It is finally here. Civil War II officially kicks off this week with Civil War II #0. Marvel has a tough sell with this big event. Recycling the Secret War theme with Hickman’s Secret Wars big event gave a vibe of Marvel simply mining old concepts due to a lack of creativity. Following up Secret Wars with a big event entitled Civil War II feels even more unoriginal. Civil War II gives the vibe that Marvel is no longer the House if Ideas. That there is no innovation going on with this big event. Instead, Marvel comes across like an old mansion that used to be glorious in the 1920’s but is now broken down as the current owners can no longer maintain the home and are reduced to giving tours outlining when the house used to be something special.
To make Civil War II feel even more dated and unoriginal, Marvel is putting Brian Bendis on this title. Yup. A writer who has not been on the top of his game in about a decade. A writer who is pushing 50. A writer who has been left behind by all of his peers from the 90’s and the early 00’s because he never was able to find much success outside of Marvel. Putting an old writer past his game on a big event that is recycling a theme from a big event from 10 years ago hardly screams creativity and originality. It certainly does nothing to get me excited about this upcoming big event.
Having said that, maybe Marvel has some exciting surprises in store for us. Maybe Bendis has been able to expand his range of writing and will turn in a story that is not painfully formulaic. There is only one way to find out. Let’s hit this review for Civil War II #0.
Words: Brian Bendis
Art: Olivier Coipel
Colors: Justin Ponsor
Story Rating: 3 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 5.5 Night Girls out of 10
Synopsis: We begin in the New York City Courthouse. (And Bendis already shows he thinks that properly researching anything for his stories is for suckers. There is no New York City Courthouse. There are seven county courthouses in the boroughs of New York City. One of them is called the New York County Criminal Court that is the one assigned to Manhattan. I am guessing this is the one that Bendis is referencing.) We see She-Hulk giving her closing statement before a jury. (She-Hulk looks fantastic in her sexy, yet still professional, attorney outfit.) She-Hulk’s client is Jonathon Powers aka The Jester.
She-Hulk states that Powers did nothing wrong. That all Powers did was talk shop with former acquaintances. That he is the victim of a police entrapment. (Hilarious part of this is that Bendis takes the time to have She-Hulk explain that the word “entrapment” means “to trap.” No shit, Sherlock. You really can’t treat your readers as if they are drooling morons.) She-Hulk says that all the prosecutor is doing is trying to jail Powers for his thoughts. That, as a society, we must be careful about punishing people for their thoughts. That this is still the land of the free. (Except that we do punish people for their thoughts. All the time. That is all that a hate crime charge basically is. And we also charge people with defamation and slander. Don’t forget conspiracy. So, there’s that. But, please, Bendis, continue with your brilliant legal argument.)
She-Hulk says that the jury must protect the Freedom of Thought. She-Hulk says that people cannot be arrested just because of what they think. (Bendis has now spent two pages literally finding as many different ways to say the exact same sentence. This reads like a Key and Peele comedy sketch. This is so unintentionally hilarious.) She-Hulk ends her closing argument by stating that they must allow for freedom of thought or else they will not be a free country. (Jesus. Is it over? Bendis just burned three pages saying the same thing over and over and over. Amazing. What a riveting start to a big event!!)
We cut to Latveria where War Machine is facing off with some armed locals. War Machine says that he is Colonel James Rhodes of the United States Marine Corps and for the locals to drop their weapons. War Machine says that Latveria is under the protection of the United States until a preliminary democratic government can be implemented. War Machine says that any act against that is an act of global terrorism. (What?! This makes zero sense. In this current geo-political climate the U.N. would be all over an action by the U.S. like this one. And, for the love of baby Jesus, not everything falls under the label of “global terrorism.” Lazy writing.) The native Latverian freedom fighters put down their arms in the face of the mighty tool of American Imperialism.
We then cut to the White House Situation Room. The President is meeting with Rhodey. The President asks Rhodey if he knows why the President picked this location for this meeting. It is because no one comes here unlike the Oval Office which is as busy as Central Station. (Does every scene have to begin with pointless dialogue that is the literary equivalent of navel gazing?)
The President says that he wants to make Rhodey his new Secretary of Defense. (No! Wrong! This is a legal impossibility. Rhodey just stated in the earlier scene that he is a Colonel in the United States Marine Corp. 10 U.S. Code §113 covers who may be appointed as Secretary of Defense. 10 U.S. Code §113(a) states in just the second sentence of the very first paragraph “A person may not be appointed as Secretary of Defense within seven years after relief from active duty as a commissioned officer of a regular component of an armed force.”
So, that means that since Rhodey is a Colonel in the United States Marine Corps that he legally barred from being nominated as Secretary of Defense. Rhodey would have to immediately retire as Colonel from the Marine Corps and then wait seven years before being appointed. And in that time, this current President will no longer be in office. Honestly. Just the tiniest bit of research to make your story does not come across as idiotic is not that hard. It is not like this requirement is a hidden one. It is right at the top of the statute and it is fairly well-known standard as one of the few requirements to be considered as a nominee.)
The President continues that the only reason he is replacing the current Secretary of Defense is because he is not a larger than life symbol of the power of American ideal. (Huh, what? So, the current Secretary of Defense has not done anything wrong. It is just that he is not the symbol of American Imperialism like Rhodey is. Wow. The President is a dick to fire someone just for that reason.) Rhodey is stunned.
The President says that he isn’t done. That he can top what he just said. (Yeah!! The President is like Drew Carey on the Price is Right! Hold on, Rhodey! Don’t get too excited until you see what is behind door #2!!) The President says that he wants Rhodey to be the next President. That The President wants Rhodey to be the next President for “The Party” and for “The Country.” (Sweet baby Jesus. Just when you think this scene could not have gotten any dumber. Bendis goes and back up the dump truck of stupid. No, The outgoing President does not get to handpick the next President. Let’s assume that this President is Obama. We do not know for sure since he is kept in the shadows. That means the Democratic National Convention would be picking the Presidential nominee after the primary season concluded. The National Chair of the DNC is going to be the most influential person in that they decide who receives the money and the backing from the DNC. The idea of an outgoing President handpicking the next Presidential nominee for his party is silly and grossly over simplifies the political system in the United States. This scene is so outrageously dumb.)
The President says that eventually a “super hero” is going to run for the office of President. That one day Rhodey’s “little buddy” Tony Stark is going to want to become President. (It is hilarious how much Bendis has never liked Tony Stark’s character. Which makes him writing not one but two titles starring Tony Stark so silly. I guess that would explain the crap sales numbers that Bendis’ two Iron Man titles are currently posting.) The President says that Tony is going to buy his way into the Presidency. (Uuummmm, You mean just like every other President in the history of the United States?) The President says that he would much rather it be Rhodey as President than Tony. The President then equates the War Machine amor to that of an NFL athlete’s padding and that even pro athletes must hang it up at some point and start planning for their second act. The President says “Take it from me, Colonel. This is a pretty good second act. And it is yours if you want it. (First, the President comes across like a total douchebag in this scene. Second, this final line is the moronic cherry on top of a sundae of stupid. No, the Presidency is not Rhodey’s “for the taking.” It is all so far more complicated than this entire ludicrously dumbed down scene is portraying. This scene is Bendis simply insulting the reader’s intelligence. And that is rarely a good move for an author to perform while delivering their story.)
We then shift to Ohio State University. (Well, we are now six pages into this issue and nothing has really happened. Hopefully, we finally kick it up a bit and actually get this story moving.) We see the stereotypical “geek guy” named Ulysses (Really? No. I reject the notion that there is some white kid named Ulysses out there. Not even the most douchiest hipster would give their kid this name.) approaching the stereotypical “hot girl” Michelle who barely acknowledges Ulysses’ presence. Michelle points out that the Terrigen Mist has arrived. The students get excited and wonder which of them is really an Inhuman. The Terrigan cloud envelops the students. The cloud then moves on. The students see that both Michelle and Ulysses are now in Inhuman cocoons. (And Bendis only burned three pages. Three. To have the cloud arrive and then leave. Three.)
We hop over to the Triskelion, the home of the Ultimates. Carol Danvers is briefed on Alpha Flight intercepting some drunk Shi’ar looking to party on Earth and get some “primitive love.” Carol is properly offended. (Because the idea of people getting drunk and having sex is now a bad thing?) Anyway, Carol is then briefed on A-Force. (Carol is the only character I know that has a solo title that struggles to sell in the 20K unit range but still is a member of three different teams.) Carol is then told that she has a visitor.
Carol enters a meeting room. Doc Samson is waiting for her. Carol mentions that she thought Samson was dead. Samson replies that he was dead but that he is better now. (I have no clue what is going on.) Samson asks Carol how it has been running the Ultimates. Carol then begins a long and boring explanation of why she is leading A-Force and is on the Ultimates. (Fuck. We get a two page splash shot of…nothing but talking heads. What a waste of Coipel’s talents.)
Bendis spends two pages basically saying that Carol wants to stop disasters before they happen. And that Samson thinks it is a noble goal. Samson then asks if Carol is still living a balanced life between her personal life and her life as Captain Marvel. Carol realizes that the meeting with Samson is turning into a doctor’s visit. (And I am now realizing that at no point are we going to get a fun super hero action adventure big event story in this issue.)
Bendis then spends the next two pages basically saying that Carol has the illusion of control and that she worries about the disaster that she will not be able to stop. (And we get another double page splash shot of…nothing but talking heads. Bendis continues to be a comic book artists’ worst enemy. For the love of all that is holy. Bendis just reduced six pages to a cinder just to tell us that Carol wants to prevent disasters before they happen and is too obsessed with her job. Six. Pages. I needed three Red Bulls to make it through this dreadfully dull scene.)
We mercifully cut away from the dull and seemingly never-ending scene at the Triskelion and heads over to a SHIELD Helicarrier. (For the love of all the comic book gods. Please. Please give us something that is actually exciting. Maybe some action? Maybe some actual interesting plot progression? Something actually designed to hook the reader into this upcoming big event?) She-Hulk arrives on the Helicarrier and is greeted by Maria Hill. Maria Hill then proceeds to ask She-Hulk if she is okay with She-Hulk giving the same answer all three times that she is, in fact, okay. She-Hulk keeps asking why Maria keeps asking her this question. (And I keep asking why Bendis keeps repeating the same thing over and over and over for multiple pages.)
Maria answers that it is about the Jester trial. She-Hulk replies that she has lost cases before. That she doesn’t like losing and that she will appeal the case. Maria then says that the Jester is dead. That he was killed in prison. That a prison guard shot him to death. She-Hulk says that the Jester was innocent. Maria replies that the Jester was a repeat offender. She-Hulk answers “Not this time.” Maria retorts that he would have done it again. That they always do. (Yeah, three whole pages just to tell the reader that the Jester got killed in prison. Yup. Indeed. Pretty fun reading the same dialogue rehashed multiple different times. Well, we are now 18 pages into this issue and we are still waiting for anything that is actually exciting or engaging. Still no plot progression. Still no action. Still nothing at all interesting or exciting to get the reader pumped and ready for Civil War II #1. Brilliant.)
We cut back to Ohio State. News reporters are on the site and reporting on the two Inhuman cocoons. One of the cocoons opens and Ulysses steps out. He still looks like his normal self. The second cocoon then opens and Michelle comes out of it and she is definitely no longer hot. She looks like a red demon with wings. (Hey! Finally something that is actually interesting. We only had to wait 20 pages for it. That’s not so bad, right?) Ulysses’ eyes then glow red. Ulysses then loses consciousness.
Ulysses wakes up and looks around. Everything around Ulysses is destroyed. Ulysses asks himself if he did all of this damage. The camera pans back and we see all of downtown Columbus in ruins. (I’ve been to Columbus, Ohio. It did not seem anywhere as large as this drawing indicates. And downtown Columbus is 7-8 miles away from Ohio State’s campus. This final double page splash shot seems to indicate that the Ohio State campus is right next to the downtown.) End of issue.
The Good: You know what? I love a good challenge. The kind of challenge that takes all of your energy to try to conquer. And the challenge of satisfying The Revolution’s Rule of Positivity with Civil War II #0 is certainly a daunting one. Let’s see. Well, I love She-Hulk. She is a great character. So, it was nice to see that she got some panel time in this issue. Okay, that is about all I can say positive about the writing. Let’s move onto the artwork, instead.
Olivier Coipel is such a talented artist. Sure, some of his panels may be hit or miss. And sometimes his backgrounds devolve into a sketchy mess. But, in general, Coipel turns in a pretty issue. Coipel definitely draws a fantastic She-Hulk. No doubt about that. Coipel is also capable of delivering breathtaking cinematic double page splash shots. He did not really get a chance to do that in this issue, but the final splash shot for this comic was fantastic. Coipel did the best that he could with a rather dull and boring script that asked little to nothing from the artist. I like how Coipel’s breakdowns and layouts for Civil War II #0. Coipel did his best to make this boring script as interesting and as engaging as possible.
The Bad: Civil War II #0 is as deathly boring of a beginning to a big event that I have ever read. This issue is a wonderful teaching moment. Civil War II #0 should be read by all aspiring comic book writers as an excellent example of what not to do when kicking off a big event. Civil War II #0 is easily the most underwhelming beginning to a big event from either Marvel or DC. I was concerned that Marvel was turning to Bendis for another big event. Bendis has always struggled with a large roster of characters. Bendis has always struggled with continuity. Bendis has always struggled creating a story with the proper epic scope and feel of a true big event. Bendis has always struggled with world building. Turning to writers like Geoff Johns or Jonathan Hickman for a continuity heavy big event story juggling a large roster set on an epic grand stage makes sense. But, Bendis? Not so much.
Sadly, Bendis performed down to expectations with Civil War II #0. This issue is as decompressed as a comic book can get. In fact, I swear that decompression is Bendis’ true middle name. The rampant decompression in this issue is part of what gives this story such a dated and stale feel. Nothing really happens at all in this issue. Here is what Bendis gives us in Civil War II #0. She-Hulk defended the Jester and lost and the Jester then got killed in prison. Carol Danvers lives a stressful life and just wants to stop catastrophes from happening in the first place. The President wants Rhodey to be Secretary of Defense and then become the President. Lastly, two Ohio State Inhumans are created and one of them destroys Columbus, Ohio.
That’s it. That’s your issue. The only thing that actually resembles anything like a real plot line with any weight, substance or purpose is the Inhuman plotline involving the destruction of Columbus, Ohio. The rest is a combination of very minor shallow plot lines stretched out with a ton of fluff and navel gazing.
The plotting and pacing is just horrid. Bendis engages in excessive navel gazing through out this entire issue. Bendis gives the reader around 70% navel gazing and 30% actual story. Bendis lazily meanders from scene to scene with zero sense of urgency. The reader never gets the feeling that there is any clear direction in mind with this story. There is no real focus.
The debut issue of a big event has the burden of creating a sense of importance to the story. The reader must feel that the writer has a clear point and purpose in mind. There should be a sense of urgency to the story that creates tension and excitement in the reader. The entire point of a #0 issue is to make the reader excited and interested in the new big event. To get the reader fascinated by the setting for the big event and to become invested in events that are headed our way. The writer has to be part wrestling promoter and part carnival huckster. The writer has to sell this big event to readers. The writer has to whip the readers into a frenzy and make them eager and willing to shell out plenty of money to purchase Civil War II and the myriad of inevitable tie-in issues.
Instead, Bendis does nothing at all the engage the reader’s interest or to get the reader invested in the characters and the various plot lines. Bendis delivers a dull and boring read that wanders about in the literary desert with no clear direction in mind. Civil War II #0 was as riveting as watching paint dry. The reader is bored as they watch the various characters yawn their way through this sleepy story. Bendis’ writing is so subdued that someone should probably check his pulse to confirm that he is still alive.
Civil War II #0 is such a shallow and thin read. The lack of any real substance for the reader to chew on and digest makes this issue an unsatisfying read. Big events can be so much fun. Big events can treat the reader to a complex story full of intricate plot lines that all engage the reader’s imagination and get the reader excited to come back for more. That is what Hickman delivered with Secret Wars. Bendis does absolutely none of that with Civil War II #0.
Bendis does nothing to get the reader to care at all about the She-Hulk/Jester plot line. it is a weak and shallow plot line what was clumsily written. She-Hulk is a great character but the Jester is a lame character that will hardly elicit any interest from the reader. This plot line was a dud in this issue. The Carol Danvers/Doc Samson plot line in this issue was pure fluff. This added nothing of substance to the issue at all. This was the moment of the comic where Bendis went overboard with the navel gazing.
Then there is he Rhodey plot line. This is so unintelligent and stupidly written that the reader simply cannot take it seriously enough to get invested in it. Bendis flat-out gets too many things wrong in this scene that it ruins the intended impact of what Bendis is trying to get across to the reader. There are so many gaps in Bendis’ logic that it makes it impossible for the reader to suspend their disbelief enough to buy into this poorly researched and constructed plot line. This plot line was easily the lowest point of this issue.
The Carol Danvers/Samson plot line may have been the most pointless and decompressed scene but it was not stupid. It did not insult the reader’s intelligence. The Carol/Samson plot line was more of Bendis being self-indulgent and delivering a scene that was more of a vanity moment than a scene designed to entertain the readers. The Rhodey plot line was a shining example of Bendis being a lazy writer who never puts in the necessary ground work or research to craft intelligent and logical stories.
Then we come to the Inhuman plot line. This was the most interest plot line. But, only because the other plot lines were so poorly constructed and/or boring. Now, my problems with the Inhumans plot line are not Bendis’ fault. The Inhumans’ plot line is editorially mandated. The Inhumans are to Marvel what Roman Reigns is to the WWE. Marvel is determined to make the Inhumans a core element of the All New All Different Marvel Universe whether readers like it or not. And Marvel is going to just keep jamming the Inhumans as the new X-Men down the reader’s throat until the readers like it.
I love Jack Kirby’s The Inhumans. They are awesome. But, this new Inhumans as the X-Men concept that Marvel is pushing. It sucks. Just like how wrestling fans think Roman Reigns sucks. The two Inhumans titles are both selling like crap. But, Marvel’s editors are determined to keep jamming them down readers’ throats and making sure that the Inhumans assume a more central role in the All New All Different Marvel Universe than the X-Men. So, yes, the Inhuman plot line is the best of the bunch of plot lines that Bendis tosses out at the reader in this issue. But, that does not mean that the Inhuman plot line is a good one or an exciting and interesting one.
The roster of characters for Civil War #0 is an odd group. Bendis rolls with She-Hulk, Carol Danvers and War Machine. All three of these characters are not popular at all. None of them can support a solo title. When they do have a solo title they get crap sales numbers. So, it is unusual to go with three characters with low star power and low sales power to headline your debut issue of your new big event. Look, I adore She-Hulk. And I know there are die-hard fans of Carol and War Machine. But, facts are facts and the numbers do not lie. These three characters do not draw big numbers. I would have expected Bendis to mix in a few more high-profile characters, that have strong sales power, into this issue.
To no surprise, the dialogue and character work are rather unimpressive. To be expected, all of the characters have the exact same external voice. Bendis speak for everyone. Bendis has become a parody of himself at this point in his career. But, Bendis speak is his one trick and he is going to continue to play it. And the endless repetition in the dialogue. Is it off the charts. In the two She-Hulk scenes and in the Carol/Samson scene, Bendis manages to take about a page worth of dialogue and repackage it and restate it in as many different ways as possible over multiple pages. It is beyond lazy writing.
The character work is as bland as usual. All of the characters have that typical generic personality that Bendis gives all the characters that he handles. They all begin to blend into each other. None of the characters have much of a well-defined or textured personality.
There is also a lack of any action in this issue. Action is a vital ingredient to any successful big event. Nobody pays money to go see the latest summer blockbuster Marvel Studios movie to see a bunch of super heroes sitting around a meeting table and engaging in repetitious banter for 2 hours. The same applies to a big event. The complete lack of any action until the final two pages makes Civil War II #0 an unimpressive beginning to this big event.
Overall: Civil War II #0 is a poor start to this new big event. I would only recommend this issue to die-hard Bendis fans. This is an inauspicious start for this new big event. Not too many readers are going to pick up Civil War II #0 and get excited and anxious to spend their hard-earned money on Civil War II and the various tie-in issues based on what they get in this issue.