Posted by: on February 22, 2007
Here’s the worrying thing about CIVIL WAR #7: The possibility that this really was the best that they could come up with.
The problem with the issue isn’t that it’s bad – in a world where Spider-Man’s loving can give her cancer, “bad” has almost been redefined, after all – but that it’s so amazingly underwhelming. There are no surprises, no shocks, no nothing; it’s as if even the creators lost interest in the book by this point and were just going through the motions to complete their obligations. You get the “big fight” you would expect, the one character realizing that maybe they’ve gone too far, and then the extended close that really pushes the idea that everything has changed. Except that it doesn’t feel as if anything has changed at all. There’s nothing revolutionary or new or changed about this book at all, and the end of the issue doesn’t carry any extra weight that such a conclusion (or even a beginning, as Tony Stark says) should have; there’s no release of tension, perhaps because there wasn’t really any tension to begin with. If it wasn’t for the fact that I knew how many issues were in the series, I wouldn’t be that surprised to see Civil War #8 on the stands next month – Well, okay, three months from now – if only because not only has nothing been resolved, but the final issue actually brings up new things to be unresolved in order to make you want to buy the books that Joe Quesada pushes in his column at the end of the issue. Not that I expected anything different, but… I don’t know. Maybe I was hopeful? Stupid? Both?
It’s Ass, as you’d expect, but not in an entertaining way. It hits exactly the points you knew it would, including Mark Millar’s five-year-old sense of what “cool” is, as filtered through his mid-30s brain (Hercules does the “I knew Jack Kennedy” speech? Who read that and thought that it was (a) in any way in character, or (b) not a really shitty idea that doesn’t deserve a page and a half? Other than those who found it offensive, of course). Captain America’s surrendering doesn’t really make any sense when you think about it – “My God! This fight has caused some property damage… I’ve never thought about that before, ever! I have to give up!” – and cutting from that to weeks later looks entirely like the dodge it is: What happened to everyone else who was fighting at that point? Did they just stop fighting? It’s not explained at all, even in the embarrassing Mr.-Fantastic’s-Love-Letter-To-His-Wife scene that follows. Did the anti-reg heroes just give up (with the exception of the New Avengers, who somehow escaped and went back underground, but we don’t know how)? And if they did, what the fuck is that? “Hey, Cap’s quit. This isn’t cool anymore. We give up.” I don’t think that anyone at Marvel really knows, or cares. The ending happens purely because it was time for the series to finish, as opposed to… well, any other reason at all. Not that it’s really an ending of course, but what could be more fitting for a series that wasn’t really a story but a collection of scenes to set-up other comics?
Never was the “And this is a new comic we’re doing!” theme of the series more obvious than in that horrific closing montage that accompanied Reed’s equally horrific letter to Sue (“I cried for exactly ninety-three minutes”? I’m sorry, Mark, but that’s just bad writing, even if you ignore the “You’ve never (a) read any Fantastic Four comics ever, or (b) met another human being” things). Here’s a hint how to make this kind of thing more subtle in future, Marvel: Closing montages generally work better when they have some thematic connection to the story you’re closing, are not full of characters who have never appeared in the story previously (“Some heroes have moved to Canada, to star in our new Omega Flight book. I know that none of these heroes were in Civil War, but look. We have a new Omega Flight book, Sue. Come back to me and we can read it together.”), and if they, you know, aren’t being used as a rushed attempt at exposition to tell you how DARING and NEW and DIFFERENT Marvel comics will be from now on. That sequence also contains some of the most self-congratulatory writing ever seen, when Millar speaking as Reed complains about how hard it has been to recreate the superhero dynamic (even though he, well, hasn’t) and nobody knows the trouble he’s seen, just deepening the weird navel-gazing quality of mainstream Marvel these days. I’d put my traditional “Where are the editors?” question here, but they’re over at Newsarama saying things like “[A]t the end of the day, Civil War is a story, and a story about some very specific ideas, so the ending needed to revolve around those ideas and the two heroes—Cap and Iron Man—who had come to represent the dueling ideologies. But I can write the reviews right now: ‘That’s it? All that hype for nothing? Nobody died??!!’ I know where everything is going down the line, though, so I’ve got a bit more excitement for it than perhaps the average reader does right this second.”
Dear Tom Brevoort, I really like you and all, but if you really thought that this issue resolved an ideological conflict, you are high and need to calm down. Also, I think you’ll find that a lot of fan complaints about this issue are based in more than just “No-body died??!!” Just sayin’ that you might want to not get lost in Strawmanargumentville. Love, Graeme.
In the end, I think it’s fair that I (like many others) went into this with lowered expectations and yet somehow still found myself disappointed. But it’s still going to massively outsell everything else this month – and maybe this year – so really, what does my opinion matter?