Civil War II: The Accused #1
Written by Marc Guggenheim
Art by Ramon Bachs, Garry Brown and Ruth Redmond
Lettering by Clayton Cowles
Published by Marvel Comics
Review by David Pepose
‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10
Before he took the world of television and comic books by storm, Marc Guggenheim had a career as a successful Boston attorney — and with that pedigree in mind, it’s a no-brainer for him to have written Civil War II: The Accused #1, a one-shot that focuses on the trial of the century (or "millenium," as framed in the book), as Hawkeye has been charged in the murder of the Incredible Hulk. While this one-shot inevitably has to struggle uphill on a conceptual level, Guggenheim gives us some nice twists and turns in this unorthodox legal case featuring Matt Murdock - a.k.a. Daredevil, the Man Without Fear.
With She-Hulk sidelined through much of Civil War II, it only makes sense that Clint Barton would be tried by one of his peers - even if the rest of the world doesn’t know it. Recently regaining his secret identity, it’s expected that Matt Murdock would have something to do with Clint’s case, and with the new status quo in Charles Soule and Ron Garney’s main Daredevil book, it’s a nice twist to have this crimefighting vigilante actively prosecuting one of his former Avengers teammates. Guggenheim gets some nice legal twists here - in particular, a recap of Hawkeye gearing up for his killshot is a well-thought sequence, showing the level of scrutiny that might go into whether or not he was biased into shooting. But Guggenheim is even more fun to read when he takes into consideration what would be a Wild West of superhero case law — you can imagine the kind of legal jujitsu that might take place when someone tries to admit the visions of Inhuman precog Ulysses as evidence, while much of this plot hinges on whether or not the defense will be able to admit Bruce Banner’s video testimony into evidence.
While in a vacuum, Guggenheim is able to use this video testimony as a fun twist for Matt Murdock to do what he does best - namely, ferret out additional information as his masked alter ego - Civil War II: The Accused does get hampered a bit by the knowledge that Civil War II #3 already came out several weeks ago. Even though Guggenheim provides a strong argument for a conspiracy against Hawkeye, people who have been reading the main Civil War II series (and if you’re going to read this tie-in, chance are you have) already know the Banner video was admitted, and likely know the verdict of Hawkeye’s trial. Guggenheim does get to potentially show more of Bendis’s hand with some other news that Daredevil learns, giving a sinister new twist to this hero-versus-hero action. That said, as a whole, The Accused stands on shaky ground as a concept, no matter how real Guggenheim can make the legal proceedings - in today’s charged political landscape, where courts are often dealing with painful and high-profile cases dealing with when law enforcement should use lethal force, there’s a lot of drama and real-world messages to be had, but outside of Hawkeye’s minor doubts, there’s little to make us believe that he wouldn’t be let off scot-free.
In terms of the artwork, The Accused features strong work from two artists who happen to have very different styles. Garry Brown takes on this book’s best-looking pages, with some moody shadows that play up Hawkeye’s self-loathing and guilt far more than the gamed circumstances behind this predetermined Marvel event. (The image introducing a cuffed Clint Barton is a particularly cheeky riff on the standard Hawkeye logo, evoking a number of classic covers featuring the character.) Yet while Brown is the more polished of the two artists, Ramon Bachs takes the lion’s share of this book, and winds up looking rough by comparison — his artwork seems to be evoking a style similar to Kev Walker’s, particularly in his characters’ facial expressions, but the overall sketchiness to his inks occasionally feels almost unfinished, with many characters either coming as distorted from page-to-page. (A flashback of the original Civil War series feels particularly smushed.)
The real hook of a book like Civil War II: The Accused is to place a character like Daredevil, who has his own problems in his own main series, and to show how he might react towards a pivotal point in an event storyline. In that regard, Guggenheim acquits himself well, adding in plenty of wrinkles that gives this admittedly low-stakes trial a little bit more energy. That said, one can’t help but see some missed opportunities here, and it’s a shame that Civil War II as an event isn’t able to really look at the world outside our windows and develop a more solid message on the contentious debate between justice and lethal force. These shortcomings, however, are unlikely to be this creative team’s fault, and if you’re able to accept that Hawkeye’s lightning-fast case might not be the trial of the century, you’ll find enough for a decent diversion with The Accused.