After a mediocre first issue, Marvel Comics Civil War II series impressively rebounded with its second issue. The plot was tighter, the characters and their motivations more sensibly defined and the comic ended with a great cliffhanger that set up the third issue of the Brian Michael Bendis-penned mega-event series.
The issue begins ominously in a courtroom, with defense attorney Matt Murdock aka Daredevil interrogating Captain Marvel herself, Carol Danvers, over unknown previous events. The issue then flashes back to where No. 2 left off, with Danvers and Tony “Iron Man” Stark confronting Bruce Banner after Ulysses shared a vision of Banners alter ego, Hulk, rampaging through the heroes. They bring Banner outside where he’s confronted by a large group of heroes, including S.H.I.E.L.D Agents, Avengers, X-Men and Inhumans. Banner becomes agitated at the idea of his friends coming after him, however, he’s shot in the head by an arrow before things escalate further.
The issue shifts back to the present, revealing that Clint “Hawkeye” Barton is on trial for Banner’s murder. On the witness stand, Barton reveals that Banner had instructed him to kill him if he was ever going to “Hulk-out” again. While video footage from Banner’s own library verifies this, Stark vehemently disagrees with the assertion that Banner was about to change. He goes on to publicly blame Danvers for Bruce’s death. The issue ends with a dual cliffhanger, as the verdict in Barton’s trial comes in, while at the same time Tony seems to discover exactly how Ulysses’ powers work.
As I finished reading Civil War II #3, I couldn’t help but feel like the series is a yo-yo, as all the positive developments in the previous issue were gone here. The story structure is initially intriguing, but the time jumps between flashbacks and court testimony rob the issue of much of its drama. Bruce Banner’s death is brutal, but like a majority of comic book deaths (and despite what Bendis has publicly proclaimed) it feels fleeting. There’s no doubt in my mind that Banner will be back sooner rather than later.
The issue is also hampered by most of its characterization. For starters, the nature of the plot (serious courtroom scenes mind with a serious confrontation flashback) takes away the comedy and pop culture references that usually characterize Bendis’ work. Without one of the writer’s biggest weapons, the dialogue of the issue comes across very bland, with most of seeming like it could be interchangeable between any given character. This is especially problematic when it comes to Captain Marvel, as Carol is supposed to be me of the lead characters of the series. Credit where it’s due though, both Tony Stark and Clint Barton are handled quite well. I particularly liked the palpable sense of guilt felt by the latter over his role in Banner’s death.
The one consistent thing about this series has been the art. Regular series artist Dave Marquez, along with colorist Justin Ponsor, turns in stellar work as always. The Banner death scene is particularly well done, with some interesting angle and panel choices. Guest artist Oliver Coipel matches Marquez with a great turn on the “Banner Conversation” section of the issue.
Civil War II #3 continues the up and down nature of the series with a downer of an issue that curtails a lot of the forward momentum and good will accrued by issue two. It’s biggest moment, the death of Bruce Banner, feels hollow though it will surely affect the rest of the series for better or worse.