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THE LAW IS A ASS for 10/16/2001
"The Law is a Ass" Installment # 117
Originally written as installment # 106 and published in Comics Buyer's Guide issue # 699, April 10, 1987 issue
X-Men vs. the Avengers was a four-issue mini-series which used the framework of Magneto being trial for crimes against humanity as a justification for several fight scenes between the X-Men and the Avengers. Hence the reason it was called X-Men vs. the Avengers and not Archie's Pals and Mindless Fight Scenes. It had a checkered history. And, no, I don't mean because it was plotted in an Italian restaurant.
When original writer, Roger Stern, conceived the series, he intended Magneto to be found guilty at the end of the story. That's how he plotted it. That's what was approved. And that's what the first three issues were leading up to, as they were written.
Then somebody got ice cubes of the moccasins and chickened out. Roger was told, Magneto couldn't be found guilty at the end of the story. To his credit, Roger refused to write part four and someone else stepped in at the last second to supply the story I describe in this column. Someone else "reimagined" Roger's story, much the same way Tim Burton "reimagined" Planet of the Apes. With one important difference. The ending to the Tim Burton-directed Planet of the Apes was stupid, nonsensical, pointless and just plan wrong on every level. So it was much better than the ending to X-Men vs. the Avengers.
"The Law is a Ass"
Installment # 117
There's an old saying in the legal profession which describes the three universal trial strategies: "When you have the law on your side, pound the law. When you have the facts on your side, pound the facts. When you have neither, pound the table." I have seen a lot of table pounding in my career. I've even engaged in some myself. So I can tell you from experience, there is table pounding, and there is table pounding. And then there's X- Men vs. the Avengers # 4.
I have never quite seen--or read--anything like the legal argument put forward on behalf of Magneto by Gabrielle Haller. In case you didn't see or read it either, I'll share it with you.
Magneto was on trial before the World Court in Paris for various crimes against humanity. They tried this once before in X- Men # 200, but that trial never concluded, because super-powered terrorists attacked the court room. After Magneto and the X-Men defeated the terrorists, Magneto agreed to head Professor X's School. He walked away from the court room and for some reason no one ever bothered pursuing him or suggesting that he go back for the finish. (Say, I've got a trial coming up next week. Anyone out there got the phone number for Super Powered Terrorists, International?)
Anyway, now Magneto was standing trial again. Or maybe it was the same trial picked up finally after the longest continuance since Sonic Disruptors # 7. I don't know which. All I know was that he was on trial.
No I know more. I know his attorney Gabrielle Haller and I know Gabby challenged the jurisdiction of the court to try Magneto. Which is where the table pounding came in. The essence of her argument was that Magneto is a mutant who owes his allegiance only to other mutants not to any country. He is, in fact, the " uniformed armed force of mutantkind," which probably saves billions each year on the old defense budget. Ms. Haller argued, Magneto is not really a person. As the embodiment of the Mutant Army, he is like unto a state himself. Therefore, because his people and nation have never signed the Geneva Convention, the World Court does not have any jurisdiction over Magneto.
I'm not making that up. Honest! Although no man is an island, Magneto is a country.
Guess what? The argument didn't win.
What a shock! Why, you could have knocked me over with a sixteen wheeler.
Let's study the defense motion for a second and see if it had a chance of winning. We'll do this by assuming, for the sake of argument, that the motion was granted and that the court ruled Magneto was a mutant who owed his allegiance only to other mutants, a people who have never signed the Geneva Convention, so was outside of the Court's jurisdiction. What would have happened?
No one would ever be tried for anything again. That's what.
Let's pretend for a moment that Otto (Dr. Octopus) Octavius is on trial for assorted acts of mayhem. It doesn't matter which ones, there are so many from which to choose. Now let's also pretend the World Court had ruled in Magneto's favor. We could expect Ock's lawyer to argue something like this: "Your Honor, my client is an Octavius who owes his allegiance only to his people, the Octavius Family, and not to any country. Because the Octaviuses have never signed the Geneva Convention, this court has no jurisdiction over him."
I am not being unfair. That's exactly what Magneto argued. Magneto claimed citizenship in the Mutant nation, not because of where he was born, but because of his particular genetic make-up which is unique to mutants. Well, Doc Ock's genetic make-up is unique to Octaviuses, so where's the difference?
The World Court could not grant Magneto's argument, because of the impossible precedent it would create. Moreover, even if it could grant the motion without fear of future precedents, it wouldn't have. I mean, what's the point of putting on your Sunday-go-to-meeting robes, if you don't have the meeting? Nevertheless--and despite the fact that it had no chance of success--Gabrielle made the argument. Why? She had nothing else. Like I said, table pounding.
Of course, Gabby's behavior, as unsound as it was, was positively lucid compared to that of some of the other principal performers in this story. We have Magneto himself. Just before the Court was to announce its decision--which, Magneto knew was to be a guilty verdict and death sentence, because Captain Marvel eavesdropped on the judges' post-decision celebration--Magneto used a mechanism in his helmet to dominate the mind of the chief judge and order him to grant the defense motion challenging jurisdiction. Magneto did this, because he feared that a verdict against him would cause the Mutants to revolt against humanity in a bloody war. (And of course, Magneto had only these pure and noble motives. The fact that he didn't want to ride "Old Smokey" to the long dirt nap had nothing to do with his fixing the trial so that he'd be released rather than executed.)
After the decision, however, militant humans denounced the trial as fixed and threatened to initiate the war against Mutants themselves. Poor Magneto was forced to wonder, if he might not have started the war he feared, after all.
We were forced to wonder if Magneto was a Ding Dong School drop out. All his life, including the story in question, Magneto has seen nothing except evidence that humankind is ready and willing to exterminate mutantkind. Are you trying to tell me that he never considered what carnage his mental machinations might prompt? Especially when the defense motion had already been denied but was now--and rather unexpectedly--granted? You expect me to believe that Magneto never considered the possibility that people wouldn't regard this change of mind to be a fix and take violent umbrage?
You's have an easier time convincing me that the Vigilante deserves the Nobel Peace Prize.
Even worse than Magneto's failure to realize the consequences of his act, was his belief that his act of desperation would actually work. There were three judges involved in the trial. Three--count 'em--three. And all of them agreed to convict Magneto. (At least that's how I interpret Page 23.) Now two of these three judges weren't affected by Magneto's mind control. Instead they find the Chief Judge suddenly granting a defense motion which had already been denied instead of returning the guilty verdict all three had agreed to return. Did Magneto expect these two judges to remain silent about this? (Does anyone ever expect any judge to remain silent about anything?) As a matter of fact, he didn't. He even wondered why they were being silent on Page 28.
So Magneto expected these judges to say something. What could he expect to follow? An investigation, that's what. And what would the investigation reveal? Maybe the fact that the other two judges would say they had all voted to return a guilty verdict, until the Chief Judge inexplicably changed his mind. Then, maybe, the Avengers would tell everyone about the will-dominating mechanism in Magneto's helmet. The authorities would search the bathroom, where Magneto was alone and find both fragments of Magneto's helmet and a broken window there. (There are clearly fragments flying off on Page 27 Panel 2, so the helmet wasn't obliterated without a trace.) It hardly requires a degree in advanced transfinite number mathematics to add this particular two and two together and reach the conclusion that Magneto used his mechanism on the Chief Judge.
As I said, compared to Magneto's lapse of common sense, Gabby was a pillar of Vulcanesque logic.
And Magneto was Mr. Spock, Sarek, and Big Blue combined, when compared to the Chief Judge. See, the Chief Judge is an anti-mutant bigot presiding over the trial of the most infamous mutant in history. The man wants to assure Magneto's conviction, so that Mutants will rise up in revolt, before they are ready and be destroyed. He said so several times. If anyone were to learn of the Judge's motives, they would be able to force the Judge to withdraw from the trial with an affidavit of prejudice.
So what does the judge do? Does he keep these motives to himself, so that no one can challenge his impartiality and force him to recuse himself? Do bears poop in the port-a-potties? He tells one of the other judges his true feelings and motives, and thereby runs the risk of this other judge revealing his bias.
I suppose I shouldn't have expected anything else, really. It wouldn't be fair for me to expect intelligence from the Chief Judge. After all, if he had acted and spoken with intelligence, then all the other morons in the story wouldn't have been able to understand him.
However, the single worst aspect of this story is that it isn't over yet. The anti-mutant hysteria in Marvel comics threatens to go on and on and on. It'll probably last as long as Sgt. Rock's been fighting World War II.
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