A decade ago, Marvel Comics launched their Civil War event. The mini-series, built around an ideological disagreement between Captain America and Iron Man, divided fans and critics as to its merit but was a massive sales success that had ramifications in the Marvel Universe for years. With the box office success of 2016’s Captain America: Civil War, a loose cinematic adaptation of the story, Marvel has launched a comic book sequel entitled Civil War II written by Brian Michael Bendis with art from Dave Marquez.
Civil War II begins with a flashback showing how Ulysses, the newly created Inhuman who can see the future introduced in Civil War #0, was discovered by the Inhumans Royal Family. The issue then dramatically shifts forward several weeks to a massive battle in the streets of New York, which pits the various teams of Avengers, X-Men and other Marvel heroes including the Inhumans (who dialogue reveals had warned the heroes of the upcoming attack) against a giant unknown space creature. The heroes successfully hold the creature back until a group of magical characters led by Doctor Strange destroy it with no casualties or loss of life. The next evening the heroes celebrate their victory with a massive party at Avengers Tower. However, several of them wonder how the Inhumans knew of the events.
The Royal Family decides to reveal Ulysses to a select group of the heroes, including Tony Stark aka Iron Man, War Machine, She-Hulk, the Steve Rogers version of Captain America, Spider-Man and Carol Danvers aka Captain Marvel. As the group learns the full range of Ulysses powers, a philosophical argument erupts between Stark and Danvers with the former believing that using the visions only show potential futures and shouldn’t be acted upon, while the latter thinks they could be a crucial tool for the heroes to use. The argument ends with Stark storming out of the room.
The story jumps ahead several weeks or Ulysses having another vision, before jumping forward in time once more to Tony Stark being told that his best friend War Machine aka James Rhodes has been killed. He rushes to the headquarters of the Ultimates and learns that Rhodie died while on a mission with Captain Marvel. Tony confronts Carol as she sits at the bedside of a gravely injured She-Hulk. Carol confesses to Tony that the group ambushed Thanos after Ulysses’ vision showed him attacking Earth. Enraged, Tony vows to stop them from playing god. Meanwhile, She-Hulk awakens to briefly deliver a cryptic message to Carol before seemingly dying to end the issue.
Civil War II #1 is a bit of an enigma. There is a great deal to unpack from it, but at the same time it feels incredibly hollow with little depth. Let’s start with the major philosophical disagreement that’s the trigger for the event. As a longtime reader of Marvel Comics, the whole concept comes off as a little nonsensical and doesn’t fit into the overarching narrative of the company’s fictional universe. There have been hundreds, maybe even thousands of stories in the Marvel Universe that revolve around alternate timelines and characters changing the future much as Tony Stark describes, some of which have even involved Carol Danvers. While I’m sure that may just sound like fanboy-whining to some people, I think it’s a perfectly reasonable complaint.
The issue itself has its moments, but overall is a bit of a mess. For starters, while I understand what Bendis was going for by having the first threat be a never-before seen villain, it made the threat feel inconsequential and, therefore, made it hard for me to see Carol’s POV. Structurally, the constant time-jumps killed any flow the story might have had as it felt like too many events were happening “off-screen.” The deaths of War Machine and She-Hulk (though the latter’s fate is left slightly ambiguous) felt completely unnecessary, even by comic book event standards. Also it’s interesting to note that a week after DC’s major event centered on a character coming back to life, Marvel’s fell into superhero death cliches.
That said, there were elements to the issue that I enjoyed. Bendis’ dialogue was on-point as always, including some great one-liners, even though a few of his jokes felt more like they belonged in a Marvel movie than a comic. Also, while I thought her seeming death was gratuitous, She-Hulk’s final scene is really well done. I especially liked the ambiguity in her final statement “It’s our future Carol, not his.” While it’s easy to assume she’s talking about Tony, I also believe that she could be referring to Ulysses and warning Carol not to follow his predictions.
While I had many issues with the story, I will say I loved the art in this book. Artist David Marquez, along with colorist Justin Ponser, do a great job. I particularly enjoyed the Stark Tower scenes as they really captured the humanity behind the Marvel heroes.
While I wouldn’t fully recommend Civil War II #1, I’m also willing to give the story a few more issues before abandoning it entirely. Fans of Bendis’ writing will probably enjoy it, and it’s worth looking at for Marquez’ art alone.