We’ve seen the preludes to war in Civil War II in issue #0 and the Free Comic Book Day special, which I talked about here, but this week the main event begins with Civil War II #1. Writer Brian Michael Bendis and artist David Marquez bring us the next big epic from Marvel Comics, and you’ve got my thoughts on it, after the jump.
First a word about spoiler warnings. Comics come out on Wednesdays and the usual protocol is to wait ’til the weekend to discuss them so everyone has read them. The rules for television may vary, and with shows like “Game of Thrones” and “The Walking Dead,” I have seen threats of violence on Facebook when folks give things away. We live in an era where folks can watch or read at their leisure, not everyone can be in front of their TV at the same time when it happens any more. But there’s a certain kind of spoiler that I have a problem with – the folks who don’t think they’re spoiling anything, they’re the worst.
I’m in the process of moving so time was not my friend this week. I ended up reading Civil War II #1 piecemeal from Wednesday morning through Thursday evening before starting to write my review. It was very much like staying away from Twitter on Sunday nights when “GoT” or “TWD” are on. The reaction spoiler, that most people don’t think is one, goes something like this. A post or a text that says “OMG!”, even though nothing is seemingly given away, I know something significant, and perhaps shocking, is going to happen, so I’m already prepped. And then the one that says “Glenn is going to hate this!” informs me there’s something I’m probably not going to like. Sorry, folks, you did give something away, it is a spoiler, and it does take away from the experience. Stop it. And consider this your spoiler warning.
Welcome Back to the Bendisverse
Back in the long ago days when I used to write monthly reviews of the Avengers comic for the Avengers Forever website, I had a name for the odd characterization of the Avengers under the pen of Brian Michael Bendis. I proposed it was an alternate universe where the characters acted contrary to the way they had previously for decades. I called it the Bendisverse. Captain America as a Hydra agent would be an excellent candidate for a resident. As I read the first few pages of Civil War II, it felt familiar, like déjà vu, yeah, I was back in the Bendisverse, and I really can’t say I missed it.
The first thing I noticed was the dialogue. People used to mock the dialogue in the Silver Age Justice League of America comics by Gardner Fox because the dialogue was interchangeable. Anyone could be saying any given line. Sometimes they could be personalized by adding a “Golden Lasso,” “Utility Belt,” “Power Ring,” or “Martian Vision” here or there, but let’s face it, they were al the same. A little hipper, a little more sarcastic, but Bendis does the same thing with his superheroes. No difference. Everyone talks like smart aleck kids.
The Celestial Destructor
The main thrust of the opening is a concerted amalgamation of superheroes battling a Celestial Destructor that has set down in New York City. We don’t know which Celestial this is, nor do I recognize it, but that’s what they call it, and it fits, mostly, the description. I liked seeing the heroes working together, and in great numbers too. The situation reminded me of Crisis on Infinite Earths, and I’m sure I won’t the first to compare David Marquez’ skills to those of George Perez, and not just because of the number of characters.
After the battle, where several magic-powered heroes hurl the monster into another dimension, it’s Miller time, or since Stark is buying, time for drinks back at Stark Tower (um, aren’t Iron Man and Captain Marvel both alcoholics?). This grouping of Avengers, Inhumans, even X-Men, are an interesting bunch, but their coffee talk is stained by the Bendisverse dialogue. I was a bit disturbed by the Bechdel test failure in the discussion about Wanda and Hellstrom. Eventually, the conversation does turn toward how did the Inhumans know the Celestial Destructor was coming. And they reveal Ulysses…
While Bendis isn’t charming me at first, at least it’s a feeling I know. The work of artist David Marquez however is unfamiliar to me. That’s not a big feat though, I have been away from comics for a bit. Looking him up I did realize I’ve enjoyed his stuff before in All-New X-Men. His stunning visual of the Celestial attacking New York City as the heroes converge is one of the centerpieces of this issue. I like his art, can tell the characters apart, and he even made Bendis’ potentially drab dinner party scene exciting.
Marquez is very dynamic, and a name to watch in this business, hell, I’ll be watching for him. There were curiosities however, not any fault of his. I found it odd seeing a maskless Medusa, but I guess she must take it off some time. And just what the heck were those hoverboards strapped to Iron Man’s arms? It would have been nice for the writer to mention what this new (?) addition to his armor was. I didn’t pick up an issue of Iron Man until the mid-1980s, but I knew all about his armor and various weapons from reading Avengers. Tell us, inquiring minds want to know.
Ulysses and the Civil War
Ulysses is the young man we saw affected by the terrigen mist and given Inhuman powers, specifically, he sees the future. The core of Civil War II, this is all stuff we knew already, but now the heroes are finding out. Iron Man recruits Jean Grey to make Ulysses thoughts open to all in the room, in a demonstration of his ability. Jean also makes a comment about what She-Hulk is thinking. Isn’t not invading the private thoughts of others the first thing Professor X taught Marvel Girl??
Thankfully the invasion does not work; his mind cannot be read. But then it begins. Captain Marvel wants to recruit Ulysses, as her team, the Ultimates is more proactive, knowing what is about to happen, before it happens, would be beneficial. Iron Man, weirdly, wants to let things as they may and deal with it then. He sees Ulysses’ power predicting possible futures, not the future. One can see the battle lines being drawn as they speak. Are they really going to war over this? Yes, they are.
This is all just discussion. The story jumps ahead to the events of the Free Comic Book Day special, which I found disconcerting. Is it really that much about money and promotion that they couldn’t tell the story in a linear fashion? The battle with Thanos takes place, and we see the aftermath, as War Machine, Tony Stark’s best friend James Rhodes, dies off-panel. Shortly thereafter, not before telling Carol to keep fighting for the future, She-Hulk too dies.
The rift is obvious, and now walled off completely. Captain Marvel used Ulysses to ambush Thanos, and because of that, both War Machine and She-Hulk are dead. Had the Ultimates not been there, had they not been alerted by Ulysses, no one would have died. Iron Man is enraged, and a new civil war is off the ground. It’s a bit more complicated than the first civil war, but I guess it works. Characters are emotionally charged, and superhero will fight superhero, but me, I’m not feeling it, and I’ll tell you why. Captain America.
Just a Story
I have taken a lot of crap about my stance on the first issue of Captain America: Steve Rogers. Fellow comics readers keep telling me ‘it’s just a story’ and ‘it’s just a fictional character,’ and ‘it will be back to status quo in six to ten months.’ So really, if all that is so, why should I give a shit about the deaths of War Machine and She-Hulk? Death in comics is, after all, a revolving door.
I was talking to a dear friend, a non-comics reader, just this week about how many characters have died in comics and come back. She struggled to name one who hadn’t. It got to the point we were making that old Monty Python and the Holy Grail joke, “he got better.” Is that what comics have become? And if so, why should I be affected by any such death or event in comics any more? Why should I even be emotionally invested any more? That’s what it’s coming down to, folks, the comics companies themselves, through their behavior with the stories and characters, are making me not care. It makes it hard for me to like your new Civil War II, Marvel, if I can’t be emotionally invested.
War Machine and She-Hulk are dead. So what? They’ll be back, and it will render this story meaningless. So I have to ask, why kill them off at all? I know more than many that hospitalization is bad enough, why isn’t it enough for comic book characters? I will miss She-Hulk, a female spin-off and a survivor of a few bad titles, but proof positive that there are no bad charactes, only bad writers. I will miss Rhodey too, while I was never a big War Machine fan, I loved his character in the old David Michelinie and Bob Layton Iron Mans. It’s a shame they had to go this route, great characters, great Avengers, but in the end, fodder for bad storytelling.
There were of course minor things, as opposed to the big stuff, that I did not like. I balked at Iron Man’s comment about “little Jean Grey,” really? Is even Tony Stark that bad? And any time Steve Rogers spoke up, I had to wonder what his ulterior motive was, what could Hydra gain from this decision? Why doesn’t Jean Grey read his rotten Hydra mind? Perhaps she could stop more characters from dying… Maybe she could even reach out psychically from Earth-616, and make me care…