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Off The Rack Comic Review: Civil War

December 22, 2019 | Posted by Rob Stewart
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Off The Rack Comic Review: Civil War  

Missing issues is the worst.

Despite the fact that I work close enough to a great comic store that I could walk there, shop, and get back to work all within my lunch break, I have a bad habit of only going comic shopping once every several weeks (if not months).

Just this week I made it out to the shop for the first time in months, and OF COURSE the store was missing some issues of some of my books. They’d have #7 and #9, but not a #8 of one book. Another had #3 and #5, but no #4. It’s my own fault with no one else to blame, but now I have to stop be my other favorite shop and see if it has the issues I have missed.

It’s really… ugh. The store is RIGHT THERE. I drive right past it on the way home every day. I’m really bad at this.

I should really get a pull list, but that’s such a commitment!

TITLE: Marvel Comics: Civil War

Writer and Artist: Mark Millar

Publisher: Marvel

Protagonists: Some heroes.

Antagonists: Some other heroes.

Civil War was a massive Marvel event from 2006 that took the trope of “heroes meet, have a misunderstanding, and engage in a crowd-pleasing battle”, but skipped over the misunderstanding. In Civil War, the heroes always knew exactly what they were doing, and the battle was not going to be easily put aside so the protagonists could smile and turn to punching out Toad.

With tensions in the Marvel Universe building over some superhuman incidents, the build-up to Civil War sees Congress strongly considering forcing America’s metahumans to register with them. From there, they would be subject to either retire or organize under an official government banner as sponsored heroes with oversight. The fame-seeking New Warriors prove to be the tipping point when a poorly planned punch-out against a group of villains results in an explosion that kills hundreds, including an entire school’s worth of children.

Superhuman registration is swept into law and the heroic population is divided on whether it is something to fight for or rally against. The de facto faces of each side are former partners and friends, Iron Man and Captain America.

Amidst the conflict, a prison is made to hold traitorous heroes, bloodthirsty villains are recruited because working for the government is fine for them if they get to hurt people, and Spider-Man struggles with having made a wrong initial choice. Basically, everything goes to pot. A final battle ensues and the warring metahumans brawl across the panicked city until Captain America sees what the conflict is doing to everyday citizens and surrenders.

As far as I am concerned, there is a good way and a bad way to do mega-event crossover books.

The good way is to keep the story of the crossover contained in one mini-series so that that book tells one cohesive story, but at the same time, have the goings-on of that story dramatically affect every other book concurrently being published.

The bad way to do these types of stories is to make it so that the story arches out into other books, and to read a complete tale, you have to follow several other titles to do it.

Civil War elected to go with the latter. If you JUST read the issues of “Civil War” that were published, several start where other books ended, or “Civil War” ends on a scene that continues in another book. It’s… really frickin’ annoying. Marvel did do a good job of making the War feel important by having it affect EVERYTHING else going on (and for a good, long time at that), but man… just tell one beginning-to-end story per title, could you? How hard is that?

Also, for a book that sold itself of the premise of Heroes-Being-Split-On-A-Divisive-Issue-And-Who-Will-YOU-Side-With, they did a horrible job presenting both sides evenly. Some of the outlier titles like Front Line tried to even things up, but for 95% of what’s going on, Stark is objectively in the wrong. He’s happily throwing his former friends and teammates into the Negative Zone, he’s cowing Reed Richards into being his little subservient puppet, he is going after his friends with violence at literally the MINUTE the law is passed if they haven’t signed on, and he just has a whole zero tolerance, might-makes-right thing going on. Cap has some character flaws here, but they mostly come from desperation and exasperation. Tony is just completely fine with what he is doing, and it is some clear bad guy level stuff.

The MCU Civil War movie, actually does a much better job making Iron Man sympathetic, and they manage to do it in a Captain America movie, and with an impetus for registration that is significantly weaker than the one in the comics. The comics, which have a much more sympathetic cause for registration, just turn him into an outright asshole.

On the plus side, Steve McNiven handles the art, and Marvel seemed obsessed with throwing his great work on books that were middling at best. Such a shame, but McNiven has a solid realistic style and some great facial reactions on his characters. He’s the definitive bright spot, as usual.

Talking Point: Seriously… was anyone out there reading this and going “I think Iron Man is the good guy here. This should be the new Marvel status quo forever in a positive way”? Was it you? Fess up!

And while you’re thinking on that, if you want to enjoy more comic book related blogs and a weekly podcast, visit Ghosts of the Stratosphere. Our podcast is full of debates, top ten lists, and comic reviews, and we update daily!

You can also follow us on Twitter, @gotstratosphere for updates!

The final score: review Poor
The 411
There are some positives with the art and the long-term ramifications of everything mattering in the story’s wake. But it fails on its own premise of creating a story that would divide fans, and the annoying spread-out aspect of the story that makes it a chore too read sequentially is awful and one of the worst things about comics. It also ushered in an era of CONSTANT bad crossovers like Secret Invasion and World War Hulk and Siege.  

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Off the Rack, Rob Stewart