We enjoyed the first issue of this Secret Wars tie-in mini-series. It was not a perfect read as Soule delivered a bit of a dry issue. Hopefully, now that Soule has finished setting the table for this story he will now crank up the pacing and intensity with Secret Wars: Civil War #2. This title has the potential to be an exciting read. Soule is a solid writer so I am optimistic that this second issue is going to kick this story into high gear and offer an entertaining read. Let’s go ahead and hit this review.
Words: Charles Soule
Art: Leinil Yu
Inks: Gerry Alangulan
Colors: Sunny Cho
Story Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 5 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 6.5 Night Girls out of 10
Synopsis: We begin with Tony Stark and Carol Danvers controlling a drone that has been sent into The Blue. The drone is following the assassin’s trail. The data from the drone shows that the assassin appeared to retreat to a city in The Blue called Steeltown. Suddenly, Storm appears in front of the drone. Storm calls Stark out for being responsible for the death of her husband, T’challa. Storm calls Stark a coward. Storm then destroys the drone.
We cut to Storm arriving at Steeltown. Storm gives Colossus the scrap metal from the drone. Colossus pulls out the “brain” of the drone from the wreckage. Colossus asks Storm to please give the drone’s “brain” to Steve Rogers so it can be analyzed. Colossus then says that he and Magneto will fashion an appropriate response to Stark’s incursion into The Blue’s airspace.
We cut to Resilient Alpha, the capital city of The Iron. Bucky Barnes informs Stark that a projectile from The Blue is headed to the capital. Bucky says that scans show the projectile is just a harmless empty metal orb. The metal orb flies toward Stark’s building. We see that the metal orb has “Next time it’s a Hulk!” written on it. Stark scoffs at the threat stating that if The Blue had a Hulk then he would know about it already. Stark then says that The Blue’s threat just gave him a good idea.
We shift to Liberation, the capital of The Blue. Peter Parker is ready to attack The Iron. Peter views the incursion into their airspace by Stark’s drone as an act of war. Steve says that Peter is rattled from seeing Mary Jane and his daughter. That Peter is not thinking calmly. Peter urges Steve to use their secret weapon, the Bellcurve. Steve says that if they use the Bellcurve then many people will die. And that Steve will not use such a weapon lightly. Steve says that they should go see Hank McCoy.
We slip over to the Stark meeting with She-Hulk. Tony tells Jennifer that he has mapped out the timeline of the events of Civil War since the fateful day in Stamford, Connecticut. Tony say that the events in green are all statistically possible. That the events in red are lightning striking in the same spot type of events. They are all but impossible. Tony says that they have all been played.
We cut to Hank’s lab where he is meeting with Steve and Peter. We see that they have Sandman trapped in a clear tube. Steve says that Sandman is a criminal. That Sandman has agreed to undergo the testing of the Bellcurve on him in turn for having his sentence commutation of his sentence. That he would get life in prison instead of “punishment.”
Steve tells Hank to activate the Bellcurve. Hank turns on the machine. Sandman reverts from his sand form into his regular human form. They then activate a water shower in the tube. Sandman remains in human form. Hank says that the Bellcurve was a success. That Sandman is now a regular human. He has been stripped of super powers. Hank then says that the bad news is that they only had enough materials to activate the Bellcurve just this one time.
Peter gets angry at Hank that they cannot use it again. Hank responds that he was asked to develop a working weapon. Which he did. Hank said that only The Iron has enough materials to power the Bellcurve again. Peter tells Steve that he will lead a team into The Iron to steal the materials necessary to power the Bellcurve again. Steve authorizes Peter’s mission.
We zip over to Stark’s bedroom. Stark and She-Hulk are in bed together. Stark says that he needs Jennifer to go into The Blue and follow-up on the trail of the assassin that the drone had picked up. Jennifer agrees to the mission.
We hop over to Peter assembling his team which consists of Electra (sporting some kind of BDSM fetish outfit), Venom and Black Panther (Azari version). Peter and his team are parachuted over a facility in The Iron. Suddenly, Peter and his team are attacked by giant Iron Man themed Sentinel robots. Electra gets fried by one of the Iron Man Sentinel robots. (Well. Thanks for playing, Electra!).
We cut to Jennifer in human form riding a motorcycle up to the gates of Steeltown. She identifies herself as attorney Angie Walker. (And Jennifer is sporting a wacky mohawk. No. I simply refuse to believe that any attorney, even one in this alternate reality, would ever sport a mohawk. Sorry. That is just beyond my suspension of disbelief.) That she is here for an emergency meeting with a client.
The two guards at the gates of Steeltown say that since the city is closed right now that they will have to conduct a “second scan” of Jennifer. Jennifer is surprised by this “second scan.” During this scene we get Tony’s narration about how Emma Frost will get Jennifer the necessary passes that she will need to enter Steeltown. The credentials that Jennifer will get will be indistinguishable from the real ones.
Suddenly, Professor X appears over top of the gate. The guard asks Professor X to perform a simple gate scan to confirm that Jennifer is who she claims she is. Jennifer is shocked. Tony’s narration continues “Honestly, Jennifer…I don’t think you have anything to worry about.” End of issue.
The Good: Secret Wars: Civil War #2 was a fantastic read! Charles Soule is like a maestro leading an orchestra as he constructs a story that is strong in every possible aspect and is a joy to read. Soule has such a firm command over every single element of this story. It is not often that you get to read an issue that is exquisitely crafted. It is obvious that Soule approaches his writing like an artisan who is crafting a truly original piece of art. The attention to detail and the effort that Soule clearly poured into this issue is quite evident to the reader.
Soule flexes his technical writing skills with the strong pacing and plotting in Secret Wars: Civil War #2. A story is only as good as its bones and the plotting and pacing is the skeletal system to any story. This issue moves forward with a measured pace. Soule never loses focus. I love that the pacing is controlled. Not too fast and not too slow. This pacing allows Soule to create some incredible tension inside of the reader as this issue steadily builds to the exciting ending. With each scene the tension is ratcheted up just a notch higher. By the time the reader arrives at the end they fully captivated and sitting at the edge of their seat.
The hook ending is brilliantly delivered. This is how you end an issue with the reader desperately wanting more. This ending more than succeeds in getting the reader impatient and excited for the next issue. Soule does his job in entertaining the reader with this issue and, more importantly, selling them only why they need to plunk down their money for the next issue.
Soule is impressing the hell out of me with his plotting in this issue. There is little doubt that Soule has some serious talents when it comes to constructing and managing multiple complex plot lines all at the same time. That is something that cannot be said for many writers currently employed by Marvel and DC at the moment. Strong plotting skills are a vital requirement in being able to craft elaborate stories. Soule continues to juggle multiple intricate plot lines in Secret Wars: Civil War #2. Each of these plot lines are well-developed and captivate the reader’s attention.
The setting for Secret Wars: Civil War continues to be deliciously intricate setting that the reader will find engrossing. This world that Soule has created is detailed and textured. This helps to further pull the reader deep into the story. Soule introduces the reader to Steeltown in this issue. I loved it. Steeltown is a cool concept of a gritty proletariat city. It is the perfect match for the personality of Colossus and his fellow mutants. Also, the fact that the mutants would all be living in The Blue makes complete sense. This is a group that has long been hunted and registered by the government. There is no way they would ever want to side with The Iron. Continuing that theme, I thought that the use of the Iron Man themed Sentinels was a neat touch.
The contrasts between Steeltown and Resilient Alpha were also well done. Soule emphasizes the rough and poor nature of The Blue with the sleek and advanced look of the Iron. The settings reflect the basic ideals of the two countries. Stark’s futurists view of never-ending progress and innovation versus Rogers’ old fashioned and nostalgic view of individualism. It is interesting to see how Soule continues to play with the concepts of the Iron as the pinnacle of the East and West Coast liberal view of life with the Blue being the pinnacle of the Southwestern/Midwestern conservative view of life.
Soule also drops a huge bomb on the reader in the middle of this issue. The massive new plot line introduced in this issue is the fact that Tony has discovered that some unknown person or group has been playing both Steve and Tony this entire time. The revelation that some unknown person has made improbably events happen in order to keep the war going between The Blue and The Iron is an excellent new wrinkle. And it is necessary as we need to eventually have our heroes unite in order to take on the true villain.
Steve and Tony may have different ideals and different methods. But, they are both heroes who essentially desire the same thing. And it is important that Soule eventually have our heroes reconcile and combine their forces to battle the true face of evil. I am curious to find out who this mysterious person or group is who has been playing both Tony and Steve. All things lead to Doom as he is the god of Battleworld.
To be sure, Secret Wars: Civil War #2 has strong bones. But, what pushes this issue to an even higher score is that Soule adorns the story’s skeleton with a fleshed out body in the form of excellent character work and some strong dialogue. I dig how Soule is writing Steve Rogers in this story. It is interesting to see how Steve’s personality has slowly changed and warped with the war and his increased power. Soule is using Steve to show how even a moral and principled man can become warped by the war and by his ever-increasing power as the ruler of The Blue.
Seeing Steve Rogers okay human testing on criminals was stunning. The Bellcurve project was chilling. This was reminiscent of the type of activities that the Nazis would engage in back in World War II. This is a powerful moment as we see the man who earned his fame from beating the Nazis now employing similar methods of conducting mad scientist research on humans in order to build a “perfect” weapon. Seriously, this is something that the Red Skull would have done.
I continue to love the pairing of Tony and Jennifer. Soule has made me such fan of this relationship that I want to see the two of them together in the regular 616 universe! The two characters have such incredible chemistry. I cannot get enough of them. The dynamic of Tony’s massive ego, unparalleled confidence and intelligence combined with Jennifer’s impressive physical presence and her cunning legal mind is quite compelling. The scenes between Tony and Jennifer feel so organic. Their back and forth dialogue is natural and has a pleasant flow.
I have to admit that Soule’s take on Peter Parker is annoying. Peter comes off whiney at times. Peter also is presented like a complete fanatic. And I believe that Soule is doing this on purpose. Peter is so blind with anger that he no longer thinks straight. Peter is so wracked with the pain of no longer being with his family that he now has nothing let in his life but the war. Without the war his life no longer has any meaning. Rather than accept the responsibility of his own actions as playing a role in him not being with his family anymore, Peter simply choses to blame Stark for all of his problems. It is Peter’s obsessive and irrational nature that shows how good men can be turned bad during war.
I liked Soule’s take on Hank’s character. The Beast dutifully plays the role of the detached and somewhat cold scientist. Hank does not stop to ponder the immorality of the Bellcurve as a weapon and his use of human testing. Hank simply does what he is told. In this way Hank is similar to Wernher von Braun. His job is not to pass moral judgment. He is a man of science and his job is to pursue the scientific endeavors under the orders of his leader.
There was not a ton of action in Secret Wars: Civil War #2. But, given the incredible tension created in this story there was no real need for tons of action in order to keep the reader’s attention. We did get a dash of fighting when Ororo attacked Stark’s drone and when Peter’s team engaged the Iron Man Sentinels. But, other than that, this issue is more of a cerebral read. This issue is all about building the tension in the reader just as the quiet before the storm is about to break.
The Bad: I am just not a fan of the Yu’s art. The art looks rough and sketchy. Some panels look unfinished as if Yu was racing against a deadline. In other panels, characters don not even have faces. It is this lack of detail and rough nature of the art that makes it look unfinished and sloppy.
Overall: Secret Wars: Civil War #2 was a fantastic read. Soule delivers a nuanced and multifaceted read that captivates the reader’s attention from start to finish. This is an issue that warrants several reads. I love an issue with plenty of substance. Soule certainly treats the reader to an issue that is worth every penny of the cover price. I would certainly recommend giving this Secret Wars tie-in mini series a try.