Sunday, May 07, 2006

Mister Fanboy Comics Review: Civil War

As our post a few days ago noted, Marvel's big summer event kicked off this week with Civil War. Mister Fanboy Comics' review takes a look at the good, the bad, and there you have, the Facts of Life.

Mister Fanboy Comics Review: Civil War #1

Where do I begin with this one? With all of the hype I was really looking forward to this. Problem was, when I first read it, I felt let down. That it didn't live up to expectations. However, now 4 days later I reread the issue and have reconsidered my first response.

Spoilers Ahead. Don't bitch if you don't want the surprises spoiled.

The New Warriors are now stars of their own reality show. That works. In the Marvel World of superheroes they're D-List. In our world they're the kinds of celebrities who would be on the Surreal Life.

They are comprised of


Namorita Microbe

and Night Thrasher. Nova having left "the show to go back into space," a sign that Nova isn't as expendable a character as the rest and that he's star of his own Annihilation mini.

The New Warriors are in Stamford, CT where they spot some baddies.


Cobalt Man



That's because Stamford is a hotbed of criminal activity. Let's be fair. These villains are as D-List as they heroes. Stilt Man joining their midst would ADD to their street cred.

The New Warriors foolishly attack with disastrous consequences. Nitro blows himself up (that's what he does), taking out a few blocks, including an elementary school so we're talking 800-900 dead. Later in the issue it's confirmed that Speedball was dead. That's no big surprise as Marvel Editor-In-Chief Joe Quesada has expressed hatred for the character. It's assumed that all of the New Warriors on the scene died, though I read somewhere that there may have been 1 survivor. It's also worth noting that Firestar was nowhere to be seen in this issue.

So now the public and the government are pissed. Public pressure and politics result in the Superhero Registration Act, which splits the hero community.

Human Torch and others are beaten by the public.

Is it about time they we were accountable for their actions (Yellowjacket). Laughable coming from the wife abuser, methinks.

What about secret identities - it's a tradition (Falcon).

It's a wake-up call (Iron Man).

Witch hunts are gonna start (Goliath).

Maybe heroes deserve what's coming (Ms. Marvel/Warbird).

Heroes should be trained and wear badges (She-Hulk).

Maybe heroes should go on strike (Patriot). Yeah, and maybe the janitors will walk out too in sympathy.

Secret identities protect our families (Spider-Man).

This was the straw that broke the camel's back (Daredevil). But wait, Daredevil's in prison you say. Yep, someone's masquerading as Daredevil. Clearly the heroes don't seem to mind, which leads me to believe it's someone they're already comfortable with. Someone believed dead. Someone like Clint Barton/Hawkeye but I am only speculating).

Captain America is summoned to a S.H.E.I.L.D Hellicarrier by Commander Hill, the new head of S.H.E.I.L.D. (Wha? Where's Nick Fury? It's both too complicated and unclear to answer that question. However, Civil War may provide the entree for Nick to retake control of S.H.E.I.L.D, depending on the outcome.) She wants to know if he can predict which way certain heroes will lean in going along with the registration act or not (those vigilantes can be difficult to tame). He predicts that the heroes will go to Civil War with one another. No words yet if President Lincoln will release their slaves if they do. All of it then goes to crap when Hill orders her tac team to take down Captain America. Melee ensues. What was she thinking?

Finally, President Bush (he succeeded Lincoln, apparently) is assured by Iron Man, Yellowjacket, and Reed Richards that they won't let the now-underground Captain America become a symbol of resistance to heroes not supporting the act and considering open defiance. Of course Iron Man, as the walking embodiment of the Military Industrial Complex would go this way. Hank Pym/Yellowjacket is a jerk and could use good PR. But Mr. Fantastic, is motivations are less clear to me.

And there's an appearance by the Watcher.

All in all, I liked the issue. The art by Steve McNiven was great. I believe he's new to all or most of these characters and he does a nice job of making them distinct in a short amount of time. I was particularly struck by the facial expressions of the attendees in the funeral scene. The inks by Dexter Vines and colors by Morry Hollowell complement the whole.

I think the writing from Mark Millar was nearly spot-on, my initial reaction notwithstanding. He introduces story elements that rarely making it into mainstream superhero stories (one exception is Brian Michael Bendis' Powers series, now part of Marvel's Icon imprint.). When superheroes thrown down with a super villain there's gotta be collateral damage. To use a real world example, the number of dead Iraqi civilians dwarfs the number of dead U.S. Servicemembers.

I think that comparison is not too far off the mark since Marvel's 616 Universe ostensibly takes place in the real world. I think it is time that these questions were explored. Millar is also bringing in questions that are on the minds of many in the U.S. since the 2001 Terrorist Attacks. How much personal freedom are we willing to give up to get terrorists? How much personal freedom will a superhero give up so that others will be/feel safe? Can the government restrict free choice?

My one criticism is that I think the story could have been tighter, in terms of reactions from the heroes and the public. Maybe if the sequencing of the elements of the story where shuffled, things might have been different. I do realized that a single issue is not the best way to really judge these miniseries, so really I'd be happy to eat my own words and am eagerly awaiting the next one. By the way, Marvel assures us that we need not pick up 72 or so related issues running through the other titles to get the full impact of this 7 issue mini-series. That remains to be seen. I do suggest you pick up the New Avengers Illuminati Special while you still can as it came out several weeks ago and will likely provide important context for future issues. I am guessing that Civil War: Frontline issues 1 - 10 will be the most important of all of the other crossovers as well. Regardless, you should enjoy the series.

Issue Grade: B+/A-


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