Civil War Correspondence: Prelude To War
Civil War II is upon us, and all of our favorite Marvel books are going to be subsumed by a conflict that pits hero against hero, sister against brother, and Avenger against Avenger. To keep track of the moral quagmire, we at ComicsAlliance will be following events closely to determine which side is right in this ethically grey debate.
This first month sees the playing field established with two prelude issues and today’s big, life-altering Civil War II #1. New characters are introduced, classic characters die, and lines are drawn in the sand as the principal players take their positions and prepare for war.
Over the course of my coverage, I’ll keep track of whose side I’m on in the conflict, and whichever team I am on at any given time will be declared the right side of the conflict. I reserve the right to flip-flop at will. Now let’s get into our first month of Civil War Correspondence.
Free Comic Book Day 2016 (Civil War II)
The first salvo in Civil War II came in the form of a Free Comic Book Day special that, until now, was hard to place in the grand scheme of things. It’s a fairly short fight story as The Inhumans bring their newest member Ulysses to The Triskelion for tests, and we learn that he has the power to predict the future --- but little control over it.
Ulysses has a flash of Thanos attacking Project PEGASUS, so The Ultimates and The Inhumans head over there to enact some predictive justice. The squad includes War Machine, who was hanging around as Captain Marvel’s sometime boyfriend, and She-Hulk and Dazzler, probably due to their membership in A-Force.
The heroes arrive just as Thanos attacks, and catch The Mad Titan off guard, but things still go pear-shaped. Thanos throws Medusa into War Machine, which causes him to misfire and shoot a rocket straight into She-Hulk’s chest. As Rhodey is distracted, Thanos punches him, like, real hard in the gut. The assembled heroes take out Thanos, with Captain Marvel getting the knockout blow and then rushing to her sometimes boyfriend's side and shouting for a medic.
As an introduction to the concepts of Civil War II, it fell a bit flat and doesn’t really make much sense until you read this week’s Civil War II #1, which takes place either side of it. The apparent deaths of War Machine and She-Hulk also feel particularly weak, and perhaps would have more impact if they weren’t telegraphed for literal months, but that’s something to discuss later on as the series begins to show its teeth.
Artistically, its rendered beautifully, and there’s a reason Marvel keeps bringing Jim Cheung in for event comics like Avengers vs X-Men, Infinity and now Civil War II. He has a great sense of choreography for big, Earth-shattering fights like the one against Thanos, and its great to see him draw newer Marvel characters like Ms. America and The Blue Marvel in his timeless style.
Whose Side Am I On? Right now, not Captain Marvel’s, but I’ve not seen anything from Iron Man to sway me to his side either.
Civil War II # 0
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: Olivier Coipel
Color Artist: Justin Ponsor
Letterer & Production: VC’s Clayton Cowles
Civil War II #0 jumps us back in time to before the FCBD issue, with even more place-setting for the main event. The issue features several seemingly unconnected storylines following characters that would obviously have major roles in the upcoming conflict, so I’m going to talk about those stories one at a time.
First, there’s She-Hulk, who is in court defending Jonathan Powers, AKA The Jester, a very minor Daredevil villain who I believe last showed up towards the end of Mark Waid and Chris Samnee’s first run. Jennifer contends that Powers is retired and no longer even owns The Jester costume, and should not be punished for talking shop about the “good old days” and she argues that you cannot punish people for their thoughts, and --- importantly for later --- you cannot punish someone for a crime they did not commit.
Later, Jennifer stops by the SHIELD Helicarrier for... reasons, having lost The Jester case. She plans to appeal the case and get The Jester back out on the streets, but discovers from Maria Hill that he was shot dead in prison by a guard for defending himself from other inmates. Hill tries to assure She-Hulk that Powers was a repeat offender who would have offended again, but --- and again, importantly --- Jennifer maintains that The Jester went to prison before he did anything wrong.
The second story is only a couple of pages long and sees Col. James Rhodes, AKA War Machine, meet with the President of the United States, who offers him the job of Secretary of Defense with an eye on one day possibly running for office. It’s a nice moment that honors Rhodey’s history and accomplishments, but the only way they could have telegraphed his death more is if he was two days from retirement.
The third story follows the arrival of the Terrigen Cloud to Ohio State University, with Ulysses and Michelle --- a girl he crushed on --- revealed as Inhumans. Michelle turns out to be a demon monster lady, and likely won’t show up again, but Ulysses discovers his ability to see the future and finds himself in an empty and decimated Manhattan wondering what's going on.
Finally, and for my money the most bizarre part of Civil War II #0, Captain Marvel met with psychiatric hunk Dr. Leonard Samson and explained what The Ultimates is about. If you’re unaware, the last time we saw Doc Samson he had turned evil and died, and later The Hulk dug up his body to make sure he was dead. He’s back now though, which is fine, it’s comics, but the resurrection is handwaved away with this exchange.
As comics readers, we know that writers can and will kill and resurrect at the drop of a hat, but this felt unnecessarily dismissive and brought me out of the story. Unless he has a larger role later down the line, I don’t see why this had to be a conversation with Doctor Samson other than, “He’s the psychiatrist” but whatever, Bendis is gonna Bendis.
Captain Marvel’s point is stated rather bluntly when she talks about having a magical, unknown thing that would protect the world and she comes this close to saying, “Gee, wouldn’t it be great if there was a person who could predict disasters before they happen, then we could stop them happening?”
As clunky as Civil War II #0 is, it does manage to fit a heck of a lot into just over twenty pages and establishes the two sides of the argument, albeit in a heavyhanded fashion. Coipel is another artist that Marvel seems to keep on speed-dial for big events like this, and as much as I adore his artwork, a one shot where people stand around and talk for the majority of it is not the best use of his skills.
Whose Side Am I On?
At this point, still neither, but I’m erring towards Captain Marvel because ten years of reading Marvel Comics has taught me to generally side with the person that isn’t Iron Man.
Civil War II #1
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: David Marquez
Color Artist: Justin Ponsor
Letterer: VC’s Clayton Cowles
Civil War II #1 starts mostly in medias res, with heroes battling a giant Celestial Destructor. It takes the combined might of The Avengers, The New Avengers, The Uncanny Avengers, The Ultimates, A-Force, The X-Men, The Inhumans, Doctor Strange’s magic buddies and Spider-Woman (currently unaffiliated) --- to stop the destruction. Marquez draws the heroes of the Marvel Universe in 2016 beautifully, and it’s great to see everyone getting along for roughly ten pages.
This is followed up by a giant party featuring all the heroes of the hour toasting to The Inhumans who provided them with the information necessary to stop the disaster. One thing I really like was that it doesn’t matter what the threat was, just that it was handled quickly and efficiently, because that isn’t the story Civil War II is telling.
The Inhumans introduce Ulysses to a select few Avengers, and bring in Mini Jean Grey to try and access his mind, but quickly learn that his mind is a closed system and cannot be read. This is where the conflict begins to arise, as Captain Marvel offers Ulysses a job with The Ultimates, but Tony Stark isn’t comfortable with the lack of information he has to go on, and questions the safety of using someone like Ulysses to fight crime and prevent disasters.
When the promotional material for Civil War II first came out and we saw whose side people were on, it seemed bizarre that Iron Man and Captain Marvel found themselves at odds, but I gotta say that I buy it. Captain Marvel is currently a founding member of three teams that could be considered proactive, while Iron Man as a scientist needs more to go on than, “It works because it works”.
I can see some people taking issue with it, but for me the debate here is the best part of Civil War II so far, and doees the best job of setting up both sides as equally valid, which is a problem the original Civil War never satisfyingly answered --- and a problem thatCivil War II is about to have later in this same issue.
The book then jumps head to after the battle with Thanos. There’s some contradiction between this and the FCBD issue about when Ulysses has the vision about Thanos, but I’m sure there’s a No-Prize explanation for it somewhere.
Tony Stark storms The Triskelion to demanded Carol’s head on a platter for Rhodey's death, but finds her at She-Hulk’s bedside and learns that Jen may never wake up. Learning that The Ultimates were only there to fight Thanos because of information provided by Ulysses, Tony is furious, but Carol insists she made the right call.
Marquez's work here is the highlight of the book, and his character acting sells the emotion of the moment far better than any words could. It's often said that the best comics art works sequentially even when you strip away the dialogue, and I think that's very true of this closing sequence as the pain of both Tony Stark and Carol Danvers is palpable throughout their argument.
Civil War II #1 ends with She-Hulk waking up briefly to tell Carol to fight for the future, and that it’s their future not Stark’s, before passing away. This seems to be the exact opposite of her arguments presented in Civil War II #0, so it makes it seem like the last act She-Hulk made was one of hypocrisy, which is not a great send-off for a beloved character.
Whose Side Am I On?
Honestly, no-one’s. I feel like by the end of #1, the series is pushing readers towards Iron Man’s side, because Carol’s side just got two Avengers killed, but as I said before, a decade of reading Marvel comics gives me the idea that Tony’s going to do something stupid in Civil War II #2 and I’m going to spend the whole series shouting, “You're supposed to be heroes” at my iPad.
Picking A Side? Get To Know These Heroes A Little Better