Or – “Much Ado About… Something…”

reviewbubble.jpgCW10.jpgIt’s one of the most talked-about series in years… The final nail in the coffin of the Status Quo (at least until the next big series shakeup), the foundations of a new Marvel Universe, and the entire series has been filled with moments that you thought they couldn’t top. Marvel has set expectations incredibly high with this series, and after the lukewarm response (not to mention the lukewarm stories) of “House of M,” it’s a chance to show that they’re the industry leader for a reason. You’ve read about it, debated it, complained vehemently about it, and now it’s here. And frankly, it’s not a moment too soon… What’s the verdict?

CW1.jpgFirst off, even though the site is called Major SPOILERS, I want to warn you, don’t read it if you don’t want it all spoiled. I’m serious. You owe it to yourself to digest a book like this yourself before you hear what *I* got to say. My usual “what went before recap” isn’t going to cover it here, let’s just say that all hell has broken loose, the heroes are split, Captain America runs a resistance cell, Iron Man is the voice of the law, and never the twain shall meet. Honestly, if you read comics at all, you probably have an idea what’s going on here, leading to the battle last issue at “42,” the hidden superhuman detention facility in the Negative Zone. Cap’s forces, bolstered by the prison’s escapees are facing down Iron Man’s jackbooted thugs Pro-Registration forces, and heads are about to get knocked.

The action starts in the Negative Zone, with an all-out slobberknocker, but unbeknownst to us, there was some actual strategy involved… Black Panther and Dagger have infiltrated the command center of the prison to try and take over the access portals to the negative zone. Lady Deathstrike and Venom doubleteam Spider-Man (1991 in the hizzouse!) as Black Panther realizes that SHIELD is closing the last portal OUT of the N-Zone, and they have less than ten seconds left. I couldn’t understand why Tandy (Dagger) was in this scene, until she triggers her communicator and starts sweet-talking her partner… It’s make or break time for Cloak, and he officially makes the big leagues and earns major style points for making Iron Man nearly pee himself.

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I am incredibly impressed with Cloak here (because otherwise I’d be annoyed with the writer for abusing his powers, and I prefer to remain positive), teleporting nearly 100 people FROM ANOTHER DIMENSION, with pinpoint accuracy… Well, sort of. They’re falling to their death and all, but, GO, CLOAK! The fight is suddenly on home turf in New York, and bad things start happening immediately. The civilians run screaming, the police try to contain order and save lives, while Spider-Man shows why he’s the gold standard by punking out Bishop, Doc Samson, The Blizzard (who can’t really get pushed any further down the ladder) and the Radioactive Man as afterthoughts to his real target, Mister Fantastic…

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This is the FIRST piece of truly awful dialogue (at least in my opinion), as well as being a distracting enough meta-statement to remind me that I’m reading a comic and yank me out of the enjoyment of the story. The evil Thunderbolts quadruple-team Cap, mocking him about fighting non-lethally, when the tide turns (literally!) with the arrival of Prince Namor and the armies of Atlantis! Yay! She-Hulk calls for a bug hunt (“Game over, man!”) but Iron Man points skyward and turns the tide BACK with the arrival of Captain Marvel, Clor, and the legion of stupid-looking guys who remind me far too much of the Ultimates. With the sides balanced again, Cap and Iron Man face down, with Tony gloating about not wanting to beat Steve as badly as last time, when The Vision reaches through his chest and disrupts the Iron, leaving only the Man. Captain America has stopped fighting fair… This is a VERY bad sign. Clor jumps to his boss’s defense, only to have Hercules knock his little wingy hat right off his head. Susan Richards is stunned to see a bus knock down some cannon fodder that may or may not have been a threat to her…

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Yeaaaah! It’s good to see Ben returning to his principles, but it’s a short-lived celebration. Taskmaster hasn’t got any stake in protecting anybody, and uses his stolen Punisher reflexes to shoot Sue down like a dog in the street… Or at least he would have, had her husband not been there. Reed goes down in a heap, and I think, for a minute, that the Thing is going to hurt somebody. I forgot the most important thing about the Fantastic Four: Reed’s the brains, Johnny’s the courage, Ben’s the heart. But Sue? Susan Storm Richards is the one with the steel…

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Sue is the mother figure of the Marvel Universe, and the one thing you DO NOT do is #(&*#@ with her family. Here endeth, the lesson. Speaking of righteous indignation, Hercules has channeled the rage of fandom into his mighty fists, knocking Clor (the clone Thor, for those who weren’t familiar with the snotty abbreviation) into next week, then setting his clock, getting up early, and packing a lunch so he’ll be ready for the ass-kicking that will come. The Prince of Power may not have always seen eye to eye with the scion of Asgard, but by Zeus, he was a worthy foe, a fellow deity, and deserved better than to have this thing as his legacy. “I KNEW Thor… Thor was a friend of mine. And you know something, impostor?”

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It’s a combination of cringeworthy dialogue (C’mon, quoting Lloyd Bentsen?) and “OH, YEAH!” moment, with the ‘Oh, Yeah’ winning out by a squashed and dismembered nose. Back at the epicenter of the horror, Captain America has beaten Iron Man down, repeatedly bludgeoning him with his SHIELD, and frankly, making my skin crawl. I feel like Cap has snapped, and it’s bowling-shoe ugly to watch. Tony taunts him to finish it, and… UNBELIEVABLY, he raises the shield, as if for a killing blow…

…and is tackled by police and firemen, desperately trying to stop the endless chaos. “I don’t want to hurt you,” screams Cap, and the firemen reply “Are you trying to be funny?” Steve Rogers suddenly realizes what he hath wrought, looking around him at the streets of his beloved New York…

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The Sentinel of Liberty is in tears, realizing that he has become exactly what Iron Man was trying to stop: a superhuman force of nature, sweeping down and destroying the very people they wanted to protect. He realizes the only way this can go, the only way it ever really COULD have gone, and the moment is so chilling, I forget that the book ran about an issue and a half (and ten months) longer than it should have. Johnny Storm entreats him not to give up, but it’s too late. Surrender is his only option. “And they’re not arresting Captain America,” says Steve. “They’re arresting Steve Rogers. That’s a very different thing. Stand down, troops…”

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And just like, that, it’s over… In a moment that seems full of portent, a white glove picks up Cap’s discarded mask, and Frank Castle looks at it, his face filled with conflicting emotion. Oh, please tell me he’s not going to do something stupid… Wait! It’s the Punisher, of COURSE he’s gonna do something stupid. Just not today…

We see the rebuilding of the city in the montage that follows, accompanied by Reed’s letter to his wife. The new Avengers are debuted as well as an intriguing grouping consisting of old-school Marvel superteam The Rangers, accompanied by Red Wolf and The Armadillo, apparently the new super-team for Texas. The initiative, you see, means that every state gets their very own super-team. Big Brother is officially watching, and his name is Stark. Not everybody buys into it, though, as we see Spider-Man joining Luke Cage’s underground (aka The New Avengers), we see Henry Pym named Time’s Man of The Year, we see Tony Stark being handed command of SHIELD. Most heartbreakingly, we see the emotional core of Reed Richards, and it really does move me…

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I am happy to see her return, although I’m certain that their problems are far from over (as evidenced by the solictations for NEXT issue of the Fantastic Four). Then, they ruin it all, by showing us a smug and self-satisfied Tony Stark aboard his new toy Helicarrier, addressing the woman who started this all in issue #1, ol’ whatserface Sharpe, who lost a child in the Stanford disaster. Tony slimes his way through the helicarrier bridge, and finally sheds light on one of the minor mysteries of the series…

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God, I just want to DECK him! It’s so annoying to see him so sure of his own infallibility after all this. He could have prevented ALL of this from happening by dealing openly and honestly with his friends and teammates, rather than being the soulless autocrat and doing everything himself. Tony did what he did not out of a greater good, but out of a knowledge of what would be best for Tony Stark. It’s everything that was wrong with Batman rolled up in a big red steel suit and a smug little fratboy goatee.

So, given that I haven’t been the biggest supporter of Civil War, what can I say about this issue? They brought the pain, indeed. This issue did give us what we needed, a clear, decisive ending (only telegraphed slightly by the futility of Cap’s side and the appearance of post-Civil War team lineups BEFORE this book shipped), and there were several leap up and yell moments, notably the Thing’s return and Hercules playing frog baseball with Clor’s big rubbery head. All told, it did what they promised: it changed everything. While I may not like where it’s going, I’m excited about Omega Flight, I’m excited about the Initiative, I’m psyched for New Avengers, and I really want to read Captain America #25. Was it perfect? No. But Civil War #7 carried less of the inherent flaws of the previous six, and had none of the “Wait, he/she wouldn’t act like that!” that plagued my reading of them, either. It’s a beautifully drawn book, a good read, and only has a few instances of stupid dialogue. And Captain America led away in handcuffs (and in tears) is a money shot worthy of the three-month delay. My final answer? Four stars out of a possible five. It may not be what *I* would do with the Marvel Universe, but it’s an ending I can live with, and I like to review a big blockbuster where nobody died. Except Clor. Who, frankly, can bite me.

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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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7 Comments

  1. LJK
    February 22, 2007 at 1:39 am — Reply

    Although I enjoyed Civil War, particularly #7, I am very much looking forward two years. Call my cynical, but the only reason Marvel introduced this idea in the first place was to create a dystopia down the road. Think about it, all they have to do is introduce a megalomaniacal president down the road, and suddenly they have another all out war with the government forces vs. the rebels. Hell, they could even bring the “everyday citizen” into the story utilizing the superhumans as generals. It may be predictable, but I really want to see it. I’m a sucker for dystopian stories, in any genre.

  2. JBB
    February 22, 2007 at 8:05 pm — Reply

    I’m sorry, this series was hyped through the roof at Marvel and wound up being so pathetic that I’ll not even claim it to be anticlimactic.
    There is no climax. For every story there should be a beginning a middle and an end, and there should be a resolution to the conflict.
    That didn’t take place here. It was poorly written, with characters acting wildly out of character just to serve a KEWL moment, and in the end it set itself up for failure.
    Joe Q is to blame here people.
    He jumped the gun trying to respond to Infinite Crisis and as a result he alienated more than just this reader, he may have wrecked his entire universe.
    Lateness, poor quality and shoddy characterization will catch up with them some day.
    Make mine DC, or Image, or Dark Horse, I’m done with Marvel.

  3. February 23, 2007 at 11:08 am — Reply

    I have to tell you, JBB, you make a valid point. I haven’t been reading Civil War (well, more honestly, I haven’t been BUYING Civil War, I read all the new books at work so I’ll have something to talk to their fans about), for exactly that reason.

    Here’s the problem: Joe Quesada doesn’t understand the difference between GOOD storyhooks and BAD storyhooks, the same way my toddler is struggling to understand the difference between good and bad attention. He believes that there are more interesting stories to tell with an unmasked Spidey, an imprisoned Cap, and a smarmy asshat autocratic Iron Man. And, to be frank, there are… IN THE SHORT TERM.

    But there certainly aren’t 46+ years of good stories in these altered characters, something that obviously existed BEFORE the changes. There are a lot of stories that COULD be told that would sell comics and draw criticism: What if Wertham was RIGHT about Batman and Robin? What if Wonder Woman were a transsexual? What is Superman decided to take over the world and run it right?

    In recent years, the shift towards a more “cinematic” approach to comics (some would blame it on The Authority, but you have to take the blame back to where it really began: Jim Shooter) has made for a “Can we top this?” mentality, not just at Marvel, but throughout the industry. The Civil War and it’s fallout are almost certainly going to be a temporary change in the status quo, especially if enough of us stop buying. I’ve said it before: Vote with your dollars.

    My four star rating for this book was based on several things: The art was pretty. The story gave us an ending to the Captain America/Iron Man battle (though not one that I liked), and the writing was more than competent. Moments like Hercules’ godly rage, the Invisible Woman’s complete devastation of Taskmaster, Captain America finally acting like Captain America really SHOULD (by protecting the innocents, no matter what the cost, albeit far too late), contributed to the ratings as well.

    Most importantly, they didn’t go deux ex machina and have Miriam Sharpe be Loki/A Skrull/The Martian Manhunter, they didn’t immediately hit the reset button (though it’s still clearly in view for any and ALL of these developments), they didn’t kill Stark or Rogers (what would THAT prove?), they didn’t have the Annihilation Wave show up and have everyone drop their fighting to be bestest friends again, and they didn’t cop out by having one of the main characters disavow his obviously heartfelt and powerful convictions after some pretty speechifying.

    It was what it was. As crossovers go, it was too big, too sprawling, too didactic, too complicated, and far too pervasive for my tastes, but it was better than many of its ilk. I still found more emotional resonance in that OTHER seven issue Mega-Crossover than in this one, but for it’s many flaws, CW got people talking, it moved product, and it honestly did leave the Marvel Universe changed in it’s wake.

    The main question now is: For how long?

  4. February 23, 2007 at 6:56 pm — Reply

    Civil War was a travesty, written by a hack. Sorry, but popularity in comics is like popularity in the model train market… Except by the numbers the 350,000 addicted comic readers of the USA are not even remotely significant compared to the 2,000,000 plus model train enthusiasts… Or the 150,000,000 plus mainstream readers.

    And please, everyone stop using “mainstream” and “comic reader” in the same phrase. It is a laughable oxymoron.

    Civil War is impenetrable to normal people, unreadable by children for all sorts of reasons and everything that is wrong with Marvel. This is the 90s writ large. Get over the hype, stop trying to find positives in a diabolical excremental wreck and find a new hobby… Or at least, new comics.

  5. February 23, 2007 at 9:40 pm — Reply

    “And please, everyone stop using “mainstream” and “comic reader” in the same phrase. It is a laughable oxymoron.”

    I’m still searching for a point where anyone but you did that… but thanks for sharing your opinion.

  6. Michael Szemer
    February 25, 2007 at 10:47 am — Reply

    For better or worse — and usually for the worse, at Marvel — superhero comics epitomize melodrama, and the “top this!” mentality cited above, the need for set pieces and cliffhanger endings and shock moments, warped good characters out of all recognition in CIVIL WAR. The reviewer calls Tony Stark a smug slimeball, and as a guy who’s read Iron Man titles since TOS, I have to unreservedly agree that his characterization was utterly wrongheaded and in violation of what we’ve come to expect from Iron Man over the years. But it was just one perversion among many. Cap, Spider-Man, and Reed Richards — perhaps Reed, most of all — were insults to the true characters, to their originators, and to readers. They were manques whose purpose was to frame hack melodrama.

    As a grand architect of this dross, Mark Millar is one of the baldest opportunists in the business, who’s found a trendy flavor of nihilism that is utterly inhumane and disgraceful. Rather than respect these characters, he actively dispises them. How else to explain the foul strain that permeates WANTED and THE ULTIMATES? Heroism, in Millar’s view, must always be suborned by lust, anger or sadism. This sensibility may appeal to the Joe Qs of the industry, but it’ll always limit the popularity of not-so-funnybooks to the geek crowd. And there, I’m afraid, is where non-events like CIVIL WAR probably deserve to stay.

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