Comic Book Review: Civil War #5

Civil War. You could have been so incredible. Alas, you are nothing but a shell of what you could have been. Just an empty promise and unfulfilled expectations. Throw on top of a predictable storyline massive shipping delays between issues, and you have officially killed any remaining interest I had in this title. Civil War #1 shipped out on May 3, 2006. We are now just getting Civil War #5 on November 15, 2006! Yeah, that is only 2 months later than Civil War #5 should have shipped.

At any rate, I’m sure that Millar will deliver an entertaining story much like a mindless summer blockbuster movie. And I’m quite positive that McNiven will supply this issue with some great artwork. Let’s go ahead and do this review.

Creative Team
Writer: Mark Millar
Penciler: Steve McNiven
Inker: Dexter Vines

Art Rating: 9 Night Girls out of 10
Story Rating: 9 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 9 Night Girls out of 10

Synopsis: We begin with the Human Torch and the Invisible Woman trying to escape a squad of S.H.I.E.L.D. capekillers. (No really, why did the U.S. government think that name was a good idea. Seriously.) Sue turns her and Johnny invisible as Johnny flies them away from the capekillers.

We shift to Nighthawk and Stature joining the Pro-Registration side at Stark Tower. Happy Hogan tells both of them that Tony Stark wants to welcome them personally.

We then cut to Iron Man and Spider-Man squaring off like we left them at the end of Amazing Spider-Man #535. Iron Man tells Spider-Man that he is acting like a lunatic. Iron Man asks Spider-Man to sit down so they can talk rationally. Spider-Man says that the Negative Zone prison is insane. Iron Man says that the Negative Zone prison is only a temporary measure. That there were no normal prisons capable of holding metahumans.

Iron Man says that the government wanted to outlaw all super heroes and that the Registration Act was a compromise. Iron Man tells Spider-Man to think about May and Mary Jane. Spider-Man then punches Iron Man through a wall. Capekillers then enter the room and blast away at Spider-Man. Iron Man yells at the capekillers to hold their fire. The bullets break open the reinforced glass windows of the building allowing Spider-Man to make his great escape.

We cut to Maria Hill telling Tony Stark that she is sending the Thunderbolts after Spider-Man. Iron Man pleads with Maria to just let him try and talk to Spider-Man. Maria denies Iron Man’s request and sends a couple of the new Thunderbolts after Spider-Man. Maria mutters that she knew that they couldn’t ever trust Spider-Man.

We shift to Spider-Man running through the sewers. Suddenly, Spider-Man is attacked by the Jester and Jack O’ Lantern. They two villains say that they may not love working for S.H.I.E.L.D., but they do love the chance to get to beat up on Spider-Man. Jester and Jack O’ Lantern lay a serious beatdown on Spider-Man. But, before they can take Spider-Man into custody, we see bullet blast open Jack O’Lantern’s head. We then see another bullet blast apart the Jester’s head. The Punisher is on the scene to rescue Spider-Man.

We shift to Invisible Woman and Human Torch in their new disguises given to them by Nick Fury. Unfortunately, they have to pose as husband and wife. (Gross.) We see them enter Captain America’s new H.Q. The Anti-Registration heroes are all meeting. They are discussing how Cloak and Dagger got caught by the Pro-Registration side. Captain America is angry that for every person they gain, they lose one to the capekillers. Suddenly, Punisher walks into the room and demands medical attention for a badly beaten Spider-Man.

Spider-Man is taken to the Infirmary. Meanwhile, the Falcon asks Punisher which side he is on. The Punisher responds that now the Pro-Registration side is enlisting the aid of known thieves and killers, he is now on the Anti-Registration side. The various members of Captain America’s team do not want Punisher with them. They don’t want to be so far gone that they are signing up with people like the Punisher. Captain America tells everyone to be quiet while he thinks about letting the Punisher join them or not. We then see Tigra hiding in the shadows while calling someone on her cell phone.

We cut to a squad of capekillers placing Daredevil into custody. Reed Richards and She-Hulk are on the scene. Reed mentions how the public is behind the Pro-Registration side and so is the U.S. government. That crime is at an all time low. That the only people causing problems are other super heroes in the Anti-Registration side. Reed laments that he wishes he never go involved. That he is sick that they are using the criminal lunatics in the Thunderbolts. That Hank Pym is doped up on anti-depressants. She-Hulk responds that public opinion would have forced S.H.I.E.L.D. to bring down every single super hero in America. That the public was sick of 16 year old kids blowing up buildings. That Reed and Tony Stark gave everyone a future.

We shift to Tony Stark accompanying Daredevil to the Negative Zone prison. Tony tells Daredevil that he hates hunting down his friends, but there was no other option. That the U.S. government was going to institute a complete ban on all super heroes and this Registration Act was the only other option.

Tony tells Daredevil of their plans for fifty super teams spread over all fifty states. Each one license and accountable to the taxpayer. It is the next stage of superhuman evolution: a Federal force from coast to coast. Tony asks Daredevil to join him and to lead one of these fifty teams. One of the guards then pulls out a silver dollar from Daredevil’s mouth and gives it to Tony. Daredevil comments that Tony now has thirty-one pieces of silver. Daredevil then says “Sleep well, Judas.”

Comments
The Good: Damn, Civil War #5 was an excellent read. Millar impresses me with the quality of his story on this title. The pacing is just right as Millar keeps the story humming along. We get to see Spider-Man officially switch sides, we see the new Thunderbolts in action for the first time, we finally see the Punisher make his presence known in this storyline and we get the Pro-Registration side fleshed out a bit more than before. Millar does a brilliant job delivering well crafted drama and dialogue along with some kick-ass action. This has always been Millar’s strength and he certainly didn’t disappoint with this issue.

Millar serves up some fine dialogue. Each character is nicely developed and has their own unique voice. The chemistry between the characters is impressive. Millar is also able to create an emotional story. The reader can feel the pain and conflict raging inside Tony Stark and Reed Richards. The reader can fell the desperation of Captain America. This all makes this issue an even more enjoyable read.

What impressed me the most is how Millar portrayed the Pro-Registration side in Civil War #5. I know it took a long time, but finally, the Pro-Registration side is painted as something other than a bunch of mindless Nazis. Millar portrays Reed and Tony as very sympathetic characters and actually is able to get the reader to understand exactly why Reed and Tony are doing what they are doing.

Reed shows his sadness with the entire situation. Plus, Reed makes excellent points that the Government supports them and more importantly the American public supports the Pro-Registration side and that crime is at an all time low. And that the only people causing trouble are the super heroes in the Anti-Registration side who are supposedly heroes that protect the general public from danger. Reed’s desire to not have to deal with all of this and to have his friends and family back humanizes Reed and makes him appear much more sympathetic than other writers like Bendis and JMS have portrayed him.

Millar also does an incredible job with Tony Stark in this issue. Again, Millar is able to humanize Tony and make the reader understand and sympathize with Tony’s situation. Tony was faced with two choices. One, a total ban on all super heroes with S.H.I.E.L.D hunting all of them down. Or two, the Registration Act. It makes complete sense that Tony would choose the Registration Act.

The idea of costumed super powered vigilantes running amok in American cities causing massive amounts of collateral damage with absolutely no accountability is insane. To think that would be allowed in the real world is totally unrealistic. The idea of training super heroes and making them accountable to the taxpayers makes sense. Suddenly, Tony’s position made way more sense than it has ever been written before.

Millar also managed to make Spider-Man look like the unhinged irrational person and Tony the calm rational individual in their scene together. Iron Man wanted to talk, while Spider-Man wanted to fight. Iron Man tried to conduct a rational conversation while Spider-Man descended into an irrational rant. This scene was certainly radically different than how JMS has been handling these characters over on Amazing Spider Man.

And on the flip side, Millar makes the Anti-Registration side look a bit more like a bunch of egotistical, fanatical extremists who care more about themselves and their privileged position as uncontrolled and unfettered costumed vigilantes rather than what is for the best for the non super powered masses who remain at the mercy of costumed heroes when they battle costumed villains.

Captain America looks like a zealot who is losing touch with reality and is more concerned with the fight rather than the reason behind the fighting. Adding the Punisher to the Anti-Registration act forces several of the heroes on the Anti-Registration side to question if they have crossed way over the line and become nothing more than reckless extremists who believe in the mantra of “By any means necessary.”

Add to that the way Daredevil is portrayed at the end of the story. To me, Daredevil comes across as a total zealot. After Tony finishes his logical plan for a trained and accountable network of super heroes across the country, Daredevil reacts with pure blind passion and ego. Daredevil calls Tony a Judas. Tony crossed the line.

Daredevil and the rest of the Anti-Registration side view themselves as a modern day aristocracy. A privileged class who are superior to use average humans. A group of super powered royalty who believe they have the unfettered right to do whatever they so desire as long as it is in the name of “helping” the general public no matter the collateral damage that they may cause in the process.

For the first time, I actually saw the Anti-Registration side as a bunch of unhinged and egotistical zealots who clearly place them on a higher level than ordinary humans. I was stunned that Millar would take this route, but very pleased since it immediately made this story much more interesting and complex. The Pro-Registration side came off looking much more reasonable and sane than the Anti-Registration side in this issue.

I loved the injection of both the evil Thunderbolts and the Punisher in this storyline. Watching the Punisher put bullets through the heads of Jack O’ Lantern and The Jester was sick! Millar certainly made the Punisher a serious bad-ass. That was a very fitting intro for a character like the Punisher.

McNiven’s artwork is fantastic. I love his style and he creates a wonderfully rich and textured look. He draws great facial expressions which convey plenty of emotion in each character.

The Bad: I have no complaints with the writing or artwork on Civil War #5. But, what I do have a problem with is the alarming lack of internal consistency in the Civil War storyline. I don’t know if that is due to the Editors doing a terrible job or if there are too many cooks in the kitchen and each writer wants to push their own agenda rather than delivering a cohesive storyline.

In this issue, Millar clearly has Spider-Man as the aggressor in the scene with Iron Man. Iron Man doesn’t want to fight and only wants to talk. Spider-Man is ready to brawl. This is totally opposite of what JMS gave us in Amazing Spider-Man #535 where it was a cold and threatening Iron Man who aggressively smashed through a bunch of walls in order to crash into Spider-Man. JMS has Iron Man as the aggressor and looking to lay a beatdown on Spider-Man.

Another major difference is concerning the Negative Zone facility. Millar has Tony Stark tell Spider-Man that the Negative Zone facility is merely a temporary measure. However, JMS over in Amazing Spider-Man #535 has a startlingly menacing Tony Stark threaten Peter with the fact that heroes who don’t support the Act will be locked up in the Negative Zone facility forever.

So, which is it Marvel? These Civil War #5 and Amazing Spider-Man #535 clearly contradict each other. That is inexcusable. This is either poor work on part of the editors, or JMS clearly has one agenda that doesn’t coincide with the story that Millar is trying to tell.

Overall: Civil War #5 was a great read. Strong writing combined with impressive artwork always makes for a satisfying comic book. Millar impresses me with his effort to try and make Civil War a more complex and engaging story than what other writers like Bendis and JMS have given us in the various tie-in issues. Maybe there is some slight hope for this Civil War storyline after all.

3 Comments

  1. Yeah, I was also pleasantly surprised with Civil War #5. For the first time, we actually were presented with a siginificant amount of moral ambiguity regarding the SRA. It’s just a shame that it took so damn long for this to come about. Millar really should have been setting this stuff up in issue #2, not waiting until #5.

    It’s really surprising that Millar, who normally goes for in-your-face, over-the-top action sequences and characterizations, was able to show just how conflicted Stark and Richards were over this, and how they’re struggling to make the best they can of a very bad situation. Certainly it’s a tremendous improvement over the character assassinations that bendis and Strazynski have been carrying out on the two in recent months.

  2. Part of the problem is that they’ve never made the terms of the SHRA entirely clear. As voiced, it seems to be defined as ‘if you want to put on a costume and go after villians, you have to register and get training and a government license’, which is pretty unobjectionable, and saner than the current state of affairs in the Marvel Universe.

    However, as *shown*, it appears that A) even if you don’t act as a costumed superhero post-SHRA, you still have to register (Luke Cage being attacked in his apartment while watching TV, minutes after the act went into effect) and that B) that the government can require service of you if they want, and arrest or attack you if you refuse (Spiderman is punched through a wall and then attacked by capekillers for simply planning to take his family and leave.)

    As a counter to B, Ben Grimm doesn’t seem to have been interfered with in his plan to relocate to France, but oth, the Negative Zone prison doesn’t make any sense without B; given that by the time the government has arrested you and thrown you in prison that your cover id is known to them, it doesn’t make sense that any but a very few fanatics wouldn’t sign and get out and back to their lives. However, if signing means being in bondage to the government forever, not so much.

    I get the distinct impression that they’ve never written up a clear presentation of what the SHRA for the writers in the crossovers, which makes it nearly impossible to come up with coherent arguments. And I’m afraid that what they’ll do at the end is say that only the ‘register if you want to fight’ was required, making everyone on the anti side look nuts (and the actions of the pro side completely irrational.)

  3. I’m not going to bother trying to have an actual conversation with you, as you seem like the type of person who actually would relentlessly argue about comic books on the internet.

    I just want you to know that you come off as a terribly ignorant person.

    You should rename this site. I bet you vote republican. I imagine the only ting “revolution”ary about this site is not adhering to social norms of showering daily.

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