Civil War II #2
Written by Brian Michael Bendis
Art by David Marquez and Justin Ponsor
Lettering by Clayton Cowles
Published by Marvel Comics
Review by David Pepose
‘Rama Rating: 3 out of 10
There’s a reason why people say lightning never strikes in the same place twice.
The original Civil War, a bestselling staple of Marvel’s back catalog, was a blockbuster crossover anchored by a simple premise: the debate between liberty versus security. And while not every hero’s motivations always made the most sense in the context of their continuity, Civil War made a deep kind of sense, with strong beliefs yielding some truly heartbreaking fireworks.
But by trading on the name of that seminal work, Civil War II also invites comparison - and unfortunately, it’s not looking good right now. David Marquez is undeniably a talented artist, and Brian Michael Bendis has had a 16-year career in comics for a reason — but it’s not by telling stories like this. While Bendis thrives on down-to-earth, naturalistic characters like Spider-Man or Jessica Jones, this sophomore issue winds up going off the rails, with a compulsory confrontation between Iron Man and the Inhumans that rings false throughout.
The last issue of Civil War II ended with obligatory deaths, with War Machine confirmed dead, and She-Hulk likely shuffling off this mortal coil next. Bendis uses Rhodey’s death as a catalyst for having Tony Stark go rogue, as he attributes his friend’s untimely demise to the use of the newly discovered Inhuman precog, Ulysses. Yet instead of tapping into the same liberty versus security themes as the original Civil War - or Minority Report, which would have been a natural fit to crib upon - Bendis instead only tells the most surface-level story possible, toying with the idea of a war between Iron Man and the Inhumans until he discards that plan by the end of the issue.
Unfortunately, this winds up backfiring in a lot of different directions. While the original Civil War was no picnic in terms of maintaining Tony Stark’s reputation - while the main storyline at least attempted to balance the two characters, it was clear that the majority of Marvel’s writers were firmly #TeamCap - at least Mark Millar gave him solid motivations that were eroded under the pressure of persecuting an American icon as the world’s new top cop. But Civil War II just doesn’t make sense in terms of Tony’s actions - Bendis has only given a meager argument about why this futurist wouldn’t embrace someone who can literally see the future, and the idea of Tony breaking into the Inhuman palace to kidnap an unsuspecting kid and tie him to a chair feels like a bizarre direction for the plot to take. Additionally, the Inhumans don’t come off great here, either - while Medusa gets a fun bit weaving her prehensile hair deep into Tony’s armor, the ancient members of this would-be franchise get single-handedly KO’d in their own home with barely a fight. This is a Civil War where even the actual war isn’t particularly interesting.
And that’s a shame, because not only does this storyline not do justice to its predecessor, but it also winds up being largely a waste of David Marquez, as well. In certain ways, Marquez feels like Marvel’s answer to DC’s Jason Fabok - he’s a bit bouncier and more cartoony with his expressiveness, but he delivers some solid, iconic-looking representations of all the myriad character of the Marvel Universe. And yet Civil War II has most of these characters as just window dressing, beyond an admittedly eye-popping double-page splash featuring the Hulk, larger than life and screaming with rage. But Bendis’ script is all talk and very little action, and even the scenes of Medusa threatening Tony barely have any actual motion to them. There is so much dialogue for Marquez to have to shoulder here, and while that sort of thing works great for other books, it feels like such a waste to have all these characters standing around, barely doing anything.
If iconic blockbusters were an easy thing to do, rest assured that Bendis and Marvel would be churning them out on a monthly basis. Unfortunately, we don’t live in a world where every idea is a winner - but I can’t help but think that between Civil War II and Avengers Standoff, it might have been better to rein in the writers involved until a more coherent storyline could have been churned out. Right now, there’s none of the thematic or dramatic weight of the original Civil War in this sequel, which is quickly burning off the initial goodwill from its zero issue and its Free Comic Book Day Special. I hope Civil War II can turn itself around and find its own voice, but at this rate, this series’ biggest casualty might be its own narrative consistency.