Or – “What The Heck Do I Call A Dead Character NOW?”


CWR8.jpgThere’s an inherent pitfall to the way I do my reviews. My rules are simple: I pick some titles to go over, stick ’em in a pile by my comfy chair, and review them, in roughly chronological order. Scan the good bits, babble incoherently, then enjoy a Milk-Bone in a commie-free world. But when a book comes out that has spoilery material, it quickly becomes a topic of discussion, and makes me feel like I’m behind the curve when I get ’round to it. Case in point? Civil War: The Return, a book so loudly, roundly, and universally pounded, that it feels like insult to injury for me to cover it here. That said, since CW: TR’s own writer has called it a “massive waste of time and money,” (though it should be noted that he was possibly joking. It’s hard to tell with Jenkins…), what harm could one more voice do? After all, no matter how bad it is, I’ve read “Sonic Disruptors.” Voluntarily…

CWR1.jpgWhen I covered the Winter Soldier Special, I mentioned how comic fans like me have had to find a new term to replace “Bucky Dead,” the state of a comic book character who is actually pushing up the daisies, rather than just waiting until the publishing revenues start to fall (I’m looking at YOU, Mrs. Grey-Summers). Since Bucky’s return, I have been using the term “Captain Marvel Dead,” but I don’t think it’s a huge surprise that this book hoses that for me as well. It’s sad for reasons other than my attempts to be clever, too, as” The Death of Captain Marvel” was one of comics’ all-too-rare masterpieces. By turns shocking, touching, and heartbreaking, the story is among those few comics I find perfectly balanced and satisfying. When this book was solicited with it’s “secret” resurrection (c’mon, they put his chest symbol ON THE COVER!), I hoped that they would be able to do this in a manner that would allow the old story to stand untouched.

The upside is, nothing that took place in that seminal graphic novel is undone here, with the story proper beginning (apparently) seconds after Captain America’s forces busted into the Negative Zone prison in Civil War #6. The guards are up in arms, and run to their warden for help, insisting that he’s the only one who can save them. The warden turns dramatically to the “camera,” and the worst kept secret since Undertaker’s Higher Power is made public, as Mar-Vell of the Kree stands revealed… How? Why? What th’? Marv’s internal dialogue explains it all, sort of.


A few days? Is time broken? Wait, that’s the other guys. Nevermind. The biggest problem with the book for me is right here. Not Mar-Vell’s presence, but the fact that he actually has to mull over whether or not to let hundreds of people die horribly so he can avoid confronting his old friends. Staring into the bottle city of Kan– errr, the glass jar holding his Nega-Bands, the good Captain recalls how his resurrection occurred…


It’s like a haiku. “Mar-Vell in the void… Touches space anomaly… Boom! Alive again!” Them Superboy punches aren’t looking quite so ridiculous now, are they, Mr. Quesada? It’s turns out that the space rift was an experiment by Reed Richards, The Sentry, and Iron Man to create portals to the Negative Zone for their illegal superhuman concentration cam– Pardon me, detainment facility. The Unholy Three offer Mar-Vell a job, as the warden of their prison, enigmatically called 42. The timeline doesn’t parse for me, here. Cap’n M says that it’s only been “a few days” since his time-jump, yet they’re working on Negative Zone portals. I had thought that 42 had been under construction for months, which, by extension, would require working portals to GET to the Zone. If Marv arrived while they were TESTING the dimensional interface, and the prison was already standing, then they must have actually shifted the already-built prison into the Negative Zone AFTER the face.

Questions of timing and the order of events have plagued Civil War since the beginning (Is Typeface dead or not? How/when did Sue leave Reed? Is the prison temporary or not? Did Cable leave or not? And what about Naomi?) so I won’t hold that against ’em. Marv continues killing time, remembering how they told him of his life, and death, and the fact that his beloved Elysius still lives. I wonder if they covered his three illegitimate children? After all, even if Genis is gone, and there’s no way yet for them to know that Phyla just became the new Quasar, his son Teddy is active in Captain America’s underground. After a three page sequence that feels like forever, he makes the only decision we ever knew he could…


And there’s the high concept, the plothook that Marvel editorial thinks will move some comics… HE STILL HAS TERMINAL CANCER. They’ve managed to combine the thing that they’re hoping will make his appearances resonate, the plot hook that makes him more than just another schmuck in red & blue, with the story escape hatch! That’s utterly brilliant, cynical, and evil all at once. Think about it: if nobody buys the resurrection (and the resulting comic), then he just dies, and we forget this ever happened, like we forgot “Trouble” being Spider-Man’s origin, or that anybody wrote Daredevil before Frank Miller. Simple, economical, businesslike, and, frankly, bankrupt of storytelling integrity.

To be honest about it, the only thing that differentiated Captain Mar-Vell from this guy was the way he died. His adventures were only mediocre (and I have a complete run of his book, I speak with at least a modicum of authority), and his resurrection feels like a complete rush job at editorial behest, with only a cursory glance at explaining this miracle. No, this is just another Marvel “Coming Attractions” trailer, with the final page being noteworthy only for the gawdawful dialogue…


…it’s not only the kind of limp, sad, glib cliche you’d expect from a corporate morale specialist, it’s a frickin’ shampoo slogan. At least the computer effects are pretty… Makes you wonder with “King” Kirby would have done with Photoshop, doesn’t it? The second half of the book is notable only for two things: the first is upholding the Civil War tradition of having two separate, distinct, and unresolvable versions of one event, this one being the Sentry decision to join Iron Man’s side and register, previously told in New Avengers #24, the other being making Crusher Creel more powerful than ever before, and still not making him a threat. The art in this story feels VERY rushed, and as in the first story, Raney and Hanna tend to make the central character very delicate and feminine looking, giving both stories an odd dislocating feel. The plot is simple: Sentry sees an explosion, and gets jumped by Crusher Creel, The Absorbing Man, and then we fight! Creel’s powers take a subtle turn here, as he taunts Sentry.


Previously, Creel absorbed the properties of items, touching a pipe and turning to lead, or absorbing the special properties of Thor’s Uru hammer or Captain America’s adamantium shield. The powers he’s using in this story rightfully belong to old-school Superman villain The Parasite, but since The Sentry is an unabashed Xerox of The Man of Steel, I suppose it’s fitting. Besides, they’ll just say, “well, his powers have changed,” which is Marvel’s right. To be frank, odds are that his next appearance will ignore, overturn, or blatantly contradict this one, so I’m not getting too hung up on it. Fistfight, fistfight, fistfight, big boom, fistfight, tough-guy dialogue later, Sentry remembers Professor James T. Kirk’s college seminar “How To Destroy Any Entity That Feeds Off Your Energy”, and gives us the cliche that finally puts this turkey in the oven…


Well, of COURSE he’ll be back, or else one of our heroes has just committed cold-blooded murder on-panel, and you can’t break the law that blatantly unless you’re a billionaire playboy with body-armor. Sentry ends the issue by walking into a registration center to join up on the pro-registration side. Again.

So, snarky comments aside, what’s the verdict? Civil War: The Return is what it is: a money-making ploy. A relatively minor character has returned to the firmament, allowing the nostalgia buffs at Marvel to play with another toy they remember from their 70’s childhoods. There’s a miniseries coming, but I don’t expect I’ll buy it. The Sentry story was filler, pure and simple, a by-the-numbers punch ’em up about which the most that can be said is it kept the last ten pages from being nothing but ads. Back in 2006, I was a little irritated when I realized that they were bringing back Mar-Vell, but my only emotion now is one of grinding weariness. I didn’t hate the book, I just don’t care anymore. Marvel Comics exists to sell books, even if they have to strip-mine their properties to one-up the last time they “cracked the internet in half.”

Here’s the Cliff Notes version: this book exists only to fill a space in the publishing schedule of the crossover that just won’t end, and as such merits one star and quick advice: If you hate this book? Don’t get angry on the internet. Vote with your dollars. Nothing will make them realize they’ve jumped the shark quicker than a shortfall of income…

Rating: ½☆☆☆☆

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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