Civil War II once again shook the Marvel Universe’s heroic community to its core. While Civil War II turned out to be an event that did not win Marvel a lot of hardcore fans back they aren’t worrying themselves about that. Instead Marvel is now pushing forward with their next big event in “Secret Empire,” which will be centered around Captain America. Before we get to Secret Empire there are still a few things to clean up from the aftermath of Civil War II. To provide that service Marvel has tapped Captain America writer Nick Spencer to write a follow-up story, Civil War II: The Oath. This one-shot story is inspired by Brian Bendis’ Civil War: The Oath, which took place right after the original Civil War event. Will Spencer help build interest to the next year of Marvel stories with this one-shot? Let’s find out with Civil War II: The Oath.
Writer: Nick Spencer
Artists: Rod Reis, Phil Noto, Raffele Ienco, Szymon Kudraski and Dono Sanchez-Almara
Story Rating: 5 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 7 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 6 Night Girls out of 10
Synopsis: On SHIELD Helicarrier Iliad, Captain America’s helicopter lands and is welcomed by officials.
Inside the Helicarrier a SHIELD agent walks Captain America through the facility. The agent comments how inspiring Captain America’s speech was and asks if this all means an end to the years of instability. Captain America enters a room alone and locks the door behind him.
Inside the room Captain America takes off his helmet and sits down. He says “What a waste,” as he looks at Tony Stary in a coma-like state inside a special containment unit.
Steve Rogers breaks his moment of silence to say he wishes Tony was awake so they could argue like they used to. He goes on to say that he knows that even though Tony will eventually heal he won’t be able to let go of the pain from being betrayed by a friend (Carol Danvers/Captain Marvel).
Steve goes on to admit that he is not the man Tony thinks he is. Steve goes on to explain he always knew that Tony’s current state would be his fate because Tony, like the rest of the “hero” community, forgot who they were fighting for and started fighting over who had the most authority. He goes on to say that while Tony and Carol were fighting they missed something very important: people want to feel protected and safe. For this fact Steve says that today was a good day.
Sometime earlier Steve Rogers is sworn in as the new Director of SHIELD in large ceremony that draws massive media and public attention.
As Steve goes through the ceremony various media officials disagree with one another if it is right or wrong for one person to wield such wide authority as Captain America now wields as the United States “Top Cop.” While the media disagrees Sam Wilson (the other Captain America) and other veterans show their full support for Steve as the new Director of SHIELD.
Somewhere in the desert Hawkeye (Clint Barton) is practicing with his bow and arrow. He tells Red Wolf to turn off the broadcast of Steve Rogers’ ceremony. Red Wolf wonders if why Hawkeye didn’t attend and if he is going blame himself forever for what happened. Hawkeye says that what they are doing right now is more important, plus he is sure Steve didn’t want him there.
Back in DC, the Wasp finds Spider-Man (Miles Morales) on a rooftop overlooking the ceremony. Wasp wonders why Spider-Man isn’t actually at the ceremony. Spider-Man admits he can’t get over the visions of him killing Steve because even though it hasn’t happened doesn’t mean it won’t. Wasp wonders why if Spider-Man thinks that way he is in DC. Spider-Man says he wanted to be close to history being made.
At the ceremony Steve final speaks. He talks about how he understand how much the world has changed in ways no one thought it would and that there are possibly more dangerous and terrifying threats that they are facing now. He mentions Hydra as one of these threats and that when the people turned to superheroes they let them down.
Steve then promises that will not happen again. That he will ensure SHIELD and those with him on the ceremonial platform will protect everyone from those who would do harm to their country and world.
Steve then admits he wasn’t his own first choice for the job of Director of SHIELD. That said, Steve says when he saw the responsibilities of the position he took it without question as he wants to forge something better for everyone. He goes on to end his speech by telling everyone that together they will make their world worth saving.
In the present, Steve says he knows Tony would’ve stood in his way since Tony would rather go to war than accept someone else’s vision as a self-titled futurist. Steve tells Tony that the people he never understood are the same ones that are actually smarter than they give them credit for.
Back in the past, following the ceremony there is a reception held for Steve. During the festivities T’Challa tells Steve that he has his full support. While they discuss a future meeting Hulk (Amadeus Cho) starts a fight that Steve breaks up. Hulk says he doesn’t like that he has to be at an event with those he fought a war against. Captain Marvel walks in and tells Hulk if he doesn’t like the company then he should leave.
Steve approaches Carol and says they need to talk, which Carol agrees that they do.
A few days earlier Carol has a meeting with the President of the United States. During the meeting with the President, Carol does her best to convince him that building a shield around the Earth is the best way to protect the planet from alien invasions, such as Chitauri Fleet that is currently heading to Earth. The President is hesistant to agree but Carol continues to say that the energy field is what is best for the planet’s future safety.
In the present, Steve admits he now understands why Tony and Carol fought as they are very much alike. Steve explains how Carol is so desperate for others approval (using Carol’s fantasy life in House of M as an example) that she never learned to accept herself. He continues to say that this is what caused Carol to go to war with Tony as she wanted to prove she was better than him.
Back in the past, Steve and Carol have their meeting alone. Carol asks if Steve is mad at her. Steve responds he is only disappointed. He goes on to say that while Carol has gotten a medal from the President she has failed to give the superhero community a reason to stop fighting one another. Carol says uniting people isn’t her specialty. Steve fires back that a good leader would find a way to make concessions within victory. Carol states that those that don’t see things her way will come around once they get big wins under their belts.
Steve says wins won’t matter which brings him to his next point of Carol using plans Maria Hill got from a mysterious source. Carol says the shield is a good idea and that it did originally come from a vault within SHIELD. Steve believes building a shield around Earth will only attract other species from the galaxy to attack them. Carol brings up how there is a war coming but Steve is quick to point out that they should instead be training to be ready since they have faced threats like this before.
Carol sarcastically thanks Steve for the speech, which she is quick to apologize for the way she came off.
Steve continues on that all Carol is doing is the same thing she did with Ulysses and that now she is becoming a slave to “means” and “ends” justifying everything. He finishes the conversation by telling Carol all she is doing is putting a ceiling on everyone’s dreams but it is her call. He then walks away leaving Carol speechless.
Back in the present, Steve tells Tony that it is too late for Carol and all of the heroes. He brings up how even before Tony and Carol’s final fight things were decided that after everything that’s happened the past few years that people don’t trust any hero. Steve goes on to say that Tony and everyone else have only themselves to blame as they’ve divorced themselves from what the public wants in pursuit of their personal goals.
Steve brings up how Tony and many others called the public who stated their fears other the rise of mutants and aliens secretly living on Earth were called intolerant or bigots. Steve says that was ease for Tony and others to say since they did lived in ivory towers rather than walking on the streets with people daily. Steve then calls Tony and the others arrogant for turning themselves into Gods while everyone else was left behind.
Steve then finally admits that he is not the man Tony thinks he is. Steve goes on to state that the previous version of himself loved Tony so much that he could’ve beaten Tony he let him win.
Steve says he is not like that previous version of himself. He goes on to say that the reason he wishes Tony was active was so Tony could see how he’ll bring down everything Tony built to the ground and turn it into dust.
Steve then reveals that he manipulated the events of the recent Civil War so Ulysses provided all the heroes fighting one another altered visions. Though one of these visions (Spider-Man killing Steve) was not something he predicted seeing, Ulysses did show himself something no one else knows about.
It is shown that the images of the future only Steve saw was Hydra taking over the United States with aliens, mutants and Inhumans being prosecuted and being put into concentration camp-like areas. This was all done with people gathering in around the White House to salute the new Hydra inspired United States flag to begin the Secret Empire. End of issue
The Good: Civil War II: The Oath follows in the footsteps of the predecessor, which capped off the first Civil War and Death of Captain America events, by executing on the same basic concept. It’s in these moments where Steve Rogers and Tony Stark are alone together, though their roles reversed this time around, that Civil War II is most successful in building intrigue. Unfortunately these moments when Nick Spencer is able to bring in the reader is quickly tarnished by the problems with current storylines and Civil War II: The Oath acting as an advertisement for the next event.
The relationship between Steve Rogers and Tony Stark has been one of the key cornerstones that the Marvel Universe has been built on. While these two have become best friends who have saved the Earth and universe from every conceivable threat together as Avengers they are very different people. From their approach as heroes to their ideals, you won’t find two more different personalities to co-exist on the same side. It’s in these moments where Nick Spencer is able to show the potential of a comic like Civil War II: The Oath.
Turning the tables on the roles the two played this time around added to the intrigue. With Steve being the main focal point we were able to get an even better idea of how the relationship works between the two. This form of storytelling also gave Spencer a way to expand on the idea of how Steve does perceive Tony as a threat to his plans. It also puts more weight on Steve calling Tony and Carol out on their recent actions and how self-involved they have become.
As much as I am against multiple artists working on the same issue Civil War II: The Oath actually got it right with what pages the each artists was assigned to draw. Rather than splitting the artists between drawing beginning, middle and end parts of the issue Rod Reis, Phil Noto, Raffele Ienco, Szymon Kudraski and Dono Sanchez-Almara where assigned different scenes that took place at different time periods. By going with this way of assigning the artistic duties each artist was able to keep to what makes them strong without impacting their collaborator. It also helped to make it easier to understand when changes in time periods were done as we saw a change in the art style, sometimes in the same page.
The Bad: While Civil War II: The Oath does a good job when it focuses on the relationship between Captain America and Iron Man, Spencer never spends a lot of time with the strength of this issue. Instead what we get an issue focused on advertising Marvel’s next big event. This heavy handed way of marketing the Secret Empire makes everything coming out of Steve’s mouth sound like Spencer is talking to the reader rather than Steve Rogers the character. It’s very reminiscent of Shinji Hashimoto at the 2015 Playstation Meeting before E3, with Spencer telling us “Please be excited for Secret Empire.”
This approach of using Civil War II: The Oath to set the stage for Secret Empire takes away reason to invest in the Marvel Universe’s current status quo. In not allowing the dust settle so we can get into what’s happening in Avengers, Captain Marvel, Iron Man and other comics following up on the fallout of Civil War II we are given a message that current stories don’t matter. This clear message makes the interest level in the build up to Secret Empire to be non-existent since we can never get time to spend understanding what is happening in the Marvel Universe before the next big explosion.
What hurts Civil War II: The Oath’s impact even more is the horrible characterization of Captain Marvel. Spencer never spends any time actually allowing the reader understands why Captain Marvel continues to take her stance after winning. This only further highlights how much of a caricature of the Captain Marvel fans love that Civil War II turned her into.
Everything about how Captain Marvel was written in this issue felt like Spencer and Marvel are completely ignoring who Carol Danvers has become since rising up the Avengers ranks. While it’s true that she did seek fame when she debut that is not who she has become. The Carol we have seen over the years, especially after taking on the mantle of Captain Marvel, is someone that seeks to work with her peers and help others as best she can. But since Civil War II all we get is a Captain Marvel that is devoid of an actually personality, instead we are given a version of the character that is locked inside a box with the key thrown out.
This way of using Captain Marvel is an example of how Marvel is quickly altering heroes to fit certain roles rather than naturally developing characters. By forcing these roles on Captain Marvel and other characters to take on it shows how small of a cast of Marvel is allowing their writers to work with. Because if the creators at Marvel really want to explore real world political issues there is a great number of underutilized villains and side characters that can take advantage of that instability. This would mean making villains more than just something the Avengers can punch but in the long run it will help make the stories much more intriguing.
The other place where Spencer did not land the execution of his story was with the brief appearance of Miles Morale’s Spider-Man. While I understand why Miles would want to keep his distance of Steve’s ceremony, this was a big missed opportunity for Peter Parker to interact with Miles. Wasp being the character that spots and talks to Miles felt empty since there is no connection between the characters that readers of Civil War II can draw from. Putting Peter in this role would instantly make Miles current state of mind resonate more as we see two generations of Spider-Men interact with one another on an emotional level.
Overall: The concept of Civil War II: The Oath #1 is absolutely an intriguing one. Unfortunately the potential of exploring Steve Rogers and Tony Stark’s relationship is not fully realized. Instead this new one-shot was simply Marvel and writer Nick Spencer’s way of advertising the Secret Empire event. This in turn hurts the impact of the just finished Civil War II as Marvel is clear about the fact everything is going to change soon yet again. And if Civil War II didn’t matter why should we believe Secret Empire’s impact will be any different? That is one thing Nick Spencer and Marvel don’t answer, causing Civil War II: The Oath #1 to fail rather than succeed.