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Civil War: War Crimes

Posted: Thursday, January 4, 2007
By: Luke Handley



Writer: Frank Tieri
Artists: Staz Johnson (p), Tom Palmer and Robin Riggs (i)

Publisher: Marvel Comics


The Kingpin finds a way to exploit the superhero Civil War from behind bars by trading information to Tony Stark for a price. Hammerhead makes it out of Riker’s and sets about organising the crap supervillains of the Marvel Universe into a “society” to fight the registration act.

I’m not sure if this issue was planned since the beginning of Marvel’s big event or not. It was only announced when the main title starting falling behind schedule, yet Frank Tieri has said that the project was already well underway before then. I’m guessing it was pitched and Marvel liked the idea but didn’t want to overcrowd the market with Civil War tie-ins. Thus, we get Civil War: War Crimes, a decent yet unremarkable addition to the Civil War juggernaut.

This one-shot allows Tieri to dust off the lead character of his Underworld miniseries. I didn’t follow it myself, and I’m guessing from the writer’s comments that very few people actually did. It also allows him to team-up once more with artist Staz Johnson who worked on said mini with him. I like Johnson’s work wherever it appears, and he did a good job on the Cable & Deadpool Civil War issues, but my favourite stuff of his, maybe for sentimental reasons, is his work on the U.K. Transformers black and white comics. His art in War Crimes is not his best but is far from his worst. He tells the story well and draws a mean Wilson Fisk, but his Tony Stark is a bit creepy. It fits in with the whole “Stark is a bastard” portrayal that Millar and Straczynski are striving for but is not to my taste.

The concept of the story is based on a tale from WWII that I’d never heard of, that of Lucky Luciano and the Nazi U-boats of Long Island. A bit of background digging revealed that most of this is based on fact: the government cutting a deal with a crime lord in order to stop a greater evil. Here it’s Fisk trading info on Captain America and his Resistance. And that’s one of the problem’s here: is Cap really a greater evil than the Kingpin? Maria Hill and, to an extent, Iron Man seem to think so. The information supplied by Fisk sheds some light on things that have occurred elsewhere during the War, such as the capture of Cloak and Dagger, but one has to wonder: with the vast resources of SHIELD combined with the scientific know-how of the world’s greatest minds (Stark, Richards, Pym), what can the Kingpin do that they can’t?

The real story here though is not so much the game between Fisk and Stark but rather that between Fisk and Hammerhead. Hammerhead takes it upon himself to organise the supervillain Resistance to the Registration Act, taking on Underworld (really don’t like that alias) as his right-hand man. Couple of things here: first, why do the villains really need this? Are things any worse for them now than they were before the Act? If they’ve been arrested then the government will know their real IDs and everything else about them anyway. Hammerhead tosses in some argument about them being tagged and tracked but surely banding together will just make them easier to find, as the ending clearly demonstrates. Second, as Slyde (who I think was killed in the “Enemy of the State” arc in Wolverine) points out, who would follow Hammerhead of all people? He’s got a big hard head? Whoop-dee-doo. Actually, judging by the rabble he manages to assemble, it would seem that he’s only being taken seriously by guys who are such losers this reviewer has no idea who they are.

The surprising protagonist of this story, if you can really call him that, is Turk, the man acting as the Kingpin’s “buffer” in Riker’s and occasional Daredevil punching-bag. He handles all of Fisk’s chores, leaving the Kingpin’s hands clean. He’s a bit of a wet blanket, and one has to wonder if he’s really the best man available for the job. Using his wife as an intermediary (what a considerate fellow!), he manages to get messages to the man the Kingpin is really dealing with. The revelation of this person’s identity didn’t come as a total surprise, but as one of this character’s friends points out, it is morally compromising, even if it’s completely unclear what Fisk is getting out of the deal.

Stark doesn’t behave like a complete fool, which is nice to see, but surely he should have realised he shouldn’t take everything the Kingpin gives him as gospel. He redeems himself slightly at the end by figuring out who double-crossed him. Maria Hill, on the other hand, comes across as the usual intolerant narrow-minded bitch she is.

Another addition to the Civil War publishing stable and another interesting read. This one-shot adds another layer to the War, checking in on the underworld elements of the Marvel Universe. Though there are no real faults with this issue, there is nothing exceptionally great about it either. A worthwhile read if you’re into Civil War or the main characters on display here.



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