Monday, June 06, 2016

Comics: Uncivil

Civil War II #1, written by Brian Michael Bendis, Art by David Marquez, Marvel Comics.

OK, Jeff. You're intrigued by DC's Rebirth and impressed with the new Captain America. Is there anything that gets your dander up in the current universes?

Well, this.

Civil War II is the latest of the big Marvel cross-overs. They are coming so fast and furious these days that they don't even bother to clean up the mess left from the previous cross-over. The old order keeps changing at a rate that most of the supporting books are continually derailed into the current crisis, not allowing them to build up much of a head of steam. No sooner than the universe get remade, than suddenly SHIELD was locking up supercriminals using a newborn Cosmic Cube, and the dust hasn't really settled from that before we're looking at another big epic and mores super-hero punchery.

OK, here's the Spoiler Upon Spoiler Summary for Civil War II #1:

A  young Inhuman is discovered who can see the future. He warns everyone about a big attack. All the superheroes get together and save the day. Then they have a party. Tony (Iron Man) Stark freaks out about an Inhuman who can see the future, leaves in a huff. Later, the Young Inhuman has another vision, about Thanos coming back. The Ultimates, headed up by Captain Marvel go up against him. In the battle, Tony's best friend Rhodey (War Machine) is messily and permanently killed. She-Hulk is last seen going into cardiac arrest. Tony freaks and flies off, intending to "do something" about all this.

First thing you'll note is that the summary is a lot shorter than the ones I did for Captain America and Rebirth. That's because, while there is a lot of action and explosions and banter, there isn't a lot happening here. It's a first issue, but it doesn't really lay a lot of ground work. The assumption is that you already know these guys (Labeling is a big thing these days, just in case you don't). I could probably shorten that previous paragraph down to: "Tony Stark freaks out about something, intends to do something about it."

Dream Girl - Freaking out
Tony Stark since 1964
Is Tony Stark freaking out his new super-power? It seems that this and making poor personal choices are more his power than repulsor rays. In the original Civil War, he freaked out and ushered in Super Human Registration Act, which pretty much trashed Reed Richards as a heroic character. I'll grant that in the most recent Captain America movie, Tony's freaking out is pretty much justified, and there he actually generates sympathy and shows some character growth. And now here he is, freaking out about a new Inhuman with a new power.

And it's not that amazing a power. Dream Girl from the Legion of Super Heroes has this power, and you don't see her team freaking out. She's never wrong, but she's often mistaken. And we know from the front end of the book that the Young Inhuman's predictions are not foolproof, and can be avoided.  Yes, people died when they tried to be pro-active about it, but that's not exactly the Young Inhuman's fault.

And let's talk about the deaths, because that is what ultimately grinds my gears - permadeath for established characters as cheap rationalizations of actions. James "Rhodey" Rhodes was introduced back in the seventies, and took on the Iron Man suit when Stark was unavailable/ unwilling/ drunk. He got his own suit, and actually had a personality and some character development (with bonus points for dating Captain Marvel). He even earned a place in the movie universe. In a genre where the "fill-in guy" usually has a lifespan measured in mere issues (often dying just to have justification for the hero to take up the mantle again), he was a success story.

And She-Hulk? Sheesh, she was an excellent character in her own right. Like Rhodey, she was a character existing in the shadow of a more marketable hero (she was Bruce Banner's cousin, injected with his blood), and to be honest, she did better. Her original run wasn't particularly sharp (Her big enemy was Man-Elephant), but as a member of the FF and in her later book, she really took on her own nature and blossomed. She was comfortable in her green skin, was a professional woman, and looked like someone who could actually fight. And when she didn't have her own book, she was part of team or a great supporting character, currently in A-Force and Hellcat. And she was often the grown-up in the room, neither cosmic nor grim.

And yes, killing War Machine and potentially bumping off She-Hulk (simply to move forward a weak plot) bothers me more than Captain America saying "Hail Hydra".

Good things about the book? Well. I like the banter. Bendis banters with the best of them, and I can read his banter all day. But when he gets to people saying things that are important, defending their actions, yeah, we break down fast. Tony's arguments are weak and, in a universe where things get remade on a regular basis, just plain weird.

But for the most part, I'm going to drift through this one. Pick up the books I normally pick up, avoid the other tie-ins. This too will pass, as all things do.

More later,

PS: Oh yeah, and now we're keeping an eye on Captain America. What does he say? What does he do? Is he manipulating people? Handing out Hydra's business cards? That's part of the fallout of messing around with your major characters.

[UPDATE: Well, Issue 2 is out, War Machine is still dead, She-Hulk is just comatose, which it turns out is just a plot necessity since the next big dream is that the Hulk is going to kill everyone, something which, oddly enough, they mentioned as a possibility in issue one. Foreshadowing. Maybe this will turn out to be a Red Skull plot as well.

But I will say something nice about all this - They have committed to the bit. The tie-ins have been direct tie-ins to the events in the main book, in that we get the big horrible fight seen from a number of different angles, and the characters are debating about the pros and cons of having serious knowledge of the future, Sooo yeah. Still feel the death of War Machine is there as the needless death of a close friend in order to drive the hero forward (or, in Tony Stark's case, drive the hero nuts).]