Marvel Comics Civil War II Issue #1 hits the ground running and has just enough time to breath before it picks up again in critical condition for it’s big shock & awe moments to fraction allegiance of the heroes in the Marvel Universe. I am thoroughly impressed with this book, it was a visually stunning page turner issue where I almost wanted more but was satisfied with how well the pacing works. I know I’ve preached otherwise believing that before the release that this was all a massive marketing stun to tie into Captain America: Civil War and as a counter to DC Comics Rebirth event. Although that’s very likely true, this issue worked for me and let me tell you why.
I have a massive Love / Hate relationship with Brian Bendis’ work. Even after having the chance to meet him at Emerald Con some many years ago and share an escalator ride from a panel back down to the main floor with Joe Quesada, Bendis came off like a bit of a jerk while Quesada was a nice guy. Perhaps it was the day and Bendis had enough, don’t know but it soured my enjoyment of his books from then on. I’ve been on the fence with Bendis’ work on Guardians of the Galaxy but not on Civil War II Issue #1. Now that all said about Bendis, so you understand my thinking, the artwork in Civil War II is just STUNNING from the pencils & inks by David Marquez, color artist Justin Ponsor and lettering by VC’s Clayton Cowles. Also great work by the editors & designers plus the various cover artists.
A quick summary of the comic book itself: We start with the majority of Marvel’s heroes fighting off a cosmic villain in the Celestial Destructor. Iron Man / Tony Stark then has a bit party the next evening at his tower for all who helped save the world. It’s at this party, where both Mutants and Inhumans are invited to where Tony & Captain Marvel / Carol Danvers want to know HOW they knew about the Celestial Destructor before it attacked so they could make a plan to defeat it. This reveals part of the plot device in a new Inhuman named Ulysses, a college student who recent became infected with Terrigen Mist that’s now apart of the Marvel comic book Earth (not going into details on that, here’s the Wikipedia about that), and it turns out Ulysses can see the future (or futures, it’s kinda vague on that) which is how the Inhumans came to the Avengers to make a plan to defeat the Celestial Destructor involving all of Marvel’s heroes. During this side meeting, happening at Tony’s party, they try to read Ulysses head via “little” Jean Grey but she can’t read his mind saying his mind is like a closed system (stops mind readers from plot spoiling) which sparks a moral debate with both Tony and Carol (although Steve Rogers pipes up, he’s shut down quickly by Tony). Should they use the information they get from Ulysses and try top protect the future and now OR not given they don’t know if what they do may have other adverse effect on their future and reality. It’s kinda the “do you want to know when you’re going to die” debate. If you know, would you try to stop it or ? Of course in true Bendis fashion he writes Tony well and at times a jerk and unlikable (perhaps to match the on-screen Tony Stark many have come to know) and it leaves the heroes having these questions still unanswered because Tony gets upset & leaves which kinda shuts down further discussions on the matter for this evening. Of course the next page, Ulysses has another vision of the future (or possible future), loses it & his a mess in Medusa’s arms and hair. This sparks a reaction which is NOT seen in the comic book. What happens next is Mary J Watson, Tony Stark’s assistant tells him about Rhodey aka War Machine. Tony rushes to the Triskelion, S.H.I.E.L.D. headquarters to see his best friend Rhodey. An upset Tony then wants answers from Carol who lead a task force that had the Ultimates & Rhodey against Thanos from Ulysses’ vision. Maria Hill tells Tony “The mission went FUBAR. It just did.” and we get to see She-Hulk in critical condition and a beat up to almost dead Carol Danvers by her side, all of which is happening in the Triskelion / S.H.I.E.L.D. medical ward. Tony then gets filled in the details of what happened (the events of that fight were covered in the Civil War Free Comic Book Day issue) with Carol’s task force against Thanos. As soon as Tony knows that this was from Ulysses’ vision, he claims to Carol that she killed his best friend (Rhodey) accusing her that her decision was as good as if she did it with her own hands. Of course, Carol informs Tony that Rhodey was a soldier and died in battle also that Tony’s not the only one who loved him, so did Carol as they were a couple. This is the big spark that ignites Tony vs Carol in a moral debate about their choices and consequences. Tony storms off to “make sure none of you ever play God again!” while She-Hulk comes around to tell Carol to “Fight for it. It’s our future Carol. Not his. Fight for it.” and her heart gives out and She-Hulk flat-lines, last page as Iron Man flying off as the issue comes to an end. (okay, this was my quick version. sorry)
So that’s the issue and what I found so appealing was the pacing, the visuals, the fun bits during Tony’s party before it become a moral debate and even the debate itself then BOOM, the big hit of the fallout from the Civil War Free Comic Book Day issue to the high beats at the end of the issue. I felt it, perhaps it’s both the artwork and the writing but it worked for me. The whole last arc of the issue in the Triskelion / S.H.I.E.L.D. medical ward, the colouring (the reds & grey work) and the look on all their faces nailed many unspoken of few spoken scenes so well. I enjoyed that if you didn’t read Civil War Free Comic Book Day issue, the issue gives you the important scenes from that comic and key plot points. Bendis does a great job of both decompressed storytelling and compressing other parts which are their own comic you can read if you like after but this hinder or distract the plot.
I go back to page 26 which has Tony in his lab, working on trying to find his latest armor in stealth mode and having a fun argument with his new Javis AI in Friday (again, matches the movies). Then those last panels of Miss Watson breaking the news to Tony. The page has weight beyond much of what I’ve seen in a Marvel comic book lately as it hangs there on that moment for both Tony and you as the reader. If I had to pick my favorite page, it would be this one. Recently my friend Arctic Grodd & I had a discussion about writing a comic book and the following points work here. Does the page tell you about the character? Yes. Does the page move the character to the next scene? Yes. Does the page move the plot along? Yes. For me, this page is the linchpin of the entire comic book and sets up the 3rd act so well it’s a delight to read.
Not often these days am I satisfied with a comic book. Often I like bits and pieces and see through the rest of the marketing, plot holes or even pages / scenes that don’t work. Not this issue and that was genuinely surprising for me because I was SOOOOO bored with Civil War II Issue #0 but now I re-read that issue in a different light (and if / when this is a trade, it will read better). I now understand that Issue 0 was the Star Wars Crawl of text which is the set-up for the movie. I couldn’t feel or understand that at the time of reading it as I believe I still had this resentment in me for the whole Civil War event just being a Marvel marketing ploy – which it is, I’m not denying that but I’m saying that Issue 1 made me actually enjoy the comic and what’s to follow. Now here’s the rub…
Marvel has a history of starting & building up AMAZING stories for their big comic book events. Even the initial Civil War had a great setup with LOTS of potential which fizzled out far too quickly for it to become enjoyable, mainly as it was stunningly obvious Mark Millar didn’t know how to end it half way through the event.
This is what I’m finding VERY different here and I’m hoping that this Marvel event can last but I like the spark of why the heroes will take sides on this moral debate. The one thing is – the rest of the Marvel Universe books and how they’ll react, will other books stay on the same page or not? Such was the case with the first Civil War event when the Fantastic Four had their big break-up in the main book, it’s effects fizzled out then dropped like a lead balloon in the rest of the Marvel comic books to the point of not knowing how to even fix the breakup in the main book. It was painful to read. I’d like to remain hopefully that Marvel and Bendis have taken notes NOT to let this happen again. We shall see.
The setup is done. It’s Tony’s way or Carol fighting for her way of the moral debate. I hope for the sake of the story, it’s not about a winner but living with such moral decisions and moving forward. Counter to Marvel’s press on all this, I FEEL that it’s not about a pick a side, it’s about living with what choice you make. Lastly I’m glad it’s NOT a direct Iron Man vs Captain America because that’s been done, you just watched a movie about that. This is something special for the comic book universe for us comic geeks to enjoy not the general audience. Not that they can’t but more than likely won’t be as interested.
(unfortunately my review functions aren’t working so here’s a quick version)
Here’s the big tease for Issue #2 of Iron Man kidnapping Ulysses from the Inhumans, I’m sure that will work out just fine & not spark ANY problems amongst the Marvel heroes. 😛