Most people who have the luxury of reading this review worry or think about the future; what they are going to do tomorrow, what bills they have to pay, where they want to be in some number of years. The future weighs on us all because it’s always coming at us and it never stops until we are dead. That is the basis for Civil War II, a Marvel comics event written by Brian Michael Bendis, drawn by David Marquez with colors by Justin Ponsor which pits Iron Man against Captain Marvel in a fight over the future and how the Marvel heroes should respond to events that they know are going to happen.
Any problems I have with this series has nothing to do with the art, which is fantastic. David Marquez is dynamite the whole way through; his characters look dynamic and full of energy and movement throughout the series. Carol has a pompadour haircut that many artists don’t manage to pull off really well but it looks great here; I love the look, but few artists really give it the attention or work it needs to really work. Oddly enough, I really loved how he drew Medusa’s hair as well. Maybe he has a thing for hair? Iron Man’s armor looks great and different from the rest of the outfits, which is not something that always happens. The action is great and flows really well; the power and violence of every confrontation leaps off the page throughout the series. Characters emotions are drawn clear on their faces and add to the stress of any given situation in the book. Different characters look like they are actually different weights and heights; Not everybody looks like they are 6’2 and weigh 240 pounds of pure muscle. I really can’t say enough about the art here; it’s simply gorgeous.
The story revolves around Ulysses Cain, a young Inhuman (a race of human offshoots who gain powers by being exposed to the Terrigan Mist) who gains the power to see the future. Using this power, Captain Marvel (Carol Danvers) and a group of hero’s ambush Thanos which results in the death of Iron Man’s (Tony Stark, of Robert Downey Jr. fame) best friend War Machine (James Rhodes, also from the movies), which pushes Tony over the edge. He pushes back against the idea that they can or should use Ulysses’ power to see and act against future events. Captain Marvel disagrees and the arguments turn into fights, fights turn into Hulk assassinations, Hulk assassinations turn into a duel between Carol and Tony that leaves Tony in a coma and Carol not looking to great, but still breathing. Other things happen, but I’ll get into those later.
The premise is a good one; it’s Minority Report with capes and power armor. In a world where multiple alien species or entities want to eat earth and those that live there, Nazi’s monsters have vast physic power and gods routinely touch down to mess with mortal society, wouldn’t you want to know what’s coming so your beloved heroes can respond better and quicker and save more lives? I know I would. On this point, Carol both makes a good argument and actually does manage to save people before things go wrong. Tony’s argument that the future needs to be allowed to happen, that the future needs to be protected so that it can actually happen, is an interesting one and one I kind of agree with, but one that just reeks of privilege. It’s easy for the billionaire with armor, a genius intellect and a body that can’t quite die to say that we should all step back and let the future happen, no matter the body count. He might be correct, in the grand scheme of things, but it’s a hard pill to swallow and one that the reader outright rejects, along with Carol and seemingly the rest of the hero community. This basic philosophical argument is a good one and the comic does a good job of explaining both sides.
Until two things happen. First, Tony figures out that Ulysses is not reading what is going to happen, but what might happen. He might even be reading what will probably happen, but that makes all the difference for both Tony and myself. And secondly, as with all thought-police based authority figures, Carol goes off the deep end. Kinda. Almost. Not quite. Maybe if you squint at the pages really hard you can say she pushed things so far that punching and shooting was warranted. But I’m not so sure and I disagree with her, so it’s not like I’m playing favorites. And that is the fundamental problem with this book; very little feels earned. Tony is clearly grieving for his best friend, but he still kidnaps another person and experiments on them to see how their powers work. Ulysses’ powers clearly are useful, but not to such an extent that Carol can justify her authoritarian actions. Early in the series they get a vision of the Hulk finally killing everybody in a final, terrible fit of rage. Except instead of going to talk to Banner or maybe calling him over the phone, the entire super hero roster shows up, provokes him, and leads to Hawkeye killing him. I know it’s comics and everybody punches first and talks later, I get that, but I don’t think that the actions of either side feel remotely justified or resonate with me enough to really grab my attention. Secret Wars hits you in the gut because everything is being remade and the image of Dr. Doom actually winning is interesting and emotionally satisfying, as is Reed defeating him in a fist fight. The first Civil War packs a punch because Iron Man pushes everything so far and Captain America returns the favor. Everybody is misbehaving in this series, but nobody gets the time or power to push things so far that I feel much of anything about what they are doing. This comic moves quickly and has a lot of ground it needs to cover and while normally I enjoy that, in order for anything to really sink in and grab the reader, we still need some breathing time, which we don’t really get.
That being said, Bendis knows these characters in a way that view other writers do; he’s been shaping them and giving them life for most of my adult life, so whether or not it’s just his version of them or something deeper, everybody sounds how they should; I’ve been away from comics for a little bit and reading this made me realize that for a lot of these characters, Bendis’ version of them is the one I think of first. Carol is confident and aggressive, Iron Man has just enough of that super genius, ‘smarter than the rest of you’ air about him without going full heel. The only person that feels out of place is Captain American, who is evil right now and which the comic DOES NOT TELL OR HINT AT ONE BIT, but I digress. There is a small group of teenage heroes in this book (A younger version of Cyclops, Ms. Marvel, Nova, and a Spider-Man who is not Peter Parker). They all sound young and different from the older characters and I really loved their parts of the story a lot. It’s oddly comforting to come back to one of his Marvel books and it all seem so familiar and somehow right.
Civil War II has its problems. They kill War Machine off panel, they move far too quickly through Hawkeye’s trail and vindication and most everybody feels half developed except for Carol and Tony, but overall I still liked it. It was fine. I didn’t enjoy it so much that I could recommend it to most people though. Even if you are an active Marvel Zombie and you somehow haven’t already read this I wouldn’t say you need to read it. The fallout is not that major despite major characters being taken off the board and all the books will explain it to you soon enough. That being said, the art truly is great and I can’t wait to read more comics with David Marquez printed on the cover.