There are big spoilers ahead for Marvel’s Civil War II # 1! Don’t say that you weren’t warned!
Ten years ago, Marvel struck gold with Civil War, a crossover event that was not without its controversial points, but which sold a lot of comics and inspired the Captain America: Civil War movie. So it’s no surprise that Marvel is going back to the well with Civil War II # 1, which is out this week.
For the first half of Civil War II # 1, it’s a really fun comic with great art. Artist David Marquez really outdid himself with the widescreen superhero action. Writer Brian Michael Bendis doesn’t even bother explaining the initial threat, other than calling them Celestials who are about to destroy the Earth until almost all of the major heroes in the All-New, All-Different Marvel Universe unite to stop them.
But that’s where the fun stops. Because once Bendis starts building towards the next superhuman conflict, the issue is decidedly less enjoyable. Here’s the condensed version: There’s a new Inhuman named Ulysses who has the power to view the future. Captain Marvel and the Inhumans want to use Ulysses to stop threats before they happen. Iron Man starts to freak out about this, even before it becomes a larger issue.
The first problem is that Ulysses himself is little more than a walking, talking MacGuffin. The extent of his characterization can be summed up in one line of dialogue: “Ohio State, go Buckeyes.” Other than that, Ulysses is a nonentity with ridiculous facial hair and a man bun.
Now, here’s the thing that’s really going to piss people off. Consider this your last chance to avoid major spoilers, because we’re gonna discuss the big death in the issue.
Assuming you’re still with us… The victim in question is none other than Jim Rhodes, a.k.a. War Machine. I’m sure that there are many fans who are going to be upset about one of Marvel’s most prominent black heroes getting killed off, but to pour salt on the wound, the comic really handled this horribly. Rhodes dies in a battle that is only depicted in flashback for a few panels; so, if you skipped the early Civil War II tie-in issues then you missed most of it. In the eventual trade paperback, that isn’t going to matter. But for the single issue experience, it’s a huge misstep.
Rhodes is hardly in this issue before he dies, and Bendis barely takes the time to reestablish his relationship with Tony Stark while completely skipping Rhodes’ romance with Captain Marvel. That was one of the surprises of the FCBD Civil War II special for me, since it seemed to come out of nowhere. And yet you don’t feel any of that in this issue. Bendis doesn’t even let on that Carol Danvers is mourning her lover and not her colleague. Worst of all, Rhodes doesn’t get a proper send off in his final appearance. This is a character who mattered, and he gets less page time than Ulysses. The nature of superhero comics means that almost no death is irreversible, so we could see War Machine again at some point. That doesn’t make up for the way he was written out here.
On top of everything else, She-Hulk was also crippled or fatally wounded in the off-panel battle, but that doesn’t stop her from having an out-of-character moment and telling Captain Marvel to keep using Ulysses’ power before possibly dying. So, we’re losing War Machine and possibly She-Hulk too? This story had better be worth it.
The issue really goes off the rails when Tony blames Carol for Rhodey’s death and heads out to deal with Ulysses. Bendis’ dialogue is usually his gift, but he’s forcing the conflict. The words coming out of Tony’s mouth feel less like the character we know and more like the author’s surrogate. Essentially, Iron Man and Captain Marvel are gonna fight because Bendis and Marvel want them to fight, regardless of how little sense it makes to start another superhero Civil War.
Though we’re disappointed by this first issue, we’re willing to give Marvel the benefit of the doubt and seeing where the rest of the story goes, especially due to the terrific artwork. At this rate, though, we can pretty much guarantee that this is a story that won’t be adapted for the big screen.
RATING: 1.5 OUT OF 5 BURRITOS
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Image: Marvel Comics