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Whallopin Websnappers! The end of Captain America: Civil War brought a massive shift in the MCU's status quo. The Avengers are now well and truly divided. Though Earth’s Mightiest Heroes will probably be forced to reconcile and face Thanos (Josh Brolin) in Avengers: Infinity War, this doesn’t change the firm fact that the Sokovia Accords are now law. Given that the Accords are the MCU’s version of the Superhero Registration Act, I can’t help but wonder how will this affect the rest of the superhero community.
Will we hear about them in Doctor Strange? Could we see Spider-Man (Tom Holland) deal with the repercussions of the Accords? Or had he, as one of the most prominent combatants of Civil War, been protected from them?
Let's look at the evidence....
What do the comic books tell us?
Spider-Man has always had a tricky relationship with the powers that be. As you may have heard, many people aren’t fans of spiders, so his emblem and power set are off-putting for many characters that he meets. Plus, his insistence on secrecy is often regarded as evidence of his untrustworthiness. In turn, this isn’t helped by the fact that superheroes and vigilantes by their very definition aren't exactly legal. After all, Dictionary.com defines a vigilante as someone who:
“... takes the law into his or her own hands, as by avenging a crime... [and its] done violently and summarily, without recourse to lawful procedures...”
Yup - wearing a mask and webbing criminals to lampposts certainly comes under this definition. As such he’s had quite a tempestuous relationship with the law, facing arrest on many occasions, and has even been incarcerated. In one story arc, several officers disliked Spider-Man so much that they used his Spider-Tracers to frame him for unsolved murders. In another he bore the brunt of Sam Bullit’s vicious political campaign.
The web-slinger is certainly no stranger to prejudice and persecution.
But what of the comic book 'Civil War'? Well, even then Spider-Man proved to be a divisive figure. As Iron Man’s close friend and protégé, he ruffled a lot of feathers when he changed sides in the conflict. Following his disavowal of the Superhuman Registration Act, he was pursued, and would have been apprehended if not for the Punisher’s timely intervention.
As we know the Superhuman Registration Act is instead called the Sokovia Accords in Civil War. But what do they fully entail? Let’s break them down.
What do the Sokovia Accords actually mean for the MCU?
Signed and ratified by 117 countries in the United Nations, the Accords of the MCU set out a framework for people with super powers, known as “enhanced individuals.” Civil War saw these rules being applied to the Avengers, whereby the team’s deployment was restricted by an overseeing panel. Notably absent from the proceedings were Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and The Hulk/Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo), who were only mentioned by General Ross (William Hurt):
“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 nukes, you can bet there'd be consequences.”
It’s a cool quote because we get a sense of just how powerful Thor and The Hulk are. But is this merely a throwaway comparison between nukes and powers? Arguably not. It stands to reason that Ross and the United Nations have assessed each Avenger’s threat based upon their power sets.
So what does this mean for enhanced individuals who aren’t Avengers? Logic dictates that they would likely face the same sort of regulation as the Avengers since, as we saw in Ant-Man and other MCU solo movies, heroes working alone can still cause a lot of damage. Thus many fans have theorized that:
"The Sokovia Accords...cover every enhanced individual in the MCU, from Inhumans to armored Avengers, as well as enhanced humans..."
And I'll bet that Spider-Man, who's able to do all that a spider can, will fall under this remit, as will several non-Avengers.
It wasn't made clear in Civil War if the UN and Ross sanctioned Spider-Man's involvement in the Leipzig airport battle. It's most likely that his involvement was clandestine, and Spidey won't be phoning Ross every time a hero starts screwing up New York.
Indeed, the MCU has already taken the first steps in depicting the fallout of the Sokovia Accords. In the popular series Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. General Glenn Talbot (Adrian Pasdar) visits Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg) on the President's authority, and Talbot is evidently very keen to legitimize the super-powered personnel in the team. Plus the show also dealt with Quake’s (Chloe Bennet) lone heroics, and the PR and ethical dilemmas that they caused for the establishment.
So from this we can assume that Peter Parker is now in a similar position to Quake. He is a young “enhanced individual”, unattached and unregulated by the Accords, only now he is in a much bigger spotlight. Spider-Man may have been the subject of several grainy clips online when Tony Stark recruited him, but by the time of Homecoming he has fought several famous members of the Avengers at a pivotal – and seemingly well documented moment. At the 2016 Comic Con, fans were treated to a scene in Homecoming where Peter is watching online footage of his fight with Giant-Man. A few grainy clips are one thing, but this is something else. The UN probably didn't know about him before the battle in Leipzig - surely they must now?
With his existence in the superhero community now certified, could we expect to see Spider-Man facing recruitment - or even arrest - in Homecoming? Let’s weigh up each school of thought.
The kid will be alright.
On the one hand, it’s doubtful that we will see Spider-Man being stalked by law enforcers in his solo movie. With his swift web-slinging and full body costume, he isn’t exactly the easiest of people to track down - unless you’re Tony Stark that is. And speaking of Iron Man...
In their interactions in Civil War, aside from the plentiful ribbing and banter, it’s clear that Tony Stark had taken a shine to the teenager. Indeed, he eventually agreed to not reveal Peter’s dual life to Aunt May (Marissa Tomei), something which he had threatened to do from the moment they met. Plus, he designed a new costume for Peter, which was in keeping with the original, secretive prototype. And tellingly, Stark was also highly concerned for his protégé’s welfare when he was injured.
Therefore it stands to reason that as both an opponent of the overbearing Secretary Ross, and as an ally to Peter, Tony Stark will help block any access to the fledgling Spider-Man.
Similarly, it’s also conceivable that Spider-Man is simply too small-fry for any law-enforcement agency to try and recruit or arrest- at the present time anyway. It’s significant to note that, for all of the high-profile shenanigans that they have been part of, Daredeveil (Charlie Cox), Jessica Jones (Krysten Ritter) and Luke Cage (Mike Colter) haven’t (yet) drawn the attention of S.H.I.E.L.D. or any other major law-making organisation. We could, of course, chalk this lack of S.H.I.E.L.D in the Netflix series up to a variety of writers, rights, and production rates in each network, which may in turn, have hindered these particular plots from developing.
But even so, this might mean that like his fellow New York crime fighters, Spider-Man might be given a free pass for the time being.
“You have the right to remain silent!”
Unfortunately for Spidey, logic does dictate that he would be approached or apprehended by parties who are interested in his abilities. Spider-Man may not have the most destructive set of powers, but in the comics, they have been viewed as quite formidable. Indeed, several agencies have coveted and replicated his abilities for their own ends. We can see this best in this panel from the 'Clone Saga' in the Ultimate Spider-Man comics, which is a series that the makers of Spider-Man: Homecoming have openly taken as point of reference.
There is now a similar situation occurring in the MCU. We have already seen how international agencies such as HYDRA have coveted enhanced individuals. They were, of course, responsible for the creation of Quicksilver (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and the Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) prior to Age of Ultron. Plus, with their small appearance in Ant-Man, it's clear that they are still actively causing trouble, even after their massive defeat in The Winter Soldier.
Naturally, the protection of the wealthy and resourceful Tony Stark counts for something, but this help would depends very much upon how influential Stark is in enforcing the Accords. And, if we think back on Stark’s dialogue with Ross near the end of Civil War, he’s not exactly in the strongest of positions:
"You seriously think I'm going to listen to you even after that fiasco in Leipzig? You're lucky you're not in one of these cells."
Also, considering how Stark refused to help contain a breakout at the Raft prison, Ross might not have the same confidence in Iron Man’s allegiance and overrule his decisions.
Who’s to say that Ross, or someone else in a similar place of power, doesn’t go an all-out obsessive campaign to capture Spider-Man as they did in The Incredible Hulk?
And that’s not even factoring in S.H.I.E.L.D.’s growing aggressiveness, and their possessiveness over enhanced individuals! Flying in the face of these international regulations may ensure that Spidey has a stern visit from Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg) or even Nick Fury (Samuel L Jackson). Sounds improbable? Well, with pressure growing on Marvel to integrate their television and movie divisions (and increasingly looking like they will), it’s definitely not outside the realms of possibility.
Could we see Spider-Man be hunted down and forced to follow the Accords? At this point, it’s a bit unclear, but having Spidey serving as an outlaw figure would be a very logical avenue for Marvel and Sony to go down. Indeed, the Cinematic Universe certainly supports it and as we’ve explored, Spider-Man has a built-in tricky history with law enforcement.
Plus Spider-Man’s troubled relationship with the law was only briefly mentioned in the Sam Raimi trilogy (there were brief calls for his arrest) and this aspect, like many plot points in Marc Webb’s movie series, was sidelined, so it would be a great angle to develop.
Hated outlaw or tolerated vigilante? Hero or menace? Either way, it’s going to be very interesting just to see how the MCU deals with such a divisive bit of bureaucracy as the Accords going forward, in Homecoming or elsewhere. And of course, fans are definitely intrigued by the possibility of seeing an all new - and already proven - Amazing Spider-Man swing onto our screens once again!