Earth’s mightiest heroes are gearing up for the fight of their lives, but when last we saw them their battle wasn’t with a mighty villain… it was with each other.
The Avengers have just defeated Ultron in Sokovia, and are now working harder than ever, fighting to protect the earth. Fast forward about a year, and a portion of the new Avengers team - Steve Rogers, Natasha Romanoff, Sam Wilson and Wanda Maximoff - work to stop Brock Rumlow aka CrossBones, former HYDRA Agent, from stealing a biological weapon from a lab in Lagos. Rumlow attempts to kill Captain America by blowing himself up with Rogers close by. Wanda, aka Scarlet Witch, uses her powers of telekinesis to throw the explosion into the sky. Unfortunately, it damages a nearby building and ends up killing several humanitarian workers from Wakanda.
After the events of the Battle of Sokovia & the mission in Lagos, US Secretary of State, Thaddeus Ross, arrives at the Avengers headquarters to inform the Avengers that the United Nations will be passing the Sokovia Accords. The Sokovia Accords would establish a panel within the United Nations that would oversee and control the team. The Accords are also a version of the Superhero Registration Act from the Marvel Civil War comic series. In the comics, the Superhero Registration Act is a piece of legislation that is passed requiring all enhanced individuals to reveal their secret identities and disclose their powers for regulation.
Feeling the need to take responsibility for his actions which created Ultron and ultimately caused the Battle of Sokovia, Tony Stark believes that the Accords are the best way to keep all of the Avengers and all other enhanced individuals safe. In direct contradiction, Steve Rogers, having once believed in the system but following the events of “Captain America: The Winter Soldier”, is a bit more leery regarding government control.
“I know we’re not perfect, but the safest hands are still our own.”
~ Steve Rogers, Captain America: Civil War
So how did we get to the point where our two main leading Avengers, Captain America, and Iron Man, are now battling each other, instead of working together. I think to better understand this, and gain some insight into how the events of Civil War will impact/affect Infinity War, we need to go back and analyze the storylines and origins of these two characters.
Luckily for us, a lot of the heavy lifting on this task has already been done. Travis Langley, the author of the acclaimed book Batman and Psychology: A Dark and Stormy Knight, has taken on this challenge in his book Captain America vs Iron Man: Freedom, Security, Psychology. Now, I am not going to just regurgitate the words of Dr. Langley and the other authors that contributed to this book, however, I do want to use their words to breakdown Civil War and see what that could mean for Infinity War.
The Civil War comic series actually was conceived by Brian Michael Bendis & Mark Millar after 9/11 when the US Government passed the USA Patriot Act, which limited liberties and broadened the abilities of the government. With this battle that would soon ensue, it is clear that the two heroes they would pit against each other would be Captain America and Iron Man.
Why is this obvious? Well if you look at their backgrounds, while there are major similarities, it is the differences in their character that really show where they fall in Civil War.
In Langley’s book, the psychology of a hero is broken down and Tony Stark & Steve Rogers are the focus breaking down both character’s origin stories and their personalities to explain why they chose the sides they did.
“Captain America and Iron Man emerge as different types of leaders for many reasons relating to their personalities, life experiences, and motivations.”
Travis Langley, The Shield, The Armour, and the Basic Human Dilemma - Captain America vs Iron Man: Freedom, Security, Psychology
Steve Rogers, is the ideal World War II hero. While not the first hero to be dressed in the American flag, he has become the most popular. Stan Lee believes that this “was because he was drawn so well by Jack Kirby and because Joe Simon’s stories were really exciting in the early days.” (Stan Lee, Captain America vs Iron Man: Freedom, Security, Psychology - Forward).
One of Steve Roger’s greatest qualities is his heart. When we first meet Steve he is smaller than average, quite scrawny, and has a lot of health problems. Those problems don’t stop him from wanting to do his party in the war effort. He even says to his best friend Bucky, “There are men laying down their lives. I got no right to do any less than that”. In the comic books, when Captain America is unfrozen and leads the Avengers, the team is made of up former criminals because he believes in second chances and sees the best in people. This trait is displayed during Captain America: Civil War when he looks and sees the best in his childhood friend, Bucky aka The Winter Soldier.
In Captain America: The Winter Soldier, we see Steve’s old school ideals must combat a world full of subtle threats and difficult moral complexities. Staying true to his morals and ideals of what freedom means, he rejects Nick Fury and S.H.I.E.L.D.’s idea of surveillance and protection. When Steve Roger’s addresses the S.H.I.E.L.D. Agents at the end of the film, the last line of his speech really speaks to those ideals - “I know I'm asking a lot. But the price of freedom is high. It always has been. And it's a price I'm willing to pay. And if I'm the only one, then so be it. But I'm willing to bet I'm not.”
Tony Stark, however, is the contrast to Steve Rogers in almost every way. While Roger’s fought to end the war, Tony acquired his wealth through the making of weapons and munitions. He helped and profited from the nation’s war effort. In addition to that, Tony has always seemed to only be on the lookout for himself first. Tony’s personality is that of what some would consider an egomaniac. However, he has every reason to be conceited. He is a man who is handsome, a billionaire, a fighter, and an inventor - all with a weak heart.
Tony’s personality also meets the criteria for what psychologists would diagnose as, “histrionic personality disorder”. He always needs to be the center of attention and feels unappreciated if anyone else receives attention. This can be seen as an issue when it comes to the group efforts through the Avengers. His need for attention and admiration can be seen with his countless outlandish statements, the building of Stark Tower in the middle of New York City, so everyone would notice him and his success.
Another symptom of the histrionic disorder is when someone wears provocative and unusual clothing for the attention. Ideally, Tony’s iron suit with a glowing heart falls under this criteria. When one of his suits becomes boring, out of date or too well known, he creates a newer, more complicated, and more advanced suit to impress his audience and fans.
We do see, after the Battle of New York, Tony develops a more visual and prominent form of PTSD. From his nightmares to his excessive building of multiple suits. Tony’s PTSD is also what inspires him to create Ultron, an artificial intelligence peacekeeping program. The aftermath of the events of the Battle of New York and the Battle of Sokovia start to show a slight change in Tony’s personality, and while it might appear to be slightly self-serving, I think we definitely see a shift in him wanting to make the world a safer place or others.
So we’ve looked at both Steve and Tony’s personalities and how they are different, but I did say there were some similarities to their lives as well.
Both Tony and Steve lost both of their parents at a young age. This could actually be seen as the root of why their personalities diverged. When Steve lost his parents, Joseph & Sarah Rogers, he had to depend not only on himself but on the kindness of others to grow and find his path in life. Whereas in contrast, when Tony’s parents, Howard & Maria Stark, were killed Tony inherited a company and never had wanted for anything except himself.
We also see a similar response to traumatic events with Steve and Tony. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is something that can manifest itself differently in those who suffer from him. Including the deaths of their parents, both Steve and Tony have had to deal with traumatic events and the fallout from those. For Steve, when he was reawakened after being frozen for 70 years, his PTSD symptoms manifested itself as insomnia, as well as an apprehension to rejoin the world. An example of this apprehension is when Natasha Romanoff, aka Black Widow, is talking with Steve at the beginning of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, trying to set Steve up on a date.
For Tony, his PTSD stems not only from the murder of his parents, but also from the Battle of New York, the Battle of Sokovia, and a few instances that are only seen in the comics. An example of this is Iron Man #124 from 1979 when Tony’s suit gets reprogrammed by an evil scientist and kills a foreign ambassador. The symptoms of PTSD that Tony exhibits vary, the most common symptoms are his substance abuse, namely alcoholism, and the nightmares which cause him to lose sleep. His reaction to these symptoms varies as well. Most notably, in Iron Man 3, we see the entire fleet of suits that Tony has created for himself, each with its own particular key features. These suits, while to some is just another product of his narcissism, it’s really a way for Tony to combat the nightmares and other symptoms of PTSD.
Now, how do these pieces fit together for Civil War and what effect will the fallout of the events of Civil War have on Avengers: Infinity War.
Well, Steve’s ideas of what freedom versus fear is, as well as the events of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, we see that the curtain of naivety has been lifted and Steve is a bit more cynical to too much control by the government.
For Tony, I believe that his biggest motivation for why he sided with signing the Sokovia Accords, is the guilt that he feels. Guilt that his idea for what Ultron could be turned into a very drastic wrong that hurt a lot of people, including his teammate, Wanda Maximoff aka Scarlet Witch, whose brother Pietro aka Quicksilver, was killed while trying to save others while the Avengers fought Ultron.
Looking at the events of Civil War, we see that when a line is drawn in the sand, people will make decisions either based on their moral values or based on their greatest fear. For Steve, his decision was made because he knows that when a government has too much control it isn’t always for the protection of their citizens. Tony, instead decides that signing the accords is better, because of his fear that the Avengers and powered individuals, in general, are not safe and need to be supervised in what they do.
As for how this will affect the outcome and fall out of Infinity War?
The Avengers are fractured right now, and Steve Rogers is in hiding because he is considered a fugitive from the law. I have no doubt that our heroes will be able to pull together to protect the world from Thanos, but, when the battle is over and the dust has settled - the biggest sign of how the fight between Team Cap and Team Iron Man, will be who and what all is still standing.