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Tony Bennett is made of trees. Graeme gets distracted by television.

Graeme McMillan

I’m swamped with a lot of stuff in the run-up to Thanksgiving – a lot of it being work-related, sadly – so only one review right now, soundtracked by the Tony Bennett special on NBC that should’ve really had Nellie Mackay involved, but doesn’t. More later this week.

CIVIL WAR #5: Oh, come on. They’ve stopped even trying now, haven’t they? This issue literally just doesn’t make any sense when you start to think about it. There are numerous plot holes that are scattered through this issue – If Iron Man built Spider-Man’s armor and suspected that he was going to rebel, why didn’t he have some kind of failsafe device to deactivate the armor? Why couldn’t Spider-Man punch his way through a window when he managed to punch Iron Man through a wall a page earlier? Why did Iron Man threaten Spider-Man when he wasn’t doing anything illegal, anyway? If Spider-Man could be tracked in the sewers, why can’t he be tracked to Captain America’s secret headquarters when he goes there afterwards? Talking of those secret headquarters, how did the Punisher not only find them but manage to break into them when we’re supposed to believe that no-one on the side of the Pro-Registration argument can manage to do so? Why is the Punisher a better candidate to break into the Baxter Building than the Invisible Woman, considering that she used to live there until the last issue and therefore probably knows the building better than anyone else and can, you know, turn invisible? Why does no-one seem to notice that Daredevil isn’t just not Daredevil but is instead Iron Fist, who they’ve all met before and should presumably recognize the voice of, if not the different height and shape of the body? – that no-one even vaguely attempts to address that go beyond bad writing and into the realm of some bizarro world where this managed to get past everyone in editorial without anyone noticing, and still manage to keep all of its schtick intact. And, oh boy, there’s some schtick to be found.

This issue, we finally see why DaredevilFist was playing with a silver coin in the first issue – so that he could play out some awkward Iron-Man-as-Judas metaphor in the closing pages of this issue. Sure, it makes no sense coming from that particular character (or, for that matter, from any character), but that’s pretty unsurprising considering the dialogue elsewhere is full of small moments that make no sense other than as attempts to be deep. Why does Spider-Man suddenly say “…Did you know my girlfriend died of a broken neck?” with no context or follow-up when he’s being attacked by the lame cannon fodder Thunderbolts (When C-list characters Jack O’Lantern – whose head is now apparently a flaming pumpkin instead of just a pumpkin mask, judging from the way it explodes – and the Jester make appearances in a series like this, then there’s only one reason why, and it’s called “cheap deaths to try and emotionally manipulate the reader”. Ask Goliath from last issue, he’ll be able to tell you about it. Don’t you remember Tom Brevoort and Mark Millar saying that there would be no pointless deaths in this series? Seems that their definition of “pointless” may be somewhat flexible)? And that’s not even going anywhere near the trademark “edgy” Mark Millar humor(Johnny and Sue Storm have to have new identities as – wait for it, wait for it – a married couple! Oh, my sides are splitting. “I’m still annoyed Nick Fury couldn’t find us any brother and sister identities. Pretending we’re a married couple is the creepiest thing I’ve ever done,” Sue complains, as an attempt at an explanation, even though it automatically raises the question of why the two of them had to have new identities where they were related in any way whatsoever. I mean, if you were really going undercover and not wanting to be recognized at all, you’d kind of not want to hang around with your sibling and increase the potential of being recognized, right? But then we couldn’t have yet another Mark Millar incest moment, and would be missing out on the “funny”).

As if a plot that doesn’t make sense and dialogue that doesn’t work as anything other than the voice of the author wasn’t enough, the mechanics of the whole thing start to get wonky as well: The Spider-Man/Iron Man confrontation comes out of nowhere unless you’ve been reading the crossovers, and references things that the readers who have only been reading this series – or, down the road, the inevitable trade paperback – won’t get (They may also wonder about the rubble that surrounds the characters, which seems unnecessarily starting things in media res – They could’ve easily have skipped the background details in the art and no-one would’ve known any different). The Negative Zone prison gets mentioned during this scene for the first time this series, which seems like a strange way to bring in what should be what is such a big concept for the story. Similarly, we get told that “the public’s behind us [and] crime is at all-time low,” but that’s not been even vaguely hinted at at any other point in the series. Isn’t that basic, writing 101, “Show, don’t tell” stuff? Trying to set up a world where the registration act has been a success gets completely undermined because it’s Reed Richards telling us, and he’s been a schmuck up until this point, so why should we believe him, you know…?

By this point in the series, I should at least be able to tell what the context the story is happening in is, especially as we enter the third act and – presumably – get to the climactic changes. But, instead, the way that the story is being told – against logic, against consistent characterization, and without clearly demonstrating whatever the effects of characters’ action so far have been – makes it impossible for anything to really mean anything anymore, even to the point of a reader having an idea what the rest of the world thinks about what’s happening. It’d be nice to think that, with two issues to go before the end of the series and the unveiling of the “new status quo” of the Marvel Universe, that Mark Millar and Tom Brevoort would manage to somehow turn that around and make it all have some real kind of resonance, but on the evidence of this issue, I’m sure they’d much rather rest on their sales figures and indulge their worst instincts instead. Awful.

I’m sure that lots of people out there really didn’t mind this issue, so feel free to use the Comments thread to tell me why I’m wrong. You won’t change my mind, but at least then I’ll get an idea as to why it’s selling so much…

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