CIVIL WAR II #1: Behind Marvel’s Self-Aware, Fatal Choice - SPOILERS

Panel from 'Civil War II #1'
Panel from 'Civil War II #1'
Credit: Marvel Comics
Credit: Marvel Comics

Spoilers ahead for this week's Civil War II #1.

After two prelude issues and two deaths, the battle lines between Marvel's heroes are drawn in this week's Civil War II #1. With the conflict now fully underway, Marvel Executive Editor Tom Brevoort is talking to Newsarama about the events of this first full issue, the deaths, and the stances Iron Man and Captain Marvel are taking.

While Brevoort at times plays coy about spoilers to future issues, the long-time Marvel event editor does give a definitive answer on what happened to War Machine, as well as who he sees as the underdog - and that answer might surprise you.

Newsarama: Tom, let’s get right into it. Marvel has had a hell of a busy week.

Tom Brevoort: Oh, has it? I hadn’t noticed.

Nrama: I’m sure you didn’t get 50,000 Twitter notifications.

Brevoort: That’s typical for me – I’m a very popular guy [laughs].

Page from 'Civil War II #1'
Page from 'Civil War II #1'
Credit: Marvel Comics

Newsarama: We know what happened last week, but this week Civil War II kicked off in earnest. Civil War II #1 is largely a long conversation – except for the moments when it’s not, of course. Will Civil War II be more of a philosophical debate, or will the heroes collide in a full on, knockdown, drag out fight?

Brevoort: It’s not like there’s not gonna be any fighting, any punching and hitting. But you’re talking about something that is a complicated and complex issue. People who seem like they’re on one side may find themselves on the other side as they go. We’re not looking to produce a simple smash-em-up comic, any more than the original Civil War. It had plenty of action, but it had ideas behind that action. Hopefully the same kind of theme is clear in Civil War II.

Nrama: Continuing on the idea of this being maybe a more “civil” Civil War, characters from all corners of the Marvel Universe come together in Civil War II #1, some of whom have even recently been quite at odds. Dazzler even makes a joke about Scarlet Witch’s “No More Mutants” spell. Is it safe to say that the Marvel Universe is a much friendlier place moving into the new conflict, or is this just setting aside old wounds to make room for fresh ones?

Brevoort: I don’t think that it’s necessarily a happier place for everyone going into Civil War II than it usually is. Particularly, the situation between Mutants and Inhumans – that’s still an ongoing situation and an ongoing concern. But all of these characters just came together and stopped what could have been a major extinction event and saved the day, so they’re taking a moment to celebrate this fact and enjoy the win, and the fact that they were able to intercept and stop the problem in a way that they don’t often get a chance to do.

So this is a moment of everybody coming together at a big party in Tony’s swanky skyscraper. But it doesn’t mean that tomorrow, whatever conflicts or whatever divides that exist between these characters won’t still be there. You can have arguments with people and disagreements with people and still be in the same space.

Page from 'Civil War II #1'
Page from 'Civil War II #1'
Credit: Marvel Comics

Nrama: Tony Stark seems pretty ready to get adversarial with Carol Danvers when things go south. Is there a little bit of “superior” left in him, or is this just Tony making up his mind and sticking to his guns?

Brevoort: I’m not sure that I would entirely agree with your take, although you read it and it’s a perfectly legitimate viewpoint. I think, if anything, Tony is very strong in his opinions – as he tends to be as a character – and Carol isn’t a fawn who is gonna fall over at the first sign of confrontation either. She’s going to stand behind her opinions as well. But this is a conversation/discussion/argument between peers. As Tony says when Steve Rogers shows up, “I’m not looking to start a fight here. That doesn’t work out well for us.” But based on what he’s seen and what he knows, Tony has a belief, and he’s gonna stand by and back up his beliefs.

This may be a weird analogy for people out in the world, but it’s like being at a Marvel retreat. We talk about and discuss storylines and different creators and editors have differing opinions on which character should do what, or where certain stories should go. And those conversations get very animated, and very loud and energetic – but they never become a situation where Brian Bendis and Axel Alonso are going to be throwing punches at each other. It’s that sort of conversation. This is a complex and divisive issue, different characters see different merits and drawbacks to it, and they see different courses of action. But no one – at this point – is ready to throw down the gauntlet.

Nrama: Tony asks a big question about Ulysses’s abilities, and as you said last time we spoke, we don’t yet know the extent of his powers. Could he be actually causing these possible futures, or altering their timelines?

Brevoort: Given what little we know, anything is possible. We’ll learn more about who Ulysses is, what his abilities do, and how they work as we get deeper into the story, both in the main book, and in the Civil War II: Ulysses Infinite Comic, which shows Karnak training Ulysses. So it’s certainly a possibility, but I can’t confirm or deny anything. You’ll have to wait and read.

Nrama: Several heroes didn’t make it out of Civil War II #1 unscathed. War Machine took a pretty bad hit from Thanos that, we’re left to presume, killed him. We never see his body except under a sheet. Is that good taste, or is there a chance his death was faked? He wouldn’t be the first Marvel hero to do so – and we can hope, right?

Page from 'Civil War II #1'
Page from 'Civil War II #1'
Credit: Marvel Comics

Brevoort: You can always hope!

I don’t want to be too coy about this. As far as the story is concerned, Rhodey is dead. You’ve given me the opportunity to play the game where I tease that he may still be out there, but that’s not what this moment is about. This moment is legitimately about Rhodey being down. So not outright showing that is, as you said, good taste. But as other issues come out, you’ll see it reflected. Captain America: Sam Wilson #10 was solicited as having the funeral of a fallen hero, and Rhodey is that character. You’ll see the effects of this moment in Captain Marvel, Invincible Iron Man, and other titles across the line.

I could play games with you, but I’m actually going to give you the flat out honest answer, which is, he’s done. As far as this story is concerned. In the future, anything is possible, but Thanos did take him out.

Page from 'Civil War II #1'
Page from 'Civil War II #1'
Credit: Marvel Comics

Nrama: Likewise, She-Hulk flatlines at the end of the issue, but it’s not confirmed that she’s dead. Is there a chance to save her still? Could Bruce Banner, who has been largely absent since Amadeus Cho became the Hulk, come in and save the day?

Brevoort: Totally Awesome Hulk #7 focuses almost entirely on Bruce Banner, and where he’s been, and what he’s doing. That’s a tie-in issue, and that’s not a coincidence. It’s more than likely that we’ll see Bruce before the event is over.

Nrama: When it comes to She-Hulk, can you confirm her fate? Or is this your opportunity to say we’ll have to wait and see?

Brevoort: This one I think I can play coy on. There’s more to come in Civil War II #2.

Nrama: Following up on that, you know as well as I do how conversations on the internet go. It’s only a matter of time before someone asks why the first confirmed casualty of Civil War II was a black man. Can you address the decision making behind killing off War Machine?

Brevoort: In terms of Rhodey, we were not unaware that killing Rhodey meant we’d have a story where an African American character dies, which is something that happens prevalently in our medium. That’s a conversation that we had. In our particular retreat where we talked about this, Ta’Nehisi Coates was in the retreat for the first time. He heard all of this, and afterwards, he sent a long missive to myself and Axel, which we forwarded to Brian and we all spoke about, in terms of what he thought the reaction would be and what the ramifications would be, that we had to consider that from all sides. And we have.

But the thing that makes Rhodey the only choice to be that character is that Rhodey is the one player who has a specific relationship with Tony, and a specific relationship with Carol. He stands firmly in favor of “predictive justice”, and chooses to act on Ulysses’ visions. Even though it costs him his life, it’s a choice he would make again, given the opportunity. His death serves to galvanize them in both of their trajectories in the way the death of any other character just wouldn’t. It was not necessarily a popular choice, knowing we’d get that response – and justifiably so. It seems like it’s always the black hero who dies in these kind of stories. But at least in this instance I feel like we stand on decent ground saying if there had to be a death, it should be Rhodey because of his relationship with the characters, not because of the color of his skin or his lack of prominence in the Marvel Universe.

Credit: Marvel Comics

Nrama: So Tom, I asked you this last time we spoke, and you said it was premature, as the heroes weren’t even asking the question yet. But I’ll ask again – as of Civil War II #1, based on what we know right now, would you protect the future, or change it?

Brevoort: I kind of have two answers to this, which is funny because I had two answers to the original Civil War question as well. I have my Marvel Universe answer and I have my real world answer.

The Marvel Universe answer is, our readership is always going to side with the underdog. That’s just the way we like our heroes to be, and the way we like to consume stories. In this context, Carol is “the man,” and Tony is “the rebel,” so the natural instinct is going to be to pick Tony’s side, because they picture the most extreme version of Carol’s approach. They also understand and recognize the basic story structure of absolute power corrupting absolutely. It’s an instinctive thing that they will move towards Tony.

In the real world, that we live in, it is my guess, based on nothing whatsoever other than living here, there have probably been, I’ll say, at least half a dozen potential major terrorist attacks that were foiled, that we know nothing about, that were foiled because law enforcement officials got the information and took care of business before anyone could make their moves and whatever would have happened could happen, based on their gathered intelligence, and the steps they took to keep people safe. I think in the real world, if there was somebody who was gonna tell us “A giant thing is gonna come down from the sky and destroy us,” you bet we would want to know that, and you bet we would want to act on it.

It becomes a stickier question the further into it you get, and that’s kind of the question of Civil War II. But there are certain situations that are not that difficult to decode. If the magic prognosticator tells you Doctor Doom is gonna do a bad thing, well, he’s kind of got a history of doing bad things. It doesn’t take a lot to convince me that’s going to happen. It gets more sticky if he says “The X-Men are going to do a bad thing,” or “That random guy is gonna do a bad thing,” and based on what the bad thing is.

But in a general sense, based on what we know right now in Civil War II #1, I think the benefit of Ulysses’s power certainly outweighs the risk depending on what you’re talking about. I don’t need to intervene in someone jaywalking. But if you’re talking about literally saving lives and property, you bet I want the heroes to act on that intel.

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