This is just for fun today.
I have mentioned my Chris Evans/Captain America awakening in past entries (in short, that I knew little of Cap in the past, but the character became a favourite through Evans’ MCU performance). One of the things that stayed with me was the debate surrounding the Sokovia Accords, specifically Secretary Ross’ reasoning:
How about “dangerous”? What would you call a group of US based, enhanced individuals who routinely ignore sovereign borders and inflict their will wherever they choose and who, frankly, seem unconcerned with what they leave behind? New York, Washington D.C., Sokovia, Lagos…Secretary of State Thaddeus Ross, Captain America: Civil War (2016)
But let’s break that down.
New York (Marvel’s The Avengers (2012))
Captain America takes down the Red Skull and the Tesseract, the thing Red Skull sought to harness, is lost to the ocean. SHIELD goes looking for it though and succeeds in finding it (and, fortunately, Captain America as well). They decide to look into using it as a sustainable energy source.
Fast forward to the events of Thor where King Laufey (and Loki’s meddling) results in the widespread “alien” destruction of a New Mexico town before Thor is able to stop them. This prompts SHIELD to begin investigating the use of the Tesseract in weapons systems (a la Red Skull and HYDRA – though HYDRA at this point is also in SHIELD) to defend against these threats.
Loki seizes the Tesseract with the support of the Chitauri (and, unknown to the heroes, Thanos), and begins an invasion of the planet. The entire planet. The epicentre of the invasion is Manhattan at Stark Tower in midtown, but they mean to control everything and subjugate humanity to Loki’s rule (in exchange for getting the Tesseract, which is to say an infinity stone, back to Thanos).
Captain America teams up with the other Avengers not only to stop Loki and the invasion, but they contain the threat to a few square blocks in Midtown Manhattan.
We’ll come back to this.
Washington, D.C. (Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014))
By Cap’s next solo outing, we learn that HYDRA has infiltrated SHIELD to a massive degree. “SHIELD’s” newest defence initiative is the improvement of the helicarrier system with advanced targeting. The problem is that HYDRA has been using data to identify those who would be a threat to HYDRA’s plans and they intend to mass exterminate those threats when the helicarriers go live by targeting millions of targets simultaneously.
Captain America, along with Black Widow and Falcon, stop this plot by replacing the targeting so the helicarriers target one another.
They save all of those lives, but the damaged helicarriers crash into the Potomac sending waves and debris into the city.
Sokovia (Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015))
The next Avengers team up finds the group searching and destroying HYDRA operations in search of Loki’s sceptre. Tony Stark decided to develop a team of sentinels to provide security while the Avengers do their thing, and when Scarlet Witch reveals the extent of the threat facing Earth to Stark (still traumatised from his wormhole nuke-disposal in the first Avengers) he decides to supplement the sentinels with AI from JARVIS.
The new creation, Ultron, immediately goes haywire and decides that the only way to achieve peace is to destroy people, setting into action a series of events that culminates with Ultron turning the country of Sokovia into a meteor with which he means to destroy the planet.
Cap again teams up with the squad to take down Ultron, resulting in the total destruction of Sokovia.
It seems worth noting again that Sokovia, at this point, was a meteor intended to destroy all life on the planet. Ultron doomed Sokovia before Rogers and team arrived.
Lagos (Captain America: Civil War)
This situation is a little different. On the one hand, Crossbones (Rumlow, introduced in Winter Soldier) lead a team of mercenaries into Lagos to seize a biological weapon. Cap leads a team (Black Widow, Falcon, Scarlet Witch) to take him down.
In the act of stopping Crossbones, Rumlow tries to give his team a chance and simultaneously exact some revenge by falling back to engage Cap directly. He distracts Cap with a mention of Bucky long enough to plant an explosive in a suicide effort to kill Cap, but Scarlet Witch catches him and uses her power to throw Rumlow away from the market. She tosses him towards a building though, and the explosion claims several lives.
This event in Lagos becomes the final straw before proposal of the Sokovia Accords, presented by Ross to the Avengers.
Here’s the thing though – these are situations concocted by other people and resolved by Captain America (with help).
Vision at one point offers an equation:
Vision: In the 8 years since Mr. Stark announced himself as Iron Man, the number of known enhanced persons has grown exponentially. And during the same period, a number of potentially world-ending events has risen at a commensurable rate.
Steve Rogers: Are you saying it’s our fault?
Vision: I’m saying there may be a causality. Our very strength invites challenge. Challenge incites conflict. And conflict… breeds catastrophe. Oversight… Oversight is not an idea that can be dismissed out of hand.
What’s interesting though is that aside from Loki (during The Avengers) and Zemo in this film, no villain expresses an interest in challenging the Avengers. Ultron threatens the Avengers, but only insomuch as he threatens all life. In fact, other than Stark all of the Avengers insert themselves into conflicts where they are not the intended targets.
Then there is SHIELD (slash HYDRA pretty much from the beginning). They retrieve the Tesseract and later secure Loki’s sceptre (putting two of the Infinity Stones on Earth and inviting Thanos’ attention). Captain America and Thor in particular tried to remove their presence from Earth, even before knowing of Thanos’ plans.
Ross later asks Rogers:
Tell me, Captain, do you know where Thor and Banner are right now? ‘Cause you can bet if I misplaced a couple of 30 megaton warheads, there’d be consequences.
Interesting, I thought. Because I seem to remember a group of US-based personnel (i.e. SHIELD) sending a 30 megaton warhead to Manhattan. Remember the alien invasion of the planet that the Avengers contained to a few blocks in Midtown? SHIELD wanted to level all of Manhattan to contain that; this is made stranger by the knowledge that the nuke would not have stopped the portal so additional forces could have invaded in the aftermath.
This proceeds to the events in Washington, which lead to Rumlow attempting to seize the biological weapon in Sokovia. Zero oversight for the HYDRA-infiltrated organisation that Rogers stops again and again.
Stark leads the team in favour of the Accords, which is also interesting because, yeah, he could use some oversight. By the end of Phase III Stark’s character arc completes and he earns a hero’s honour, but for most of the MCU he remains a flawed and selfish character (and we still don’t know the full extent of his actions on the universe).
Stark supplied weapons all over the world, and that nearly turned (well, did turn, initially) Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch against the Avengers. It inspired Zemo to take action against the Avengers as well. It gave War Monger the technology to oppose Iron Man and inspired him to team up with the Ten Rings (which we know will return to the MCU). His father motivated Ivan Vanko to oppose him in Iron Man 2, while Justin Hammer hated Tony directly.
Tony develops Ultron without the input of the team, who oppose the idea when they hear of it.
Tony’s involvement in other areas leads to the creation of Vulture and Mysterio in the Spider-Man continuity.
Tony is not a villain, but everything said about the Sokovia Accords (our strength invites challenge, inattention to the aftermath, a need for oversight) seems to apply to Tony more so than the Avengers as a team.
In every Cap-related scenario, Rogers diffuses situations he did not create and, as a result, avoids greater destruction than what occurs.
Yes, Midtown Manhattan sees substantial damage. The alternative is widespread destruction and the subjugation of the human race. Yes, there was fallout from the helicarrier destruction in Washington. The alternative was the death of millions. Yes, Sokovia was destroyed. The alternative was the end of all life on the planet. Yes, people died in Lagos. The alternatives were the release of biological weapons into the wild or the death of even more people in the marketplace.
I continue to find myself firmly on Team Cap.