October 2nd, 2006


Civil War

When I read the premise of Marvel's "Civil War" I had hoped that it would take its place alongside Marvelwide events like "Secret Wars" and "House of M" - the latter of which particularly was excellently done and very cool. Inasmuch as any comic can be cool. I mean - Magneto rules the earth, and all the heroes who might realize something is amiss have had all their dreams come true? That's a great premise.

And so is the premise of Civil War, especially given our current political climate. In short, there's a terrible accident by an inept superhero (Turbo of the New Warriors) trying to capture a villain (Nitro)for a reality crime-fighting show. Hundreds of people die in a sleepy Connecticut suburb. This prompts public hue and outcry, and hastily written legislature requiring all superheroes to divulge their secret identities, register with the government, and be licensed and employed like traditional police officers.

The result - in the superhero community some immediately sign on, like Ironman, while others view this as an unconscionable government intrusion on privacy. They split, and predictably, things come to blows. The hostility quickly escalates, and the "Illegal Combatants" and "Persons of Mass Destruction" are variously vilified or idolized. That Captain America sides with the dissenters is telling.

This could be a great story, right? I mean - Captain American and Iron Man duke it out - as Chris Sims so often says in the Invincible Super Blog, "You are now freaking out!" There's a Marvel contiuum-wide split between heroes - what will they do? With whom will they side? What will the villains do, as a result? The potential for story - particularly of the rock 'em, sock 'em kick-to-the-face 'splodey variety, is sure to follow. And the opportunity for political commentary is nearly limitless, like when Turbo is held in a secret facility, incommunicado, without access to legal counsel and without being charged with anything because he's an "Illegal Combatant". Ouch, right?

Only it fizzles. The main story line, in the "Civil War" books (of which 4 of 6 are out) move the story along well enough - only the heroes that side with the government sell out completely and instantly. There's precious little self-doubt, even when they turn to strange methods to bring down Cap and his dissenters - like cloning Thor, or hiring super-villains that have already been captured. Wouldn't that give anyone cause to doubt - particularly brianiacs like Reed Richards? Would Peter Parker really un-mask himself publically, knowing the danger it spells for the people he loves? Would anyone in their right mind team up with Baron Zemo - against Captain America - and really consider themselves one of the "good guys"?

So okay, the internal doubt of both sides could certainly be explored, but it's not particularly. And the story spills across quite a few very minor titles that aren't especially well written or drawn, like the New Avengers, the Runaways, the Thunderbolts. Even Ms. Marvel and She-Hulk are decidedly lackluster... and I truly don't get what's going on with Wolverine's oddly distended neck in Wolverine #47 What the heck, man - it looks like someone dangled him from his head for too long, and his adamantium skeleton stretched out and stuck that way - and then his mutant healing factor caused massive Henry Rollins-esque muscles to grow out of his neck. It's freakish, man.

I started picking up as many of these titles as I could, with an eye towards collecting the whole series, but now I'm not so sure. A lot of the minor, sideline titles probably deserve to stay that way - they certainly don't make much sense, and only tangentially touch on the meta-plot of the Civil War. Plus, there's some specific chronological order in which they should be read - but since I don't know that order, it sure seems like Captain America has been both captured by Black Paladin and simultaneously had a knock-down drag out battle with Iron Men and the rest of the New American Fascisti (I just made that term up). And Spider-Man's new costume sucks.

Maybe I'm expecting too much from comics - I've seen such excellent writing from Bendis, Millar and others that stand on their own just as good stories, not just funny-books for kidlets. But some of this writing is so random as to make the good ol' Silver Age seem nostalgaic. At least back then, they were blowing up planets and karate bear-fighting and stuff.

So far, I'm underwhelmed by Civil War. I suppose they could pull it out and make it good - but as the first time I've seriously collected any comics in years, this reminds me why I stopped.