Or – “The Following Previews Have Been Rated D, for “Drain Your Wallet.”

cwcs2.jpgreviewbubble.jpgOf all the things that I whine about regarding Civil War, the one aspect that doesn’t bug me is the insistence that it affects every single facet of life in the Marvel Universe. I’ve always thought that if you’re going to do a huge mega-crossover, you may want to have it affect somebody. I remember the days of the Infinity Gauntlet-War-Crusade-Jamboree, and how I kept seeing my guy Nova on the cover of the books, and hearing rumors that he died or something, but seeing little to no mention of it in New Warriors or his own book. I’d say being rendered into my component elements by a 9 foot purple guy would be worth comment, y’think? With “Choosing Sides,” we see some of the less obvious effects of the ongoing chaos on the denizens of the Marvel Universe. Are you sitting comfortably?

Since we’re all settled in, cwcs1.jpgthis issue has re-ignited a theory I have regarding the current output of Marvel Comics: they may complain about the lack of depth in their key demographic, but they’re not willing to do anything about it. The Marvel universe is now entirely about nostalgia, and I suspect that whether you love it or hate it depends on what year it is you’re pining for. If you’re my age, and hearken back to Luke Cage, Iron Fist, Spider-Woman, Howard The Duck, and Deadly Hands of Kung-Fu, you’re likely to enjoy it. Moreover, this 70’s worship is only slowed when there’s a big-money character involved.

Thus, we start the issue with a character who (for some reason) always draws money… a character who’s been revamped so many times, nobody can even agree on what the original “vamp” was: Venom. The Venom symbiote is now possessing the body of Macdonald Gargan, the man Jonah Jameson bankrolled to become the original Scorpion, back when Spider-Man had a secret identity. Since there’s a new cute girl Scorpion, Mac had to get a new name and powers. The Venom symbiote was apparently lacking a host, and, voila! You got your classic Spider-Man villain chocolate in my million-selling peanut butter! Interestingly, though he’s always been portrayed as a lout, Mac has actually discovered aspects of the Venom symbiote that previous wielders didn’t. The story begins with government “Cape Killers” (hate that name) descending on Mac in his home. Being an old-school super-villain, he’s essentially non-plussed…


Is it just me, or did Scorpion kill the cast of 7th Heaven there? And why does he look just like The Vulture? Anyway, the cops find that not only is Gargan not afraid, he’s somehow able to control the gunmen and force one of them to shoot the others. As the gunbait soldiers are wiped out, they continuously whine that he doesn’t have mind-control powers. This gets really old really quick, and mercifully, Venom explains that he’s simply attached the symbiote to the man and uses it to control him. It’s remarkably clever, actually, and makes me think Venom has untapped potential. Suddenly, The Radioactive Man and Songbird of the Thunderbolts break in and…

Well, nothing. It’s a preview teaser, and we’re encouraged to buy Thunderbolts when Warren Ellis starts writing it in a couple of months. I don’t much care for Venom, and this story did little to convince me of anything other than somebody at Marvel knows that there’s a movie with the character coming out. We then turn to the new Ant-Man, sitting on a ledge and watching “The Battle of Yancy Street” that took place during, I think, Civil War #3, as well as every other comic Marvel published that month. For all his bluster, Ant-Man is one of the few who acts heroically during the battle rather than perpetuate what is essentially a superhero gang war, by saving bystanders AND displaying a power that previous Ant-men have lacked…


Super-strength? From an Ant-Man? Awesome. I really enjoy the stylized costume, and I have to think that the setting was intentional. I may be reading too much into it, but to have the questionable new guy act in the classic heroic mold while the big names crack skulls seems a little too convenient, y’know? Unfortunately, Hank Pym recognizes the description of the hero as his stolen Ant-Man suit, and tips S.H.I.E.L.D. to his new successors’ whereabouts and…

Once again, to be continued. I knew these stories were gonna be short, but they’re literally trailers for the ongoing series, both of which I am/will be reading. It’s annoying, and the stories have given us very little in the way of enjoyment. Once again, the scene changes and we turn our sights to Hell’s Kitchen, New York, where a gang of thugs fill in the blanks between stories–er, I mean, engage in thuggish pursuits. Daredevil, the hero of Hell’s Kitchen, leaps in to save the day, but is quickly shown that, though both sides of the issue are equal, only one of them will pay known felons to escape while capturing a known do-gooder.


Sigh… Luckily the man in the red suit is faster than grease on a mongoose (I’m apparently possessed by Dan Rather), and escapes to his home. In a moment of quiet, Daredevil sits and stares at his red uniform… But isn’t Daredevil blind? Yes, in a moment that isn’t even meant to be a surprise, this Daredevil is Danny Rand aka Iron Fist, another 70’s refugee looking for his place in 21st century Marvel. He woolgathers, recalls his origin, and seemingly makes the decision to pick up his own yellow and green battlesuit again when…

@#&*^#@!! Again with the “To Be Continued!” I paid four bucks for this comic, and I’ve gotten three eight-page trailers… Will there be ANY meaningful story content? Apparently only a little, as we cut to John Walker, the USA Jerk– I mean, US Agent, sorry. The Agent is approached by Tony Stark with a proposition.


It’s understandable that John would be upset, and it’s understandable that Tony would need an experienced agent, though I’m stunned at how bluntly he puts forth the “We need to protect Canada so we can economically exploit them” argument. But, when Walker refuses, Tony Stark shows why he’s rapidly becoming the biggest threat to liberty in the Marvel Universe, by threatening US Agent with court-martial. Apparently, everybody needs to know that Tony’s side is right, and if they don’t realize it, he’ll simply strongarm them into agreeing with him. I’m no “futurist,” but I think that having dozens of people with superhuman powers angry and resentful of you, only cooperating because you’re blackmailing/threatening/coercing them IS A RECIPE FOR DISASTER! In any case, after being sideswiped by The Purple Man, Walker is dispatched to retrieve him… from Canada. Raise your hand if you think Tony Stark paid The Purple Man, a known sociopath, to manipulate one of his supposed allies to get what he wants? Yeah, me, too. Then, suddenly…

…I decide I want my four bucks back, as we transition again. This is ridiculous. I know the book was slapped together to fill a slot on the publishing schedule, but… Actually, having said that, I realize that it’s about what I should have expected. Yes, exciting story, yes, “realistic” themes, but hey, we can’t have a shortfall in revenue, eh? The wings of cynicism carry me onward, to the streets of Cleveland. I am at once thrilled and saddened to see our man Howard The Duck behind the wheel of his cab, faithful sidekick Beverly lounging in the back. Thrilled because Howard is Marvel’s dirty little secret, a once-wonderful character laid low by lawsuits and recriminations. Saddened because not only do we see the Disney-mandated-pants-wearing-short-billed-ugly-Howard design, but thanks to Quesada’s policies, the Duck has had to give up his stogies.


You and me both, Howard. But even an ugly non-smoker duckling is still better than what we’ve had most of the issue, so it could be worse, I s’pose… And this is the closest thing we’ve had to a story so far, with Beverly sardonically noting the obvious: We’re putting the fates of America’s superhumans in the hands of the people who brought us the DMV. Ironically, Howard ends up in line AT the DMV by mistake, but when he finally makes it to S.H.I.E.L.D. registration, he’s greeted by something different. Instead of his usual “You… you… you’re a duck!” he hears, “I know you. You’re the Duck Man. I’m calling my supervisor…” Not respect, I tell ya, no respect at all. And to add insult to injury, the one time Howard decides to do his civil duty, he finds the unkindest cut of all.


And isn’t it sad that there is a man whose job description is S.H.I.E.L.D. Regional Director for Ohio? Kinda puts all the dead-end jobs I’ve had into perspective. Uncharacteristically, the Duck isn’t angry, he’s thrilled! “For the rest of my life… no more parking tickets… no more taxes… or jury duty. Heck, I couldn’t vote even if I wanted to! This is better than Christmas in Vegas. I NO LONGER OFFICIALLY EXIST!” It’s like Bill Murray in Groundhog Day, except he’s already got the hot girl… And the joke is “He doesn’t exist” sounds a lot like Marvel’s seeming stance on the character since that George Lucas mega-bomb movie. And most entertainingly, after years “trapped in a world he never made,” Howard has, through his own callous nature, gotten what he wanted: to be left alone. Ain’t symmetry grand?

Sadly, no matter how clever the end bits (and they were pretty good, though I’m a sucker for Howard), it doesn’t make up for the fact that I paid an extra buck to read nothing but a series of character vignettes. Marvel’s promotional materials made this sound like an important piece of the CW tapestry. It really isn’t. I have already read two issues of Ant-Man, and his story was a nice character bit, but not much else. Nothing was done here that seems essential to the enjoyment of the books in question, and while I appreciate the attempt at backstory and continuity what with the current Marvel theory of “We’ll explain it in four months when you’ve forgotten what the question was…” But I don’t feel like we got anything near our money’s worth outta this one… I can only give it 1.5 stars, 1 of which was earned by the Duck.


Discuss this issue in the Major Spoilers Forum.


About Author

Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture! And a nice red uniform.

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