Civil War Correspondence: The Character Assassination Of Carol Danvers By The Writer Brian Bendis [Recapping ‘Civil War II’ #5]
Civil War II has completely overwhelmed the Marvel Universe, with all of your favorite titles tangentially tying into the event in whatever way they can in hopes of a sales bump. With a founding Avenger dead and battle lines nearly drawn, it’s time to dig back into the story for more Civil War Correspondence, and review where I stand on the conflict. I reserve the right to flip-flop at will, although that’s looking less and less likely.
This month we're looking solely at Civil War II #5 as the heroes finally clash and the final page hits uncomfortably close to reality. Spoilers follow.
Civil War II #5
So, for the most part this month’s Civil War II is a fight comic with character's proselytizing to each other about their own personal take on the conflict that has split the superhero community apart yet again.
Iron Man and Captain Marvel go head to head for the first time, but most of the fight is spent with other members' battles going on around them. Doctor Strange takes on the X-Men and gets summarily trounced by Iceman and Storm, while Luke Cage and Nova team up to tick-off The Blue Marvel.
Now, it’s a small issue, but “Blue Marvel” never really sounds natural in dialogue to me, especially when Luke Cage says, “Come on, Blue Marvel! You are on the wrong side of the street on this one!” Every time someone calls him Blue Marvel and not Adam or Doctor Brashear, it seems stilted and forced.
Secondly, I feel like Al Ewing has been doing everything he can to set up a turn or at least an abstention for Adam in the pages of Ultimates, and it’s just never coming. While he has seen the positives afforded by the use of predictive justice, he’s literally a Superman analogue that was ordered to stand down in the '60s because people found out he was black, so it’s understandable if he has some concerns about prejudging people.
The rest of the issue is hard to recap other than to say “Sam Wilson fights Magik” or “Hawkeye fights Alpha Flight,” but another fight scene that stands out to me in the context of a character’s own personal history is Spider-Man v Venom. It’s been established that Miles Morales remembers his life in the Ultimate Universe, including the death of his mother. His mother who was killed by his universe’s Venom.
Flash Thompson has been off-world since Miles arrived in the 616 (yes, Tom Brevoort, we’re still calling it that), and the one-page fight scene only skims topic of Miles’ dislike for symbiotes. I know Bendis hasn’t forgotten, because he wrote those issues of Ultimate Spider-Man, but it’s weird way to handle that scene that could have had a lot more emotional weight behind it.
As the fight continues, The Vision takes a cue from his cinematic counterpart and blows something up that he didn’t mean to, only this time it’s not a person but the Guardians of the Galaxy’s ship (which is presumably why they are stranded on Earth post-CWII). This explosion triggers the destruction of The Triskelion as The Inhumans arrive and Ulysses’ powers evolve once more.
It’s unclear what Ulysses is doing, but light extends out of his fingers and envelops The Triskelion, giving all the heroes a look at the future, and what they see is one of the most shocking scenes in the comic, for a number of reasons.
Spider-Man standing over a murdered Captain America.
It’s a powerful image, and honestly David Marquez nails the emotional impact Bendis is going for. I’m not sure if it’s an emotional impact that Bendis should be reaching for, but Marquez nails it, as he does everything he’s given.
It’s a shame that Civil War II is so bad, honestly, because it really should have been the star-making comic for Marquez, who is a phenomenal artist only getting better and better. When people talk about Civil War II in the future, they’re mostly going to remember the bad stuff.
So, Miles apparently kills Steve Rogers in the future. In front of the Capitol building, no less. Now, there’s no context for this, and the assembled heroes don’t know that Steve Rogers is a Nazi right now, but as far as they’re concerned, Miles is going to kill Captain America. Ms. Marvel is the first to run to Miles and reassure him that isn’t going to happen, but Captain Marvel steps in and places Miles Morales under arrest.
Okay, I get what Brian Michael Bendis is going for here, and he’s actually exploring it in more detail and with more nuance in the Spider-Man tie-ins with Nico Leon. Those comics are really good, and have Miles coming to terms with his place as a role model to people of color and how his worldview is being shaped by the experiences of his own role models, such as his father and Luke Cage.
Here, it’s not a good look for Marvel’s A-list, top tier female character to place a black male teen under arrest for something he hasn’t done. I get the intention, but I don’t understand why the decision was made to cast Carol Danvers in this role. I don’t want to take the attention away from Miles, but Marvel Studios is set to release its first female-led superhero film --- and one of the first female-led superhero film since 2005’s Elektra --- and this one miniseries is single-handedly draining all the goodwill the character has accumulated since being rebranded as Captain Marvel by Kelly Sue DeConnick and Dexter Soy.
It’s interesting to me that during Civil War, when Iron Man was the bad guy, fans were obsessed with the idea that he was being controlled and manipulated. I was just a comic book internet baby back then, but I remember forum posts about how Miriam Sharpe --- the mother of a child who died in the Stamford disaster --- was actually going to be Mephisto, or Loki, or some other big bad, and the series would end with the two sides teaming up to take them down.
It now just as tempting to hope that Carol is being manipulated, possibly by Ulysses or even Thanos, who has been shown to have that ability in Ultimates --- but there doesn’t seem to be much speculation surrounding that as a plot point.
Carol Danvers is tarnished by this event, and even if there is a twist, and Carol isn’t in control of her actions, Bendis is taking away the agency of Marvel’s most prominent female superhero and making her the puppet of an outside force for the entirety of the event.
I’m worried about what this means for Miles Morales also, because this is the most high profile story that the character has featured in since he came to the 616, and so far the most prominent thing he’s done is be profiled for a crime he hasn’t committed, and be arrested for it. Marvel Comics has often described itself as “the world outside your window,” but I don’t think fans of Miles want one of his character-defining stories to be something so close to home.
At least Captain Marvel didn’t kill him while he was attempting to flee. That’s the only way this comic could be worse.
Whose Side Are You On?
Usually, I talk about which side I’m on and why but I’m firmly on Tony’s side now. Instead, I want to know which side you’re on. Is it as cut-and-dried as it feels? We’ve put together a poll so you can vote for Team Iron Man or Team Captain Marvel.