Civil War II #6
Written by Brian Michael Bendis
Art by David Marquez and Justin Ponsor
Lettering by Clayton Cowles
Published by Marvel Comics
‘Rama Rating: 3 out of 10
For a book with a beautiful art team and all the characters in the Marvel Universe, there’s something painfully dull about Civil War II #6, an issue that simultaneously focuses almost exclusively on last issue’s stellar cliffhanger - namely, a vision of Miles Morales killing Steve Rogers on the steps of the U.S. Capitol - while also entirely blowing that momentum entirely. This is a comic book that’s almost impossible to spoil, because almost nothing new happens in the latest installment of this glacially slow event.
In certain ways, Civil War II #6 feels like the kind of comic that should come out during an election cycle - everybody in the Marvel Universe has an opinion on the big issues of the day, but instead of it being about Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, it’s about whether or not Captain Marvel’s Inhuman-powered “pre-crime” program is, in fact, a good idea. But like the increasingly exhausting election coverage, Civil War II #6 just beats you down with endless check-ins with almost every single character - and they’re all so paper-thin that it feels like a check in the checkbox rather than anything meaningful.
Part of this is because writer Brian Michael Bendis’s trademark decompressed storytelling is on full bloat here, as we get to listen to Tony Stark say, “I told you. I told you this exact thing was going to happen. Did I not tell you?” We spend so much time getting repeated exposition for an issue that only came out a few weeks ago - we’re treated to pages and pages of Iron Man and Captain Marvel debating about this vision (and various other characters like Luke Cage chiming in about it), right after we’ve already seen this striking image for a second time.
We get to see how Steve Rogers feels about this. We get to see how the Black Panther feels about this. Aside from Doctor Strange teleporting people away, and the Blue Marvel getting rid of the wreckage of the Guardians’ ship, all this issue is is talk. Ms. Marvel and the Champions, along with the Inhumans, basically just check out of the whole book, and at this point, I can totally relate.
Occasionally - and I do mean occasionally - Civil War II #6 does flirt with something a little more compelling than just Tony and Carol naval-gazing. Poor Miles Morales, who should at this point be the epicenter of this book, is rightly horrified at this future, and the optics of a black teenager being essentially profiled by law enforcement is something that I’m sure doesn’t escape Bendis. (It’s telling when Bendis has Miles pull up his mask, saying, “I—I couldn’t breathe.”)
Bendis is right when he has Steve Rogers say that Miles as Spider-Man means something - it’s a beacon of representation, but also the hope that we might be able to overcome our own prejudices. But it’s really the artwork by David Marquez that’s Civil War II’s sole success at this point - even though the characters aren’t doing much, his designs are still fluid and expressive, with some small but prodigious details like Iron Man and Black Panther’s helmets in motion as well as the big moments like Miles breaking down and sobbing over his future.
But an artist like Marquez can’t exist in a vacuum - he needs material that can actually showcase his talents, and Civil War II isn’t that. Beyond being able to show he can draw Iron Man and Captain Marvel and Doctor Strange and Star-Lord in the same room, there’s very little hook for anyone but the most diehard of Marvel fans (and even then, I’d argue this series has gotten so lost in the weeds with its precognitive-based noise that most traditional Marvel fans might still find this book unrecognizable). We have two issues left on this series, and judging by the cliffhanger, it might mean something - but at this point, Civil War II has largely been about circling a conflict rather than diving into it head-on, leaving this event book about as unsatisfying as it gets.