Posted by: Graeme McMillan on March 7, 2007
Seeing as I have somehow magically picked up the “trying to post every day for a week” baton from Hibbs, it’s probably time for me to look at just what happened to that whole Marvel Universe after their little Civil War, wouldn’t you agree? But be warned, because I’m potentially spoiling the “controversial” Captain America #25 with all my complaining, in case you somehow haven’t already read about the end in your daily newspaper (It’s like Spider-Man’s unmasking all over again!). So, you know, spoiler warnings and stuff.
CAPTAIN AMERICA #25: Wait, that’s it? Seriously? That’s what everyone’s been waiting for? Strangely enough, it doesn’t make me think of anything as much as this past Sunday’s Battlestar Galactica, from the self-important tone of foreshadowing that runs through the whole thing (Much worse here, especially as it feels as if everything right up until the climax of the book is filler – Far too much “Character X spends a page remembering why Captain America is so important to them” and far too little actual story for my liking) to the exceptionally unconvincing “death” at the end. Again, this book is worse than Battlestar in this respect, in that you don’t even see an exploding spaceship, but just cut from Cap in an ambulance to being told that he died; yes, there’s a body in the morgue wearing the Cap outfit, but come on, people: This is the least convincing death that comics has seen in a long time, leaving multiple chances to bring Cap back if and whenever Marvel editorial and/or Ed Brubaker feels like. As unfulfilling as this issue is, though, it feels even moreso because we’ve all been expecting this since Marvel first announced Civil War: Fallen Son Note: Not Actual Title a couple of months ago. Way to rob this Eh book of whatever shock and surprise that it may have otherwise had, Marvel.
(This week’s Battlestar Galactica was Okay, by the way. And Starbuck is obviously a Cylon.)
CIVIL WAR: FRONTLINE #11: So we’ve all done the “Captain America doesn’t watch YouTube?” jokes to death now, but let’s look at the rest of Sally’s speech to Captain America from this Awful book: “Your problem is that you’re fighting for an ideal – – It’s all you know how to do… The country I love treats its celebrities like royalty and its teachers like dirt. But at least I walk its streets every day. At least I know what it is.” So… the hero of this book thinks that fighting for an ideal is bad and that it’s okay that your country is fucked up as long as it’s familiar. That, more than any amount of MySpace comedy or Daredevil crying because of the carnage he caused, is what stuck with me about this issue. That and the melodramatic desire to ask whatever happened to Marvel’s soul. There’s something about the… I don’t know, the apathy about the whole thing, the lack of desire to question or take responsibility for yourself – the Tony Stark scenes in this, where the reporters confront Stark with proof that he tried to engineer a war with Atlantis to further his own political ends and then applaud him for it and say that they’re going to bury the story because what he’s doing is for the Greater Good JESUS CHRIST MY MIND IS MELTING was jawdropping in the active abdication of personal responsibility, the way in which the reader is essentially told that those in authority know better than us mere mortals – that really just depresses me more than I could honestly say. In my small little heart, superheroes are about more than upholding the law; they’re for fighting for what’s right and defending the little man. But in this new Marvel Universe, it’s being made explicit that that’s not the case anymore: Superheroes exist to toe the legal line, fighting for an ideal is derided for being outdated, and by the way, we all love Big Brother. Yes, it’s all going to be undone at some point, but it’ll be undone in some vague “Look! It’s Mephisto! Let’s all team up and be friends again!” way, as opposed to anything approaching an investigation into the morals and politics that Marvel have presented as “right” through the comics and interviews supporting the comics involved in Civil War. For now, though, we’re stuck with Fox News Comics Presents: You Don’t Know How Hard It Is For The People In Charge, Peasant.
CIVIL WAR: THE INITIATIVE #1: Would the phrase “Less a comic, more a glorified sales pitch” sum everything in this (as Hibbs pointed out, $5 for 24-pages of unique content) book? Probably. It’s not the sixteen pages of previews for other books at the back that makes it feel that way, though, nor the one page checklist to make sure that you know each and every book that’s telling you all about the “exciting new status quo for the Marvel Universe”; it’s the main story itself, proof positive that both Brian Michael Bendis and Warren Ellis aren’t above phoning it in long distance for the cash. Actually, calling it a story is being polite, as there’s nothing resembling a plot here, just a bunch of money shots with some filler to try and make them hang together well. And, you know, failing (My favorite random scene is probably the Omega Flight reveal, where Sasquatch’s speech balloon tail leads off the left of the page, even though he’s on the far right of the image. Obviously his secondary mutation is superventriloquism). The writing here is so bad as to seem intentional, because how else do you explain narration like “Not too long ago, Tony made a massive technological breakthrough – – Instead of physically putting on his shining suit of armor, the armor is now part of him. It pours out of his skin. He is an Iron Man“? Not that Warren isn’t trying to compete for the clunkiness, giving Penance the following lines: “I want you to hurt me. Pain is what activates my powers. And I’m already in pain. Pain you can’t imagine. And I want more.” It’s as if he’s trying to channel Scott Lobdell trying to channel Chris Claremont’s fetish fantasies. The sloppiness of the writing – and sloppiness of the production, as the entire Ellis Thunderbolts scene gets repeated in the book, and it doesn’t seem to be a printing error due to the pagination – underlines yet again the lack of respect that Marvel have for their audience right now… Clearly, they’ve realized that their fans are so hopped up on the goofball that was Civil War that they can sell them anything at this point, and they’re trying to see how far they can push things. Really, really Awful.
IRON MAN #15: Yes, yes, I get it: Tony Stark is, like, totally dreamy and awesome. He takes over SHIELD and suddenly no-one dies and there’s daycare and even Dum-Dum Dugan (who seems to have un-died since his last appearance in Wolverine: Origins) buys into it eventually. Wow, he’s really not the same guy who built a murdering cyborg clone of his dead friend and tried to start a war so that he could make a fortune! You’ve convinced me, Marvel! I can see what is trying to be done in this book – repositioning it as a high-tech international spy thriller while also setting up a “things are good now, but just you wait” status quo – but it’s just done with such little subtlety that it becomes ridiculous. But as Crap as the book may be, it has one saving grace: new artist Roberto De La Torre, whose work here is very, very nice indeed.
THE MIGHTY AVENGERS #1: Another one for the “Well, you can see what they’re aiming for” pile, I think. What with the giant monsters (complete with comedy sound-effects – Look, it’s “FOOM” – making me feel as if Bendis had just read Nextwave that morning and wanted to do something like that himself) and “we’re picking the team” scenes, this has a self-consciously retro feel to it that doesn’t really gel, mostly because of Bendis’ traditional dialogue, which makes every character sound identical and weirdly fake. There are other problems with the writing that suggest that Bendis is becoming a little too enamored with himself – when discussing ideal Avengers line-ups, he lingers on the Spider-Man/Luke Cage pairing of his New Avengers longer than any other, for example – and in need of a stronger editor: the return of thought balloons to Marvel (You have to wonder if Walt Simonson got a similar amount of attention when he started using thought balloons in Hawkgirl last year; I don’t think he did, did he?) just doesn’t work, because the initial idea isn’t as funny as the team apparently thinks it is. That said, it’s nice to see a high profile Marvel book not dwell on how horrible everything is now that parts of Connecticut have been blown up, even if it’s as uneven as this. Eh.
At this point, I’d have to admit that I’m on the side of not being a massive fan of this post Civil War landscape; even the fun comics seem shrill and oddly joyless. But on the plus side, if Cap really is dead, then at least he doesn’t have to worry about people complaining about his online social networking anymore.