I really wish this series worked for me.
Brian Michael Bendis (W), David Marquez (A), Olivier Coipel (A), Justin Ponsor (C)
Cover by: Marko Djurdjevic
Publisher: Marvel Comics
And we’re back. I know I said that I wasn’t going to keep going with this series, but impulse buys and curiosity are two very strong forces. So, here we are.
You know, I was all on board with All-New, All-Different Marvel when it was first announced. I know many people weren’t, and Marvel was catching a lot of flak when they were showing the new titles and teams. I loved it. A new Avengers team being launched under Mark Waid, Ultimates and New Avengers by Al Ewing, Nick Spencer on Captain America: Sam Wilson, and new Thunderbolts, Black Panther, and Power Man and Iron Fist series, the last of which being penned by the great David Walker? Sign me up. Plus, Astonishing Ant-Man and Spider Woman are keeping their creative teams? I couldn’t have been happier.
Then this new Civil War story was announced, nakedly cashing in on the movie and trying to make lightning strike twice with the modern classic that was Mark Millar’s Civil War. Yeah, I was suspicious. Plus, it had me uneasy because I like it when comics get into a rhythm and get a status quo going. It’s one of the reasons I like shared universe comics. They have an interesting and continuous flow to them.
Now we have this “Divided We Stand,” Marvel Now and Again or whatever they’re calling it. This gave me a “glass pane shattering” moment. It hit me that Marvel really doesn’t like having a status quo. They feel like if they don’t stay in constant motion, continue swapping around creative teams, and consistently shake up the shared universe that their entire Rube Goldberg machine is going to spontaneously combust. I don’t know what the big meetings between Quesada, Alonso, Buckley, Fine, and the rest of the higher ups are like, but I picture a lot of espresso and Red Bull.
People (myself included) have been critical of the full-scale reboots that DC has every decade or so. The irony of that is, DC is good at getting a status quo going. They like to let things run their course (New 52 B-List titles not withstanding) and don’t force every book to tie-in with every big crossover that comes up. They don’t even have that many crossover events. The only reason Rebirth has happened so soon (relatively speaking) after the launch of the New 52 is because the ship was sinking, and they desperately needed to do something to patch the hull.
In contrast, Marvel has only had one full blown reboot in its 75 years of existence, but they can’t seem to allow a status quo since the early 2000s. Every year or so there is a major crossover event that “changes everything” or another iteration of “Marvel Now.”
I know this is starting to sound like an editorial, and it really is in a lot of ways. I may extend these thoughts to their own article. I may not. This little diatribe currently contains all the thoughts I have on the subject. We’ll see.
From here I’m going to throw down two things. First, I’m going to go ahead and say that I actually liked this issue. It was interesting, and it had a nice flow to it. Secondly, a major spoiler warning is needed here. This comic cannot be properly discussed without speaking on the major events that occurred within its pages.
Last chance to jump off. No? Okay, here we go.
So Clint Barton aka Hawkeye has killed Bruce Banner aka the Hulk. He killed him dead, putting an arrow through his eye. Carol Danvers and Tony Stark are drawing lines in the sand. Barton is getting put away for murder (probably). He claims that Banner’s eyes were going green, and he reveals that he was instructed by Bruce to kill him if he ever looks to be Hulking out again. Plus, he and everyone else were on edge because of the vision that Ulysses showed them last issue, where Hulk is shown killing the Avengers. The issue ends with the verdict on Barton’s trial being read and Stark finally finding out how Ulysses’ powers work.
I’ve decided something. This series should really be a self-contained graphic novel that isn’t necessarily in-continuity with the regular Marvel slate of comics. It would solve a lot of the problems I have with this series. The pacing issues wouldn’t be as big a deal because I would be reading all of the story at once anyway. All the “out of character” moments that keep bugging me wouldn’t be because I could take it as read that these aren’t exactly the same characters to which I’m accustomed.
Explaining why this comic works is pretty simple. It’s a good story on its own. This could have been a one-shot called “Death of the Hulk” and it would have worked just as well, if not better. The tension is heavy. You know something is going to go terribly wrong. It’s only a matter of when and how. You can understand where most of the characters are coming from, even if they all still seem a little…off.
The pacing is still a little weird. Banner dies pretty early on in the comic. The book seems more interested in telling the story of Barton’s trial than the death of Bruce Banner. That’s unfortunate, because the trial seems a little cliché and forced. It’s a lot less interesting than the scene outside Banner’s laboratory.
I don’t understand why this story wants to keep Steve Rogers relegated to the background. He’s not one to stay as silent as he’s been in this series. It seems so odd for his personality. The only time he speaks seems to be for the exclusive purpose of reminding the audience that he’s present.
Forced really is the best word to describe this series. The characters seem forced to be in their positions and commit their actions. It seems like Bendis had this idea planned out with different characters, and someone forced him to use these heroes instead. There’s a scene where Kamala Khan, Miles Morales, and Sam Alexander start choosing sides that’s forcing you to remember that this is a civil war and the heroes are choosing sides. The ending is a massive cliffhanger designed to force you to buy the next issue.
That being said, I can actually buy Banner trusting Hawkeye to kill him, and I can buy Barton being so unnerved by these events that he would actually do it. That bit actually really works for me, and it’s the glue that holds this book together.
I can’t say I’m really ingrained in rooting for either side yet. Both Captain Marvel and Iron Man seem to be thinking in extremes. Ulysses is a potential boon that can be used without prematurely executing or incarcerating both friends and enemies. Danvers and Stark are so far on either side of the fence that it’s hard to empathize with either one.
I’m going to do the expected thing compare it to the original Civil War. That conflict centered around a government mandated, yes or no choice. Choosing either side had believable rewards and consequences for this fictional society as a whole. I easily bought that Captain America and Iron Man made the choices that they made. I could intuit their reasons for each action. Maybe super powered humans should be held more in check, but should they be forced to give up their privacy and become soldiers for an unstable government? That’s an intriguing decision, and it’s completely binary. There is no middle ground, so Rogers and Stark never really seemed irrational by picking their sides. It was a genius yet obvious storytelling decision that prevented much of the audience from choosing neither. Neither is the worst response a series like this could get from the general audience. Most readers, myself included, could firmly plant themselves behind a faction in the first Civil War (Captain America for me, in case anyone was wondering).
In Civil War II, the story wants you to choose a side, but I just can’t bring myself to do it. They both seem extremist, so I’m inclined to choose neither.
Again, this issue does work. It’s well-written, and, once again, Marquez and Ponsor have put together a comic that is gorgeous to look at.
However, as I wrote this review, I did find myself finding more negatives than positives. Those negatives were more attributed to the series as a whole than this specific issue, but this issue is a part of the machine that is Civil War II. It seems foolish to look at it as anything else.
If you’ve liked the series so far, I can see why. There are some interesting parts to it, and it’s far from the worst crossover I’ve ever read. Keep reading it if you’ve liked it. If you haven’t, this issue is interesting, but I can’t say with full confidence that it’s worth your money.
I really wish I could like this series more. I feel like there was a draft of this that was brilliant, but, somewhere down the line, it was bungled.
Final Score: 6/10