Secret Wars: Civil War has been a fantastic read so far. Charles Soule has impressed me with the high quality of work that he has put into the first two issues. Soule has put for an incredible amount of effort and detail into the prior issues. This title has one of the most well-developed and complex settings that you will find in a comic book. Soule clearly relishes focusing on the smallest details of a story, fleshing them out and then connecting them with the other fine details in order to construct a complex web that forms the entire story. I am more than certain that Secret Wars: Civil War #3 will be another quality read. Let’s hit this review!
Words: Charles Soule
Pencils: Leinil Francis Yu
Inks: Gerry Alanguilan
Colors: Sunny Cho
Story Rating: 9 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 5 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 7 Night Girls out of 10
Synopsis: We begin with in The Iron with Peter Parker, Azari and Venom battling the Iron Sentinel. Azeri freezes in battle due to Electra’s death. Peter barks at Azari to get it together. Peter takes down the Iron Sentinel. Out trio head on to the facility. Venom hesitates and grabs the billy club from Electra. (The billy club appears to be one of Daredevil’s billy clubs.)
We hop over to Steeltown. Jennifer making it past Professor X’s brain scan. As Jennifer walks through the town, she communicates with Tony via an ear piece and tells him that she made it past Professor X. Jennifer says that as an attorney she has the skill to completely and honestly believe the story she told Professor X. That it is a trait trial attorneys have when defending criminals that the attorney knows are guilty. (Uuuuh, okay, maybe Soule has this ability. But, no other attorney I know has this special skill.)
Jennifer says that Professor X was really old and his powers are weak. That it was kind of sad. Jennifer would never have made it past his brain scan when he was younger. Jennifer says that she has not been in her human form for a long time. That nobody is going to recognize her. And just as she says that, we see an older version of Speedball in a bar and he recognizes Jennifer walking past the bar window. (Damn, girl! You just had to say something, didn’t you?)
We shift to Resident Alpha, capital city of The Iron, where Tony Stark is talking to Bucky Barnes. Tony asks Bucky if he thinks that Tony has failed. That Tony is supposed to see the future but he keeps getting blindsided.
Bucky responds that he is a soldier and his job is to fight for his country and, if necessary, die for it. That after the divide, Bucky placed the needs to his country over any sense of personal loyalty he had to Steve Rogers.
Bucky says that Tony is the best hope to preserve the nation. That no one has done more to move towards reunification. Bucky says that the Iron is America and Tony has done all he can to save America. The fact that the war is still going on is definitely not Tony’s fault.
Tony thanks Bucky and says that he has been thinking the same thing. (Of course he does! When does Tony ever think he is in the wrong?)
We hop over to the facility where Peter, Azari and Venom have busted into and took down a bunch of robot guards. Peter tells the other two that this facility is run by whatever is left of Wilson Fisk. That Fisk killed old Dock Ock and ripped out the mechanical limbs and stuck them on his own body. The limbs loved Otto so they shot twenty thousand volts through Kingpin’s brain and killed him. The limbs then kept Kingpin’s corpse since they needed a host in order to move around on their own. The result? King Ock.
Stark captured King Ock and set him up in this facility to design tech for Stark. But, King Ock is deadly and insane. The Iron Sentinels guard the facility to keep King Ock trapped in the facility as much as to keep people out. Suddenly King Ock attacks our trio. King Ock beats up Peter and Azari.
We shift back to Steeltown. Jennifer tracks down the sniper. We see various figures shadowing Jennifer. Jennifer climbs up a fire escape to the window of the apartment where she has tracked the Sniper. Inside the apartment is Bullseye. Bullseye is contacted by someone who tells him to be careful. That Jennifer Walters has entered the Blue and is looking for Bullseye.
Suddenly, Speedball appears on the scene. Speedball says that he recognizes Jennifer from when she defended him from the explosion near the school that set off the events of Civil War. Speedball says that he is with the Punishers now and shows off his badge. Speedball says that Jennifer is coming with him. Jennifer transforms into She-Hulk. Speedball says that She-Hulk cannot run. That a Punisher squad si moving in right now. Speedball says for She-Hulk to surrender now before she gets hurt.
She-Hulk replied “Hurt? Brother, I’m the She-Hulk. It’s the other guys who get hurt.” (Brilliant line!!) She-Hulk punches Speedball across several city blocks. Speedball crashes to the ground and radios the Punisher squad and tells them that he has confirmed it is She-Hulk and for the squad to move in on him now.
We cut back to Peter, Azari and Venom battling King Ock. Venom creates a bow out of his costume and uses Daredevil’s billy club as an arrow. Venom fires the billy club through King Ock’s head and kills him.
Peter looks at Venom and says “Thank you, Clint.” (Hawkeye as Venom! Dig it.) Peter says that they need to get what they came for and then get the hell out of here.
We zip back to Steeltown. Jennifer is jumping from rooftop to rooftop. Jennifer radios Tony and tells him that her cover has been blown. But, she was able to discover that Bullseye was Miriam Sharpe’s shooter. She-Hulk then says “But there’s something else. It’s-“ Before Jennifer can finish she gets blasted by an energy beams in the back.
We see three members of the Punisher squad on the scene. (One looks like Gambit. One looks like the Punisher in red and blue armor. The third is a woman who is in a costume that is part the Beetle and part Black Panther.) The Punisher says that She-Hulk has disappeared.
We shift to Liberation, the Capital of the Blue. Peter, Azari and Clint arrive on the scene. Peter tells Hank that they got all the supplies Hank needs to get the Bellcurve working.
Peter says that the lost Electra. Peter says that there was a time when he would have used Electra’s death as motivation and sworn revenge. But now? He doesn’t’ feel much of anything at all. So many have died so what is one more. Peter says “My wiring’s off, Hank. I need to…fix myself.” Peter then tells Hank to wash off the billy club because “it’s covered in Fisk.” (Fantastic scene! Seriously. Well done.)
We zip to Jennifer waking up. She is in human form and is trapped inside of a glass container. Jennifer is shocked and says “No. I don’t believe it. You died at the Divide six years ago.”
We pan back and see T’Challa standing in front of Jennifer’s container. Bullseye is standing next to T’Challa. Black Panther responds “T’Challa is dead. And yet here I am. Believe what you want, Jennifer. It won’t change the truth.” End of issue.
The Good: Secret Wars: Civil War #3 was another brilliant read. Soule has impressed me so much with the quality of writing that he has cranked out on this title. I cannot compliment Soule enough on the obvious level of attention to detail that he is applying to this story. It is evident that Soule is pouring all of his energy into this story. And it shows. It is obvious when a writer is half-assing a story or simply going through the motions to hurriedly push out an issue. Likewise, it is always evident when a writer is putting his heart into the story and taking the time to meticulously construct a complex story that presents a deeply satisfying read to the reader.
I love the mood that Soule has draped over this story. The undercurrent of sadness is palpable. But, it is never overwhelming or overplayed. It serves as a compliment to the dominant action/adventure vibe to the story as She-Hulk races to find out the identity of Miriam Sharpe’s shooter. Secret War: Civil War #3 is a fine example of how less is more. Soule avoids overplaying the sense of sadness. This is a trap that many comic book writers fall into. By avoiding overplaying his hand, Soule is able to convey several scenes that strike at the reader’s heart but never over stay their welcome. Soule does not clumsily beat the reader over the head with his themes to the point that the story becomes melodramatic and, thereby, loses all of its impact.
There were two moments in this issue that were, quite frankly, beautiful sad moments. The first is when Jennifer tells Tony how sad it was to see Professor X so old and obviously past his prime. Age is never pretty and it is something that all people from all walks of life fear. To see such a proud and powerful man now simply a frail and weak old man was a sobering moment. Tony’s response that time is the ultimate super villain was a powerful line. Time. The one thing that treats every person on this planet with unrelenting equality. Time is something people both covet and fear. I love the concept of time being the ultimate super villain that nobody can defeat and that will eventually lead to old age, frailty, weakness and death. Also, the concept of being old and weak is certainly something that strong characters like Tony and Jennifer would fear.
The second scene that hits the reader hard in the chest is the scene between Peter Parker and Hank McCoy. This was another sad moment in the issue that was delivered perfectly. Peter’s reaction to Electra’s death was heartbreaking. The utter lack of emotion from a character like Peter, who is known for his emotional personality and big heart, was a sobering moment.
This scene hammered home the devastating impact that this war has taken on characters like Peter. Soule effectively demonstrates how war can tear down even the most positive and mentally strong characters. Peter is a character who has always been able to maintain his positive view of life no matter the tragedies that he has experienced. Few characters are as resilient as Peter. However, in this scene. Peter is now nothing more than a shell. Everything that made Peter the man he was has been ground out of him by the war.
This scene between Peter and Hank is the first time that Peter’s character has spoken to me during this story. Up until this moment, I found Peter’s character to be rather one-dimensional and annoying. Not anymore. Soule finally performed the kind of character work that gave Peter some depth. Soule also uses this scene to engender some sympathy from the reader for Peter’s character.
What was so impressive about this scene is that Soule performed all of this incredible character work in just one page! That’s right! One page! Imagine that! Such strong and focused writing that delivered a condensed scene that delivered more character work than some writers give us in an entire issue. I am so impressed with Soule’s ability to use panel space in such an effective and economical fashion.
The excellent character work in Secret Wars: Civil War #3 was not limited to just Peter Parker. Jennifer also received plenty of quality character work in this issue. I adore She-Hulk and Soule has given her character a wonderful chance to shine in this story. She-Hulk kicks so much ass! Her line to Speedball during their fight about how it is the people she faces in fights who get hurt? Brilliant! Soule is demonstrating an excellent feel for She-Hulk’s character.
What makes She-Hulk such an engrossing character is that she is not some one-dimensional bad-ass trying to overcompensate to show she is just as tough as the guys. No. She-Hulk is not shy to show her compassionate side when talking about Professor X. She-Hulk acts as if she has nothing to prove. It is her quiet and supreme confidence that she has that makes her character so attractive. It is also this aspect of her personality that makes her pairing with Tony Stark so perfect. Soule also gives She-Hulk plenty of depth to her personality. She-Hulk is probably the most well-rounded character in this story.
Soule also does a nice job with Bucky in this issue. Bucky only gets panel time on one page in this issue, but it is amazing how efficient Soule is with his character work. In just one page, the reader gets a good sense of Bucky’s character and why he chose to go with Tony over his longtime friend, Steve. Bucky’s explanation was concisely and effectively delivered by Soule. While, at first, I was surprised that Bucky would choose Tony over Steve, Bucky’s explanation made perfect sense. And choosing his country over his friend is in keeping with Bucky’s character.
I also like that Soule uses Bucky to reinforce that Tony is not the bad guy in this story. This is necessary given how poorly Tony’s side of Civil War was handled in all the tie-in issues during the actual Civil War big event. Soule uses this scene to get the reader focused more on the unknown villain who has been pitting Tony and Steve against each other for all of these years. This was a good set-up for the final page in this issue.
Soule also crafts excellent dialogue to go along with his strong character work. The dialogue has such a pleasant and natural flow. There is great chemistry between all of the characters. Even in short scenes like the one between Speedball and She-Hulk, the dialogue si so well written that Soule is able to whip up some nice chemistry between the old client and his attorney in a quick fashion. Again, Soule is able to do so much in just a short scene.
I adore the structure of Secret Wars: Civil War #3. Soule takes the plot line involving Peter and the plot line involving Jennifer and runs the two of them parallel to each other in order to form the bones for this issue. The two secret missions mirror each other nicely. Soule masterfully transitions back and forth between the two secret missions. The smooth and well-timed scene transitions lead to each secret mission playing off the other. This approach also helps to increase the tension inside of the reader as we head to the stunning ending.
From top to bottom, Secret Wars: Civil War #3 is well plotted and paced. Soule never loses focus and never meanders. The story continues to march forward with a clear purpose. The story is also well-balanced. Soule mixes in just enough action to keep things lively. However, it is the incredible tension and the feeling that something is about to go bad with both of the secret missions that keeps the reader at the edge of their seat.
Now, let’s talk about that ending. Damn! That is how you end an issue. Soule teased in Secret Wars: Civil War #2 that a mysterious person/force has been out there purposely manipulating events in order to further the conflict between Steve and Tony. And in Secret Wars: Civil War #1, Soule made it appear that Black Panther certainly was up to something sneaking in setting off a bomb in the prison during the events of Civil War. Now we have the stunning revelation that Black Panther never died during Civil War. In fact, it appears that Black Panther may be the mysterious person who has been altering events in order to keep the war between Tony and Steve going.
This is a brilliant hook ending. T’Challa makes a good choice for a character to pull off a heel turn. T’Challa is certainly one of the few characters with the intelligence and the technology to try and go up against Tony Stark. Plus, T’Challa has a long history with Steve and Tony and knows both men well. I cannot wait to find out what in the world the Black Panther is up to. It should be interesting to see if T’Challa has turned full heel or if this is simply more misdirection by Soule. Without a doubt, Soule succeeded in getting me impatient for the next issue.
If there is one thing about Secret Wars: Civil War #3 that I keep finding myself returning to is Soule’s impressive ability to economically and concisely deliver plot lines, character and dialogue. Where most writers meander around and lose focus and have to take multiple pages to perform their desired goal, Soule is able to do the same in just one or two pages. I credit this to Soule being an attorney. As an attorney, Soule has to be able to draft documents that have a strict page limit. Therefore, as an attorney, Soule needs to be able to write concise, clear and intelligent documents that get right to the matter at hand. Soule has to be able to efficiently and clearly explain a position and support that position.
This is why Soule is able to pull of more character work in one or two pages than most writers can in an issue. This is also why Soule is able to get across why a character like Bucky would support Tony instead of Steve and to do so in just one page. Also, as an attorney, Soule must write pleadings that deal with multiple detailed causes of action. This helps Soule construct detailed stories with multiple plot line and for him to be able to juggle them with ease. Soul’s background as an attorney truly serves him well as a comic book writer.
Yu’s horror show style art worked perfectly with King Ock. The hideousness of King Ock was brought to life wonderfully by Yu. Honestly, given that Yu draws every character in a rather ugly and creepy fashion he really is better off served sticking to horror based comic books.
The Bad: I would love to have seen a different artist on this title that would have been a better match for Soule’s story. I am just not a fan of Yu’s artwork on traditional super hero titles.
Overall: Secret Wars: Civil War #3 is another brilliant read. If you have not hopped aboard this title then I definitely encourage you to do so. If nothing else, at least get this title when it gets released in trade format. Soule is delivering such an enjoyable read. I adore this world that Soule has created and I just cannot get enough of it. Secret Wars: Civil War #3 is an intelligent read that also offers plenty of excitement and adventure. Go buy it!