Or – “This Is The Greatest And Best Retcon In The World… Tribute.”


ill10.jpgI’ll admit it: I’ve been extremely hesitant to review this issue, simply because I don’t want to have it come across as bashing Bendis, Marvel, or the Civil War in general. I’ve been skeptical (heck, some might even say negative) in my reactions to CW as a whole, and this book contains many of the same characters, by one of the key writers of CW, detailing the retconned backstory that sorta-kinda led to the events in question. To be honest, I’ve never been a fan of Professor X or Reed Richards, and while I used to be a huge Iron Man buff, his recent characterization has put him in the category of “used to like that guy.” As much as I dig Namor and Black Bolt, I don’t know if the two of them and Dr. Strange can carry a five issue story for me. We shall see… So, now that Marvel has assembled it’s supergroup, what will the first Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Black Bolt album sound like?

ill.jpgWell, it certainly starts off with a bang. In the wake of the original Kree-Skrull War (the granddaddy of the universe-spanning multi-issue crossover, originally seen in Avengers 93-97 waaay back in ’71), the six key figures (at least in their own minds) of the Marvel Universe have banded together to keep it from happening again. What Machiavellian plan could come from these minds, from the Sorcerer Supreme, from the world’s most powerful telepath, from the kings of Atillan and Atlantis, from the men whose technical prowess kickstarted the entire age of Marvels? Our story apparently begins mere moments after the war has ended, with the Skrull emperor bemoaning their recent setbacks…


You can’t read it in that panel, but it says that it’s translated from the SDFSDGF dialect… Seriously, the SDFSDGF Dialect of The Skrull Language? I know I’m not the first to harp on that, but c’mahn, if you’re gonna type random keys and call it words, at least have the decency to use more than three fingers… Oy. Anyway, Ol’ Empy decides that he wants to regroup and take out Earth in retaliation for the Avengers interference in his affairs. His vizier protests, trying desperately to explain that the superheroes are simply too strong for a frontal assault on Earth to work, when, suddenly…


Somewhere, Ben Grimm just had to fight the urge to say “An’ I’m da Easter Bunny!” Still, it’s a pretty impressive entrance. The collected I-word (I try whenever possible to avoid typing that particular word. It’s an old habit, for which I blame our local lurker, Bruce. But I’m not superstitious, because I know that’s unlucky!) confronts the Skrull Emperor. Having apparently just watched a “Law & Order” marathon, our heroes play bad cop/worse cop/armored cop/winged feeties cop/stretchy cop/silent cop with the Emperor, informing him that his plans simply ain’t gonna happen. “Are so!” says the Emperor. “Nuh uh!” says Reed Richards. I’m quoting here… No, not really. “Every single member of your species will die under my rule,” replies Emperor GDFFDG (Hey, I can play, too!) “I’m sorry to hear you say that,” replies Reed. “Black Bolt… What do YOU have to say?” asks Iron Man.


Correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe I’ll pencil that in the “No” column. Doctor Strange teleports the Magnificent Seven (counting Tony Stark’s ego) back to their Quinjet, and Namor rejoices their victory. The others are all unsure and uncomfortable with the number of pawns that were sacrificed in order to reach their checkmate, but Subby won’t have any of it. “I’ll enjoy it for all of us,” intones the monarch of Atlantis, a nanosecond before the ship starts taking fire. Doctor Strange tries a mystic cloak, Professor X tries to override the attacking pilots’ minds, and Iron Man does his best Han Solo imitation, but to no avail. The ending of this battle was pretty much obvious from the start.


Big boom, bodies floating in space… Another strafing run destroys the force fields Doctor Strange created, and renders even Iron Man unconscious. They’d all be dead if not for the Skrulls’ curiosity. And therein lies my problem with this “plan”: Say for a split second that the Skrulls really wanted them dead. Six of the most powerful heroes, the field generals, the brains behind X-Men, Avengers, and Fantastic Four gone. That sure would make it easier for the Skrulls to sweep in and turn Earth into Penal Colony #5353. Or #GSAFSDF, whichever. To take a real-world analogy, do we send Colin Powell, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, and Tony Blair into Afghanistan to prove a point? No, we most certainly do not. As for the Emperor’s life-saving curiosity, it’s more a reprieve than an actual salvation.


We’ve all wondered how far he can stretch, but the green boys are willing to kill him to find out. Namor is being kept in a giant heat lamp, Black Bolt’s vocal cords are paralyzed (only because they hadn’t yet found a way to rip them out yet), Doctor Strange is being analyzed to prepare for his eventual dissection, and Iron Man? Iron Man is dying of heart failure, nearly naked in a filthy cell. It’s truly sad to see how bad this dumb plan has gone. But hark, is that the sound of the cavalry? A bolt of lightning blasts through the guards, and Tony is, once again, saved by his team! Theoretically…


HE WHAT??? Not only did they teleport themselves into enemy territory, hoping that their wits and their mighty powers would protect them long enough to play the dozens with an alien king, AND THEY DIDN’T EVEN LEAVE A NOTE? Somebody call Jeff Daniels, cause this just went from dumb to dumber, dear friends. Thankfully, the Skrull foot soldiers are essentially useless, so Anthony manages to knock all seven of them down, though suffering a broken arm to go with his wounded pride. Using a frapgun confiscated from these yokels, Tony frees Professor X, who in turn is able to free Namor, Bolt, and Strange. But when they all see what the Skrulls are doing to Reed, all heck breaks loose. Namor unleashing his inner Imperious Rex, and the ‘Lumies make a break for it. This time, though, they have a plan, however rickety it may be. Charlie X draws an image out of the mind of Mr. Fantastic, and with a mystical kickinnabutt from the good Doctor, the fleet is… somewhat distracted.


AIEEE! Mighty Galactus! Bail out! Is it not sad that this is the closest thing to strategy so far? Six brains the size of planets (well, maybe not Namor, so much) and this is the best they got? Honestly, it’s a horrible plan from start to finish, and there’s little to no excuse for it, ESPECIALLY when you take into account the fact that Tony and the Avengers nearly got owned by Skrull forces not long before. With all due respect to the assemblage here, they’re nowhere near as powerful as that team of Avengers, so what makes Stark think he’s going to pull off this intergalactic staredown? Tony himself says it best, as the issue ends. “Well, at least now they know it’ll be a good fight…” Oookay. Isn’t denial grand? As for the Emperor, not only has he survived his ship’s destruction, he’s got something sinister up his sleeve…


Uh oh. That can’t be good. The Skrulls just got detailed data on Inhuman and Atlantean DNA, the mutant genome, Earth’s most powerful technology in the form of Tony’s left-behind armor, possible insight into the world of mysticism, and time to analyze cosmic-ray-induced superpowers. To revisit our battle analogy, they’ve just handed the enemy detailed information on most of their weaponry and defenses, just because somebody needed to prove who has the bigger… stick.

Bendis is a wonderful writer, with excellent dialogue, and a good sense of dramatic timing. The art this issue was very attractive, showing both space battles and facial expressions with equal talent, and makes all the man characters look heroic, even when fighting in their underwear. Yet, it’s all undermined by the basic stupidity of plot. For all the realism of characterization you see in his other titles, this book comes across as forced. I think it’s the fact that of the characters here, Iron Man comes closest to the “common man” dialogue that hallmarks Brian’s best writing, and he’s a billionaire/playboy/genius/superhero in tin pants. I really wanted to like this book, and I didn’t. Why would a story we’ve been hearing buzz on for over two years feel so rushed?

I think the point of the story was to show that even the best of us can fail, can get in over their heads, that it’s unrealistic to think that just because they’re Marvel’s best and brightest that they’ll always get it right. I appreciate that, and think it’s an interesting tack to take with these characters. But the hamfistedness of the characters actions ruins it all for me. The beautiful art and the moments that work edge the book past the dismal one start rating, but keep it just short of the run of the mill two stars. I’ll probably read #2 off the stands, (I’m a completist at heart), but unless it’s “Luke-Cage-Issue-Of-Avengers” awesome, it’ll probably go right back when I’m done.


The Author

Matthew Peterson

Matthew Peterson

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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