Lifetime reader of comics and fan of Planet of the Apes. When the two combine I can barely contain myself. Image, Boom and Titan comics fight for shelf space with Doctor Who DVDs.
Although it is 10 years old, Civil War is a still as relevant today as it was in 2006. Continuing his epic look at the Marvel story, Darryl Robson picks his favourite characters and storylines from the epic narrative.
Marvel’s Civil War (2006) Revisited: Part 2
Welcome back to my epic look at the epic Marvel story: Civil War.
Last time I looked at how the story unfolded and some of the themes that were embedded into the narrative. This time I look at my favourite major players and what makes them interesting.
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There are some stories under the Civil War banner that are particularly interesting for a number of different reasons. Spider-Man obviously but other heroes shine during the darkest hours. Here’s my top five favourite Civil War Heroes stories:
In the main story Nitro kills over 200 people and while the American Heroes get the blame and everyone starts wailing on each other, the murderous villain slips away unnoticed. Enter Wolverine to hunt him down but not to bring him to justice and become the face of the disaster, no, Logan’s motive is simply vengeance. This action brings him into conflict with just about everybody from the Avengers, to the X-men and even the Atlanteans. However, nothing can stop him, not even being at ground zero when Nitro goes almost nuclear.
This is X-Men story telling at its best. Marc Guggenheim uses the opportunity that this story provides to really investigate Wolverines very nature. He is an animal buried within the body of a man and when that beast is allowed to come out, like it does during the fights with Nitro, it produces a very scary version of the character. Guggenheim also pushes the mutant healing power to it’s very maximum. You will learn a lot about Wolverine from this story.
Add to this the harsh, exaggerated pencilling style of Humberto Ramos and the murky color pallet adapted by Edgar Delgado and what you are left with is a disturbing dissection of one of the most famous X-Men characters. In the final Casualties of War issue, number 48, the reader gets to see just what Wolverine goes through when he is literally stripped of his body. This is one of my favourite Wolverine comics and is an intense 22 pages of drama.
Speedball (from the pages of Frontline #1-11)
Either the cause of it all or simply the patsy to take the fall, Speedball does not have a good day in Stamford. After fighting Nitro and, in some eyes causing the disaster, he is rocketed miles away and left for dead. When he is found by some locals his troubles really start.
Speedball is the victim in the system. He is used as a figurehead for all that is wrong with Superheroes. His recklessness is blamed and he suffers the courts justice. After being sentenced he finds himself in a difficult Catch 22 situation; admit that it was all his fault or rot in the depths of a prison where everyone wants a piece of him.
The story is a backup feature in the Frontline comic and is written by Paul Jenkins with art by Steve Lieber. The seriousness of the situation is reflected in the earthy, realistic style of the art. Both writer and artist want to make this as plausible as possible. The Superhero element is played down and the Human tragedy is highlighted. Robbie Baldwin is a character who loses a lot during the Civil War. He loses his powers to start with, then his freedom, then his respectability. He gets shunned by his former heroic companions and threatened by the very criminals he put into prison. But possibly the worst is that he is disowned by his family. At his weakest moment he is left with no-one to stand with him.
This tragic series of events plays out through each issue as Baldwins’ resolve crumbles and eventually he becomes a broken man. He finally succumbs to the guilt that is laid at his feet and recreates himself as Penance, a super human with a suit that punishes him each and every day as it has spikes on the inside.
This deconstruction of a hero is rarely done with such emotional charge. At each stage you are hoping that he will overcome what is done to him but the system wears him down. Jenkins wants to show how one simple mistake can have such devastating consequences and in the environment of a superhero Civil War there is no hope for one such as Speedball.
Ben Grimm (from Fantastic Four #538- 543)
Marvel’s First Family have a rough time of it during the whole Civil War story line. Each character is effected in a different way; Reed is effected mentality due to the strain of trying to do what he believes is right even though it goes against some of the things he believes in; Sue is effected emotionally as her family is torn apart and no-one seems willing to keep it together; Johnny is effected physically when he is beaten up; and Ben moves to Paris.
J. Michael Straczynski uses Ben to highlight the insanity of the whole Civil War saga. He is literally a rock in the centre of the stage, indifferent to the craziness that circles around him until he decides he has had enough. The best part about Ben’s story is that he understands both sides of the argument and expresses this to the reader. I’ve mentioned in Part 1 that at different points you find yourself as a reader switching sides but Ben is the middle ground and demonstrates that there may be another way.
When he leaves America, he is not running away, he is merely taking time to reflect and get a handle on things, just like the reader can do between issues of whichever comic they are readering. Most of the characters involved in the story don’t have the time to think about what they are doing, they simply react. Ben Grimm takes a moment to think things through.
Plus, issue 541 of Fantastic Four is one of the weirdest yet brilliant comics in this entire epic. Fighting alongside the French Superheroes, Ben finds out how different everything can be as illustrated by his cry of “Il est temps de batter”.
The Fantastic Four tie ins represent a family in the midst of a messy divorce and Ben is the real hero, allowing the steam to blow over and then helping to repair the damage. If there is hope and humour anywhere in the Civil War storyline it’s in Ben Grimm’s story.
Black Panther #17 -25
I hadn’t read any Black Panther comics before Civil War. I knew of the character from team books but didn’t really know much about him. The Civil War tie ins may not be the best place to learn about the Black Panther because they are very political in nature. Each tie in comic adapts a particular feel, Wolverine is vengeance and Young Avengers/Runaways is fear, and the politics of the world lies within these pages.
The general gist is that Black Panther and Storm tour America, not getting involved in the troubles but obviously that’s impossible. Wheels are turning both at home and abroad for the political emissaries making their lives difficult whichever path they take. This is why the comics are so intriguing. They have a real world feel to them. Just like Speedball’s story, it’s not about super powers, it’s about how people in different situations react to a massive change in the world. What happens in the political minefield when there is such a drastic change like the Super Human Registration Act? What happens when you are forced to watch friends persecuted by the law of the land?
These are the questions that writer Reginald Hudlin is trying to tackle and the World Tour storyline does it very well. For the most part it’s not judgemental and very unbiased in its approach. Hudlin uses his titular character to look at the wider reaching effects of the War and how the world sees what is happening in America. It’s a thought provoking narrative woven into what in essence is one of the MU’s longest, drawn out fight scenes and one of the reasons that Civil War as a whole is such a good crossover event.
Spider-Man (from all of the comics)
Where to begin. Peter Parker is the thread that runs throughout the entire Civil War story. From his opening adventure in ‘Mr Parker goes to Washington’ right through the ‘Back in Black’ and, reader dividing story ‘One More Day’. It’s all about the Spider-Man.
Straczynski uses the character to introduce the reader to the world in which the Registration Act will be passed, showing us all how tense everything is. It’s with Parker’s life that you come to understand the need for the act. Then it is through his experiences as he travels with Tony Stark and fights alongside the Avengers that you begin to see the holes in the logic and the other sides viewpoint becomes clearer. When Parker eventually breaks away from Starks iron grip (pun intended) he pulls the readers along with him. This helps to make the ending of the Civil War story more of a shock. Without Spider-Man as the hero of the piece the eventual surrender of Captain America wouldn’t have been so jarring. To all intents and purposes we lost. The reader by that point is with the resistance group, we got there through Peter Parker, and we’ve just lost.
It’s a jolt to the system and not one that many event stories have.
Unfortunately for Peter, his journey into darkness has only just started. I include the Back In Black and One More Day stories in this write up because they are the fall out of the Civil War and Peter’s unmasking. I mentioned last time that there would be consequences and in the year of Spider-Man comics after Civil War the consequences are played out to their bitter end. May Parker is shot and falls into a coma. Peter and Mary Jane are on the run, fugitives from the law. Peter becomes the thing he hates the most, a criminal. And the confrontation with the Kingpin in the prison is one of the best issues of Amazing Spider-Man ever printed. It’s outstanding.
Spider-Man is put through the wringer in a way I don’t think he has been before and his story is the story of the Civil War.
Just let’s not talk about the ending of One More Day, that is a discussion for another day.
These days Event stories are becoming more and more regular. Marvel does at least one a year and even the smaller publishers are getting in on the act. However, when Civil War started 10 years ago it was a big deal. I personally had never seen so many comics linked to a single story. It’s an epic read and there are some comics that some readers will find difficult to get through while others you will breeze through in a heartbeat.
The main Civil War comic is a good read. The Mark Millar-isms are there but are tamed by Marvel editorial. It’s a rollicking action comic which answers some of the questions about ‘who would win in a fight between..?’ But the real meat of the story and the implications of the Registration Act lay within the multiply tie ins. To get a feel of what Civil War is all about you have to delve into the array of comics that surround the central story, otherwise it’s not that outstanding.
Civil War #1 to #7 is an okay, event story. Civil War the full 100+ comic epic is an outstanding, if somewhat daunting, read.
I just haven’t got around to it yet.
Whose side were you on?
Tell us in the comments below.
Darryll Robson is a Contributor to ComiConverse. Occasionally he might use his Twitter account: @DarryllRobson
Source: Marvel Comics