Current Reviews


Sunday Slugfest - Iron Man/Captain America: Casualties of War #1

Posted: Sunday, December 17, 2006
By: Keith Dallas


Writer: Christos N. Gage
Artist: Jeremy Haun (p), Mark Morales (i), Morry Hollowell (colors)

Publisher: Marvel Comics

EDITORíS NOTE: The Iron Man/Captain America: Casualties of War Special will appear in stores this Wednesday, December 20.

Average Rating:

Michael Deeley:
Luke Handley:
Dave Wallace:

SPOILER WARNING: The following reviews discuss plot developments of the issue.

Michael Deeley

Iron Man and Captain America talk about their tumultuous relationship and their reasons for taking their positions in the Civil War. They also admit how each sees the other. Tony Stark sees Steve Rogers as someone using his iconic status to press people to his side. He also blames Steve for the War because of his refusal to see the world in anything other than black and white terms. Rogers sees Tony as selfish, projecting his fear of losing control onto the entire superhero community. The two do not part as friends.

This should have been the fifth or sixth issue of Civil War. Steve and Tony talk for about 40 pages, and itís riveting! Through their confessions we learn their personal reasons for their actions. Tony Stark is an alcoholic; he knows firsthand people canít always be trusted with superpowers. He needs an outside agency to keep him in line, a ďsponsor.Ē Steve Rogers is a moralist. He tries to stand for whatís right. Heís lost faith in the government, but he always believes in America. Steve lives by an ideal, while Tony sees only reality. And thatís the classic conflict between these two men: Idealism vs. Practicality, Faith vs. Reality. You could almost think the entire crossover is rooted in a personal battle between these two men.

Of course it isnít. That possible aspect of the story hasnít been introduced until now. The main Civil War mini-series has clearly portrayed registration as evil. Itís proponents like Stark and Reed Richards have been shown as conflicted or motivated by fear or guilt. And any program that recruits the likes of Green Goblin and Bullseye canít be good. Thereís a valid case for registering superhumans, but Mark Millar isnít making it. In fact, this single issue has more honest emotion, passion, and personality than any issue of the core series. This ranks right up there with JMSí Amazing Spider-Man issues as the best tie-in so far.

I canít believe Iím writing this, but maybe Bendis should have written Civil War. The best Marvel stories were always personal ones. And since Civil War involves how the public feels about superbeings and how superheroes see themselves, it should have had a writer who can write characters with some depth. And as Iíve often said before, Millar cannot do that. I thought he did in Civil War, but this Special proves me wrong. Maybe he could have done a better job with House of M.

Jeremy Haun, Mark Morales, and Morry Hollowell do a great art job. It looks very similar to Steve McNivenís work. If I was the editor, Iíd have let these three work on the mini-series to give McNiven time to finish the final issue. That way, the crossover would ship on time instead of delaying half my books. But thatís just me! The weight of the art matches the heavy topic of the conversation. Body language and close-ups of faces add to the gravity. These men are really feeling what theyíre saying. The fight scene in the end is always well played. I actually got a sense of relief after reading it. This single fight has been building for months. Itís an old-fashioned ďprove youíre a manĒ kind of fight youíd see in a Western. Well done.

Once again, we get a tie-in issue better than the core series, another example of what Bendis does best, and what Millar canít do. If thereís any reason for crossovers to exist, itís for single-issue specials like this. One shot stories that turn the spotlight on characters and shows us what really makes them tick.

Luke Handley:

This is surprisingly good. Not that I was expecting it to be bad based on the writer or artists, but simply because I thought this issue would simply be filler material whilst waiting for the nest issue of Civil War proper. To be honest, it is filler and was only put out because of the delays on the main title, but this is an interesting and, some could argue, essential chapter of the event.

This special presents Captain America and Iron Manís first, and I would guess only, one-to-one meeting during the superhero civil war. One of the things that have bothered me about the event thus far is the fact that Steve Rogers (a.k.a. Captain America) and Tony Stark (a.k.a. Iron Man) are, in fact, friends. More, theyíre almost best friends. But when the Superhuman Registration Act was passed, and Cap went rogue, they didnít bother to try to talk about it (except Tonyís brief attempt in Civil War #3) and instead just started beating the snot out of each other.

In these pages, Steve and Tony finally get to air their feelings about the Act and try to explain to each other, and the reader, why they feel the way they do. So far, Iron Man and his pro-reg side have had a far less than positive image painted of them in all the Civil War books and tie-ins. Here, Tony, finally, gets to explain his actions. Sure, itís stuff that some of the writers and editors have said in interviews where theyíve tried to defend Starkís decisions, but itís nice to see the character actually voice his feelings, misgivings and beliefs for himself. He pulls on events from his and Capís past, that fans may or not be familiar with, to help make his point. Cap does the same and, similarly, gets the opportunity to tell Iron Man why he canít support the Registration Act and has no other choice than to lead his Resistance.

Iron Man has really, really needed these scenes in order for fans to stop seeing him as an egocentric self-serving bastard, and he definitely succeeds in rehabilitating himself somewhat, in my eyes at least. He presents a logical argument but also manages to show that his decisions arenít based on logic alone and that he has personal reasons for feeling the way he does. In contrast, Cap just uses the same line heís been using throughout: ďRegistration is bad because it limits individual freedom.Ē Of course, he has a point, but personally, I find Tonyís arguments more compelling.

The dialogue in this issue is what sells it for me. It flows effortlessly and bounces back and forth between the 2 characters in a very natural way, with both using many examples from Marvelís recent and not-so-recent continuity to back things up. This is exactly how I would expect a conversation between these two ex-friends to proceed, with both countering each othersí arguments with equally pertinent ones; for example, the way Iron Man points out that most of the Resistance are only following Steve because heís Captain America: ďHercules canít even spell Registration.Ē

Anything I didnít like? Sure. Why does one of them have to bring up Hank hitting Jan? I know itís a dreadful thing to have done and shouldnít be forgotten, but why wonít Marvel let the guy move on. Anyway, that wasnít the reason he went to jail; he was falsely accused after being set up by Egghead, which would actually have been a good point for either Cap or Tony to use. Also, the last bit of the book seems a bit unnecessary, but it does set things up nicely for the final panel, which I rather like.

The art in this issue, overall, is not fantastic. Jeremy Haun does an okay job, but I donít like his action poses and sequences. They all look a bit stiff. Facial expressions are subtle but for the most part succeed in conveying the conflicting emotions the characters are going through. The art style seems to be trying to match Steve McNivenís in Civil War, with Morry Hollowell providing colours in both cases, helping give this issue a similar ďfeelĒ to the main book.

This issue really does go someway toward making the whole ďwhoís side are you on?Ē question worth considering once again. If Iron Man and Reed Richards hadnít suffered the character assassinations they have in Amazing Spider-Man and Fantastic Four, it might actually be hard to choose. If youíre following Civil War then I would strongly recommend picking this up. This isnít just filler, itís possibly the most important tie-in of the whole event so far and, finally, gives Tony Stark the opportunity to properly make his case for the Registration Act.

Dave Wallace:

With a gap in the schedule of Civil War appearing due to delays with Millar and McNivenís main book, Marvel have scheduled a couple of fill-in one-shots to keep their event moving along without stalling. This issue sees the leaders of the two Civil War factions make one last ditch-attempt at patching up their differences, and as the two heroes reminisce about old times in the ruins of Avengers Mansion, weíre treated to a host of flashbacks from their histories - which makes the whole thing feel like one of those clip shows from sitcoms that need to make up an extra episode but havenít got enough material to come up with a completely original story.

However, if you can get past the implausibility of the set-up Ė that Captain America and Iron Man would both agree to meet up and chat like old friends, with no backup in place, some time after the battle royale which claimed the life of Goliath Ė then there are actually some fairly interesting points which come out of the discussion. The main element that the book has in its favour is that it actually does far more to explore the arguments of Civil War than anything in the main book so far. There are observations about the two factions of the sort that only an outsider to the story would have come up with, with references to past events - such as Cap and Iron Manís intervention in Young Avengers (where they both agreed that the inexperienced team needed training and guidance) - attempting to fill in some gaps and inconsistencies that have been pointed out by fans since the series first started.

In making the flashbacks relevant to the core themes of Civil War, we do actually get some insight into how and why Cap and Iron Manís individual points of view might have been influenced by their past histories, but the reasoning is often pretty contrived. Thereís also a strange sensation that a lot of their arguments have been lifted directly from internet messageboards where issue-number-citing fans have come up with evidence from past stories to back up Ė or argue against Ė the two heroesí stances and characterisation, as complaints about Tony Starkís manipulative nature or Captain Americaís unrealistic ideals are directly addressed in the dialogue. Marvel also goes to the trouble of printing a page of references at the back of the book to help anyone who is lost by the multiple references to old story arcs and events from past continuity; itís a commendable move, and a step in the right direction for a company which seemed to have put a moratorium on any such references for quite a while.

The artwork is solid, adding a nostalgic tinge to proceedings and making Cap and Iron Man feel a little more human than their portrayal under Millar and McNiven, and the way in which various fan complaints with the event are tackled actually do make Civil War make slightly more sense, but thereís a growing feeling that a big event like this shouldnít need these special issues and satellite stories to fill in the gaps in order to make it work. If youíve got no interest in Marvelís big crossover, this isnít going to convince you, and cynical readers may still find themselves turned-off by this hastily-conceived exercise in money-grabbing, but for a fill-in story like this to be at least marginally successful is a pleasant surprise. However, I canít help but wonder whether the manner in which the story progresses from pseudo-intellectual debate to shallow, emotive speech-making to a hollow, empty slugfest is a sly commentary on the way that Civil War as a whole has panned out.

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