Posted by: Graeme McMillan on March 16, 2007
CIVIL WAR: THE CONFESSION: Right upfront, let’s be honest here: This is Alex Maleev’s book. His art here is well done, occasionally-beautiful work (especially in the Cap sequences; his figurework and facial expressions are wonderful, and slightly defeated, obviously, by Iron Man’s armor), making the most out of what is essentially just another talking heads book. Like his recent New Avengers issue, this is a book that you look at and kind of wonder what he’d be like on something where his design tendencies were let loose and he wasn’t stuck drawing people in longjohns.
But the writing… Ehhh. Not so good.
I’m not even talking about the dialogue, which manages to reduce supposed-genius Tony Stark (who, again, boasts of his amazing ability to see into the future: “I saw the war. I knew it would happen. I’ve told you – – This is what I do. I’m an inventor. I can envision the future. I can see what the world will look like, and I can see what the world will need to make that future worth living for.” Have I ever told you before that I work with people from Stanford Research Institute? I mention it here because, well, they really are futurists – They’re looking at how culture and technology and society are going to evolve at least 15 – 20 years ahead, if not 50 – 100 – and the first thing they always admit is that no-one can predict the future for sure. You can come up with possibilities, and even the most likely possibility, but no futurist worth their salt – at least according to them, and they should know – would ever give definite proclamations about what will happen, because it’s impossible to be 100% sure. Everytime I see Bendis give Tony Stark a speech where he explains what it means to be him, I always think of that. But I digress) to the role of excited fanboy:
“I met King Arthur. Me – – who based the entire theme of Iron Man on an archetype he perfected. I met King Arthur!!”
You really kind of want him to say “Dude!!!” at the end of that, don’t you? Luckily, later in the same monologue, there’s a line that’s almost as bad: “I kept my cool, and so did he.” Yes, Iron Man’s still talking about King Arthur there. The dialogue throughout the book stays at that level, for the most part; readable for the wrong reasons, very out of character with the occasional awkward shoutout to continuity. The most amusing instance of that being Iron Man crying while talking about Civil War and saying “The good news is… through all of this… I never took a drink,” which I’m convinced is the result of a bet being lost, as opposed to anyone thinking it worked as dramatic characterisation.
(Somewhere, Brian Michael Bendis has a large chart with all the characters he writes and a couple of lines to remind him of who they are. You just know that Iron Man’s entry says “Can see the future or something. Likes a drink.”)
The problem with this kind of dialogue is that it doesn’t work for what this book wants to be: Some kind of intelligent, low key, wrapping up of the ideological debate behind Civil War. We don’t get anywhere near that at any point in the issue, and the closest we do come is Captain America shouting at Iron Man from a jail cell that everything was his fault, with a final page that literally goes like this:
Iron Man: Well… You’re a sore loser, Captain America.
Captain America: You bet.
…And that’s the last line of the book, which is the epilogue to all of Civil War. There’s the note to finish your massive crossover on, huh? A supposed ideological battle which has resulted in at least one death, summed up by the above exchange; the genius taunting someone for losing. It kind of stuns me with how tone-deaf it is. How are we supposed to think of Iron Man as anything other than a dick when he actually goes to the leader of the opposition and does the equivalent of “Nyah boo sucks to be you” in the aftermath of what was supposed to be this massive tragedy that tore families apart and killed lots of people…? (Or, for that matter, that Iron Man seems to think that this was the kind of thing where anyone actually wins in the first place.) It also, because of the fact that it’s the end of the book, kills the earlier attempt in the same issue, to humanize Iron Man and place his actions in some kind of larger context. We literally go from crying Iron Man saying that he was trying his best and oh God it’s so hard to Iron Man calling his opponent a sore loser and boasting that he’d won so obviously he was right.
This leads me to what my real problem with the writing was: The book is backwards. There’re two strips in the book, an Iron Man-centric one where he “confesses” that war wasn’t worth it to Captain America’s corpse, followed by a Captain America-centric one where he shouts at Iron Man from his cell and asks him if the war was worth it, and they appear in that order. It doesn’t make sense chronologically (because, obviously, the Cap story happens before he’s dead and all) nor dramatically; with this placement of the stories, you get the dramatic highpoint of the book midway through (Iron Man admits that it’s not worth it! And he’s talking to a corpse!), followed by the rest of the book which makes the two characters look like whiny children, trailing off instead of providing an ending and undercutting the earlier scenes. Yes, it allows the book to close on the somber image of Cap in a jail cell, but even that image has been overshadowed by the earlier double-page spread of Cap on a slab, so… I don’t get why the stories were written to appear like this, I guess (Considering both stories were written and drawn by the same team, I’m presuming that the placement was a creative choice as opposed to an editorial one).
As with Civil War: The Return, and Civil War: The Initiative, there’s no real reason for this book to exist; there’s nothing new revealed here, and what we do see was either unnecessary (the Cap strip), or could’ve been handled elsewhere (Iron Man’s “It wasn’t worth it” could have been done in any number of places: His own book, either of the Bendis-written Avengers books, the Fallen Son special that’s supposed to be all about Iron Man dealing with Cap’s death…). Worse, the book feels unnecessary even as you’re reading it, yet another cash-in on the Civil War gravy train. Pretty Awful, then, although the art is nice.