Part Two – The Ballad of Clor
Last time, on Back Issue Ben, I embarked upon my latest goal, explaining to anyone and everyone willing to listen why Civil War is one of the best event comics of all time. This decision was inspired by the recent rumors that the storyline will make the jump to the big screen in the Marvel movie universe. Never has it been more important to pick a side. The only side worth picking is the side of being awesome and loving Civil War . Come, join us, we have donuts and candy. We have a room made of candy and donuts, and all we’ll need in return is your name, address, and credit rating. The candy will be worth it. Don’t blame the candy.
In part one, we saw the destruction of Stamford, the government responding to public outcry by establishing a superhero registration act, and the heroes of the Marvel Universe splitting down the middle because of it. Captain America is leading a team of anti-registration forces, and Iron Man is spearheading the registration movement. Spider-Man unmasked on television as a show of support for the act.
Tensions are high. Captain America believes in things. Iron Man doesn’t want to get spit on. Unfortunately, Cable is involved. Everybody loves Maria Hill.
Commentary by Mark Millar and Steve McNiven has been appropriated from an interview conducted by Mike Cotton for Wizard Magazine #192, “Civil War – The Director’s Commentary.”
CIVIL WAR #3
Writer: Mark Millar, Pencils: Steve McNiven, Inks: Dexter Vines, Color: Morry Hollowell
Tony Stark and Peter Parker soak in the moment at the press conference. Reed tries to convince Black Panther to join them, and T’Challa tries to convince Reed he should probably see how Sue and Johnny are doing. Hank Pym and Janet try to recruit Doctor Strange, who has chosen to exclude himself from the conflict completely by meditating instead (or as I call it, wishing really hard it would go away).
Tony Stark has a nice brunch with Emma Frost at the Xavier Mansion, in an effort to recruit some mutants to his side. Emma shuts him down most eloquently and decidedly.
|I always loved this drawing of Emma Frost. Great line too.|
The X-Men are out, except for Bishop, who catches Stark on his way out. (I’m sure Stark was really excited about that recruit. Does anybody like Bishop? Is it racist to ask that?)
Meanwhile, Captain America, Hercules, Daredevil, and Goliath are trying on their new undercover civilian identities, courtesy of Nick Fury. They talk about Spider-Man’s unmasking, and Cap laments missing a “Make a Wish Foundation” appointment that he would have been at that day, were this all not happening. They receive news from home base of a fire at a Petrochemical Plant with hundreds trapped inside, and rush off to intervene.
They arrive at the plant, only to find there are no trapped civilians, it was all a ruse by Iron Man and his registration forces to draw them out. Despite tranquilizing Cloak and Wiccan right off the bat, to prevent teleportation out, Iron Man insists he just wants to talk, not to fight. Stark reaches out his hand in a show of trust, and Captain America shakes it. Only instead of compromise, Cap placed an electron-scrambler on Tony’s suit, shutting it down. Cap and his team attack.
Millar: I think Tony was given a tough break by people. Tony was like, “Hey, let’s not fight. Come on. I’m just trying to do the right thing here. I don’t want superheroes getting closed down.” This is the big compromise and then Cap has a bomb in his hand. And Tony somehow seems like the bad guy? So yeah, that scene was important because the natural inclination is always to root for the guy who’s the underdog. I think for me that was a turning point when you suddenly thought Tony’s actually trying to do the right thing here. He’s offering his hand of friendship and Cap screws him over.
McNiven: I think it was clever for him to lift his visor up as well because usually Iron Man, if he has his visor down he looks a little cold, a little menacing. So bringing the visor up, we get to see his face, and he generally wants, even though he has an army behind him, he’s offering the hand of friendship.
(I mostly agree with Millar here, but I didn’t remember the part about Iron Man tranquilizing two of Cap’s guys right off the bat. The point is still valid though, I believe. Then again, if the creators that made the book feel they have to spend so much time explaining how balanced things really were, maybe they didn’t execute those ideas all that well.)
The battle begins, with hero fighting hero, friend fighting friend.
(I always love when Spider-Man is shown to be a formidable opponent, and Civil War accomplished that several times. He even gets the drop on Cap here.)
Iron Man reboots his suit and takes it straight to Captain America, full force. Before Hercules can intervene, lightning strikes the ground, knocking everyone around.
The stunned heroes all turn around to see a severely pissed off Thor standing before them.
(This was another stunning cliffhanger. Back Issue Ben was thoroughly excited and engaged, and I wasn’t even what I would call a fan of Thor yet, not like I am now. For those that may not remember, Thor had been “dead” for quite a while at that point, so it was a pretty stunning last page reveal to see him standing there. Not to mention that he appeared to be on Stark’s side. If you can’t get excited about stuff like this, then you’re clearly dead inside.)
CIVIL WAR #4
Writer: Mark Millar, Pencils: Steve McNiven, Inks: Dexter Vines, Color: Morry Hollowell
Captain America’s anti-registration forces ask Thor where he’s been, but he’s very quickly too busy kicking their asses to answer. Clearly, something is off with Thor.
A battered and beaten Cap starts talking trash to Iron Man.
Millar: Some people were really angry. Cap is saying the most horrible things. Tony is a guy who was born with a silver spoon in his mouth. Cap was born behind a bakery in Brooklyn or something, probably shared an apartment with a lot of people in the Depression. And so I think Tony’s going to look like he’s had a pretty easy life compared to Cap.
McNiven: I think you’re right. It’s not like they’re going to consider what they’re saying. They’re speaking in anger and I think that definitely shows the caliber of writing involved in the book.
Millar: I can only agree with that.
McNiven: It really works well. I think a lot of people are taking issue with it without realizing the kind of horrible things that you do say when you’re fighting with someone like that. Especially somebody with such entrenched views of how things should be, they say things that they probably wouldn’t say that if they were just hanging out, but they’re fighting.
(This did seem to be one of the parts detractors point to as an example of mischaracterization in the book. A little too Ultimate Captain America, in some fan’s estimation. I can see that, but I have to agree with McNiven here, if you’ve ever been in a bad fight with a close friend, you can say some pretty nasty things.)
Iron Man tries to put the conflict to an end using a high frequency audio attack, but Cap still won’t go down. Hercules attacks, shutting down the audio, giving the anti-registration forces a chance to fight back, and Falcon a chance to get Captain America out of there.
Goliath steps up to Thor, and promptly gets taken down, with a lightning bolt through the chest.
(No comment about the blonde Aryan god shooting down the biggest black guy in history. I fully believe it was unintentional, since Millar didn’t even know who most of the guys on the opposing sides were. He just asked editorial for a giant to kill. I guess that was a comment. Whatever, man.)
The anti-registration forces are in shock, and Thor moves in to finish them off, before Susan Richards arrives and protects them using one of her force fields.
The anti-registration forces escape. Reed Richards initiates a shut-down code on the Thor android. Spider-Man’s faith in his allies is shaken. Back at Avengers tower, while Reed Richards tinkers with the clone Thor android (nicknamed Clor by the internet) Hank Pym is distraught over his role in killing one of his oldest friends. Spider-Man watches the creepy scene inside, and begins to wonder if he’s picked the right side.
Back at their headquarters, the anti-registration forces are shaken by the death of their teammate. Nighthawk, Stature, and Cable have had enough, and decide to defect to the other side.
(Both Luke Cage and Nighthawk have great lines here. The detractors of the series might say there wasn’t enough of the central debate of the series being discussed in the actual comics, but it’s here in bits and pieces. Let’s be honest, this comic’s main selling point was always about heroes fighting heroes. The hype about the bigger debate was just an added layer.)
Tony Stark and Happy Hogan talk at Goliath’s funeral, in which he is buried at giant size. Just as Stark might be starting to doubt his convictions, Miriam Sharpe shows up for another pep talk, reminding him of why he’s doing what he’s doing.
|Goliath being buried at giant size is just stupid.|
Susan Richards leaves Reed a letter, explaining to him why she’s leaving with Johnny to join the anti-registration side.
Stark’s allies continue to defect to the other side, tipping the balance definitely in Captain America’s favor. Stark and his team are forced to resort to drastic measures, establishing a new team of Thunderbolts, comprising nanobot-controlled villains.
McNiven: Again, another great ending to an issue to generate a lot of buzz and controversy. I don’t think Mark’s a stranger to controversy and this one really upped the ante for that. It’s great. It’s fun. I keep saying that over and over again today, but it’s fun. Bullseye’s such a great character. He’s got such an interesting backstory, all the Frank Miller stuff, so that was one character that I wanted to draw. The other characters, I mean, the pumpkin-headed guy [Jack O’Lantern]… that’s just fucking ridiculous. I looked at that and I’m like, “I’m going to put him as close to off-panel as I possibly can.” Who ever thought the flaming-pumpkin-headed guy was scary? Honest to God.
Millar: It was funny because we knew that a couple of these guys were going to die and we were like, “Hmmm, who are we going to kill off? Are we going to kill off Venom? Lady Deathstrike? Or the guy with the pumpkin head that we just drew in the background?” [Laughs]
(Okay, this definitely didn’t help alleviate the opinion that Stark was the bad guy of the story.)
The war has begun, and the first casualty has been revealed. The black guy. Spider-Man kicks some ass, and then starts doubting himself. (That’s pretty much the plot of any Spider-Man comic for the past 60 years.) Captain America is extra grumpy, but you would be too if you just got your face punched in. Miriam Sharpe continues to taunt Stark with her dead kid. Cable and Venom join Iron Man and Reed Richard’s side, officially making the registration side the worst collection of characters ever.
I think if you’re really paying attention, the registration side is given plenty of motivation that they’re doing the right thing. You can’t really argue about dead kids. It’s their methods that are making them look like the bad guys. Uncontrollable clone Thor, dead Goliaths, villains on a leash (the name Clor being birthed into existence). And just in general terms, people are going to side with Captain America in most instances, regardless of the circumstances. It would really have to be a drastic situation for that not to be true. Like Cap strangling puppies for some supposed greater good. Along with that, Spider-Man is always going to influence a large portion of the popular vote, which makes what comes next all the more compelling.
Next time, part 3!