Thursday, February 22, 2007

Comics: Uncivil War

So it is two in the morning, and I am up with an upset stomach and I THINK it was something I ate as opposed to the wrap-up of the Marvel Civil War mega-event, but why take chances? This is presented in spoiler-vision (TM) means that I go on with this intro until I reach the point that I get past the cut-off of the RSS feeds, just so I don't give anything away to those who really want to be, uh, surprised.

OK, here's the short version - at least it wrapped up sooner than the Iraqi Civil War, but unfortunately, just about as neatly.

The concept which let up to this dog's breakfast is pretty interesting - there is a superhero disaster in which innocents are killed. A group of superheroes, including the supposedly smartest guys on the planet, decide the best answer is to register all superheroes and reveal their identities. Those that don't go along are hunted down and thrown into a Gitmo in the Negative Zone. Iron Man leads the pro-registration group, while Captain America leads the rebel forces. I've said before, it is not a left-versus-right argument, but rather one of head versus heart - the thinking heroes against the feeling heroes. Spider-Man starts in one camp and ends up in the other.

And the thinking heroes have been at a disadvantage since they are forced into all sorts of twisted rationalizations to support this Very Bad Idea, often going back on their very core ethics in order to pull it off (Mr. Fantastic, who STOLE A ROCKET at the start of his career, stressed the importance of obeying laws, even bad ones. Tony Stark, whose technology seems to go rogue more often than his employees get lunch breaks, thinks superheroes have too much power). Also, the pro-registration guys have to fight Captain America. How can Captain America be wrong? Over the course of this much-delayed event, Spider-Man is outed, Thor comes back as an insane clone, the dead original Captain Marvel returns, heroes die messily, and supervillains are put in positions of trust and authority.

Through it all, continuity was a hash, as characters who fled to Canada or France were suddenly back in the mix, characters who were dead were suddenly living, and characters who backed one ethos suddenly were on the other team. There was some good writing in all this in the required tie-ins- the Black Panther books provided a refreshing island of sanity and McDuffie, the new FF writer, came up with a better reason for Mr. F to be such an ass that was in keeping with his background (Reed Richards invents psychohistory and discovers that unless they do this, humanity dies. OK, then. What's Tony's excuse?). But in general it has been a slow, painful crawl through broken glass. I ended up dropping books, a rarity for me during the fever of a crossover.

And how does it end up? With a big superhero battle with each side upping the stakes. Cap's side breaks into Camp 42, Tony's side is waiting for them, Cap's side breaks out the prisoners to help them, Tony's side tries to trap them, Cap's side has Cloak (I think he was dead, once), teleport everyone to downtown Manhattan, Cap's side takes another turn as the Atlanteans attack, Tony's side brings in the New Superheroes they've been cobbling together, including the Cloned Thor, Hercules kills Cloned Thor making a Dan Quayle-era quote, etc .... And it all comes to down to Captain America and Iron Man brawling together.

And Captain America almost wins, except a group of New Yorkers stop him, and he realizes that in the battle they are being the very threat that Tony's registration forces worry about. So he surrenders.

And there you have it. Head beats heart. Brains beat emotions. Smarts beat feeling because feeling cannot rationalize away its crimes and smarts can. Bleah.

There is a long epilogue after that of Reed writing to get Sue back, which has a bit of a magic wand approach, though the words are undercut by what is being shown. There is an "Amnesty" for all the rebels (meaning what - they get to register? Wasn't that what they were fighting in the first place?) Everyone loves the idea of an extradimensional prison for malcontents outside due process. Tony Stark is made director of SHIELD, since there's no chance of him losing control of THAT technology. Fifty new superhero teams are formed, one for every state (controlled by the state legislatures? The national government?(Though they do show one of my favorite under-used teams of the 80s, the Rangers)).Cap becomes Nelson Mandela, penned up in a cell (while all the other rebels freed and supervillains get on the teams? Huh?). And there is an aside that underground rebellion continues, with Cap's former allies making up the "cool-kid" Rebel Avengers (Luke Cage, Spidey, Wolverine, and Doc Strange, for Galactus's sake), while the "recognized, official Avengers consists of Iron Man, the female version of Captian Marvel, the female version of the Hulk, and uh, some other guys who never got permanent books of their own. We're not stacking the deck here at all.

Oh, and the prison was called "42' (a play on DC's 52) because it was the 42nd Great Idea that Reed came up with make the world a safer place. 43 is cleaning up SHIELD, which apparently involves humiliating the former director. Man, I'd love to see the rest of that list - #35 was to alienate every black hero in the Marvel Universe. #36 was to clone Thor but make him more amoral. #37 was to kill off a black hero just to show they mean business. I thinking screwing up Peter Parker's life had to be in the first dozen, because Spider-Man obviously wasn't suffering enough for the rest of humanity to survive. Ooo! And Tony hiring the Titanium Man to attack Congress to make his point. THAT has to be in the first five! I bet they had to drop universal health care in order to get that in.

End result? Frustration, and a grisly curiosity about where this open-ended disaster is going next The answer is - THE RECONSTRUCTION, I mean, THE INITIATIVE. I applaud attempts to put heroes outside their comfort zones and to create events that do have long-lasting effects on the continuity of their universes. But I would not use this series to support either concept as a good idea.

More later (Nope, stomach still hurts),