Current Reviews


Sunday Slugfest - Civil War #6

Posted: Sunday, January 7, 2007
By: Keith Dallas

Writer: Mark Millar
Artist: Steve McNiven (p), Dexter Vines (i), Morry Hollowell (colors)

Publisher: Marvel Comics

Average Rating:

Michael Deeley:
Luke Handley:
Chris Murman:
Kevin Powers:
Steven G. Saunders:
Mike Williams:

SPOILER WARNING: The following reviews reveal and comment on plot developments of the issue.

Michael Deeley

When Frank Castle shoots two supervillains in front of a room full of superheroes, heís surprised by the heroes' shock. Or at least, the shock we imagine is being expressed off-panel. Everything else could easily have been predicted. The end of the Punisherís involvement; Cap revealing his spy in the pro-reg forces; the set-up to a major fight for next issue; In short, 90% build-up, 10% fighting. This is turning into Dragonball Z.

Another thing that bugs me is how many of the scenes in this comic donít quite come together. Sue Storm is shown asking Namor for help. Itís a potent scene that will probably be expanded upon in the pages of Fantastic Four. But here it has no effect on the storyís outcome. And once again, it contradicts the tie-in issues. Namor here says he has no interest in the Civil War. But heís the one who convinced Black Panther to get involved in the Pantherís own series! Reed and Stark talk about getting immunity for their former friends. No idea how that turns out. And after next issueís big fight, I doubt anyone is getting off the hook. And why bother showing Dr. Strange meditating if even he admits all heís doing is praying for a peaceful solution.

For a 22 page comic, very little actually happens. I think Steve McNiven could have drawn smaller panels to fit in more story. Too many times I thought I was looking at a pin-up book instead of reading a comic book. Each issue of this series has been more disappointing than the last, (with the exception of issue #4). Civil War is turning into the new Secret Wars II, a good idea handled incompetently, where nearly every tie-in issue does the story better than the core series.

Luke Handley:

I enjoyed the first few issues of Civil War. Last issue was a bit of a letdown, so I was hoping this sixth issue would re-capture my interest. But to be honest, I have very mixed feelings about it, mostly due to the way the story is being told rather than the story itself.

The overall pacing is alright. The first half of the issue in particular had me eagerly turning the page to find out what came next, but the second half was a bit slow. I was hoping that the story would get to the fight between the two sides, or at least an invasion of the Negative Zone prison. The way itís left does make for some quite dramatic splash pages, which Steve McNiven renders beautifully and sets the story up for the final showdown, but it did leave me wanting for more than that which occurred in this issue. There have simply been too many tie-ins and one-shots for this event, and for the first time Iím starting to feel a little bored; the moral and personal issues of this conflict have been argued ad nauseam, and now I want to see how it all ends.

The idea of engineering new superhumans to act as enforcers in American states is an interesting one. In the short term it obviously means more police force to monitor rebel superbeings. But isnít this also adding to the problem? Surely, the last thing S.H.I.E.L.D. wants is more superpowered people running around. The whole point of the Registration Act is to try and control an ever-growing meta population. Despite all the background checks, itís more than probable that some of these guys will go rogue. Of course, itís possible they have some sort of built-in control measures, which canít help but remind me of Lex Luthorís ďEveryman ProjectĒ in 52. Not a favourable comparison. Itís one thing to register all superhumans and have them properly trained. That makes sense to me. But to go out and create your own superpowered police force is going a bit far.

The Punisher getting booted off the Secret Avengers is no real surprise, nor is the way that Captain America handles his violent outburst. I fail to see what the point of having the Punisher appear in Civil War really was. It does put him squarely back on the regular Marvel Universe map, but surely someone else could have filled this role. Sure, he killed a couple of Z-list villains whilst under Capís protection but that hardly damages Capís moral integrity or makes me want to root for the pro-reg guys. Castleís approach to working with Cap is explored in far greater detail in Punisher War Journal #2, but as far as this title goes heís little more than a convenient and rather unnecessary plot device.

There are a couple of nice moments. Namorís rejection of Sue Stormís plea for help, pointing out quite rightly that Cap should approached him in person. Stephen Strangeís conversation with the Watcher, as these two beings of immense power prepare to watch the Civil War endgame. The final scene promises a pretty exciting last issue with the two sides squaring off, though I donít know where Tony gets his ď10 to 1Ē stat from; as far as I can tell, Capís boys seriously outnumber their opponents, especially after the final development. But the main reason to like this book is Steve McNiven. The art is truly spectacular. Capís beating of Frank Castle and especially the last five pages, which, while a little heavy on the splash page side, offer some truly great depictions of the two sides involved in this War. But McNiven does seem to go out of his way to make Iron Manís boys look like creeps; Hank is popping pills, the creepy lab scene has Reed getting the cloned Thorís blood all over his hands, and McNiven somehow manages to make the Iron Man armour look sinister with the pose on the splash page that reveals the pro-reg heroes and villains, with Stark tilting his head slightly.

This is a good read; itís a well structured and decently paced issue thatís an improvement on the last one. But Iím starting to get bored of Civil War. The whole thing has dragged on too long, and right now I just want some kind of resolution.

Chris Murman:

This is my first Civil War Slugfest. I just wanted to get that out of the way because Iím just going to take off on a few ideas, but I need to use them before my head explodes. My apologies, now keep up.

Iíd love to pretend we in the comic book world live in a vacuum. In this day and age of previews, spoilers and message boards, however, we do not. Now that Iíve won the Captain Obvious award of the day (you think we donít have one of those here at SBC?), let me explain this rabbit trail of an introduction.

I love how the internet is setting this book on fire right now.

I wish I could sit back and play games with them, lobbing darts at Millar, McNiven and Joe Q for what they are putting out. Let me say this as plainly as I can: Civil War is bad, but not that bad.

This book has taught many geeks and fanboys the true meaning of the word polarizing. You have the issue of superhero registration itself, you have the delays due to artwork (Iíll discuss McNiven in a sec), you have the underlying agenda that Millar is pushing, and you have the undeniable comparison to Infinite Crisis because these two events came out at relatively the same time.

Hereís whatís missing for me in this particular issue: itís not absolutely necessary, but I would love to find out a bit more about why the game was played out this way in the 616. Yes, I realize thatís what the tie-ins are for. Quit typing your hate mails. Iíve read a lot of them, and Iím still wondering. I would just like a bit more about the big three (Tony, Reed and Hank) and their development from good guys to baddies.

I have read most of the big events to come out in the last decade, and no single story has left out more info than Civil War. Even the hated House of M gave us more insight than Millar has. In issue #6 we should start to see behind the curtain a bit more. Issue #7 should be fighting and the aftermath of who won, nothing more. We still donít need to be wondering about anything. The table should be set for dinner, but I still feel we are dining on salads.

I would also like to pose this question to Steve: whatís with all the extreme close-ups, bud? I counted 20 panels of intensely-cropped faces that would make Norma Desmond blush, and those are just the individual face panels. Is that what truly represents the new Marvel that Quesada has been talking about for the past year: talking heads? I can watch TV on Sunday mornings if I want to see that.

Now that Iíve gushed about whatís missing, let me tell you whatís here. The absolute star of this series is the Punisher. He managed to walk around in a ski-mask for the first half of this series and still has provided more plot and development than Iron-Tyrant, Cap and definitely Spidey. We understand what heís doing, why heís on which side, and what it really is that he stands for. The sequence where Cap takes out his frustration on Frank is by far the best part of the book for me. Put your hands down, it makes sense to me.

Millar does manage to mix in some interesting quips that probably has Brian Bendis furiously typing away at his keyboard saying, ďIím the clever writer here at Marvel!Ē The ďDefCon 1Ē to ďIím not surprisedĒ sequence of balloons was very smart. The ďsame guy, different warĒ explanation of why Castle didnít fight back was great. Best of the best, though, would be Capís line to end the issue, ďNow close your eyes, gentlemen. This might hurt.Ē

My first thoughts about this book were that it didnít really accomplish much to move the story along, and the art wasnít enough to warrant such late delays. I will back off that a bit because after several reads I can see more is going on than meets the eye. I still canít give it a higher rating because thereís not enough for me there to warrant it. Letís just hope issue #7 is a little more payoff. The internet might rip in half from all the flaming posts.

To which my reaction would be, ďWhereís the popcorn?Ē

Kevin Powers:

I have a bad feeling about Marvelís final direction with Civil War. The story, as a whole, has been entertaining and very well told, especially in each respective characterís own title. Now granted my hometown of Stamford, Connecticut took the big hit to spark the Civil War, Iíll let that slide. (Check out Amazing Spider-Man #532: youíll see the remains of the local comic store A Timeless Journey which is the semi-seasonal employer of yours truly!). I say I fear the direction of the end of Civil War because if you look at any Marvel preview in the coming months, everything involving Captain America is ďclassified.Ē Being that I am a big Captain America fan and he is my favorite Marvel hero, I canít help but worry. I have said from the start, someone MAJOR has to die because of all of this, be it Cap or Iron Man, and obviously neither with movies coming out. But it looks as though we may be re-visiting an old take on Captain America: ďthe man without a country.Ē The only logical thing to do without killing Cap is to have him lose the war and become a fugitive. But I canít start to get into the logic behind the Civil War anymore because frankly, most of it is gone.

I loved the last issue, and I loved the last issue for one reason, the moment Iíve been waiting for since the start of the Civil War happened: Frank Castle made his return to the Marvel U. Everything was great; he immediately blasts two villains and joins up with Captain America, saving Spider-Man from certain death. But this issue has single handedly ruined Civil War for me. Not because itís poorly written, although it is not Millarís best work. Rather it directly coincides with this weekís Punisher: War Journal #2, and the way that the events are told in that book play out and work better than they do here. How does that happen?

My first problem with this issue? The person Captain America, the man who punched Hitler, chooses to infiltrate Reed Richardsí uber-secure Baxter Building to find plans to free the N-Zone prisoners and shut the prison down. Itís worth spoiling because it defies logic, but I wonít. I will, however, tell you who didnít infiltrate the Baxter Building who would have been the most logical choice: Sue Storm. The Invisible Woman, the first lady of the Baxter Building, Reed Richardsí now estranged wife, is not the person Captain America chooses to infiltrate the Baxter Building. What? Weíre talking World War II and multiple war veteran Captain America does not send the Invisible Woman to break into her own house? As much as it pains me to say this, Captain America deserves to lose after that.

Instead Cap uses Sue to try and get Namor to help out. Namor simultaneously sees right through Sue Storm and feels her passion for him and consequently becomes the most logical and intelligent character of this issue. Namor is slick; heís obviously holding a full deck of cards to use on the surface dwellers, and my respect for his character shoots up a little bit.

But that brief moment of Atlantean swagger is quickly toppled by the events that transpire next. Two super-villains come to Captain America, pledging their loyalty and assistance. Without batting an eye the Punisher quickly unloads some bullets into the villains, killing them. At first glance I cheer; Frank Castle is the only man in this whole conflict who has got some sense and clearly sees the line between good and evil. But upon second glance, Captain America proceeds to kick the bageezus out of the Punisher. Thereís something wrong with this picture. The Punisher wastes a couple of baddies who probably have their own secret agenda, and Cap immediately starts to beat up his newest recruit. Why is there something wrong with this? The Captain America we see in the following panels is not the Captain America of the Marvel Universe. Rather he is the Captain America of the Ultimate Universe. To either Captain America, the Punisherís actions would seem senseless but misunderstood. While Ultimate Cap would beat Castle within an inch of life, the mainstream Cap would maybe throw only one punch and scold Castle, not beat him to within an inch of his life.

But the Punisher does not fight back. Rather when Cap demands that Castle fight, Castle, bloodied and bruised, simply says ďnot against you.Ē The best moment of this issue also comes during the worst moment of the issue. Funny how that works. Cap simply throws the Punisher out of his club and declares how insane Castle is when in reality (and in McNivenís art) Cap is the one going insane.

With the final showdown about to take place, a few twists are delivered: the prisoners of the N-Zone are freed and someone is about to die, or not. Will the X-Men show up? Will the cyborg Thor return to wreak havoc once more? Will the real Thor return? Will the Phoenix rise? Only one more issue left to find out how it ends and after this issue, thatís all I want to see: how it ends, because honestly, this event doesnít feel as big or as though it will have as big an impact or canon changing conclusion that Infinite Crisis did.

While this issue isnít all that incredible, I have to take a moment to acknowledge Steve McNiven. His artwork is outstanding. He captures realism while at the same time keeping the look and the feel of comic books. The level of detail and effort is clearly visible, especially in the last few pages. Even if youíre not a fan of Civil War as a whole, the artwork is worth the price.

Steven G. Saunders:

I really liked this issue. It was greatÖ until the Punisher acted like a complete psycho, that is. Now, donít me wrong here, folks; I love Frank Castle. Everyone knows that. And I know heís a hell-bent killing machine. A psychopath, if you will. However, how he acted when those two villains showed up is, as Batman might say, retarded. Thatís ďpsycho.Ē Okay, well, maybe there isnít a difference to you, but there is to me (bear with me here). I donít think heís insane, anyway, at least not in that uncontrollable, completely off-his-anti-personnel-rocker fashion. Of course, Cap acted the way I would expect him to by beating the snot out of Punisher; and Frank, of course, wouldnít fight back. I donít know why Mark Millar chose to go this way with one of my favourite characters, but for some reason I thought of his days with another comic character near and dear to my heart: Judge Dredd. He cocked him up too, a bit (sorry Mr. Millar, and I usually enjoy your stuff; if itís any consolation, I really like Red Razors, which is Dredd in a way). Maybe Millar has a point to make here? I think the idea is good, but the execution (yes, ha ha) is poor. Frank going all aggro on crooks is an age-old standard now, and it was only a matter of time before Captain America crapped himself (and on Castle) in righteous fury. But whatís presented in Civil War #6 is just too damnedÖ abrupt, I guess. So, Iím sad to say that all that nonsense took a bullet off of the overall score for meÖ Whatís that? Yeah, I agree, Mark Millar should call me up and ask me whenever heís going to do something with one of my fave characters! What? Oh, yeah, sorry. You want me to continue with the reó Okay, okay, jeez.

Itís too bad, dear readers, because otherwise I believe this to be the best Civil War issue Iíve read thus far! If I look past the sudden ďWTF!?Ē moment and think on it, I really did dig this. It ís got great pacing and dialogue and the twist at the end with Hulkling is awesome. I feel that issue #6 is still a considerably strong issue, and it ends on a great note. Quite literally for me in fact, because the song I was listening to had the movie-sample that goes ďOn my signal, unleash hellĒ sound right as I viewed the last three terrific pages. Talk about good timing!

Keep in mind that Iím still not reading much of the other Civil War related tie-ins. Some of the things in this issue flew right over my head, so please donít consider me an authority on Civil War. Iím mostly judging the issue on its own merits, and its own merits are good (accept, as pointed out a couple times nowó well, you know). I already mentioned the excellent dialogue and pacing, then thereís the outstanding art, with Captain Americaís grim determination totally showing through in those last pages. Even the poor treatment of the Punisher looks pretty damn good, all things considered. I really like the fact that the sequestered heroes were released, and then thereís the Hulkling bit that put a big smile on my face. I really am fond of the Young Avengers, so itís nice to see them used in a pivotal manner.

All in all, this issue should provide delight for those who fancy Civil War and may thaw the hearts of those who feel the latest Marvel cross-over is rather egregious or just plain lame. Maybe. For those anti-Punisher sorts, I can see CW #6 being a or even issue. Seriously, though, I just found the way in which the Punisher / Cap bit is handled to be a too sudden and heavy handed. I donít subtract from the score based on how much I dislike seeing Frank Castle get his ass handed-to-him by a superhero (even if it is Captain America), but from how I feel it all came across, my Punisher fan-boyness aside.

With issue #6 out of the way, all that leaves are the final tie-ins and issue #7, in which I predict a big fight-scene. I know, ďDuh, Steve!Ē I can hear you from here. Letís hope that everything wraps up well and doesnít leave us wanting to set things on fire. Weíve been waiting awhile to see how this Summer Cross-Over would conclude, so letís break out the reliquaries and still-beating virgin hearts and pray that it delivers.

[Post Script: Ahhh... Reading Punisher War Journal #2 allows for the Punisher/Cap tiff to make some sense. Still, the events differ in a few ways; and even with the PWJ #2 story to add to the mix, which is done brilliantly by Fraction, I feel that Punisher was handled poorly in CW #6. Even Captain America seems a bit out of place during the sudden and intense scene. Itís a good scene; itís just not how these characters would act, especially Frank Castle. If you want a better version of the rowdy rift between Cap and Punisher, read Punisher War Journal #2.]

Mike Williams:

Iíve figured it out: Civil War is, apparently, an attempt to make every hero in the Marvel Universe look as stupid as possible. Letís see. Reed Richards and Tony Stark are obvious examples, what with Reed having thrown away his marriage to Susan for the pursuit of locking up his friends (this is the most intelligent man on the planet?), and any number of decisions Stark has made along the way make this ďfuturist Ē look like an idiot to the average reader (hey, who hasnít always thought there was a hero inside Norman Osbourne just dying to get out?). Letís not mention the decision to clone ThorÖoops, too late. Then weíve got Hank Pym, Marvelís long-standing whipping boy, who indirectly helps kill his good friend Bill Foster. But itís not just the fasc... er, the pro-registration heroes that are apparently dim; itís Capís side, too, starting with the Star-Spangled hero himself! Nice idea, there, on Capís part, to allow The Punisher on his team. Cap knew he carries guns, right? And that he kills criminals with them? Hrmph, must have slipped his mind. Castle reminds him in this issue. Spider-Man hasnít been immune to the dum-dums, either. Revealing his identity (when he didnít have to) has already been covered ad nauseum, so letís look at a specific account in this latest issue: after Castle blasts a couple of super-villains to little-bitty pieces (who, by the way, were offering their help to the team), Cap proceeds to beat the ever-loving hell outta him. Spider-Man then attempts to explain to The Patriot why Castle wouldnít fight back: ďCapís probably the reason [Castle] went to Vietnam. Same guy, different war.Ē Are you kidding me? How on Earth is that line allowed in? ďSame guyĒ!? Everyone in that room just saw Cap call Castle ďa murderous piece of trashĒ and a coward, and thatís the explanation Parker gives? Come on, Millar! (Side note: could the rest of the teamís reactions at the murders be any more cold? I mean, jokes are told).

The penultimate issue of Civil War is mind-numbingly frustrating, mainly due to the lost potential of the entire event. As it began, the editors at Marvel went out of their way to state that there would be no ďright side,Ē but almost everything theyíve published emphasizes just the opposite (Casualties of War is perhaps the most objective look at both sides). In the Civil War series, pro-registration = bad, anti-registration = good; Stark and Richards = fascists, Captain America and Spider-Man = freedom-fighters. But the issue is not that simple: if Marvel is willing to kill children in its stories, then the universe in which these horrors happen need to play by ďgrown-upĒ rules. Registration is a logical and acceptable outcome of the Stamford tragedy, and Marvelís attempt to make this a black and white issue through such contrived characterizations is almost insulting.

At this point, I just want this ďeventĒ to be over. I have no idea how itís going to end in the next issue, though, frankly, I think itís going to be a huge cheat Ė some deus ex machina that keeps the sides that have formed at the end of this issue from fighting (because, honestly, the pro-registration side would clean the othersí clocks; itís not even close). Just let it end, and letís get on to stories that donít treat their heroes, or their readers, as dummies.

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