Civil War II #1 got off to a slow and worrisome start. However, the final half of the issue picked up steam and intensity and delivered quite a dramatic ending. The second half of the debut issue of Civil War II filled me with hope that Bendis actually has an exciting story set for us. Does Civil War II #2 build on this momentum? Or does Bendis lapse back into his usual bad habits. Hopefully, it is the former and not the latter. Because, the $5.00 cover price for Civil War II #2 is quite steep admission charge for a story that does not deliver quality content. Let’s hit this review.
Words: Brian Bendis
Art: David Marquez
Colors: Justin Ponsor
Story Rating: 2 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 5 Night Girls out of 10
Synopsis: We begin with Iron Man in full stealth mode sneaking into New Attilan. We see Iron Man standing over a sleeping Ulysses as Iron Man thinks about his dead friend Rhodey. (Tony being a bit of a creeper here.)
Medusa enters the room and tells Tony to back down and to not do this. Tony says that it isn’t a thing unless Medusa makes it a thing. (Scintillating dialogue.) Medusa tells Tony to leave. Tony says he is taking Ulysses with him. Medusa says that Ulysses is a subject of her kingdom.
Medusa uses her hair to infiltrate inside of Tony’s armor. Her hair starts wrapping around Tony’s face. Medusa says that she understands Tony’s grief but that she cannot let this happen. Tony makes some jokes about Medusa invading his personal space. (You know, for a guy grieving the death of his supposed best friend and that is currently about to be suffocated, Tony still can crank out the witty one-liners. Very realistic and true to the moment of the story.)
Ulysses wakes up. (Who, by the way, is conveniently sleeping without a shirt on because BEEFCAKE!) Iron Man grabs Medusa’s hair (Hey! Only Black Bolt gets to do that! You know, when they are making sweet love.) Iron Man shocks Medusa with a blast of electricity that sends her flying across the room and landing on the floor unconscious. (I hope the Inhumans have some sort of concussions protocol like the NFL where Medusa has to be cleared by a panel of independent doctors before she can return to the field of battle.)
The door to Ulysses room opens and we see Karnak, Crystal, The Beast, some black-haired lady and Johnny Storm (“Why am I here?!” cries Johnny.) Iron Man steps out of the room. Karnak attacks Iron Man. Iron Man says that he knows that Karnak can find a weakness in anything. But, that Iron Man has no weaknesses. (Well, I mean other than loose women. And booze. Definitely booze. And his ego. Oh yeah, and the fact that Medusa just showed she could breach is fancy armor’s defenses with just her HAIR. But, other than that? Nope. No weaknesses at all.)
Iron Man blasts Karnak. Crystal then blasts Iron Man with her lightning. Iron Man then explodes. Do not worry, though! It was just a remote-controlled decoy suit of armor. Beast says that Tony must have made his getaway with Ulysses while they fought the decoy. Crystal asks why Beast didn’t join in on the fight. Beast replies that he does not fight Tony Stark. Crystal then says that Iron Man just declared war on the Inhumans.
We shift to the Triskelion. Maria Hill, Carol Danvers and Black Panther are all talking about how Tony kidnapped Ulysses from the Inhumans and that the Inhumans are on their way to Stark Tower for some payback. Maria says that there is no way that Tony is at Stark Tower. Black Panther defends Medusa saying that Tony forced her hand. Black Panther says that the Inhumans are going to pull Stark Tower down on top of the city.
We zip over to Stark Tower and see the Inhumans landing on the roof. A hologram of the Friday AI greets them. Friday says that they are trespassing and that the authorities have been called. Medusa says that Tony is not on the building. (How…does…she…know…that?! Is Medusa also psychic? Just because a hologram of the AI security system tells them to leave has nothing to do with the question if Tony is in the building or not. Could Bendis get any more lazy? Medusa knew Tony was not in the building because this story is decompressed enough and we have to move on to the next scene, already!)
Karnak says that they should tear down the building in retaliation. (Tony kidnaps Ulysses so the appropriate response is to tear down an entire tower and kill tons of random innocent bystanders? Thereby igniting a full-out war between America and the Inhumans? Uh, okay. I totally see the logic.)
Suddenly, Carol arrives on the scene with the combined roster of the Ultimates and the All New All Different Avengers as well as some SHIELD agents. Carol tells Medusa to not tear down the building. Carol says that they will deal with Tony internally. Black Panther chimes in that it is in Medusa’s power to keep this from escalating and to let the Avengers/Ultimates handle the situation.
Carol says that she gave the Inhumans a heads up about Tony heading to New Attilan. Medusa says that Tony attacked New Attilan just because the Inhumans helped the Avengers/Ultimates. Because the Inhumans shared themselves with the Avengers/Ultimates.
Carol says that everyone has lost people. (Oh yeah. That’s right. What happened to She-Hulk, anyway? You would think that by page 13 of this issue that we would have touched on the outcome of the incredibly dramatic hook ending of Civil War II #1 that teased She-Hulk’s death! Right? Nope. Silly reader.)
Carol asks for one chance to solve this problem without the Inhumans getting involved and making things worse. Medusa just stares silently at Carol. (Medusa delivering her best Black Bolt impersonation.)
We cut to an undisclosed location where Tony has Ulysses tied up to a chair. Ulysses wakes up to Tony about two inches from Ulysses’ face. (Yeah, the creep factor between Tony and Ulysses keeps increasing.)
Ulysses asks Tony why Tony has him tied up. Ulysses asks “What did I do?” Tony replies that his best friend is dead. (Yeah, we have definitely hammered that plot point through the ground at this point.) Ulysses apologizes. Tony says that Ulysses cost Rhodey his life.
Tony attaches some nodes to Ulysses so that Tony’s badass super computer can monitor Ulysses’ brain and attempt to figure out how Ulysses’ powers work. Ulysses asks if Tony is going to hurt him. If Tony is going to kill him. Tony replies that he is Iron Man. That he is one of the good guys. Ulysses replies “I–I know. I’m a big fan. Was.” (Yes! More witty one-liners in a situation where they are totally inappropriate, stick out like a sore thumb and do nothing to build the momentum and power of the scene! Brilliant!)
Tony tells Ulysses to show him how his powers work. Ulysses says that his visions just happen. That he cannot control them. Tony then flicks Ulysses in the face. This causes brain wave activity. Tony explains that he is trying to fin out how outside stimulus affects Ulysses’ visions or if it would stimulate another vision. Tony says that next time he will tickle Ulysses. (Yeah, the creep factor just keeps getting taken to another level with these two characters.)
Friday says that she needs more data and tells Tony to hit Ulysses. Tony reaches back and is about to punch Ulysses in the face (Damn, bro! Why the face? Couldn’t you just hit him in the arm? Maybe the stomach? Tony is supposed to be a good guy, right?) when, suddenly, Friday says that there was another spike. That just the fear of getting hit caused a surge in alpha brain wave activity that is not in the normal register.
Ulysses asks what Tony wants from him. Tony says he will explain and flips into convenient exposition mode. Tony says that he is pretty sure he is going to have to go to war with some close friends over Ulysses. Tony says that he wants to make damn sure that he understands exactly what and whom he is dealing with. So, Tony is going to figure out exactly how Ulysses’ powers work. Tony says that he has Jessica Jones and Dakota North digging into Ulysses’ past.
Tony asks if Ulysses’ visions are impacted by his personality. If his upbringing impacts his visions of the future. If Ulysses’ emotional state impacts his visions. Any bias that Ulysses might have like racial, sexual or political bias. Tony says that everyone has a bias against something.
Ulysses replies that he did not think about any of this before. Ulysses says that this is not fair. Ulysses then says that Tony could have just asked him to do these tests. Tony says that his friend has died because of a mission he should not have even known about. That Tony isn’t here to talk about what is fair.
Suddenly, Friday alerts Tony to a security breach. Tony says that he is totally off the grid. That they should not have found him already. Tony gets some video feed on the interlopers. We see that it is the combined rosters of the Ultimates and the All New All Different Avengers along with the Beast.
Tony replies that it was Hank McCoy who helped them find Tony. Tony says that he keeps forgetting that he’s with the Inhumans now. Tony adds “Because that’s just weird.” Friday replies “Well, save it for an online forum.” (Yes! Metacommentary that mocks your customers is a brilliant idea! Please. More of this in comics. It is so not defensive or annoying at all! Really!)
Tony quickly unties Ulysses and says that “Stuff is about to get really real.” (No. Just, no. Sorry, Bendis. Tony does not talk like a teenager.) Tony says that Friday downloaded a copy of Ulysses’ brain. Tony says that he will figure out Ulysses if he survives what is about to happen. (What is about to happen? Does Tony really think that his close friends are going to KILL him? Really?) Tony tells Ulysses to act like he is having fun.
We then see Lady Thor’s hammer smash through the wall. The assorted group of C-List heroes and wannabes step into the room. Tony quips “Carol. Just in time for Parcheesi.” Carol replies “That line was Parcheesi.” (Jesus. Just end it all now so we don’t have to read anymore terrible dialogue.)
Tony slips into full Robert Downey, Jr. mode as he wittily recaps what has happened in Civil War II #1 and earlier in this current issue. Carol says that she thinks Tony is having a bit nervous breakdown. Carol says that she wants to help. Tony responds that he is having a complete and total nervous breakdown.
Carol and Tony start bickering. Tony says that Rhodey is dead and that She-Hulk isn’t much better off. (Huh, wait a minute. We end Civil War II #1 with the dramatic hook ending that makes it appears that She-Hulk is dead. And we don’t even touch on this plot line until this small throw-away lin on page 19 of Civil War II #2? WTF?!)
During Carol and Tony arguing, Ulysses begins to have another vision. In his vision, we see the Hulk in full rampage mode with a destroyed city in the background. A dead Iron Man is in one of Hulk’s hands and a dead Carol is in the other of Hulk’s hands. The Hulk looks giant-sized. We see a dead Hawkeye, a dead Captain Nazi and a dead Lady Thor at the Hulk’s feet.
We cut back to Tony’s hideout. All of the assembled heroes are on their knees. They all felt, saw and tasted Ulysses’ vision. This is a new twist to Ulysses’ power. Ulysses starts crying and says that he is sorry. That the Hulk is going to kill them all. End of issue.
We shift to a lab just outside of Alpine, Utah. We see Dr. Banner working in a lab. Carol Danvers enters the lab. Banner says that Carol’s appearance is a pleasant surprise. Banner asks what he can do for Carol. End of issue.
The Good: Sweet baby Jesus. I have to find something positive about Civil War II #2? This is a Herculean task. All right, well, David Marquez delivers some solid artwork. Marquez draws excellent facial expressions for the various characters. The result is that Marquez is able to infuse Bendis’ shallow story with plenty of emotion. Strong artwork is able to compensate for many shortcomings in the writing. This is evident in this issue as Marquez does a fine job bringing a skeleton of a story to life as best as possible.
Marquez also shows off that he is equally skilled at drawing action scenes as he is handling Bendis’ usual talking heads scenes. It is tough to make pages and pages of nothing but dialogue visually interesting, but Marquez manages to do so in this issue.
The Bad: Civil War II #2 is so razor-thin and shallow that it makes an anorexic super model seem Rubenesque. I thought Siege was the most shallow big event of all time. Evidently, Bendis views that statement about Siege as a challenged. Because, it appears that Bendis is trying to top himself with Civil War II.
Seriously. Next to nothing at all happens in Civil War II #2. Normally, fleshed out and substantive reads that are chock full of plot lines like Hickman’s Secret Wars are difficult to summarize in just one sentence. That is not the case with Civil War II #2.
In this issue, Tony kidnaps Ulysses with the goal of figuring out how Ulysses’ powers work and Ulysses has a vision of the Hulk killing the Avengers. That’s it. That is your entire issue. Oh yeah, don’t forget that the reader has to pay a whopping $5.00 for this complete lack of story! Lovely.
To say that the plotting in Civil War II #2 was terrible would be to imply that there are actual plot lines and plot progression in this issue. But, that is not with Civil War II #2. Bendis delivers a whopping single solitary plot line in this issue. That would be Tony’s kidnapping of Ulysses with the goal of learning more about how Ulysses’ power works. Then, at the very end of the issue, Bendis inserts a whole second plot line with Ulysses’ vision about the Hulk and Carol going to visit Bruce Banner. Yup. A big event issue where you get just two whole plot lines. And one of the plot lines does not get introduced until the very end. That is just awful on every level.
Civil War II #2 lacks any depth or substance at all. There is no texture or substance to this story for the reader to chew on and to digest. Civil War II #2 is such a shallow read that the reader blasts through it in a few minutes. The story is so on the surface that this issue does not ever warrant a second reading. That is unforgivable in any big event issue. It is even more unforgivable in an issue that comes with a heavy $5.00 price tag.
What is even worse is that despite Bendis only focusing on a single plot line, he still is unable to deliver anything in the way of plot progression. That is almost unfathomable. You would think that since this issue only has one plot line, concerning how Ulysses power works, that we would actually get some new information or plot development. Sadly, that is not the case. The reader learns absolutely nothing new at all about Ulysses’ powers and how they operate. Instead, we get a long scene between Tony and Ulysses where Bendis wastes time rehashing dialogue and plot points from the prior issue. It is stunning how Bendis is able to deliver a five-page scene with Tony and Ulysses and simply rehash dialogue from the last issue. This was five pages that served no purpose at all. There is absolutely no new content in this scene.
Another plotting weakness is the handling of the massive hook ending to Civil War II #1 with the possible death of She-Hulk. I loved the ending to Civil War II #1. It was riveting, packed with emotion and brought the reader to the edge of their seat. Logic would dictate that the She-Hulk plot line would be the focus of the beginning of Secret Wars II #2. I have never seen a story end with such a dramatic hook ending and not immediately follow-up on it with the beginning of the next issue. Yet, internal logic and strong plotting has never been Bendis’ strengths. Instead of following up on this massive hook ending, Bendis address the She-Hulk plot line in a throwaway line from Tony in page 19. Stunning.
The pacing is also terrible. Bendis succumbs to his usual weakness of delivering an issue so hideously decompressed that the vast majority of the issue feels more like needless wheel spinning and navel gazing. Bendis wastes eight pages on Tony kidnapping Ulysses. We then get four pages on Ultimates/Inhumans rehashing the basic plot point that there is tension between the Inhumans and the rest of the world. Then there is the five pages with Tony interrogating Ulysses in which we learn absolutely nothing new about Ulysses’ powers.
Then we get the final 5 pages with Ultimates and Avengers arriving and Ulysses having a vision and Carol heading out to see Bruce Banner. The final five pages is the only part of Civil War II #2 where the reader gets any new information. The final five pages are also the only part of this issue where Bendis finally delivers any plot progression.
Bendis continues to suffer from his inability to deal with a story that has a grand scope and epic feel. Bendis also continues to struggle with his inability to handle multiple complex plot lines and to juggle a large roster of characters. All of these well established weaknesses makes Bendis the curious choice for a big event. Especially when following Secret Wars which was created by Hickman who excels at grand and epic scaled stories full of complex plot lines that are meticulously crafted and that involve a large roster of characters.
Civil War II feels small. The scope and tone of this story is underwhelming. There is nothing grand or epic at all about what Bendis is delivering in this story. There is nothing that feels special or compelling at all. So far, Civil War II feels like an ordinary story arc from the pages of the Avengers rather than a true big event.
Civil War II #2 also suffers from a lack of character and poorly crafted dialogue. Bendis delivers zero character work in this issue. The only character that has anything resembling an actual personality is Tony Stark. And in Tony’s case it is more of a matter of Bendis writing Robert Downey Jr., rather than writing the character of Tony Stark himself.
The rest of the characters are as bland and generic as possible. Carol Danvers marches through her scenes with the personality of a Terminator robot. The rest of the characters all have the same generic Bendis style personality that he defaults to whenever writing more than a few characters.
Ulysses? That guy continues to be nothing more than a MacGuffin. Ulysses has zero personality. There is nothing about his character that makes the reader care about him or get invested in his journey at all. Bendis serves Ulysses up as nothing more than a transparent plot device to provide conflict between the Inhumans and the Avengers and to move the story along with his visions.
Bendis doles out his typical dialogue. Robert Downey, Jr., is the only character who has a unique external voice. All of the other characters get nothing more than the standard issue generic Bendis dialogue.
There is also the problem with Bendis continuing to awkwardly shove “witty” lines at the most inappropriate times. It happens several times throughout the issue with both Tony and Carol delivering “witty” lines at the wrong moments. All this does is ruin the impact of the scene on the reader. It robs the scene of any gravitas or importance it was supposed to have to the story. Doing this only serves to rudely pull the reader out of the story.
Bendis’ constant use of “witty” lines, regardless if the character has that type of personality or not, in the inappropriate moments of the story shows that Bendis is more in love with his own words than with his job as a writer. This is a perfect example of a writer who is more concerned with getting himself over rather than telling a story and doing what is most logical for the characters at a particular moment.
Lastly, I have to touch on Bendis’ use of metacommentary to call out readers who dare disagree with Might Marvel’s editorially mandated approach to shove the Inhumans down our collective throat. And to call out readers who disagree with Marvel’s editorially mandated decree that the Fantastic Four and X-Men are to be deemphasized and to have members of the X-Men and the Fantastic Four inserted into Inhuman teams.
First, metacommentary rarely makes for a good story or for interesting reading. The reader purchases a big event comic to be entertained by an epic super hero tale. Not to be preached to by the writer as to what are the writer’s personal beliefs and opinions. Nobody cares about Bendis’ opinion or his desire to be a shill and watchdog for his corporate bosses at Marvel. The reader just wants an entertaining super hero big event story.
Second, the vast majority of the time metacommentary only serves to make the writer appear to be defensive and thin-skinned or nothing more than a corporate shill defending his editors. Being a writer is tough. A good writer presents a piece of their heart and soul in everything they produce. The very act of writing lends to criticism. This is an absolute fact of life. Literary criticism goes hand-in-hand with the act of writing. This has been going on since mankind has started writing stories. This is nothing new. If a writer cannot withstand criticism and is thin-skinned and defensive then the problem is with the writer and not with the critics.
Third, it is rarely a wise business decision to ever openly mock, belittle or insult your customer. I do not care what business you are running. From IT services to legal services to retail services. Take your pick of what business or industry. The customer is always king. Period.
I have never witnessed another industry outside of the comic book industry that so often engages in mocking, belittling or insulting their customers. Look, I get it, there are so many comic nerds who are pedantic, whiney and willingly obtuse. But, that does not apply to all comic book readers. And not treating your customers with respect usually leads you to losing business rather than building business. And judging by the 2016 sales charts, I would think comic book publishers would be concerned with trying to rebuild their industry rather than continuing to tear it down even more.
Overall: Civil War II #2 was a massively disappointing read. Civil War II #1 ended on such a high note that I allowed myself to have high expectations for Civil War II #2. Unfortunately, Bendis played down to all of his usual weaknesses. Civil War II #2 is so shallow and lacks any plot development that there is really no need at all for anyone to bother reading this issue. A reader can pick up Civil War II #3 and not miss a beat at all.
And to make matters even worse, Civil War II #2 comes with a big event tax! There is absolutely no way that I could ever recommend anyone plunking down $5.00 of their hard-earned money for literally nothing substantive at all in return. The cover price is half of a month’s subscription to Netflix! You would be much better off spending money on Netflix than purchasing Civil War II. You certainly get far more bang for your buck. It just is not even close.