We’ve all heard the hype about Marvel Comics next big event, a sequel to the acclaimed mini-series that inspired the biggest movie of the year so far, yeah, I’m talking about Marvel’s Civil War II. It began at the start of this month with a Free Comic Book Day special, and then this past week with a zero issue. Meet me after the jump for my thoughts on the prelude to Civil War II.
I need to be up front about this, these reviews are actually my return to Marvel Comics. I have a long history with the Avengers. Not only is it one of my favorite comics and favorite superhero teams, but I reviewed the comics here at Biff Bam Pop! for the Age of Ultron and Infinity mini-series and also did the same for the regular series for almost a decade at the much-missed Avengers Forever website which lives on in a scaled down form on Facebook.
As much as I love the Avengers however, I fell away from reading the actual comics during the Jonathan Hickman era just before Secret Wars. The state of Marvel Comics, and DC Comics for that matter, was too dark and unrecognizable to me. Comics were simply no longer fun. And I might as well be saying “get off my lawn,” but an Avengers team made up of characters like Hyperion, Cannonball, Sunspot, captain Universe, Star Brand, and Nightmask… that just wasn’t the Avengers to me. I’ll try to put my prejudices on the shelf for these reviews and start with a clean slate.
The 616 Ultimates
Having been away from comics for a bit means having never experienced the ‘All-New All-Different’ continuity. Basically I only know what crosses my eyes on Facebook, announcements from Newsarama or Comic Book Resources and the like. I know that Sam Wilson is Captain America and Jane Foster is Thor for instance, but I’ve never ‘met’ them. And the first story in the FCBD Civil War II issue introduces me to who I think are the All-New All-Different Avengers (it’s never made clear, so perhaps the old Silver Age rule of every comic is someone’s first, should be adhered to more), or as they’re called in the story, the Ultimates. This is a decidedly Earth-616 version of the team.
They’re not the Ultimates as I know them, the gritty real anti-heroes created by Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch who influenced the Marvel Cinematic Universe, even though they do operate out of the Triskelion. This team is composed of Captain Marvel, War Machine (apparently in a relationship with Carol), the Black Panther, Medusa, She-Hulk, Crystal, Ms. America, Spectrum (formerly Captain Marvel, Photon, Pulsar, and who knows what else), Blue Marvel, Dazzler, and the Human Torch. An interesting mix to say the least.
The Inhumans bring the team a newly transformed Inhuman named Ulysses for testing. The young man has the gift of precognition, hardcore precognition, and moments after his arrival, he sees Thanos attacking Project Pegasus. The Ultimates are off to save the day. Any time I hear or read the words ‘Project Pegasus’ I smile, like now, or the beginning of the first Avengers movie, because it makes me remember those great Thing stories from Marvel Two-in-One back in the seventies. Glad to see the place is still up and about in the Marvel Universe.
Thanos arrives, and he’s after the Cosmic Cube, but surprised to find the Avengers (his words) there to thwart him. The Ultimates hit him hard like a well-trained unit, with Captain Marvel and surprisingly Ms. America giving the orders and thinking strategy. America Chavez has the honor of being the first new character I Wiki-ed, yeah, I was that intrigued. I like her. Even though the Ultimates seem to have the upper hand at first, Thanos turns the tables and nearly kills She-Hulk and War Machine, and that’s where Brian Michael Bendis and Jim Cheung leave us.
The All-New Wasp
With little to no fanfare, and an ad for Civil War II #1 rather than #0, we are thrown into the next story, with no credits other than on the cover. Luckily these are creators who I always like – Mark Waid and Alan Davis. Although I don’t see the need for a new Wasp, I’m pretty sure I’ll like this story based on who it’s by. I guess if a new character taking on a classic name is going to be rammed down our throats, it goes down better if done by old school talents, especially two of the best.
This new Wasp, although we’re not told this here, is the daughter of Hank Pym and his first wife, which if it has to be done is not that painful. I love the design of the new costume, a mix of old and new. This origin story shows how she got the costume and also has her journey inside the Vision a la Ant-Man to sabotage him, apparently to prove herself to the Avengers – a team that is the All-New All-Different Avengers as opposed to the Ultimates. Much to my dismay, I kinda loved this and want more. I’ll be looking into ANADA, even though it won’t have Alan Davis art.
Civil War II #0, is by writer Bendis and artist Olivier Coipel, the architects of House of M and Siege, two reasons I am so wary of Marvel Comics events, so I was already on guard before reading word one. We open on She-Hulk, in court as Jennifer Walters, Esq., defending old Daredevil villain the Jester. She’s making a speech, a closing defense yes, but a speech to frame what we know is coming. The crux of Civil War II is the same as the Philip K. Dick short story and film that followed, Minority Report – it’s about free will, and crime and punishment, and the order in which the latter should come.
Two pages in, I’m remembering one of the things I dislike about Bendis and his slow storytelling and deconstructionist style – so much talking, and in this case, it’s talking about talking. The surreality was surreal. The gist is, following the premise, you cannot charge someone for their thoughts, but only for their deeds. And, when it comes, you can’t punish someone for what they intend to do before they do it, only after an actual crime has been committed. The Jester was talking about it, not doing it. Yet.
As if to drive the point home for She-Hulk, she loses the case and the Jester is killed by other inmates in prison. As she is up and around, just like War Machine, this issue occurs in the past, before the events of the Free Comic Book Day special. I’m worried for War Machine, not only did he narrowly miss dying in Captain America: Civil War, but if I have to take a bet, I’d say he’s headed for the grave here. Things are just going too good for him, and things rarely stay good for heroes of the Marvel Universe.
After an intriguing moment in Latveria, where War Machine helps out American troops maintaining the peace in the now leader-less nation, he is called to speak privately with the President. Offered the position of Secretary of State, when struck down in this second Civil War, it will be a great loss. I did like the real life parallel the President implies with a possible future of Tony Stark running for President and buying the election. This is good stuff, it’s a shame that it’s probably not going to end well.
Ulysses and Samson
Also, we get the origin of Ulysses, which at first seems a bit vague, but I suppose I’m missing something so I won’t make presumptions. There are apparently clouds of terrigen mists drifting across the earth and one makes landfall at a festival at Ohio State University. Ulysses is transformed by the mist, an innate Inhuman now reborn. As he sees what is apparently the end of the world, he begins to question what exactly his Inhuman power is…
Great start to the saga, but there are parts of this book I didn’t like. Doc Samson visiting Captain Marvel at the Triskelion for instance bothered me as sexist. Samson stops by essentially to make sure Carol is all right, and gives her, involuntarily, a quick psychiatric session. While I agree, it might be necessary in such a position, but I wonder, would he do the same for a male leader of the team? Captain Marvel is stronger than this, or at least I believe her to be.
I may not know all the players, or what configuration they’re in these days (I will learn), but as I said, this is a great start to an intriguing story. Hopefully event fatigue will not break it before it’s over. We know how this is going to break down from the promotion, so who’s side are you on? Captain Marvel and the Ultimates or Iron Man and the Avengers? Me, I think it’s too early to choose… how about you?