War Machine is dead. She-Hulk is barely alive after a coma. The Hulk is dead, killed by Hawkeye. And now Spider-Man might kill Captain America? Is this really what we want in a comic book? Are readers that bloodthirsty that we’ve entered the era where Rollerball and Death Race are almost real? Surely it can’t be that bad, or as Civil War II #6 rolls out the week before one of the most insane US Presidential elections in history, is it? Or perhaps there is a more sinister reason behind all this. Meet me after the jump for my admittedly dark pre-Halloween pre-election thoughts on Civil War II #6…
The Civil War II series so far has been a depressing comic. It begins with the seeming deaths of two beloved heroes, War Machine and She-Hulk, and later has another favorite character, Hawkeye, murder a classic Marvel icon, the Hulk. Is this what we’re reading comics for these days? Has comics become so obsessed or tired of death that it has become so casual, and do the creators think this is what we want? I cannot imagine the joy of a major publisher giving me one of my favorite comics to write, and my first inclination being, ‘let’s kill ’em.’ Where does this come from?
I remember the first hero deaths I ever read in comics – the Silver Age Red Tornado in the pages of Justice League of America #102, and then a year or two later, the Swordsman in Giant-Size Avengers #2. These were tragedies, horrible events that to a small extent scarred the readers. Like those that had gone before, and there were not many, Menthor and Ferro Lad, they died heroes. Has anyone here in Civil War II died a hero? Has anyone in this series done anything heroic?
This is a war comic, and not one like Sgt. Rock or Sgt. Fury or any of the cool ones that Ensley F. Guffey has written about here or here, but a comic about fighting. Civil War II is about heroes fighting heroes. I don’t want this. I don’t want this as a special event that theoretically a comics reader should want more.
I have always thought of comics as escapism, and even Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, when they placed the Marvel Universe as the world outside your window knew this. This is a fantasy world we go to escape the real world, no matter how closely it looks like ours. It should not make us feel like we want to escape the comics for another escape. There is so much negativity currently in our world, between the verbal cruelty (not to mention racism and sexism) of the election to real wars overseas, I can’t bear this kind of storytelling in my escapism.
Enough depressing exposition, and let’s get to the comic. In the aftermath of huge battle going on between roughly two-dozen superheroes, Ulysses has a prophetic vision, which he conveniently psychically broadcasts to everyone. It’s Spider-Man, Miles Morales, killing Captain America on the steps of a ravaged Capitol building. It’s a startling image, wonderfully brought to life by artist David Marquez. Captain Marvel, playing out her law and order stance in this Minority Report scenario, puts the kid under arrest. Iron Man objects, so all the heroes (and I use the word loosely), and the forces of S.H.I.E.L.D., loiter about while Captain Marvel and Iron Man have a heated philosophical discussion about Spider-Man’s guilt for a crime he has yet to commit.
I have a minor quibble here. I have to admit being puzzled by Captain Marvel saying, “For Hala’s sake.” I mean, unless I missed some retcon somewhere, she’s not actually Kree, right? She was raised on Earth, learned English, and later was infused with Kree DNA. It’s almost as if I moved to London and started saying “blimey” or something. It just feels wrong. As wrong as the events taking place when she says those words. What I find really shocking is that in this entire assemblage of personalities, no one other than three or four characters have any say in this? Moments ago, they were all fighting, no one wants to talk, to reason??
In the midst of the discussion, Captain America, Steve Rogers, steps forward to talk to Miles Morales. He acts like Captain America, and he talks like Captain America, but is he really? Spider-Man wants to go home, so Cap makes it so. He gets the kid out of there before Captain Marvel arrests him, before he gets hurt, or more personally, before he kills Cap. Only half-kidding on that last one. Ironically this is one of the few times writer Brian Michael Bendis plays Captain America right and in character, and the irony is, Cap is all wrong, and it’s bad for everyone.
S.H.I.E.L.D.’s Maria Hill finally steps up, where was she? In a move that stinks of the original Civil War and the Marvel Cinematic Universe Sokovia Accords, she places everyone under arrest. Superheroes battling each other on government soil is apparently an act of terrorism. Wow. I bet Jennifer Walters is happy to be in the hospital so she can take a break from the mad world of Marvel Universe law. The Black Panther steps forward, and using his trust in Cap as a defense, says that if Hill takes anyone, she’ll have to go through him, and doing so would be an act of war on Wakanda. The various factions teleport away after the Panther’s stand. This is all very bad, because Captain America is a Hydra agent.
Yes, this again. I know there are folks out there wishing I would stop beating this particular dead horse, but I’m sorry, no matter how you cut it, Steve Rogers is still a Hydra agent. The scene is played out again, in the pages of Captain America: Steve Rogers #6, only this time we are privy to Cap’s thoughts.
Avengers like Iron Man and the Black Panther are putting their trust in this man, this man who only wants Hydra’s dominion over the Earth. His every move is motivated by this drive. The Cap issue, which also features one of the best conversations between Steve Rogers and Tony Stark I’ve seen in years (props to writer Nick Spencer), as well as young Steve’s first encounter with Hydra’s Kraken, gives the reason why Captain America goes to meet Spider-Man in Washington DC. He will not die, then, but if he does die by Spider-Man’s hand, “it will be for the glory of Hydra.”
Delaying the Inevitable
Now Civil War II has had several delays, so many that Marvel continuity, such as it is, is a bit off-kilter. Books that were intended to be released after the events of the event have already come out, so we do know some details of the ending. I understand that David Marquez has a new child (congratulations and mazel tov) and that has caused some delays, but doesn’t Marvel, as a business, putting out time sensitive product have a responsibility to its consumers?
An entire series by the same artist, especially when is intended to be collected in trade is a wonderful thing, but sometimes you have to do what you have to do to run a business. If I was one of those trade-waiters I would love an entire volume by Marquez, but sometimes these things aren’t possible. I would have loved all of Crisis on Infinite Earths to be all George Perez, but let’s face it, sometimes you have to call Jerry Ordway to get the job done.
Although this time it’s not on purpose, Civil War II is started to have the same vibe as the first Secret Wars back in the 1980s. Remember how we knew the outcome first – Spider-Man’s black costume, She-Hulk in the Fantastic Four, the Thing in space – but had to read the series to learn how we got there? Now with all the delays, we now know (either by actual comics or solicitations) that Tony Stark is either dead or incapacitated, with Doctor Doom and Riri Williams filling his boots. It looks like Captain America might not live past U.S.Avengers #2, and by the way, has it been mentioned he was behind Hawkeye killing Bruce Banner? And She-Hulk? She’s getting better, but now she hulks out under stress into a savage beast similar to the way her cousin used to. And we saw the young heroes, now the new Champions, walk out months ago.
I’m against solicitations as a rule, as they tend to spoil stories that might be better read without hype or advance knowledge. A terrific example is the aforementioned Captain America: Steve Rogers #1, which was in fact a great story with a shocking ending – but ruined by the hype machine at Marvel Comics. I hope any more surprises that come from Civil War II are either kept quiet or at least kept off my radar. I want to enjoy them, if possible.
Although Bendis’ words were weak, and the plot veering in a direction I’m not fond of, this issue’s visuals were among the best of the series. I am consistently stunned and dazzled by David Marquez. His Captain Marvel is exceptional, and the other characters have a charm and individuality that reminds me of George Perez. He has that Perez power of being able to differentiate characters from one another without the benefit of costumes. I look forward to seeing more of his work.
I can only hope that things will get better, both in the comics, and in the world. Be good to each other, folks, I’ll be back with more reviews of Marvel’s Civil War II event, and if you’d like to read my thoughts so far, click here.