Marvel Sketch Cover Madness: Civil War II!

Civil War II Sketch Cover...the summer's Marvel Event.

Civil War II Sketch Cover…the summer’s Marvel Event.

“Civil War II” is a comic book crossover storyline published by Marvel Comics that just started in June. It’s the sequel to 2006’s “Civil War” and consists of an eight issue limited series with the core story, just like “Civil War” did. Also like “Civil War” is has a huge number of tie-in books. The story, oddly enough functions as an allegory about the nature of determinism versus free will, which is heavy duty philosophical ground for a major comic book event. The story sees opposing factions of superheroes led by Captain Marvel and Iron Man come into conflict when a new super powered person (an Inhuman) emerges with the ability to predict the future.

The idea of the sequel was conceived at one of Marvel’s semi-annual editorial retreats. Brian Michael Bendis (the writer) revealed, “People’s personal accountability is the theme of this one…from the way cops are acting on camera, to the way people talk to each other online.” According to the official synopsis, a strange new character with the power to accurately predict the outcome of future events comes to the attention of the world. This power divides the heroes on how best to utilize the information, with Captain Marvel wanting to profile future crimes before they occur, and Iron Man believing that “the punishment cannot come before the crime.” The situation reaches a turning point when it is predicted that one of the heroes will be the cause of major destruction, forcing the others to make a difficult decision.

Incidentally, it seems like that character will be Bruce Banner, the Hulk. Maybe not…but the book has foreshadowed that as the flashpoint by issue No. 2.

If you’ve seen the film “Minority Report”, this plotline seems kind of familiar. That’s because it is. Still…it has been reasonably well executed for the zero issue, and subsequent two issues afterward. Ulysses (the new Inhuman) has more of an ability to “profile’ the future…by making some sort of massive probability analysis…neatly avoiding the problem of alternate timelines. Oddly, it does bring into account something that I think about often, at school.

You see…once you have enough student data accrued, about a population of students…you can pretty much effectively start to chart trends in that data, and make very accurate predictions about what will happen in your student population. Usually…teachers and administrators think they are doing this, and generate vast reams of paperwork, but fail to actually do the real work to make it effective. Think about it…once you have four months in school, you have literally thousands of discipline referrals, late notices, hall passes, and nurses reports. The simplest method of real predictive analysis would put these on a multilayered, color coded map of the school. Red dots, for instance, for nurses referrals, at the point of origin…the class where it happened. Each clear layer over the map represents a class period, and the dot has a time stamp on it.

Very simple visual analysis would show where the biggest clump of referrals to the nurse came from, and when. In simple to address groups. You could then sort the actual referrals, and find out what is happening. Is the teacher simply sending out anyone and everyone that asks for a pass? Is there some situation that makes accidents happen at that time and place? Is there a menu item on the school lunch that makes people sick during fourth period? It wouldn’t be hard to intervene, with that kind of real data analysis…and the gain would be less time spent with students in the nurses office. If a P.E. teacher needs to supervise better, to prevent injuries, you’d find it. Pretty fast.

That’s not even an advanced analysis…its very simple data profiling. Also, in this example, it’s being used for a simple, and easily agreed upon purpose…increasing levels of student health and safety by preventing accidents and or illness.

It gets trickier when processing student discipline data, for a similar time period. The data analysis is easy enough…even more advanced data analysis is not a big deal, just time consuming. It’s easy enough to pinpoint key locations where “things happen”, such as ditching, illegal sales, and so forth. In fact, processing the actual referrals, it is easy enough to make an n-dimensional social network model that clearly outlines who the “key players” are, not unlike the police do with case boards. So…what’s tricky?

Well…it creates a thorny ethical problem. When you know, to a high degree of reliability that Student A is going to (has not yet) commit Crime B (say…selling drugs on campus) at Time C, because in 90 percent of referrals Student A has been implicated, and the known consumers all ditch class in the same location at Time C…do you bust the student? Do you wait for the highly probable event to take place, tip Campus Police, and set forces in motion that can’t be taken back? Or do you “advise” Student A? Tell that young person that the transactions are a known quantity. If you do that…you’re not really stopping the act, you’re just moving it to a new time, and a new location.

If you ask parents, they are of two minds on the issue. They definitely want preventive intervention to take place BEFORE there own child can be exposed to anything unsafe, illegal, or inappropriate. However….if you were to “pre-bust” their own stduent for something that prevented harm to others…they tend to think that is Not Okay. for instance…searching Student A’s bag before he is seen selling things out of it invariably causes the discussion of “Why did you search my kid’s bag? Are you searching everyone?” I’ve never seen it come down as relevant what was actually IN the bag…just the nature of the search.

At my old school, I ran such a detailed analysis. Complete with projections of where the numbers would lead, in terms of crazy behaviors…remember, fights were commonplace there, as well as drug trade. I did a presentation on it in fact, where I explained that the projection said really Grim Things about the last couple of weeks…and identified 23 key players, that if they were somehow taken out of circulation in the school population, things would calm to a huge degree. To be clear…the 23, as I called them, were responsible for around ninety percent of the discipline referrals. 23 students out of almost four hundred at my grade level. A small, but active group, to be sure.

That school descended into madness. Huge numbers of teachers left, citing the inability to teach class due to the constant chaos and lack of any real consequences for student conduct. Eventually, I even left the sinking ship, because the writing on the wall was clear enough. I wonder though, sometimes…what if we could have somehow neutralized the 23? Would things have been different? Bear in mind, that does presuppose a system in place that could do that…a consequence system for handling those kinds of issues. It’s a bit uncomfortable, because statistically profiling the 23 in that fashion…it does make them a kind of statistical outlier that then becomes the focus of attention, BEFORE they actually do anything new to get such attention.

Oddly…that’s the kind of debate going on in the “Civil War II” comic book. With accurate information about what will probably happen, do you act on that information for the good of the many, at the sacrifice of the basic rights of the few? Do you toss Bruce Banner in some kind of space jail before he turns into the Hulk…because you know he WILL turn into the Hulk, and straight up wreck something big? He hasn’t done it YET, so you’re really punishing before the crime.

So, why Baby X-Men? First off, because they are adorable.

Secondly….the X-Men are ALWAYS about choosing sides. In “Civil War II: X-Men”, the Extraordinary X-Men (in baby form, above) use intel from Ulysses (the future guy) to save Magneto and his team, as well as some other mutants, from Sentinels and this Terrigen Cloud. Don’t think too much about it…they needed saving. That said, Magneto (as he does) immediately makes the whole thing about choosing sides…pro-Mutant, or pro-Inhuman. As another layer to that…not being an idiot, Magneto would like access to this guy’s powers, because being able to accurately predict the future is a Big Deal. Hence, the whole picking sides out of his bucket head mask.

I love Skottie Young’s art, so I slaved to put the sketch variant together in emulation of his line work. The next issue of “I Hate Fairyland”, by Mr. Young, is out now…I can’t recommend that book enough.

Well, that was a digression. If you saw “X-Men: Apocalypse”, you know that the whole film is basically about magneto, and other mutants, choosing sides. It’s a big theme in the X-Men, and apparently the theme of “X-Men: Destiny,” a Nintendo DS game rocketing through the mail to my house as we speak. Apparently, in that game, Magneto basically asks you, the player to pick a side…the X-Men, or his Brotherhood of Evil Mutants. I’m thinking that he could recruit more effectively as a Mutant Malcolm X figure if he trimmed that group name down a bit. “Brotherhood of Mutants” sounds good…inspiring. Add “Evil” to that name, and you sound like what Magneto and his lot are always labeled…a mutant terrorist organization.

Hard to say that you are on the right side of the argument when “evil” is part of your organization’s name. Just saying.

The art alone, cropped from cover.

The art alone, cropped from cover.

That being said…Magneto, at least as portrayed in the eighties forward, always made a lot of sense to me. His pro-active stance on defending a persecuted minority (a heavy handed metaphor for the Jews) spoke to the need to DO something, to go out and make some kind of difference. That can’t be too bad a side to be on, if you should pick it out of the hat, I think.



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