Y’know what I’m all about on the Ghosts of the Stratosphere? Synergy.
Yep, as the host with the most of the world’s 9999th most popular podcast about comic books, I’ve all about maximizing crucial times in which the world is actually paying attention to what people like us have to say on certain comic book related topics. And there’s no time more like that than when a new comic book related movie is coming out, especially one from Hollywood’s real House of Ideas, The MCU.
Thus, with this week being the debut of Bree Larson’s sure to be hit film, Captain Marvel, the interwebs will be a buzz with people’s thoughts and opinions of Captain Marvel related comic books from years past. And trust me, I want to make sure that the GotS occupies some space on that collective comic radar. Thus, for this week’s read pile, I scoured my never ending stack of comic books I was planning on reading at some point, for any stories that really highlighted Carol Danvers in a leading role.
Unfortunately for many of you that sat through it when it first came out in 2016, the first book I found in that stack that fit the bill was Marvel’s Civil War II. Yes, the second all out slugfest between superheroes in the Marvel Universe which was no where near as well received or publicly acknowledged as the first one, this tale primarily told by legendary comic book author Brian Michael Bendis, was somewhat critically panned when it was first released and coupled with the failed Secret Empire crossover that followed convinced Marvel albeit temporarily it seems to cease doing crossover events for a time.
However, it does prominently feature Carol as one of the big two leaders of the opposing groups of super heroes, and since I never really finished it the first time around (for reasons that will probably become apparent as this review continues), I thought I’d take another stab at, this time with the extra incentive that this is actually for a comic blog so like homework I can’t just stop halfway in the middle.
So without further ado, here’s GhostAndy reading a book most people read and reviewed years ago about Captain Marvel and Iron Man being complete jerks to each other for no real reason.
After an Terrigen cloud (which causes some humans to develop into Inhumans) passes over a college campus in the heart of middle America, a college kid named Ulysses develops the tremendous power of precognition. Captain Marvel, who has been running Alpha Flight, a organization bent on stopping superhuman threats before they can begin, seizes on the kid’s abilities as a way to maximize their effectiveness. They try it out by deciding to ambush Thanos on his way to steal the Cosmic Cube, but this ends disastrously as although Thanos is stopped, the battle results in the death of James Rhodes aka War Machine. Obviously, his best friend, Iron Man, is absolutely pissed, blaming Captain Marvel for recklessly trusting this untested Inhuman’s ability to predict the future with any certainty and as a result getting people killed.
But, Captain Marvel believes in Ulysses’ powers and after he has another vision of the Hulk destroying everyone on the planet, insists that Avengers go confront Bruce Banner. The exchange does not go well, and at the moment he is about to Hulk out, he is shot dead by a specially made arrow delivered by Hawkeye. So yep, that’s two superheroes dead, and now Iron Man really livid. Sure, it turns out that Bruce asked Hawkeye to take the shot on him if he ever looked like he was going to Hulk out in a way that would be deadly to the rest of the heroes, but that doesn’t justify his actions in Iron Man’s eyes.
Tony quickly breaks into the Inhumans’ Great Refuge and abducts Ulysses smashing all kinds of diplomatic ties with that kingdom of superhumans. He wanted to run his own tests of Ulysses’ powers and make his case that all this thought policing that Carol is pursuing is just going to end in more deaths. Of course, Carol is having no part of this and thinks Iron Man has finally flipped his lid. The two clash and end up bringing in nearly the entire rest of the Marvel Superhero Universe. Yep, there’s no question that the Civil War has begun.
Things reach a fever pitch when Ulysses has his latest vision, but this time everyone can see it too. This vision shows the new Spider-man, Miles Morales, standing over the dead body of Captain America. This obvious freaks the hell out of everyone given Miles is just a kid and a good one at that, however Carol still wants to take Miles into protective custody despite even Captain America saying its not necessary. This is the last straw for Tony Stark who decides to beat some sense into Carol with a War Machine version of his Hulkbuster armor. Of course, he underestimates how powerful Captain Marvel isespecially when provoked, and instead it’s Carol that does the ass kicking, the end result being her putting Tony into a coma.
Ulysses is then taken away by the cosmic embodiment of the Universe, Eternity, to live as a cosmic being, making the whole argument of whether to use his powers to predicatively profile potential criminals moot. Everyone stands around wondering why the hell people were fighting in the first place.
Things I Liked:
Boy, is this a tough section to complete. I guess that is spoiling my feelings on this book for the rest of this article, but yeah I am struggling a bit with coming up with nice things to say on this.
The art, maybe? Yes definitely the art I can say was wonderful with great and dynamic action courtesy of David Marquez. Despite whatever my feelings were on the actual material is, the art is absolutely breathtaking at times.
For example, although it was somewhat of a cheating literal deus ex machina in terms of having Eternity show up at the end of the series, scoop up Ulysses, and take him away to live with the rest of the cosmic beings thus rendering the core of why the heroes were fighting in the first place moot, it was gorgeous to look at. Ulysses floating up with tears in his eyes ready to embrace his higher calling as a part of the grand universal design. The image is undeniable in terms of its ability to give you the feels, regardless of whether the actual meaning behind it is complete and utter bollocks.
And that’s not the only exchange in this series which knocks it out of the park in terms of the artwork. The raw emotion on the characters’ faces alone as they deal with the “serious” nature of the story is incredible, and I am definitely not going to sit here and bad mouth it one bit.
David Marquez did a wonderful job and should be commended for the series. It’s made me very excited indeed to finally do a real pile entry on his Fantastic Four Season 1 book that he did with Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa back in 2012, for no other reason than I can sit back and enjoy some more of his terrific illustrations.
Hopefully though, he won’t be completely let down by a terrible story like he was here…which leads me to…
Things I Didn’t Like:
It would easy to say I just didn’t like how this series was written, but I think it goes beyond that. The actual writing isn’t that terrible. I read somewhere that Bendis only agreed to write the series after Mark Millar and Steve McNiven, the creators of the 2006 miniseries, turned it down. As someone that often hates on Mark Millar, it was probably one of his smarter moves in terms of passing on this.
Because this was a series that, regardless of how well it was written or not written, was doomed from the start. It’s the very definition of the what you don’t want from a sequel which is its so deriviative, so pointless, that it makes the audience question not whether it was written well but did it have to be written at all?
It’s almost like someone with editorial mandating power walked down from a castle in the sky with the following demands to the Marvel staff in 2016:
1) There’s a Civil War movie coming out this summer. Make a Civil War like event in the comics to cash in on it.
2) Kill off the Hulk. We want to replace him with a younger version of the character.
3) Kill off Iron Man. We want to replace him with a younger version of the character.
4) Make Captain Marvel an even bigger thing because we’re gonna make a movie about her in future.
5) Make all the heroes fight so we can tie in as many other books as possible regardless of whether they would in reality give a sh*t about this argument.
So the Marvel staff towed the line to those demands and said:
“Yes, we will make this happen. Whatever we have to do, no matter how little it makes sense, or seems forced or goes against characters preexisting mentalities, we will make this work”.
And it shows so very much. I still can’t tell you why the characters are really fighting, why they would have such dramatic and unreasonable responses to the events as they unfold in these pages. It’s like even the Marvel characters drank the Kool-aid and went completely insane for 8 issues. It’s like a fever dream, a constantly escalating argument which nobody can escape and nobody wants to stop. And I’m sorry, that’s not how reasonable people behave. Unless they are influenced by outside forces to the point that they are constantly being forced back into the argument without a chance to come to their senses.
And that’s what’s happening here. The characters behave in this way because they are forced into acting this way by the overall narrative. It’s almost metafictional in a way. We can all say if given the circumstances, at some point, someone would have said “Hey this is getting out of hand. We did this before and it ended badly. We need to stop this.”
And in fact, this does happen at several points. Iron Man says he wants to stop. Black Panther says everyone should stop. Even Captain America says point blank after he sees his own death at the hands of Miles: “We are done with this. This is stupid”. And yet the series goes on for another two issues and results in the Iron Man being put into a coma.
And although people want to paint Captain Marvel as the reason things don’t stop, it’s not her fault. She’s not bad, she’s just written that way. She’s not an unreasonable person in any of the comics I’ve read up until this story. But she’s written like some crazy illogical nutcase in Civil War II and it’s just not fair to her.
I will say if ultimately one of the demands was to make Captain Marvel a big thing, that backfired. No wonder some circles started bashing her in the wake of this as being unfeminine or whatever. It’s not that she’s unfeminine at all. Being a reasonable compassionate person is a universal human trait, regardless of gender. This story just makes her seem like a total whack job devoid of that. Plain and simple.
Poor Carol. First she’s date raped by Immortus in Avengers 200 and the rest of team seems okay with it. Then she has her powers stolen by Rogue. Then she’s made an alcoholic in the Kurt Busiek run. And finally when things are looking up for her with some great series by K, they smack her with Civil War II.
Poor, poor Carol, she just can’t catch a break.
I’m not sure if I could think of a fun facts for this series.
The fact that it only was planned over the course of 3 months rather than years like under major cross over events?
The fact that despite all I’ve said above about how unnecessary it was, Civil War II #0 still sold 177,283 copies in May 2016, making it the second best selling comic of the month behind DC Universe: Rebirth #1.
Nah, none of those facts are very fun.
I think I’ll stick to the kind of creepy thought that the Captain America in this series, despite how noble and forthright everyone sees him as, a paragon of virtue and the moral authority that should be able to broker peace between the factions, he is actually the Hydra Cap. Yep, that whole “Nazi”ization of Cap has already happened in his own book, so we are well down the road to Secret Empire at this point.
So despite having some truly inspiring moments in this series with some proper “Cap”like dialogue like this exchange below with Miles after the young man seems the vision of him killing this living legend:
….yeah, that’s still fascist dictator Cap before he’s formally pulled back his good guy facade and shown the world his true colors. As a result, I thought one of the most interesting exercises in reading Civil War II was to see just how Cap was manipulating events from that angle.
Like I feel like the real Cap would have nipped the argument between Carol and Tony way before it ever got to point it did. But this Cap, when through all those Cap motions halfhearted instead, and in a very deliberate way allowed things to escalate.
A perfect example is Cap knowing that him showing up to confront Miles on the Capitol steps, even though he did so with that olive branch in a kind loving fatherly way, would just tweak Tony and Carol enough to have them come to blows one more time. It’s all very passive aggressive Cap, and it’s an interesting take on this character as a villain. Egging people on in almost a sociopathic serial killer sort of way.
This issue with this crossover is not that it was low quality. As I said, it’s got fantastic art by David Marquez. I mean top notch stuff.
And although I didn’t mention it earlier, it’s got pretty great writing in terms of dialogue. Bendis is one point again with the way that people really talk in the real world. The pacing is competent as well so in terms of storytelling mechanics I can’t find fault. Even some of the characterization is very well done.
What I keep coming back to though is the real issue with whole thing is that it’s completely and utterly unnecessary. It’s an event to have an event. Even more criminal, it’s the fake news of the Marvel, a completely fabricated anti truth created only to stir up controversy and kill off established characters. I can understand why after this event which was then followed up by Secret Empire, made so many long standing Marvel fans say they had it with crossovers. And in the end, it didn’t even really matter all the consequences of the event have already been retconned out of existence any ways.
It’s like a deceit. Someone pulling the wool over our eyes. Someone saying we want to usher in a new generation of superheroes, but the only way we can do that is to kill off the old ones in the messiest way possible. And look our actions are completely justified! We packaged it up in an big event that matters and this topic of racial profiling and thought crime, that’s a valid discussion point in today’s society, right?
But it’s not really. Again nothing was necessary. Whether it was a valid conversation point, it was forced on us without our consent. It’s like you were just minding your own business, walking down the street, and someone came up to you with political pamphlets and started throwing them in your face while yelling at you with their points.
Do you know how uncomfortable that is? How forced?
Regardless of how much you might agree with those points, the delivery was just so stressful, so unnatural, that you flinch instinctively and turn away from it. That’s how I felt about Civil War II. It felt so jammed down our throats, so square peg in a round hole, that it just made me angry. Very, very angry.
So, in the end, I have to call a snake a snake and say this book did more harm than good. It should not have been written. Like the main reason everyone fights in this story, someone should have had the common sense to prevent this event from ever happening.
But they didn’t, and that’s such a real shame…