Comic Book Review: Civil War Front Line #1

I was hesitant to pick up this title. Usually, I don’t enjoy a spin-off mini-series from another mini-series. Usually, since all the effort is focused on the main mini-series, like Civil War, the spin-off mini-series suffers from below average writing and artwork. For example, the spin-off mini-series from the House of M were all less than impressive. Will Civil War Front Line #1 prove the Revolution wrong? Will Civil War Front Line #1 buck the trend and be an excellent read? Let’s go to the review and find out.

Creative Team
Writer: Paul Jenkins
Penciler: Ramon Bachs
Inker: John Lucas

Art Rating: 4 Night Girls out of 10.
Story Rating: 5 Night Girls out of 10.
Overall Rating: 4 Night Girls out of 10.

Synopsis: The issue starts with Ben Urich at a funeral for John Fernandez who was the camera man with the New Warriors that got killed when Nitro blew up Stamford, Connecticut.

We then shift over to a bar where the reporters from the funeral were all getting together for drinks to celebrate the life of John Fernandez. Ben Urich is seated at a table with Sally Floyd (that annoying wench from crapfest of a title known as Generation M. Wait a minute! Paul Jenkins wrote that garbage title! NOOOO!!! That means Civil War Front Line is going to be more of the same crap!) Urich mentions how the Super Human Registration Act is going to be passed. Urich says that J. Jonah Jameson is running with this story. Sally rants on about how in one corner is the U.S. Constitution and the other corner is the unstoppable tag team of disinformation and paranoia. (Oh god. This is going to be nothing more than a very annoying, preachy and slanted comic book, isn’t this?) Sally rants on that her paper, The Alternative, gave her carte blanche to write about the erosion of civil liberties in America. Urich says that Jonah told him to take this story and shove it up the liberal’s behinds. Urich comments that Jonah may be right this time. That after the disaster in Stamford there will be no opposition to the Super Hero Registration Act.

We then cut to Sally driving home and Ben taking the subway home. The every annoying Sally is narrating. How ever since 9/11, journalism has taken a back seat to jingoism. It was civil liberty versus civil comfort. Wiretapping versus terrorism. (Oh god. I don’t know if I can make it through this issue. Please, in the name of Che Guevara, give me strength to fight through the rest of this all ready craptacular comic book.) Sally goes on to talk about J. Jonah Jameson the publisher of the right wing toilet rag known as the Daily Bugle knows better than anyone that nothing sells newspapers better than a good, old fashioned disaster.

We shift to the Daily Bugle’s meeting room where the reporters are gathered for their assignments. Urich is assigned to Iron Man’s press conference tomorrow morning. After the meeting Urich is troubled that no one is asking why this explosion happened. Robbie tells Urich that it is all about selling newspapers. That the print media has taken a beating due to online news sites and that Urich’s primary job is to sell papers.

We then cut to Sally in her house holding what appears to be a stuffer Grover or Elmo. (I’m not too sure which one it is. Actually, it looks more like a red Grover. Sadly, I’m finding this mystery to be more interesting than this comic book at this point.) Suddenly Spider-Man appears and scares Sally. She throws her “red Grover” at Spider-Man and even though he has spider sense he can’t dodge it and when it hits him it caused Spider-Man to say “Oww.” (Hmmm. Spider-Man hurt by a plush stuftie. Interesting. Maybe this Elmo/Grover hybrid has special powers.) Spider-Man tells Sally that she is one of the very few journalists who can be trusted. That he read her story from the aforementioned craptacular Generation M and that is was pretty fair. Therefore, Spider-Man gives her an exclusive story: Spidey tells all. This causes Sally, who is an alcoholic, to pour herself a glass of Jack Daniels. (Maybe she’ll die from Cirrhosis of the liver before the end of Civil War Front Line and save me from reading anymore about her.) Spider-Man wants to tell her who he is literally and figuratively. That he wants people to know how he has family that will be hurt if his secret identity gets exposed. Spider-Man says that the Act will be passed and it probably should be passed, but that people should just think about the costs involved. That they should ask themselves what would they do if they were in a super hero’s position. Spider-Man then tells Sally he has to go but will give her a hot tip: She should go to Iron Man’s press conference tomorrow. Before Spider-Man leaves, Sally totally hits on him. Spider-Man then informs her that he is married.

We then cut to Iron Man’s press conference. Sally is embarrassed that she was all on Spider-Man’s jock. Iron Man then comes out and starts his press conference. It is the same blah, blah, blah that we have heard since the build up to Civil War #1 and in Civil War #1 itself. Iron Man supports the Super Hero Registration Act. That the secret identities will not be revealed publicly. They will just be registered with the Unites States government for the purposes of identification. In order to avoid being called a hypocrite, Iron Man is willing to go one step further and reveal his identity in public. Suddenly, two of Iron Man robotic armors appear next to him. Iron Man states he used to use them to make it look like he was in two places at once in order to protect his identity. Iron Man then takes off his helmet and says “Hello, my name is Tony Stark, and I’m an alcoholic. And not it’s time to come clean.” (Huh? What the hell does he being an alcoholic have to do with anything? That was just plain weird.) That is the end of this story. (Oh great, we get multiple little stories instead of one main story.)

The next story is starts in upstate New York (which is has some absolutely beautiful little towns, by the way) with some local hick and a Sheriff discovering the body of Speedball. Speedball’s body is surrounded by energy and is hovering just slightly above the ground. His powers start to dissipate and then they cause an explosion. Speedball’s body no longer is surrounded by his energy powers. We then see Speedball in a hospital bed at some government facility. The doctors explain that Speedball’s kinetic energy filed saved his life but it fried his circuits. That his powers are completely dead. Suddenly, Speedball begins to regain consciousness. The doctors’ call in a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent. We see the agent greeting Speedball as he finally wakes up. The agent tells Speedball that he has four pieces of news for him. One, all of the New Warriors are dead. Two, the explosion killed around 612 civilians. Three, that Speedball is now powerless. Four, that he is under arrest. (That was some cheesy dialogue and really silly. Speedball is barely even conscious and this agent is rattling off all of this information to him that Speedball couldn’t possibly be coherent enough to understand.) End of story.

Oh wait, there is a THIRD story in this issue. (Oh c’mon! Won’t this lousy issue ever end?) The story starts with a paragraph of text about the Japanese internment camps established in 1942. The Presidential Order created one of the largest controlled migrations in history. Over 110,000 Japanese-Americans were moved from their homes and placed in 10 wartime communities under the jurisdiction of the Wartime Relocation Authority. Even though the conditions were sparse, the relocation centers had the highest live-birth rate and the lowest death rate in all of wartime United States of America. The government provided for free food, lodging, medical and dental care, clothing allowance, education, hospital care and all basic necessities. The government also paid for travel expenses and assisted in cases of emergency relief. The text ends with the following poem was circulated a Poston War Relocation Camp during the summer of 1943.

The rest of the story is the anonymous poem set to drawings of a handsome young father and his cute adorable daughter complete with a doll be taken to an internment camp. In the same panels you see Spider-Man thinking about if he is going to reveal his identity.
The father tells his daughter to promise to be a good girl. The girl asks her dad why they can’t be home in San Francisco. The father says “We are helping the war effort.” The daughter asks “Why?” The father answers “Because it is out duty. Because we are Americans.” We see the Father and daughter enter the camp with the Statute of Liberty oddly tucked in the middle of the panel with Spider-Man looking from off the side of the panel and saying “…With great power, huh?” (Oh my god. That was so incredibly schlocky.)

The Good: Oh, c’mon! I have to find something positive to say about this lousy issue? Man, I really hate the Revolution’s rule that I might always say at least one positive comment about ever comic book I read. Ok, hmmm, well, this comic book didn’t urinate on the floor of the Bunker like our new puppy did. That doesn’t count, huh? Ok, let’s see. Be positive. Be positive. Hmmmm, well, I am fascinated by the mystery of that strange Grover/Elmo creature that Sally had in her apartment. I am glad that Speedball is alive. I have always found Speedball’s character to be pretty annoying. But, I think that the events in Civil War should provide for a great opportunity to grow Speedball’s character into something of more depth and interest.

The Bad: I honestly don’t know where to start. This was a poor issue all the way around. I found the scene between Urich and Sally in the bar to be uninteresting. I found the scene with Urich and Robbie at the Daily Bugle to be uninteresting. I found the scene between Spider-Man and Sally to be a re-hash of what we have already read in Amazing Spider-Man and Civil War #1. How many times can we go over what the Act is going to do to super heroes? I got it the first time. I don’t need it pounded into my head 50 times. It isn’t that complicated.

And this Act is supposed to be a massive violation of Civil Liberties, but I am not really seeing it at this point. Super Heroes are vigilantes operating outside the law. That makes everything they do an illegal activity. Plus, they cause massive amounts of property damage that taxpayers have to pay for. The government wants super heroes to register their secret identities with the government and that information will be kept private and sealed from the public. I don’t know. I’m a huge champion of Civil Liberties. But, I’m not really seeing how this Act really erodes the Civil Liberties of the general public at all. And I don’t see how when you are committing an illegal activity how you can claim an erosion of your Civil Liberties when the government wants to privately register you as a Super Hero. Compared to what is happening in real life to Americans, this Super Hero Registration Act seems pretty wimpy.

I found the end of Iron Man’s press conference completely odd. Why would Tony say “Hello, I’m Tony Stark and I am an alcoholic.” Who freakin’ cares? That was just odd and really ruined the scene. All Stark needed to do was take off his helmet. That is it. Everbody knows who Tony Stark is! We don’t need some horridly cheesy line with him saying his name and saying he is an alcoholic like he is at some AA meeting. This was terrible.

I found the back up story with Speedball to be mildly interesting in that hopefully Marvel can do something interesting with his character. I thought the S.H.I.E.L.D. agent’s dialogue was corny and stiff and it wasn’t even remotely interesting that an agent would go on such a long rant to a person who is barely conscious.

The back back up story about the Japanese internment camps was too schlocky for words. It was so horrendously cheesy with Spider-Man stuck in the side of each panel. And the final panel was just enough to make you barf with the Statue of Liberty shoved into oddly into the panel and the father’s unbelievably cheesy line along with Spider-Man’s totally corny line. It was so over the top and heavy handed that it came across as hack writing. Total schlock. Or maybe just a nice piece of propaganda?

I have no clue why in the world the little story of the Japanese internment camps was put in this issue. First, it was the early 1940’s America. Not exactly a progressive period in America. Second, it was during the time of a horrible war that was engulfing most of the world. Am I surprised that this went on? No. Even a big time liberal Democrat like FDR felt the need to protect the nation’s security during a major war by placing Japanese-Americans in these war camps. I think just about everybody in 2006 would agree that placing everyone of a certaingroup regardless of guilt in internment camps would be totally idiotic. Absolutely nobody in America would think that internment camps are a good idea. Everybody agrees that it was terrible what happened in WW II to Japanese-America, Italian-Americans and German-Americans. So, who does Jenkins think he has to convert?

I just don’t see the point in adding it into Civil War Front Line #1. And what is the point of putting it in this comic book about a Super Hero Registration Act? An Act that only requires heroes to tell the government their secret identity. Not to make it public, just tell the government. Not to put them under house arrest. Not to place them in internment camps. Just tell the government their secret identity. How does that relate to World War II and the war camps for the Japanese-Americans? I have no clue. Somehow a comment of 9/11 America and the “War on Terrorism” got into Civil War Front Line which is supposed to be about a Super Hero Registration Act. I guess Jenkins just wasn’t quite done preaching to us yet. I guess it is more important to Jenkins to get across his political beliefs rather than just writing a solid, well written and entertaining storyline. This was so heavy handed. I mean, the entire comic book is pretty heavy handed, but this just pushed it over the top.

This entire issue just felt like a preachy rant about post 9/11 America. It felt like a biased and slanted story where the left wing anti-registration faction is good and the right wing pro-registration side are a bunch of baby eating devils. Sorry, I’m not drinking Jenkins’ Kool-Aid. This place is called the Revolution for a reason. I’m not big fan of the government. But I am not going to just drink up the wacky juice from someone trying to serve up some radical left wing Kool-Aid. Just like I won’t tolerate radical right wing Kool Aid. The Revolution is full of free thinkers and wants no part of someone on either side telling us what to think.

Jenkins is so painfully biased that it is a chore to read this comic book. And since Jenkins just wants to get his view point across and shoved down your throat he isn’t concerned with actually writing anything that is even remotely entertaining or well done. Political stuff aside, this is a poorly written comic book. The dialogue is stiff and cheesy at points. The story itself is rather boring. This is as lousy a mini-series as Generation M. I should have known better than to waste my money on another mini-series written by Jenkins.

On top of it all, the artwork was average at best. It was rather plain, boring and sloppy at points. It made the comic book rather unimpressive to look at. When you add uninspired artwork with a boring story you have a recipe for a truly lousy comic book.

The Overall: Civil War Front Line #1 flat out sucked. The writing was pitiful. The story was uninteresting. The dialogue was amateurish. This issue was too heavy handed. Jenkins is clearly more interested in conveying his political beliefs rather than doing what he should be doing as a comic book writer: entertaining us! In no way can I recommend anyone wasting their hard earned money on garbage like this issue. I’m torn on what to do. I usually give a long mini-series 2 issues to hook me. Plus, I don’t know how many important Civil War storylines are going to be addressed in this mini-series. So, part of me wants to try Civil War Front Line #2 and the other part wants me to save my money for comic books that are actually enjoyable to read.