Civil War II #0 went over like a lead balloon here at The Revolution. Having said that, #0 issues are often misses rather than hits. So, with that in mind, let’s hope that Marvel Comics has something special in store for us with Civil War II #1. Am I crazy about Marvel recycling yet another old big event for a second year in a row. Not particularly. It smacks of a lack of creativity and a desperate move to cash in on an older popular big event. Nor am I particularly enthused about having Brian Bendis being the writer behind this new big event. Bendis is not a writer who is ill suited for comics that have a large roster of characters, multiple complex plot lines and world building stories. Secret Invasion was deathly dull and Siege was a shallow lightweight masquerading as a big event. Having said that, maybe Bendis is ready to redeem himself and deliver a quality big event with Civil War II. Let’s hit this review for Civil War II #1 and find out.
Words: Brian Bendis
Art: David Marquez
Colors: Justin Ponsor
Story Rating: 6 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 7 Night Girls out of 10
Synopsis: We begin in a campground in Columbus, Ohio. We see Ulysses running through the forest yelling “Why won’t it stop?!” Suddenly, the Inhumans appear on the scene. Medusa introduces the Inhumans to Ulysses. Triton says that they can help Ulysses. Crystal then chimes in “This is a good thing.” (There it is! The patented needless dialogue that Bendis shoehorns into his scenes. Crystal’s line just comes off as odd and unnecessary and ruins the flow of the scene. But, Bendis cannot resist adding some of his “witty” lines to every scene.)
We cut to Manhattan “weeks later.” We see Iron Man and his C-Squad (Captain Falcon, Nova, Miles Morales and Ms. Marvel) also known as the All New All Different Avengers getting their asses kicked. The Job Squad pick themselves up off the ground. We get plenty of “witty” banter from Miles about how this whole situation is crazy. Even crazy by founding Avengers standards. Tony confirms that this scene is indeed crazy. (Bendis. Ever the fan of telling rather than showing. And when is Miles ever going to stop sounding like an exact clone of Peter Parker? I’m still trying to figure out the point of Miles’ character.)
We then pan back and see a giant Celestial crackling full of energy. The Celestial towers over Manhattan. Iron Man says that they have to stick to the plan. Suddenly, we hear the “gorgeous” sound of a sonic boom. (Tony calls the sound “gorgeous.” Because, you know, we have She-Thor these days. Does this mean that Bendis will write that real Thor’s sonic boom in studly? One can only hope.)
She-Thor takes the lead and our random collection of B-list and C-list heroes follow her as they attack the Celestial. (It looks like we have the rosters of the All New All Different Avengers, The Uncanny Avengers, the Ultimates, the Uncanny Inhumans, The Inhumans and the Uncanny X-Men.)
We see Iron Man and Carol fighting back-to-back against the Celestial’s army. (See what Bendis is doing here? He is having Carol and Iron Man have a moment of teamwork so that when Carol pulls a heel turn on Tony that she will get heat from the readers. Someone get Bendis a job writing for WWE’s Raw TV show.)
Tony then radios Doctor Strange and tells Strange that it is time for his role in this plan. We see that Dr. Strange has Hellstrom, Doctor Voodoo, Wiccan, Shaman and Magik next to him. Doctor Strange asks if everyone is ready. Magik responds “Define ready.” (Awww, yeah! Every scene no matter the situation must be like the characters are in a sitcom with all characters ready to spit out a “witty” line on demand.)
The magic casters all combine their powers to cast one massive group spell of dimension reversal. Suddenly, the Celestial and his army disappear in a massive explosion. Dr. Strange helpfully explains that the Celestial Destructor is gone. That it has been returned to the dimension from which it came and the rift between the Celestial’s dimension and our heroes’ dimension has been sealed. (As the great John “Hannibal” Smith once said: “I love it when a plan comes together!“)
Nova asks who gave the Avengers a heads up that this Celestial was headed for Manhattan. Everyone ignores Nova because he doesn’t deserve any attention. Captain Nazi (Steve Rogers) says that they should get down to the street and help with cleanup. Tony then replies that drinks are on him.
We cut to the next evening at Stark Tower. (Pretty interesting how Stark Tower now looks just like the Stark Tower from the Marvel Studios’ movies.) Tony toasts the Inhumans for helping to defeat the Celestial. Tony toasts the Inhumans for warning them of the impending attack. That the information was well-times and specific. Carol then stands up next to Tony and also toasts the Inhumans. (Good lord. We get it, already. The Inhumans are the greatest thing in the Marvel Universe and we should all adore and love that franchise even more than the X-Men and Fantastic Four combined.)
Rhodey then asks Tony for some newer armor instead of his late 1980’s hand-me-downs. (Wait, I thought Tony Stark had gotten a soft retcon so that he now became Iron Man after the events in Iraq. Which means War Machine’s armor that was made by Tony would be from much later than the 1980’s. Continuity is Bendis’ worst nightmare.) Tony replies that if Rhodey had $4 billion then Tony could get him a new suit of armor. Tony tells Rhodey to just weld another gun on his shoulder. That it won’t look too desperate or overly compensating. (Oh, no. This smells like foreshadowing!!!)
We then get some typical fluff Bendis banter about Hellstrom being creepy and hitting on the women at the party. (Men are such dogs. Gross.) She-Hulk asks Carol how the Inhumans knew about the attack. Carol said that they should go as “Princess Big Hair” and find out. (Bendis calls Medusa Ms. Big Hair. Get it? Medusa? Lots of hair? Everyone in this story is a comedian! So witty.)
Carol walks over and asks Medusa how the Inhumans knew about the attack before it happened. Medusa then tells the Avengers to come with her. Everyone goes to the kitchen. Medusa then leads someone into the kitchen. (Have they been keeping Ulysses locked up in the meat locker of the kitchen? Welcome to the team, rookie!)
Medusa introduces Ulysses to the Avengers. Captain Nazi asks how Ulysses knew about the attack by the Celestial. Ulysses explains how he can see the future. That his visions are so intense that he can not just see the future but that he can also feel it.
Tony suggest getting “little” Jean Grey in here to help Ulysses to convey how he sees the future. Captain Nazi asks if that is a good idea. Tony responds that it came out of his mouth so by definition it is a good idea. (You can tell that Bendis is delivering pure Robert Downey, Jr. with how he handles Tony’s character.) Captain Nazi asks what about the rift between the X-Men and the Inhumans. Tony replies “Its’ a party.” (What? That is a nonsensical reply.)
We then shift to Jean sitting on a stool in front of Ulysses who is sitting on another stool. Jean explains to the reader that she is going to create a psychic link between Ulysses and the heroes in the room so they can see what Ulysses saw in his vision about the Celestial. Jean promises that Ulysses other private weird thoughts will not be broadcast to the others. Ulysses says that he does not have any weird thoughts. Jean answers that everybody does. For example they should see what She-Hulk is thinking about right now. She-Hulk replies “Hey. Not cool.” (Everyone. Must. Be. A. Comedian.)
Jean establishes a link and all we see is emptiness. Jean says that she cannot read Ulysses. That his mind is like a closed system. Miles responds “Like a MacBook?” (No! Not like a MacBook! I think using iOS would be a better, but still flawed, analogy. Points for Bendis, who is about to turn 50, trying to show that he is still hip to the current trends in tech, though.)
Carol then asks Ulysses if he is looking for a job. She asks if he is exclusive to the Inhumans. Carol says that she could use him on the Ultimates. That the Ultimates are specially designed to stop disasters before they happen.
Tony interrupts and says that Ulysses is an Inhuman that they do not know and is a closed book and can somehow tell the future. Tony asks Carol if that limited information is good enough for her. Carol replies that it was good enough yesterday when they took down the Celestial.
Captain Nazi asks Tony what is on his mind. (Tony says that he is not going to have a moral debate with a dirty Hydra member. Wait, he didn’t say that.) Tony says he is not going to have a moral debate with Steve. That those never end well for them. (You have to reference the original Civil War when you are pulling of a cheap sequel to the original big event.)
Tony says that they have no idea about the probability ratio that his power is working with. That the destruction of Manhattan that Ulysses saw never happened. therefore, it was not the future that Ulysses saw. It was a possible future. Carol responds that everyone was alive at the end fo the day and it was the right thing to do.
Tony asks Ulysses to tell him more about his powers. Ulysses explains the events in Civil War #0. That Ulysses does not just have visions of the future but that he can actually experience them as if he was there. (Yeah, we just covered this information a couple of pages ago.)
Ulysses says that the Royal Family of the Inhumans took him in and showed him how to focus his powers. How to assert more control over his powers. Then one day he saw the Celestial coming and destroying Manhattan. But, it never happened thanks to the assembled heroes.
Tony says what if a guy came up to them and said they had a vision of Hulk making out with Ultron and a baby popped out and that the baby was a reincarnated Hitler. Miles interjects that he would pay to see that movie. Tony replies “No doubt.” (There is never a scene or a moment in a comic where some witty banter from all of the characters isn’t totally appropriate.)
Tony asks in that situation would they stop the Hulk before it happens. Lock the Hulk away before he does something we do not like. Tony says that yesterday was an easy call. What if the next one is not so easy. What if it is one of them. Tony asks if they should stop people from doing something een before they had the idea to do that certain something.
Carol retorts that he thought Tony was a futurist. Tony say that he is a futurist to his core. But, they should be very careful about what Ulysses can tell them and what they can do about it. Tony then says he is glad everyone is here and for them to enjoy the party. Tony then exits the room.
Ulysses says “Wow. Tony Stark.” (Now? Now Ulysses is star struck about Tony? Talk about a delayed reaction.) Miles responds “Yeah, it’s exciting. Then you get over it.” (Somber scene? Important scene that forms the moral conundrum that is the basis for this entire big event? Nothing a little humor in some throwaway lines at the end can’t help to make the scene even more powerful.)
We shift to New Attilan three weeks later. We see Ulysses waking up from a vision. He starts screaming. Medusa wakes up and another male Inhuman wakes up. (Were they all in bed together? Is there some managa twa going on here?!)
Other Inhumans then enter the bedroom. Ulysses says that they have to call the Ultimates.
We zip over to Tony’s lab. Tony is working on his new stealth armor. Mary Jane (Ugh…..) walks in and tells Tony that Rhodey is gone. (Where did he go?! A late night run to Wal-Mart? Maybe the 24 hour drive-thru at Taco Bell?!)
We cut to Tony arriving at the Triskellion. We see Tony entering a room. We see the War Machine armor all destroyed and in pieces. We then see Rhodey’s bloody corpse covered by a white sheet. (Oh….that kind of gone. Damn foreshadowing earlier in this issue about how crappy and outdated War Machine’s armor is. Which means when Rhodey comes back to life he will be able to do so in a much more modern and updated War Machine suit of armor. Convenient.)
Tony yells “How did this happen?” We see Tony rampaging down a hallway of the Triskellion demanding to see Carol. Tony makes Ms. America pee her pants by yelling at her for her to tell him where Carol is.
Tony enters another hospital room where She-Hulk is hooked up to life support. Carol is by She-Hulk’s side. Carol is all beaten up. Carol says that they need Dr. Bruce Banner here to help deal with She-Hulk’s unique Gamma radiated biology. (What is Bruce Banner up to these days? Trapped in the All New All Different straight white male limbo? Damn, really could have used him right about now.)
Carol explains that they got in a fight with Thanos. We get a double page splash shot of Thanos screaming that the Earth Avengers are not supposed to be here and blasting them.
We zip back to the hospital room where Carol says that the Ultimates ambushed Thanos. That they knew where Thanos was going to be and they were waiting for him. That Thanos still thinks the heroes have a cosmic cube on Earth.
Tony asks how the Ultimates knew where Thanos was going to be. We get a flashback panel of Thanos killing War Machine with a massive punch. We get a flashback panel of Carol holding Rhodey’s corpse and yelling for someone to help them.
Carol tells Tony that Ulysses came to the Ultimates. That he had a vision. Tony cuts off Carol and says that Carol killed Tony’s best friend. (For the record, Captain Mar-vell would never have made such a mistake and gotten Rhodey killed. Just sayin’.)
Black Panther tries to calm down Tony but Tony ain’t having any of it. Tony says that Carol killed Rhodey as sure as she used her own hands. Carol responds that Rhodey was a soldier and he went into battle. Tony responds that Rhodey is not even on the Ultimates. Carol said that Rhodey was on campus with Carol when the mission came up. That Rhodey volunteered to go.
Tony rants that he told Carol this would happen. Carol says that she is sorry. Carol says that she would do it all again. And so would Rhodey. Tony snaps and says “No! No! You do not say his name!”
Carol replies that she loves Tony and that she is truly sorry. Tony asks where the Ultimates are holding Thanos. (Probably the meat locker of the kitchen. Seems like a great place to hide people.) Carol replies that they have him in a cell below. Carol says “Mission accomplished.”
Tony walks out. Black Panther asks where Tony is going. Tony replies “To make sure none of you ever play God again.”
Suddenly, She-Hulk comes out of her coma. She-Hulk says “It’s our future, Carol. Not his. Fight for it.” And then She-Hulk dies. (Well, thank god She-Hulk conveniently came out of her coma in order to deliver a single line…and then die.) Carol stands there crying as the doctor’s frantically work on She-Hulk trying to use a defibrillator to bring her back to life despite that she has now flat-lined.
We then see Iron Man blasting off and flying away from the Triskelion. End of issue.
The Good: Civil War II #1 was a solid debut issue to this new big event. There is no doubt that Civil War II #1 is a far superior read to the truly awful Civil War II #0. Was Civil War II #1 a spectacular read? No. Not even close. But, this issue was a solid start to this big event that gives the reader some hope that we may have an interesting story in store for us.
I have to admit that Bendis surprised me with the pacing and plotting of this issue. Civil War II #1 was a nicely paced issue. The story had a pleasant flow and the scenes rolled into each other in a seamless fashion. The story kept a steady forward momentum throughout the issue. Bendis gave us just enough action to keep the issue lively. Bendis avoided descending into talking head syndrome and delivering a far too decompressed read. Civil War II #1 is well paced and retains the reader’s interest throughout the issue.
Civil War II #1 is also a fairly well plotted issue. Bendis wisely keeps the story stripped down to the most basic plotlines. This is a smart move as Bendis is not a writer who is able to handle multiple complex plotlines at one time. By streamlining the number of plotlines and by making them relatively straightforward Bendis is able to keep his focus and deliver scenes that build on each other in an organic fashion. The result is that the story possesses nice internal logic.
The final fourteen pages are easily the high point of Civil War II #1. These fourteen pages deliver the best writing by Bendis for the entire issue, and some of his best writing that I have read in a long time. The first 25 pages offer up the usual writing defects that Bendis brings to the table. However, Bendis pulled himself together to deliver fourteen well crafted pages to end CIvil War II #1 in a dramatic and emotional fashion.
Why are the last fourteen pages easily the best in this issue? Because Bendis finally shut the hell up and let the characters do the talking. The last fourteen pages had no awkwardly timed witty banter that is forced into the scene. The last fourteen pages does not have every single character trying to be like a sitcom character. Instead, Bendis delivers nothing but pure raw emotion in these final fourteen pages. The tension is ratcheted up to a fever pitch that effectively brings the reader to the edge of their seat. Tony’s sense of loss and ensuing furious rage leaps off of the pages. Carol’s feelings of sorrow mixed with a strong sense of right ooze off of the pages. The emotions in the final fourteen pages are palpable. All of this serves to pull the reader deeply into the story and to make them emotionally invested in the conflict between Tony and Carol.
These fourteen pages are well constructed and lay a strong foundation for the main conflict that is going to serve as the center of this big event. Bendis logically introduces the seed of this conflict in the scene at the Avengers Tower with Tony and Carols debating how Ulysses should be used in trying to deal with future threats. That seed then grows and blossoms in the final scene of this issue with the deaths of Rhodey and She-Hulk.
These two deaths are pivotal plot moments that serve to bolster the main conflict between Tony and She-Hulk. These deaths give Tony and Carol the necessary fuel for their upcoming war of morals. Rhodey’s death will make Tony resolute in his believes and give him the moral standing to dig his heels in and take a hostile approach to Carol. On the other hand, She-Hulk’s dying words will encourage Carol and have her full of pride in knowing she is doing the right thing and allowing her to take an equally hostile approach to Tony. Bendis deserves credit for setting up a logical premise with a good foundation for this big event even if the general premise is rather shallow and artificial.
I know that plenty of fans will overreact in spectacular fashion to Rhodey and She-Hulk’s deaths. First, death does not exist in the Marvel Universe. Everyone comes back to life. Even Bucky. Second, I am not sure that She-Hulk is dead. She may get revived by the doctors in the beginning of Civil War II #2 and then spend the rest of this big event in a coma. Rhodey? C’mon. Characters come back to life all the time. I am sure this is not the last time we ever see War Machine. I think Bendis mentioning how outdated Rhodey’s armor is can be seen as a clue that Rhodey is going to be reborn better than ever and with much more powerful and modern armor.
David Marquez delivers some excellent artwork. Marquez draws excellent facial expressions that help to breathe plenty of life into Bendis’ script. Marquez also delivers dynamic action scenes. Marquez definitely has the artistic chops to deliver a pleasant-looking big event.
The Bad: Civil War II #1 got off to an unimpressive start. The first 25 pages hard me worried. It seemed that Bendis was ready to serve us up with one of his typical formulaic issues. Bendis delivered plenty of his trademark forced witty banter at the wrong times. During scenes that should be played serious in order to create a sense of importance with the reader are spoiled by this forced witty banter. This only serves to pull the reader out of the scene. This awkwardly placed witty banter robs some scenes of their impact on the reader. To make it even worse, Bendis also has characters that are more serious and straightforward delivering witty banter as if they were Spider-Man. Witty banter works for specific characters like Spider-Man. However, by making characters engage in witty banter that goes against their usual personality simply serves to make the characters less authentic and pulls the reader out of the story. Bendis also delivers next to zero character work with the first 25 pages. CHaracters are either simple caricatures or bland and generic. I got the feeling from the first 25 pages that Bendis was succumbing to his usual weakness of giving all of the characters the same personality and external voice.
The first 25 pages also made me concerned that Bendis was going to deliver another shallow story. These pages offered up a cheaply constructed story that lacked much texture and nuance. The scene with the Celestial seemed like an unoriginal and uncreative way to put into place the moral conflict for this big event. This entire scene came across as perfunctory.
The scene where the Avengers are introduced to Ulysses is poorly written. Bendis succumbed to his natural weakness of delivering nothing but talking heads delivering repetitious dialogue. This scene could have easily been done in half the amount of pages. When Bendis has Tony ask Ulysses for more information about his powers Bendis simply reserves the same dialogue that we had already received earlier in the scene.
Civil War II #1 has trouble rising above the inherent defects in such an uncreative editorially mandated big event. After recycling Secret War Marvel decided to recycle Civil War. The remix style of storytelling for big events is not my preferred method. Remixing can be interesting as long as the remixing of older stories is done in a creative fashion with an emphasis on trying to create something new. However, when the remixing is done in a more wrote fashion with no emphasis on trying to create something novel then the results are less than exciting.
The entire moral conflict for Civil War II about whether the heroes should use Ulysses in order to stop crimes before they happen is akin to the dilemma that was presented in Philip K. Dick’s Minority Report. This moral conflict seems to lack the gravitas and substance of the moral conflict that occurred in the original Civil War. Mark Millar examined post 9/11 America and the sweeping legal changes made for the sake of “safety” when he crafted the moral dilemma for the original Civil War. The Super Hero Registration Act echoed the Patriot Act and brought a nuanced and textured moral debate. This debate struck a chord with readers since it mirrored what was occurring in real life.
This is not the case with the moral question in Civil War II. The entire moral conflict for Civil War II does not have any real world connection with the reader. This moral dilemma is more of a well-worn academic debate that has been examined in Science Fiction stories in the past. The moral dilemma in Civil War II does not resonate on a deep and personal level like the moral conflict in the original Civil War did with readers. The moral conflict in Civil War II feels far more shallow and forced. Bendis presents the moral conflict in Civil War II on a superficial level and never gives the moral debate much substance or nuance. This moral conflict presented by Bendis in this issue is not nearly as organic as what Millar delivered with the original Civil War.
The roster for Civil War II #1 may not have much mass appeal. The characters that star in this issue are largely B-list, C-list and D-list characters. Most of them are characters who have failed to ever get strong sales numbers on their own solo titles. I am sure that Marvel’s editors are determined to use Civil War II as a mechanism to get many of these characters over with the reader. However, I am not too sure how successful that effort will be. Nor am I sure how interested readers will ever be in some of these characters.
And then we come to the Inhuman problem. This is an overarching problem that has dogged Marvel ever since they decided to junk the Fantastic Four and put the X-Men on the back burner and shine a spotlight on the Inhumans and elevate them into the position that the X-Men used to inhabit. Marvel desperately wants the Inhumans to be the second major tent pole of the Marvel Universe alongside of the Avengers. The problem is that the Inhumans are just not over with the readers. The more Marvel shoves the Inhumans down readers’ throats the more resistance there is among the readers. Civil War II certainly feels like a big event whose major goal is to get the Inhumans over with readers and to firmly entrench the Inhumans as a central force in the new Marvel Universe. Unfortunately, it is an editorially mandated direction that readers are simply not interested in at all.
Overall: Civil War II #1 was a much better read that I was expecting. Bendis delivers a solid start to this new big event. Bendis certainly delivered a strong later half in Civil War II #1 that is sure to get many readers excited about this big event and eager to come back for the next issue. And that is the main goal with any debut issue of a big event. So, Bendis deserves credit for pulling that off with this issue. I would certainly recommend Civil War II #1 to any readers who enjoy big event comics. The stage has been set for what may, potentially, be a rather exciting big event.