Plot: Tony Stark sets a trap for the heroes who have chosen to side with Captain America. The battle is vicious with Iron Man gaining the upper hand and landing a crushing blow against Captain America. Cap’s allies try to rally to his aid, but the arrival of a founding member of the Avengers takes them by surprise.
Commentary: In all honesty, I enjoyed this chapter of Civil War and thought that it had some entertaining character moments in addition to a very well crafted action scene that led up to a cliffhanger ending. It had all of the ingredients to my comic reading satisfaction.
So why would I give the book only ?
The answer is that I’m getting a little tired of a whole lot of shock and awe and not much story. Stuff happened. The plot was advanced. Characters interacted. Plotlines for future tie-in books (all five hundred seventy two of them) were established. All of this was done with witty and insightful dialogue by Mark Millar, not to mention some fantastic art by Steve McNiven, Dexter Vines and Mark Morales. The book looked great and read easy.
But we’re three months into this thing, and I’ve gotten more out of the overall story from Front Line and Amazing Spider-Man than I have from the lead book, which, I will point out, was supposed to be set up, so I could read it and it alone and still get the whole story.
But I’m not.
Something is missing.
Something is missing, and that is the follow through on the sub-plots this and previous issues established.
Oh, I can get that follow through, but to do so, at least for this issue, I have to buy at least three different tie-in books and series to do so.
You know, at least in Infinite Crisis I got the feeling that I didn’t need to read the crossover books. I did and I enjoyed them but frankly those were books I was buying anyway, and what DC did right, and what Marvel is doing so very wrong is that Infinite Crisis’ crossovers expanded on what happened in the main series. The event was shown in Infinite Crisis and then shown from another perspective in the crossover book. I felt like I was getting something out of the deal. I don’t get that same vibe here.
Well, maybe Amazing Spider-Man is giving me that, but I think that has more to do with the fact Spider-Man plays such a vital role in the story. His unmasking needed further exploration, and JMS is doing a bang up job doing just that.
Other than that and maybe what is going on in Wolverine, I feel like the tie-ins are a waste of my time and money.
Tony Stark’s dry comment on his previous “friend with benefits” relationship with Emma notwithstanding, I really don’t want to have buy a four issue mini-series… I’m sorry, this is Marvel… four issue limited series to find out what happens when Bishop starts a ruckus with his fellow mutants.
My feelings about Marvel glutting the market with Civil War tie-ins and how this seems to be shaping up to be the most complicated yet fascinating train wreck in recent comic book history aside, I will admit to being rather fond of how the first battle between Iron Man and Cap’s forces went. The staging was handled well, and I liked Cap not only getting one up on Tony but also his little jab at Spider-Man. Millar shined here, and I got the sense of the disappointment Cap must be feeling regarding Peter’s decision to not only join Iron Man but reveal his identity as well.
And I liked the ending where a certain God of Thunder showed up. It played well, and I probably would feel more for the situation if I actually cared about Thor’s return.
In The End: This event has a lot going for it. There are some interesting ethical and quasi-political issues being raised but most of those are being explored in Front Line, not here. This issue served a purpose. It brought the two sides into their first physical and verbal conflict and brought a character that had been missing for some time back into the public eye, both of which are important. The problem I have is that the sheer size of the event and all of the books associated with it are threatening to be more interesting than this book, which should be the most important. This title should be the one that I can’t live without. It should be the comic that I look forward to the most for the next several months. Instead, it is just a tease to get me to buy other books. I understand that this is something that should have an impact on all of the main titles that Marvel publishes, but at the same time this isn’t the book that should launch a thousand comics. Yeah, it’s my choice whether or not I buy the tie-ins, but it is also a crappy way to tell a story.
Plot: While Captain America’s new “Secret Avengers” continue to defy the government’s registration plan, Tony Stark and company seek out new converts against the rebels including the Black Panther, Dr. Strange and the X-Men. Cap and his cohorts respond to a disaster in a chemical plant, but instead he finds himself mano-a-mano with his old partner until an unexpected arrival interrupts the conflict.
Commentary: It was reading this issue which helped me to realize how much I have grown to hate this whole Civil War storyline. It’s a bad story, meticulously marketed and neatly packaged. I just can’t buy the premise, heroes turning against other heroes, Iron Man hunting down his fellow heroes, turned into a lackey for the U.S. government sanctioning the actions of “cape killers.” In fact, from the very onset it reeks of bad characterization. It starts with the press conference where Spider-Man has unmasked, and Tony Stark is standing next to him and telling him he should “soak it up” because he’s now bigger than Elvis. I really don’t think Spider-Man would want to be bigger than Elvis. Sure, he always bemoaned the fact he had a thankless job to do, but it wasn’t as though he was seeking accolades. Being Spider-Man was the responsibility he accepted with his great power.
I also cringed upon reading dialogue such as Emma Frost’s reply to Tony Stark’s questions in regards to the X-Men defying the U.S. government: “We’re perfectly happy to remain in this reservation they’ve made for us,” she says. With that line, Millar attempts to give the X-Men a real world counterpart, equating their plight with the American Indian. I think it’s weak. The whole point of the X-Men has always been that they are outcasts because of the way they’re different from humans, not necessarily because they are oppressed. I understand that minority groups are often marginalized by society and therefore may be seen by racists as less than human, but to make that leap here and to associate the X-Men with a specific minority group dilutes and cheapens the characters by defining a similarity which previously has only been implied.
I’m still on the fence in regards to the artwork in this series, McNiven continues to impress with his rendition of every Marvel character, he has an especi
ally good handle on facial expressions, and his action sequences add grace and impact to the proceedings. However, the colors and backgrounds are very dark, especially in the showdown at the chemical plant, as though this is done on purpose to emphasize the gritty and realistic events depicted in the comic. Just as in previous issues, both the coloring and inking infuse the book with an artificial look which I don’t really warm up to. I also hated the way Spider-Man was written in this book. Instead of the caring, intelligent person he has always been portrayed as, here he comes off as nothing more than a pawn and a naïve Iron Man stooge.
In The End: The main problem with the book and the entire series for me is that I feel these stories which Millar is great at writing are a closer fit for the Ultimate universe than the mainstream Marvel universe. Comic books which utilize plots to make quasi-political statements to mirror the political climate of our world are devoid of the escapist fun of previous incarnations. Maybe I am too much of a purist, or maybe I just long for the days of less realism and simple other worldly, other dimensional fantastic fun in my comics. That said, I will probably continue to read this, if only to see how it all turns out and to see how the cliffhanger at the end of this issue impacts the rest of the story.
I have a love-hate relationship with Marvel’s Civil War. More a love-peeve feeling…okay, so I’m totally marking out for it, but some things annoy me. While I loved this issue where Cap’s team battles Stark’s team, there are petty things that bug me.
Mark Millar writes fantastically insane stories that don’t cross the boundary of unbelievable. The only scene in this issue that didn’t end with me saying “dang” was the restaurant one with Cap, Daredevil, Hercules, and Goliath (Is this the “fake” Daredevil? My first thought of a blind man being an engineer, “Here, take at look at these drawings,” “I see…looks good,” “I, uh…I handed you a blank piece of paper,” “Oh…I know”). That scene is followed by four panels revealing that Susan is no longer sitting with Johnny Storm, which I thought was a good way of saying something huge is going down.
Not many people would dislike the final scene at the petrochemical plant. Right off the bat, you find out that Tony Stark was willing to blow up his own multi-billion dollar facility just to ambush Cap (he’ll probably write it off on taxes, but still…). One of my bigger problems with this issue came through during this scene. Up until then, it seemed like both sides of the war were getting a fair representation, but in this battle, the pro-reg side is portrayed as baby faces. Spider-Man’s dialogue was lame, at one point saying, “Aw, c’mon,” which can be read a few different ways, but really comes off as a whiny kid. During the fight, The Thing says the most fascist line I’ve read in CW yet; when hitting Hulkling, he asks, “Why can’t you just do like you’re told, huh?” All of this is overshadowed by how great the action was with the fight itself. There may be better, but it is my favorite brawl I’ve seen in my five years of reading comics.
The art team of Steve McNiven, Dexter Vines, and Morry Hollowell has created very vivid work with a lot of details that make the panels worth a second look (notice in the first panel of Parker at his unveiling that there are news mics labeled “Fanboy Radio” and “Comic Geekspeak” both internet radio/podcast shows). A vision of Emma Frost with a holocaustic Genosha backdrop is imprinted in my mind. They made her appear to come off that page. During the battle scene, it is the art that truly makes the brawl monumental. Little details added into the background of each panel conveyed the chaos of the battle.
Next issue should keep getting better. The main cliffhanger is obvious, but what will happen with Bishop? In X-Men: Civil War #1 he seems to be siding with the O*N*E, and in this issue, he stops Stark before he leaves the mansion, but their conversation is not shown. Will he battle fellow time traveler Cable? Or will he take Cable’s place as Deadpool’s buddy? Will Mr. Fantastic continue being aloof, like during his conversation about registration with Black Panther when he stopped to say, “I love it out here. Don’t you? This high-tech jungle…” similar to Stark’s rhetorical small talk with Frost (“Tell me: does Cyclops know about that arrangement we used to have when neither of us were dating?”). Who the hell is Daredevil? How many comics will I have to go back and read to figure out exactly what is going on?
As a whole, continuity is bugging me right now (In X-Factor #9, Multiple Man thinks, “…Spider-Man seems to be in so many places at once, I always figured he was cloned at some point,” and, though it is referring to the clone saga, the same can be said about Cap, Wolverine, The Fantastic Four, Iceman, Cyclops, et al). It seems like there isn’t much cohesion between all of the different titles for the size of event they’re trying to portray. That shouldn’t be held against this comic, which I loved (as indicated by my rating). This is still an essential comic for super hero genre fans.
The X-Men tell Stark they won’t get involved in the registration debate. So why does Bishop want to see him in private? The heroes led by Tony Stark try to capture Captain America’s team. The fight suddenly stops when Stark’s heroes bring out their newest recruit: The Mighty Thor.
I’m been waiting for Millar’s flaws to come through on this mini-series, and now they are. Mr. Fantastic is portrayed as clueless and distant regarding his family. This contradicts his traditional and recent portrayals as a loving husband and devoted family man. He hasn’t visited his brother-in-law in the hospital for two days nor has he apparently spoken to his wife in all that time. I find this implausible and a little insulting. Reed’s certainly convinced by his numbers and the rightness of his position, but he has a heart too. His behavior seems to have changed to fit the story.
Captain America is a good example of story-driven character change. Cap takes advantage of a temporary truce to sucker punch Stark. Now Cap never played dirty before. I expected him to listen to Stark’s proposal first. But Cap doesn’t have that luxury anymore. He knows he’s fighting overwhelming odds against superior numbers. He has to take every advantage he can get. So he fights dirty; he has too. This isn’t about catching criminals or saving live. It’s about living long enough to represent an ideal.
Thor’s return isn’t the sudden shock or triumphant return it was supposed to be. We’ve been waiting for this since the end of the last Thor series, and we’ve been expecting it since the most recent issue of Fantastic Four. It’s like the other shoe has finally dropped. The only twist remaining is if he’ll stay on the same side.
One other thing worth mentioning: Cap’s team is shown in their new secret identities. Life for them now means changing clothes in alleyways and hiding their true natures, which is what they’ve been doing f
or years. So I don’t see how being outlaws changes their lives that much. Even being hunted by the police is a common plot devoice in the comics. Now heroes acting openly with government approval: that’s an idea that’s never been fully explored.
I put more emphasis on story than art. I usually don’t mention art unless it’s incredibly bad or incredibly good. The art here is better than average, though it can sometimes be a little stiff. But the people look real and the fight scene is exciting. That’s what I expect from a comic. Good work from this team.
We may have just seen this mini-series peak. That would be a real shame. If we haven’t, then the worst is yet to come. And Millar’s worst is pretty awful.
Plot: Cap meets clandestinely with his co-conspirators. Then they go on a mission to save lives, but find their enemies waiting instead. Then a big “surprise” happens.
Comments: No, no, one thousand times No. This is not what I wanted from the idea of a civil rift between our heroes. Though it ostensibly fits the bill of being a Secret War better than Bendis’ recent misuse of that title (that was more a secret assassination, if anything), this is simply not good enough to fit the bill of dividing the Marvel Universe forever. It’s also got nothing on the scale of epic battles that Millar has written in other titles.
It’s not the way to proceed with a story where Cap is the hero, and those in power are so clearly wrong. We should be seeing Cap cleverly plot and infiltrate and turn his enemies, not Iron Man bludgeoning whomever disagrees with him into submission. This issue sees the Thunderbolts sign up for an ambush, something they already did recently to the Avengers in their own title, something that’s virtually wasted here due to McNiven’s art choices. Okay, he can shade and contort and indicate the rush of battle like no one else. But his shock and awe tactics this issue are confusing and don’t serve the story. Saving Private Ryan in spandex is also not what I was looking for from this title. Characters come and go in out of frame in the battle sequence, with nothing like the grand entrances that would take place in the similarly crowded scenes of Thunderbolts, for example. Tigra and the Widow show up to pose (and what’s the Widow doing on Iron Man’s side anyways?), but it took online research to figure out another generic female was supposed to be Joystick. McNiven doesn’t bother to impart the kinetic energy that Grummett does to this action junkie, thereby losing track of anything that might make her an interesting addition to the story.
What we get from Millar is an interesting series of early scenes, though two of them completely restate T’Challa and Stephen’s positions from Illuminati; and one whopping big grand finale that is a laudable cliffhanger (if it’s one that’s been overused in several books lately). But in between is a fight scene that alternates between incoherence and brutality. Hercules (of all people) comes off better than anyone else in the melee, while Jan’s comments grate incoherently. She complains about Stephen’s “stupid house” (it’s the Sanctum Sanctorum to you, lady!) and implores Yellowjacket NOT to grow in the middle of battle (what else is he good for then?). How come Stature and Black Goliath and Atlas can grow all they want, but never poor Hank? At least we get a gratuitous Spidey buttshot on page 18. Thanks for filling in for Spider-Woman this month, Pete.
Verily, one character doth finally make his return to Midgard this ish (I considered writing the entire review Thor-style; we should all be thankful I abandoned that idea). Unfortunately, had you seen the Ed McGuiness variant cover before reading Civil War #3, the final page would have been spoiled for you. Marvel continues to baffle me with how they insist on ruining secrets with alternate covers and through stupid leaks.
However, if your retailer was kind enough to not display the variant (or simply sold out of them before you arrived), the anticipatory feeling of the last few pages had you on the edge of your seat. Mark Millar’s decision to refer to the character as “Project Lightning” on page 16 sets the stage for the dramatic return. Using such a blatantly obvious codename doesn’t eliminate the excitement of finally seeing Thor return; it only enhances it.
Speaking of excitement, three issues in, Millar recognizes the need for a full-scale confrontation between the two opposing sides, and he and Steve McNiven deliver one in spades. The brutality on both sides, particularly from Captain America, Iron Man, and Spider-Man, is heartbreaking. So many panels stand out as memorable, from the wide shot of the mobilization of the pro-registration heroes to Iron Man extending his hand in peace to the single greatest panel of the entire event as Cap simply cannot hope to match the force of Iron Man’s armor.
Millar grounds the issue in some other lower-key scenes as well. Black Panther makes a brief appearance that helps to illustrate further how disconnected Reed Richards has become to his family of late. The strongest characterization is reserved for Hercules, whose respect and concern for Cap is spot-on. My only complaint is that both sides seem slightly too gullible and trusting in dealing with the other, but the encounter was inevitable and necessary at this point.
One of the biggest beefs I’ve heard from readers about Civil War is that the characters aren’t acting like themselves. To me, that’s the most interesting aspect of this event. The characters are passionate about their beliefs and would go to any lengths to defend them. Before, Civil War was kept fair and balanced by making sure Cap and Iron Man were both sympathetic. That’s no longer the case. As they go to greater and greater extremes, both of their actions become selfish and despicable. Now none of the characters are likeable, and it’s fascinating to see a war affect the characters we grew up with in such drastic ways that at times they aren’t even recognizable.
What is war good for? Absolutely nothing! And as Civil War rages on, I wouldn’t be surprised if an invasion by Kang or Galactus ends up being the catalyst forcing both sides to take a good, long look in the mirror.
I’m going to have to say that I just don’t get the characterizations in this WHOLE Civil War event! It seems like the MU has just completely lost its collective mind! I’m sure that some of you remember how I blasted JMS for his rewriting of Spider-Man’s past and apparent present. I’m sure that some of you will remember how I skeptical I am about any real big changes in either of the Big Two universes. I’m sure that some of you will really dislike me for what I am about
to write, but I’ll be willing to bet that in 2 years, this whole Civil War episode will be all but forgotten.
Let me start with the things that I do like about this issue, and the storyline as a whole:
I do think that this whole business of having some sort of registration and “legalizing” super hero activity is long overdue.
I do believe that there would be a “civil war” of sorts if that Congress were to enact this type of legislation in the MU.
I do believe the emotions would be as intense and as high as we have seen in this storyline.
The ripple effects of such a registration have been very well thought out and explored.
The writing has been very convincing (but written for the wrong characters – more on that in a minute).
The artwork has been solid and pleasing.
Now, on to the things that I don’t like or haven’t liked:
Spider-Man switching back and forth between his traditional costume and his “Tony Stark” costume. If he’s proud enough of himself and his legacy to have unmasked in on global television, why not be proud enough to actually wear it into “battle”?
Spider-Man has admired and almost worshipped the legacy of Captain America. On more than one occasion, he has called Cap “a legend” and alluded to the fact that he ALWAYS makes the right decisions.
No matter how convinced he usually is of his absolute rightness, I don’t really see Iron Man duking it out with Captain America, especially when he has so many other ways to neutralize Cap without injuring him.
This whole super hero registration business isn’t even necessary because Fury of SHIELD “knows everything about everybody.”
When the bad guys go to jail, aren’t they already being registered? So if a few screwballs, like Speedball and Co., get into trouble and do something bad, why must we register the good guys? That has never really been justified to me so far.
Are Viking gods really that much more powerful than Greek gods? (You’ll know what I mean when you read the story.)
What is the determining factor that makes someone eligible or forced to register? Is it putting on a costume or just having some sort of extra-human powers? What’s the standard?
Last complaint: why is Spider-Man/Peter Parker the one responsible for calling in the “ringer”?
Is it just me or is this feeling like the “Who shot JR” cliffhanger on Dallas? Or maybe “The Death of Superman”? Wait, I have it… “The Age of Apocalypse” when the M’Kran Crystal shattered. I may be completely wrong, but I see this as a “me-too” storyline to keep up with the DCU’s big shake-up. After the disappointments in the past, I see this being just a big publicity stunt whose sole purpose is to boost sales instead of writing solid stories that have lasting ramifications.
I’m going to wait until next year when/if they release the TPB before I decide if there’s been a lasting change in the MU and worth the purchase price. It’ll probably take that long to sort through all of the hate mail I’m going to get about this review…
What a horrible, pathetic waste of paper. After reading this comic, I was plunged into a deep depression about Marvel Comics. The Marvel Universe has devolved into a miserable and artless place where former heroes oppose each other for reasons that are absurdly poorly thought out, where longtime friendships end quickly and brutally, where, let’s be honest, characters are simply manipulated for the point of hammering home plot threads. Iron Man and Captain America and Black Panther and Emma Frost aren’t characters in this comic; they’re simply objects that are manipulated and moved around in the most awkward and pathetic possible ways.
Civil War reminds me of nothing more than Secret Wars, which similarly manipulated characters in specific ways in order to create conflicts. But at least Secret Wars never claimed to be anything more than a comic where heroes and villains were transported to a distant galaxy in order to fight each other. It was the ultimate fanboy dream. Civil War, on the other hand, is nobody’s dream come true. Heroes who have been friends for half their adult lives end up in incredibly violent opposition to each other. Iron Man and Captain America, teammates for many years, are suddenly ready to kill each other in this comic. Giant-Man and Yellowjacket, who worked together side by side for years, are suddenly mortal enemies. It just doesn’t make sense, but then nothing makes sense, this story is just a hammered-home string of Mark Millar plot threads.
I want to go through this comic page by page to point out the atrocities and idiocies, but that won’t serve any sort of purpose. Like the comic itself, fans are really of two minds on this book. Some love it while others despise it. I despise it. I hate the cynical and depressing world this comic presents. I hate the Steve McNiven art that never gives a reader a simple establishing shot. And most of all, I hate to see the Marvel Universe become a dark and depressing place where heroes become enemies for no good reason.
Although this is the first issue of Civil War to be published since the now-infamous cliffhanger which revealed Spider-Man’s identity to the world, so many other comics have explored the ramifications of that event that Mark Millar seems content to let it hang in the air, addressing it only on the first page and with a few lines of dialogue later in the book, and choosing instead to concentrate on his story’s bigger picture. Having established the two major factions in the conflict, this issue fleshes out their modes of operation a little more, alluding to a number of unseen events in which both sides seem to be stepping up their crime-fighting activities, and giving us a montage of scenes in which pro-registration heroes attempt to recruit others to their cause. There’s some neat writing from Millar here, the best of which sees both Reed Richards and Tony Stark attempt to manipulate Black Panther and Emma Frost respectively into joining their movement. Both scenes see the pro-registration characters exude an untrustworthy, almost sleazy persona, whether it’s Reed’s detached superiority complex or Tony Stark’s used-car-salesman vibe as he tries to emotionally blackmail the X-Men into siding with the pro-reg crowd. Those who claim that neither side in the conflict is being favoured by the writing and neither side portrayed as the “villain” will find it harder to maintain their position after seeing scenes like this, but the way that certain heroes are coming off as less-than-perfect human beings certainly makes for an interesting, entertaining and fairly original read.
Then the issue presents a meeting of four anti-registration heroes who have adopted brand new civilian alter egos in an attempt to evade S.H.I.E.L.D. capture. Whilst it’s an interesting twist on the secret identity convention, it’s a scene which asks more questions than it answers – namely why Nick Fury has remained absent from the pages of the book when he’s helping our heroes so extensively, and whether the Daredevil of these pages is the “real” or “fake” Daredevil of Ed Brubake
r’s current story (he sure looks like Matt Murdock to me, but other DD fans swear blind – no pun intended – that it’s someone else). There is also the slightly jarring fact that the outlaws are having an out-in-the-open conversation about their new identities and how difficult their lives have been made by the registration act in the middle of a crowded diner, when stealth and secrecy have been shown to be of the essence in their current predicament, which deflates some of the tension and drama of their position slightly.
However, after a talky first half, the second half of the issue gives us the first real smackdown between the two sides that we’ve seen so far. Whilst it’s a fairly contrived fight, it allows for some great large-scale action and gives Steve McNiven a chance to make good with the artistic chores, adding a real weight and solidity to the various garishly-coloured figures as they engage in a fairly vicious and no-holds-barred fight. McNiven’s Spider-Man is one of the best I’ve seen in years, even in the new red-and-gold suit, and the panels in which he takes on Captain America are some of the best of the series so far. Sadly, the same can’t be said for Millar’s characterisation of the hero, as he comes off as far too bloodthirsty, battle-hungry and ruthless for the wall-crawler – especially when you compare him to the reticent, manipulated and conflicted Spidey that we’ve seen in recent issues of JMS’ Amazing Spider-Man.
One aspect of Civil War which does deserve top marks, though, is the scheduling of the main series and its various tie-ins and satellite titles. Whether it’s Front Line and Amazing Spider-Man’s exploration of the unmasking or the conclusion of the last issue of Fantastic Four which leads directly into Thor’s return here, this is one crossover which appears to have been planned with a lot more care and precision than the unwieldy mammoth that was Infinite Crisis or last year’s sprawling and inconsistent House of M. What’s more, unlike DC’s most recent effort, this story feels just about complete without having to read all the tie-ins – although if there’s any element in the book that does particularly grab you, you’re bound to be able to find another Marvel book which fleshes it out in more detail.
However, what will really get people talking this issue is the conclusion – both the outcome of the Iron Man/Cap fight, and the reappearance of a long-absent hero, ready to be integrated back into the fabric of the Marvel Universe. Whilst I got a visceral thrill from Iron Man coolly taking out Captain America with a knockout punch (again, full marks for the detail and impact of McNiven’s art), Thor’s big entrance on the final page actually fell a little bit flat for me. I’ve never been much of a fan of the character other than in his Ultimate incarnation (also penned by Millar), although I will admit to a smidgen of interest in why he’s apparently chosen to ally himself with S.H.I.E.L.D. and the pro-registration crowd in this conflict. Whether this plot strand is a big tease for next issue, and the God-among-men will actually act as a detached mediator is difficult to predict at this point, but I’m sure it’ll definitely have readers coming back next month to find out.