Civil War II #1
Written by Brian Michael Bendis
Art by David Marquez and Justin Ponsor
Lettering by Clayton Cowles
Published by Marvel Comics
Review by Richard Gray
'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10
Still one of the biggest events in Marvel’s history, at the very least in the sheer number of tie-ins, Civil War remains a textbook example of how to run a definitive, status quo-shifting narrative within the confines of existing continuity. With Civil War II, the timing is somewhat more opportunistic, particularly given that the billion-dollar blockbuster Captain America: Civil War is still warming cinema seats around the world. Nevertheless, heroes were made to fight each other, and forces have conspired to sew the seeds for the latest rift.
Of course, it’s a very different Marvel Universe to the one Mark Millar and Steve McNiven battled in 10 years ago. Here, Brian Michael Bendis drops us into the story in medias res, as the united forces of various Avengers teams efficiently take out a Celestial thanks to the foresight provided by the Inhumans, and their newest recruit, the precognitive Ulysses. The ability to predict future crimes is a skill that Captain Marvel sees the potential for profiling threats, while Iron Man instead sees the real threat in placing punishment before the crime. The Minority Report scenario is all the impetus needed for Stark’s position to be solidified when tragedy strikes, and while it is undoubtedly a topic worth exploring, the issue at this point in the series is that it may just seem like an excuse to justify this sequel’s title.
Having said that, Civil War II #1 is only nominally the kick-off issue for this series, flashing back as it does to the events of the Free Comic Book Day Civil War II preview issue, itself tied in to the recent issues of Invincible Iron Man. Bendis does an excellent, if typically over-textual, job of bringing a new reader up to speed on these recent developments without relying on heavy exposition. Yet on the flip side of the coin, this chapter is in an awful rush to make an impact. Devoid of the explosive opening of the original series, Bendis instead falls back on losses for both camps right off the bat. If they stick, they’re both massive tragedies, but there’s a possibility they could also be mistaken as cheap substitutes designed to elicit an emotional reaction for something that is still only loosely defined.
David Marquez’s art impresses from an early point in the issue, especially as a force of no less than three dozen Marvel heroes descends on the aforementioned Celestial behind Thor and her hammer. Yet it’s the scenes of the Avengers simply hanging around having a celebratory party, somewhat reminiscent of a similar sequence in the cinematic Avengers: Age of Ultron, or Stark paying a sad visit to an old friend that are all the more powerful for Marquez’s subtle facial expressiveness. Indeed, there appears to be an intertextual conversation happening between Marquez and some of the recent cinematic outings, as Captain Marvel holding the body of a fallen comrade might just be a mirror image of the most recent outing in Marvel Cinematic Universe. Then again, Marquez delivers frames that are so iconic, it’s difficult to separate his visions from the wide screens of the cinema.
At this early stage, Civil War II suffers some of the problems that have beleaguered similar narratives in recent years, principally in seeing heroes all too quick to take sides against comrades on a possible future. Indeed, Bendis has set big goals for himself in the past with events built around time travel and alternate timelines, and this series is a variation on some of those recent themes. Yet this is also just the beginning of something much larger, and while it may seem at times like this is an extended version of the “zero” issue that preceded it, all the pieces are now in place for the "war" proper to commence.