It's sitting right there on page 14, panel 2, and I can't believe I didn't pick up on it in the character's previous appearances. Damn you, foreshadowing! You're a cruel mistress. Marvel Editorial and Mark Millar have given us a status quo restoring "out" should they need it. If I had a scanner I'd post a scan of the image to go along with it.*
MIRIAM: "I REALLY WANT TO THANK YOU FOR ALL THIS. NOT JUST THE MONEY. I MEAN, ALL THE WORK YOU'VE DONE TO PUSH MY BIG IDEA."
Wow. It's too bad I'll have to wait for the deluxe trade edition to see any of Millar's script for the issue. I'd be really surprised if the panel description for page 14, panel 3, is anything other than:
PANEL 3. CLOSE ON TONY AND REED. THEY GAZE LOVINGLY AT MIRIAM WITH THE BEATIFIC SMILES OF THE MIND CONTROLLED.
Granted, I have no idea how the story is really going to play out. That said, here you have a built-in escape clause for a sales backlash against CIVIL WAR, all of the ancillary tie-ins and the post-CIVIL WAR Marvel universe. If the books weren't doing gang busters the easiest thing in the world to do would be to reveal Tony and Reed as being mind controlled. Why else would they be acting so wildly out of character? Other characters, like Hank Pym and Spidey haven't had the direct telepathic whammy put on them so their opinions can vacillate, convictions waver.
Here's how I see it going down at some point in the future, forgoing precise page numbers:
NEXT PAGE, NEXT PANEL. TONY AND REED IN STREET CLOTHES ARE MEETING WITH MIRIAM AGAIN TO UPDATE HER ON THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE 50 STATE INITIATIVE AND GET THEIR LATEST MARCHING ORDERS.
NEXT PAGE, SINGLE PANEL SPLASH. IN A FLASH OF ELDRITCH LIGHT APPEARS DR. STRANGE, TELEPORTING HIMSELF ONTO THE SCENE. DR. STRANGE FLOATS ABOVE THE TRIO, HOLDING FORGE’S NEUTRALIZER PROTOTYPE.
DR. STRANGE: "I'M SORRY FOR YOUR LOSS, MIRIAM.”
DR. STRANGE: “BUT IT ENDS HERE.”
NEXT PAGE, PANEL 1. HE FIRES.
PANEL 2. MIRIAM CRUMPLES TO THE GROUND. SFX OF HER POWER BEING STRIPPED FROM HER VISUALLY CALLS BACK TO UNCANNY #181 AND ORORO.
PANEL 3. TONY AND REED, THE SCALES FALL FROM THEIR EYES.
REED RICHARDS: "MY GOD, TONY. WHAT HAVE WE DONE?"
EPILOGUE: A PSYCHIATRIST’S OFFICE. ANGLE ON THE GRIEVING MOTHER. MIRIAM SITS ON THE COUCH AND WEEPS, HER FACE IN HER HANDS. SHE’S BEING COUNSELED BY ONE DOC SAMPSON.
Granted, there’s some gaps and leaps missing to get to this point. However, I think you can see what I’m trying to get at. This would be a satisfying ending to the story, and an emotional one. It would also tie up nicely everything that’s happened so far and give additional weight to the characters as they work to atone for their actions. Not only are Tony and Reed guilt ridden over what they’ve done, but they’re essentially innocent in the eyes of readers, freeing us to remain fans of the characters. Additionally, the secondary characters caught up in CIVIL WAR have learned the lesson of what blind patriotism brings. It’s a lesson both sides can use to help guide their actions going forward.
This leaves multiple story arcs just waiting to be developed. Tony and Reed’s atonement, rounding up all the freed super-villains, cleaning up after the “50 stater” super teams, etc.
And Captain America, the embodiment of true American values, was right all along.
*But then again, the 3 people that know about this blog can either read their own copy or borrow mine.