There’s only one thing worse than a failed project, and that’s a failed project that sells itself out as an ad for the next project. That’s what the epilogue to the disappointing Civil War II really is. It’s just a prologue for the next big Marvel Comics crossover event – Secret Empire. What’s that old saying? Fool me once… Meet me after the jump for my thoughts on Civil War II; The Oath #1… because it gets much, much worse…
For an epilogue to an event series, first I was surprised that it wasn’t written by Civil War II scribe Brian Michael Bendis. Not that it was one of Bendis’ shining moments, but one would think the powers that be at Marvel would let him finish it. But once I started reading, it became apparent what was going on. This wasn’t the epilogue to Civil War II, it was the prologue to Secret Empire, this summer’s big event, masterminded by Nick Spencer, the writer of this issue. They weren’t just switching writers, they were switching gears.
This aftermath of the second Civil War calls back to the original superhero Civil War, as it involves Captain America and Iron Man, but as we know, it’s a very different Captain America and Iron Man. Captain America has had his entire reality, his whole history changed. A Cosmic Cube, under the influence of the Red Skull, has transformed him into a secret Hydra agent. He’s always been Hydra, everything he’s ever done has been for the glory and furtherment of Hydra. And Iron Man, well, Iron Man is just about dead, comatose, thanks to Captain Marvel in the last issue of Civil War II. This is the beginning of Secret Empire.
Captain America, Steve Rogers, as seen in the latest issue of his comic, which I reviewed earlier this week here, is now the Director of S.H.I.E.L.D. again. He has sealed a debugged room on the helicarrier Iliad to chat with his sleeping fellow Avenger. Iron Man is silent, lying in a life support machine, an iron lung, a tube, just there. He’s just a body, and I think we know that Steve knows that, but he uses this opportunity to cleanse his soul, and tell Tony about his day.
The one-sided talk begins with admiration, and an examination of their friendship. It’s done well, but feels like telling, always a no-no in writing. And speaking of writing, this issue is wordy. If there was ever an heir to the king of wordiness at Marvel, Chris Claremont, surely Nick Spencer is at the top of the list, just based on this one issue. After the friendship, Cap attacks Tony, basically telling him this (the Ulysses affair) was all his fault, he brought it on himself. And then Cap gloats about his spectacular day.
Hail to the Chief
I suppose when you’re a secret Hydra agent working toward world domination while pretending to be America’s hero, there aren’t many folks you can confide in, save a comatose frenemy. We see his official inauguration as Director of S.H.I.E.L.D., and see reactions around the country of different heroes’ reactions. There is a bit of the tension we Americans have seen this past week with a certain other inauguration, but Spencer does not press the comparison hard, after all this is Captain America, our hero. I wonder how his crowds were?
Then there’s the conversation with Captain Marvel that does enter Trump territory. The planetary defense shield seems suspiciously like a wall, cutting us off from other people not the same as us. Captain America and our new President definitely have xenophobia in common. I’m not trying to get political here, even though I have, but I do want to make a point. I don’t know about the rest of y’all, but I read comics as an escape, not to be reminded of the real world problems out there. I think this tact is a mistake.
The Final Vision
Toward the end of the issue, Cap’s chat with Tony almost changes, subtly going from confessional to Bond villain monologue. The moment is truly heartbreaking, the bottom line being that perhaps Ulysses was right, perhaps Miles Morales will kill Steve Rogers on the steps of the Capitol. Because, then is the moment Cap reveals that he saw a vision too while under the influence of Ulysses’ power.
Captain America, the tainted hero, saw a vision of the future with Hydra becoming our saviors. He saw a world where America relents to Hydra leadership, and we salute their flag, are educated in their schools, the economy flourishes, the skies are patrolled by Hydra ships, and aliens are in camps. If there was ever any doubt that Hydra and the Nazis are one in the same, folks, read the last three pages of this issue. It’s horrific.
No matter how much I kick and scream about how I feel about the current state of Captain America, there’s nothing I can do about it. Sales on the comic are good, so Marvel will be encouraged to continue in this vein, and considering we’re being ‘treated’ to a summer long crossover event, it won’t end any time soon. That said, like in my review of the latest issue of Captain America: Steve Rogers, it is done well, and Civil War II: The Oath is as well.
Of course, the title is part of the problem. This comic has very little to do with Civil War II, and is all about Secret Empire as far as we know. Time will tell. I would recommend this comic for folks who are following the Captain America-as-a-Hydra-agent storyline, but not so much as an ending to Civil War II.