I can’t believe I’m reading Marvel Comics’ Civil War… what, 3 years after it was published? Well, blame my iPad I suppose. I was always interested in reading the whole series and crossovers, but I was never going to buy the Trades Paperbacks.
Enter the iPad.
Yep, all it took was getting my hands on an iPad, discovering a few good comic book reader apps, and stumbling across The Complete Civil War. So I sat down with all 109 issues and gave Marvel a shot. Now, if you’re not aware, I’m not the biggest Marvel fanboy. In fact, I don’t really like Marvel Comics. I’m not a big fan of Spider-Man, don’t really like Iron Man, and I’m pretty sure X-Men canon is the most convoluted storytelling in history. I’ve tried over the last few years to read things like the Ultimates line of titles, some the Noir stuff, and gave Secret Invasion a shot initially, but nothing Marvel has ever really grabbed me. I’m just not a “Make Mine Marvel” kind of guy.
But I have to admit, of all the things Marvel has done over the years, this story really piqued my interest. The idea that the Marvel Universe would be split down the middle over Government registration and oversight of the superhuman community following a catastrophic event really resonated with me. With the superhuman community of the Marvel Universe being led on one side by Captain America (Anti Registration) and on the other side by Iron Man (Pro Registration), it was interesting to see how each hero struggled (or didn’t struggle, as the case may be) to decide which side they were on, and following the fallout as hero and villain alike made decisions that seemed to have real weight and significance behind them.
And that, to me, was the best part of the series. I really enjoyed watching the Fantastic Four being ripped apart by the very real, and very believable issues facing each member (I was surprised someone as intelligent as Reed would take the side and view he took). I thought Black Panther and Storm flying around the world, working up support against the very real fear that the US would export its “anti-hero agenda” was compelling and engaging story-telling. Namor exacting revenge for the death of Namorita through a predictably independent Wolverine, who has his own “revenge agenda” was a bit of fun, made more entertaining with the Damage Control/Walter Declund subplot. By far, the biggest surprise of the whole story to me was the Black Panther storyline. I started off initially not really caring about T’Challa and Storm because… well, they’re T’Challa and Storm. But as the story unfolded and plots began to intertwine, I began to enjoy their point of view and their mutual efforts.
That really sums it up for me though. Sadly, the periphery was the most entertaining part of Civil War. The central books in the series, focusing on Steve Rogers and Tony Stark were total disappointments. They both seemed to come off as self-absorbed, sanctimonious, assholes. I believe they had, what, about half a dozen fight scenes over the course of the series, each one betraying a little bit more about their own insecurities and selfishness in the process. In particular, Tony Stark seemed almost ruthless in the pursuit of his agenda, which would’ve been bad enough on its own, but he was pretty much supported by the justification that Steve Rogers provided with his almost completely irrational behavior throughout the series. My main problem is the conflicting ideas that “today’s society is complicated, and The Superhero Registration Act is a necessary step in today’s world” and Steve’s over-simplified, idealistic view of “America”. It seems as if Marvel wanted to create a complex story but populated it with two paper-thin main actors who are both too baking-pan-shallow to carry the weight of the idea. The end result that they both come off as two assholes content to beat the shit out of each other while monologuing. The ending was so abrupt and so dissatisfying, that I found myself flipping back several pages, and going back to previous issues to see if there was some central plot point I missed. There wasn’t. It was as if suddenly the end of World War II was decided when the Japanese went, “wait, you’re pissed about that whole Pearl Harbor thing? Oh, our bad… mulligan?” It just fell completely flat. I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a large storyline resolved in so few panels.
I think the blown opportunity was the Fantastic Four. While there was a nice bit of story there and it filled out nicely, I would’ve loved to have seen more of it. Reed’s treatment throughout the series was perplexing. He’s positioned as the greatest mind in the Marvel universe, but he’s frequently relegated to the role of b-team nerd. Disappointing to say the least. It would’ve been great to see Reed put to use as a hole card in the Pro-Registration side’s fight against Cap’s troops as an effective neutralizing agent. Using his super-intellect to negate their various super-powers. I would’ve loved to have seen Reed show up during Civil War 4’s Battle Royale with an Anti-Registration version of the Ultimate Nullifier. It’s not just Reed’s treatment either. Sue, Ben, Johnny… all seem hurried and rushed, which is a shame, because they’re essentially Marvel’s “First Family” and sadly, they’re short-changed.
It’s not the worst Marvel series I’ve read though, just wait until you read my review of Secret Invasion…hahaha…