans, things probably would have been fine. Ulysses’ power would basically be a smoke alarm for trouble and evil—detect smoke, stop it before something catches fire. Who could argue with that?

No one, which is why Marvel had to exacerbate the problem so it could have its superheroes punching each other again. The issue had to be morally gray so that Carol and Tony could argue about it, which, as everyone has noticed, basically turned into the plot of Minority Report. So the argument became not just about using Ulysses’ visions to prevent disasters or thwart supervillains’ plans, Captain Marvel used it to imprison people for crimes they hadn’t even thought of committing yet, and that’s messed up.

Let’s go back to the Doctor Doom example: Based on Doom’s long history of being evil, yeah, he probably would eventually build a time machine and attempt to erase the US. But if until he starts actively trying to make the time machine, he has technically not committed a crime—well, not that crime. You would be punishing him for a crime he didn’t commit.

To be fair, Doctor Doom is a poor example, as are most comic book supervillains. They’ve all been evil for decades, so it’s harder to argue that they haven’t already earned life sentences. So imprisoning them for the many crimes they have committed, and their long history of evil, to predict their future behavior is a bit more understandable.


But of course, that’s also not what Captain Marvel was doing. She was imprisoning anyone Ulysses saw committing a crime, regardless of who that person was. She was arresting US citizens, not only without a trial, but again without them having done anything wrong (see above). Best example: Miles Morales, who she wanted to arrest after that vision of him killing Captain America several months in the future. Miles Morales has been a hero 100 percent of the time he’s operated as Ultimate Spider-Man. He’s never done anything like that before, and it’s clear that he had no intention or designs to do it. He was shocked and appalled by the vision as anyone else. But Carol was willing to imprison Miles on the mere possibility he would eventually murder Cap.


This isn’t just morally wrong, it’s stupid. Even if Ulysses’ visions were always 100 percent, inexorably correct—spoiler alert, they aren’t—they don’t give any context about the event. So, as crazy as it sounds, when Miles kills Captain America in the future, there could be some mitigating circumstances—circumstances like, oh, I don’t know, Captain America having been Cosmic Cube-ed into a Hydra agent. All she saw was a vision—nothing else. No motivations, no reasons, no explanations. And she just assumed Miles was guilty anyway.

There’s another reason why this is both idiotic and insidious: Carol assumes that Captain America’s murder is inevitable unless she imprisons Miles. But that makes no sense. Either Cap’s death is certain, in which case imprisoning Miles clearly won’t work because he’ll somehow have to get out in order to kill Cap, or—if the future isn’t certain and Cap’s death can be prevented—then the future can be changed by anything, not just arresting heroes who have done nothing wrong and are not even thinking about doing anything wrong. Either anything is possible or nothing is.


(Also? If everything is inevitable, then no one is really guilty of anything because there is no free will and we’re all locked into fixed loops where everything we do is unavoidable, and thus it’s not our fault.)

So… yeah. Marvel’s the one who made this weird. They love having their heroes fight each other, but it hasn’t figured out a way to gave them do it without turning one of them into a de facto supervillain themselves (exactly like Iron Man was in Civil War I). And for everyone who had been so excited about Carol’s pretty recent resurgence as Captain Marvel and one of Marvel’s biggest heroes, it was equally aggravating and heartbreaking to see her become so, so awful.


Words Are Wind

John W.:

Where do you stand on the debate about whether GRRM owes his fans updates on the status to The Winds of Winter and A Dream of Spring? I use to be on the side of the “he’s not our bitch” argument but now I’ve switched sides. I definitely think he owes us some kind of update, as to the frequency that’s up for debate, but let’s face it he’s rich and famous because people are reading his books, watching the HBO show, and buying all the ancillary products (merchandise, Dunk & Egg books). He should throw us a bone. What say you?


Let me ask you a question in return: What benefit does him giving an update give to him or us? If he makes it his date, he doesn’t win any prizes. If he doesn’t make it, fans lose their minds and freak out at him.

As a writer, I can tell you that some days I just can’t write. (That’s a softball for you guys.) Some days I can churn out the words, and some days they just don’t come at all. And I mainly write silly and/or mean-spirited stuff for the internet, not a massive fantasy epic with hundreds of characters and centuries of backstory that is also one of the most popular book series in the world.


He doesn’t know when the book will be finished until it’s finished. Yes, he has more facts than the rest of us—how many chapters he’s done, for instance—but it’s still just a guess, because he probably doesn’t know for sure how many chapters The Winds of Winter will be. Some authors can meticulously plan out their stories and stick to it like a machine, but that’s not GRRM, and it’s one of the reasons A Song of Ice and Fire is so good. He won’t know if an Arya storyline is one chapter or three until he sits down and writes it, but when it’s/they are done, it/they will be what’s best for the story.

If you want a guess, I can give you one with almost as much certainty as GRRM: April 2018. Meanwhile, you know who wants The Winds of Winter to be finished even more than you do? George R.R. Martin.



En Rogue

Confused Rebel:

Dear Mr. Postman,

Thanks to the generosity of friends, I was able to see Rogue One recently. Surprisingly, the film was enjoyable even with the stereotype of having an Asian character know martial arts.

But I have to wonder about the uses of the Death Star during the film. One shot was used to take out a city resting atop a mine of the crystals that powered light sabers. Wouldn’t that shot have caused a chain reaction that would have vaporized the entire planet? The second shot hit the planet where the Imperial Archives were stored. Wouldn’t that destruction have crippled the Empire by wiping out important records?

With such questionable bits of destruction, why is it that Grand Moff Tarkin still managed to have a job controlling the Death Star in “A New Hope?”


Kyber crystals don’t store energy, they focus it and amplify it. For lightsabers, they’re what keep the laser from just shooting lasers like blasters; for the Death Star it increases the power of its laser to the point where it can destroy planets. It’s not a power source unto itself, and it’s not explosive. So when the Death Star destroyed Jedha City, it didn’t blow up anymore than it would have without the crystals.

We don’t know much about the Imperial data center on Scarif, but think of it this way: even the loss of a million research and military projects wouldn’t mess up the Empire’s infrastructure. It would massively screw up things in development, but in terms of the day-to-day tyranny, the Empire would keep on chugging. Plus, we know that Tarkin deemed it better to destroy the research center than let the rebels get away with the Death Star plans, which is proof in itself that the Empire considered it at least somewhat expendable.


As for Grand Moff Tarkin, there is 100 percent no doubt that he blamed literally everything that went wrong on director Krennic, who was too dead to defend himself. Had Krennic done his duty and stopped the rebels on Scarif, why, Tarkin wouldn’t have needed to destroy the planet at all!


Flash Facts

Silver Age Fanboy:

Dear Mr. Postman, it’s been fun seeing Flash bring back D.C. villains ranging from Captain Cold to the Bug-Eyed Bandit. But two classic Flash villains, Captain Boomerang and Abra Kadabra, have not crossed paths (I don’t think) with Barry and the Super STARs. Is the problem that visually they’re too silly to work in the world of The Flash? Or is there some other problem I’m not aware of?


Captain Boomerang actually has appeared in the Arrowverse. Not on The Flash, weirdly, but in Arrow season three, during the first Flash/Arrow crossover. I had also totally forgotten until James Whitbrook reminded me like an hour before this went up.

But nothing is too silly to be on The Flash TV series, and I thank Grodd for it. The Golden Glider, the Pied Piper, Weather Wizard, the Turtle, Tar Pit, King Shark, Rainbow Raider… hell, the show even did the Bug-Eyed Bandit. Captain Boomerang and Abra Kadabra are deadly serious compared to some of those guys. (Also, given Barry’s incessant time-travel shenanigans, the fact that Kadabra is a magician from the 64th century makes him practically a gimme for the show.)


The only thing that’s stopped Captain Boomerang from returning to the DC/CW was the Suicide Squad movie, but since WB cleared Arrow’s version of Deadshot to return for an episode (albeit as a hallucination by Diggle) and for Harley Quinn and Killer Croc to appear on Gotham, I can’t imagine why Captain Boomerang would be the one character WB desperately needs to keep their hands on.


Indiana Jonesin’

Mike F.:

Will the next Indiana Jones movie be any good or is Harrison Ford just too old to pull it off? What are the chances it gets made even with Ford, Spielberg, and David Koepp attached? I know it will make money but is Ford too in love with the franchise to see the hieroglyphics on the wall that this probably shouldn’t be made or it will tarnish the brand further? What are the odds they introduce his successor and thoughts on who it might be?


If Harrison Ford was willing to be Han Solo again, he should almost certainly be willing to go back to Indiana Jones, a franchise he actually likes. (To be fair, age may have softened him on Star Wars.) But between the fact that Kingdom of the Crystal Skull tried to introduce a successor in Shia LaBeouf, King of the Monkeys, and failed, and the fact that Ford is now likely prohibitively old at age 74… well, I’m sure Spielberg and Ford are game, and we know David Koepp is currently writing the script, but I don’t see them all pulling it off before Ford becomes prohibitively old. Or at least too old to do much more than make a cameo, at which point the movie’s not about Indiana Jones at all, but the new guy.

Here’s what I predict will happen: The Han Solo movie will come out in 2018, do great, and Disney will take it as a sign that the public is willing to accept new actors playing beloved Harrison Ford characters. They will recast the part, allowing for a script that doesn’t need to accommodate Ford himself with all the action-adventure audiences want from an Indiana Jones movie.


Which is fine with me. Seeing old Indiana Jones in Kingdom of the Crystal Skull depressed me. Sure, a lot of things in Kingdom of the Crystal Skull depressed me, but that was definitely one of them.




Postman, why does everyone praise Vincent D’Onofrio’s performance as Kingpin on Daredevil? I think he’s a great actor but for me, he was the weakest part of the show. The way he talked with that forced accent, or whatever that was, really stood out terribly. I agree that Kingpin as a character was good since they got to really flesh him out, but why did he have to speak like that? Am I the only one that thought he was terrible? I feel like I’m taking crazy pills!


Well, you may be taking crazy pills, because D’Onofrio doesn’t have an accent in Daredevil. He’s enunciating things weirdly, but that’s something he does a lot when he’s playing deeper, more serious roles. He did it in every episode of Law & Order: Criminal Intent, for instance.

I don’t think it’s bad at all, but I would describe it as a slightly ominous quarter-Shatner. In fact, I believe it works for the moody, prone-to-fits-of-random-rage Wilson Fisk very well.



Don’t Hate the Leia, Hate the Game


After our heroes escape the Death Star in Episode IV, Leia casually notes that the Empire “let us escape” because “they’re tracking us.” Yet she does nothing about it! She didn’t check for a tracking beacon on the Falcon’s hull, or try to swap ships, or even go to a different planet. Instead she led the Death Star directly to the rebel base after personally witnessing its destructive power. So the question is, did Leia do this on purpose in order to lure the Empire in close for a knockout blow, or is she just lazy, or is this just a plotting oversight by GL?


I may be feeling extra-protective of Leia right now for obvious reasons, but here’s how I figure it: The Death Star had just destroyed an entire planet. Getting the plans to the Rebel base on Yavin as soon as possible was more important than keeping the base hidden, because the Rebels needed the plans as soon as possible to figure out how to destroy the Death Star as soon as possible.

Also? Leading the Death Star to Yavin keeps the Empire’s attention on the Rebels and not blasting random planets, killing millions of innocent lives while hunting the Alliance. It was risky to be sure, but between risking the Rebel base versus risking innocents, well, for Leia that was no question at all. Unlike the disturbingly less moral rebels of Rogue One, who are surprisingly okay with killing allies just in case they pose a problem, Leia is all integrity, all the time.



Game Movie Over

Josh N.:

First off, I keep getting more and more excited about the new Logan film. It seems like a worthy send off for Jackman, as opposed to a lame origin with Origins. I’ve seen the plot compared to the excellent game The Last of Us, based strictly on the trailers of course. Do you think that’s a fair comparison (obviously no one had claws in the video game), and do you think more movies could look to games for inspiration? I know the state of straight adaptations is kind of a bust.


It’s a fair comparison—badass adult and child take a journey through a near-future semi-apocalypse—but it’s not like The Last of Us pioneered that particular pairing. It’s a long-used trope, accurately titled “Badass and Child Duo” over at TV Tropes, with oodles of entries, which arguably started with the Japanese Lone Wolf and Cub manga (and subsequent movies). In that, wrongfully-disgraced-samurai-turned-assassin Ogami Itto travels with his incredibly young son Daigoro, in a wooden baby carriage also filled with deadly weapons.

As to your other question, I think that most of the time, video games are looking to other movies and TV shows for their own inspiration, which means movie don’t need to scour them for ideas. Also, I’m no longer sure that a “good” video game movie is even possible anymore—but that is a question someone will have to ask me next week.


Have a nerdy question? Need advice? Want a mystery or argument solved? Email them to! I’m trying to answer a lot of questions each week to make up for the hiatus, so I need a lot of questions sent to me each week, too. Remember, no question too difficult or dumb! Probably!



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Rob Bricken

Rob Bricken was the Editor of io9 from 2016-18, the creator of the poorly named but fan-favorite news site Topless Robot, and now writes nerd stuff for many places, because it's all he's good at.