Comic books might be treated as mere escapist fantasy by those unfamiliar with the medium, but there’s no denying that there have been plenty of comic book stories out there with very on-the-nose sociopolitical commentary. This is something that has carried over into the world of Marvel movies – for example, the LGBTQ/civil rights subtext of the X-Men franchise or the political overtones of upcoming release Captain America: The Winter Soldier.
The ties between comic books and larger events in society are highlighted in the trailer for Marvel’s short-form documentary series, Tales to Astonish. The first episode (which was directed by Eric Drath) focuses on Mark Millar and Steve McNiven’s Civil War story arc, in which the superhumans of the USA find themselves fiercely divided over the Superhuman Registration Act, a bill that would force any American with super-powers to register themselves with the federal government as a “human weapon of mass destruction,” giving up their true identities and undergoing proper training.
As the title suggests, a civil war ensues with Iron Man leading the pro-registration superhumans and Captain America leading the anti-registration group. Civil War can very easily be read as an allegorical commentary on 9/11 and the Patriot Act, and addresses the dilemma of giving up liberty in favor of security. As the trailer delineates, Civil War has also proven to be distinctly prophetic given the recent controversies over NSA surveillance.
This first episode of Tales to Astonish definitely looks worth watching, not only as an individual piece but also as supplementary material for watching Captain America: The Winter Soldier. What we’ve seen and heard about the movie so far suggests that it will draw on similar themes to those of Civil War, with Captain America being forced to decide where his loyalties lie and how high a price he is willing to pay for freedom.
Based on the topics that have been selected for discussion in future episodes – such as Tony Stark’s drinking problem, Captain Marvel’s death from cancer and the snobbery directed towards comic book art by the rest of the modern art community - Tales to Astonish definitely looks like it will be a fascinating series. One thing that remains unclear, however, is how exactly Tales to Astonish will be released. John Cerilli, Marvel’s VP of Content & Programming, told USA Today that decisions regarding distribution are still being made.
We’ll keep you updated on Tales to Astonish as distribution details become available.
Source: USA Today