Posted by: Graeme McMillan on September 23, 2006
I’ve got to be quick this week, for reasons that I’ll explain at the end of the column, so just one long bitchy review this week. And you know what I’m going to talk about, don’t you?
CIVIL WAR #4: I don’t know if it makes me an old fogey or not, but the other day when I was talking about this issue with Brian, I actually asked the question “Where are the editors?” It was rhetorical, of course; I know that the editors are doing interviews with Newsarama where they dodge the obvious questions, but it still kind of fits my mindset with this book – With each and every issue, it gets further and further into the realms of bad fanfiction, written around ideas that sound cool but don’t really stand up to scrutiny. For example: Clone Thor. When, exactly, did Iron Man clone Thor? We’re told that he collected Thor’s hair from the first Avengers meeting (and that scene, where Hank Pym explains the origin of clone Thor, is clunky with exposition and just draws attention to its own ridiculousness: “What kind of man combs his furniture for hair follicles and skin cells?” I would’ve thought that the answer would be the kind of man who is either OCD about cleanliness or someone who is really really paranoid and a CSI fan, but according to the Wasp, the real answer is “A guy with a lot of foresight, I guess.” Oh, that’s right! We’re still doing the Iron Man as Futurist thing, aren’t we?), but not given any timeline for when he started with the whole cloning process. Or why he got the idea to clone Thor in the first place. I mean, we know why Mark Millar did it: For the shock value of the close of issue 3. But why did Iron Man do it? What made him think, “Well, I’m fighting some superheroes, so I probably need some kind of secret weapon… Hmmm… I think I’ll clone Thor.” His “side” already has Cap’s team outnumbered and out-powered (Isn’t Sentry supposed to be the most powerful person in the Marvel Universe? He’s on Iron Man’s team, even though we haven’t seen him yet), so it can’t be that, and for psychological effect, I’m sure that clones of themselves would’ve been much more successful… So… I don’t really get the reasoning behind it, in story. But that’s okay, because this isn’t really a series about story, after all – It’s a series about shock and awe, and that’s about it.
Brian’s main problem with the issue, which I’m sure he’ll tell you himself if he gets the chance to write reviews this week, was the end of the book, where Sue writes Reed a letter explaining why she’s leaving. Not that the letter is terribly written – although, it kind of is – but that the letter explains that, even though Sue is leaving her husband and abandoning her kids, she didn’t want to be thought of as a bad mother or wife, so she made him dinner and slept with him one last time. Which, uh… yeah. That’s more than a little fucked up right there, and a kind of fascinating insight into the way that Mark Millar views the world. That might be indicative of the entire series, in a way; if we’re to believe Millar when he says that he is definitely on Iron Man’s side, then I am very, very scared of Mark Millar. As countless people online have pointed out by now, by this point in the series, Iron Man and Reed Richards are very clearly evil scientists: They have cloned their dead friend to use as a weapon, and are now mind-controlling supervillains (because that always works) to use them as weapons as well. They are paranoid – See Reed in the scene at Goliath’s funeral (and, surprise! It’s the giant who dies this issue, continuing a theme through Mark Millar’s work since, what, his first Authority arc?): “Is it just me or is Peter Parker acting very, very suspiciously?” It’s just you, Reed, because all we’re shown is Peter talk to his family and looking upset (Now, we all know that this is foreshadowing for Parker changing sides, but that’s only because of the obviousness in Millar’s writing; as soon as he said “Do you ever wonder if we’ve picked the right side here, Hank?”, you know that he’s going to jump ship. The characters in the story don’t have the ability to recognize their writer’s limitations, though, so for Reed to get suspicious, it’s either paranoia or bad writing, as he’s reacting to signs that we’ve never been shown). – and callous. This is actually flagged in the script itself, with Hank Pym asking “I just watched a new superhuman I helped create blow a hole through one of my oldest friends. Do you really think I’m so remote – - so detached – - that this wouldn’t have some kind of impact on me?” as we see Reed working on the clone Thor, clearly remote and detached and unimpacted. By contrast, Captain America becomes a bit of a zealot, but it’s hardly in the same class of character assassination… It’s unclear if we’re meant to consider Cap the lesser of two evils, or if the people behind this story are completely unaware of the morality of what they’re creating.
I know, I know. I’m overthinking the whole thing. It’s true; I definitely feel that I’m thinking about it more than the creators, which is worrying, but by this point, I’m just reading the whole thing in some weird state of shock at how unfun the Marvel Universe is these days (Compare and contrast with X-MEN: FIRST CLASS #1, Jeff Parker’s new retro X-series, which is much better than it has any right to be, the second time he’s taken a crappy concept and made something so enjoyable after his Agents of Atlas series), and how it just keeps being made darker and darker.
Ass, and don’t even get me started on the “Watcher looks sad” panel.
I’m off on vacation – I’m actually flying in about an hour and a half – so no more reviews from me for awhile (well, potentially something next week if I get a chance to write while I’m gone), but in the meantime, what have you people enjoyed lately?