By Marc Guggenheim, German Peralta, Ario Anindito, Garry Brown and others
112 pages; $15.99
Number of issues tied-to Civil War II: 5 out of 5
Do the events demonstrate that Carol is wrong and Tony is right?: Yes
This trade paperback collects the last four issues of the ten-issue Agents of SHIELD comic book series, itself the relaunched version of the 12-issue SHIELD series. The remit seems to have been to chronicle the adventures of the Marvel Universe versions of the characters from the TV show of the same name, but I guess there wasn't enough interest in that particular concept among Marvel comics readers/buyers to keep it going for long. Hell, this trade collects almost the entire second half of the series, and many of those characters play fairly small, supporting roles (One even spends the majority of this collection unconscious in a coma). The main focus is on Agent Coulson and how the events of Civil War II impact him and his career.
While the cover indicates these agents of SHIELD are pretty firmly on Team Carol--which would make sense, given that SHIELD Commander Maria Hill is--it's a bit of a fake-out. In the first issue, Hill does indeed sic them on Iron Man, who, we are told, has just kidnapped Ulysses from New Atillan. Contrary to the events of Civil War II and common sense, in this story Iron Man leaves Ulysses unattended for a while to set up a trap for Coulson and company, so he can make his pitch to Coulson about how this whole future profiling thing is, beyond being morally wrong, just plain dumb, and doesn't really work. Coulson agrees, so Hill fires him.
Having heard Iron Man's pitch, Coulson, who has now gone solo and gone rogue, wants to hear Captain Marvel's, but she's not returning his calls, so he sneaks into her office on a satellite, reads some files about a prediction that indicates Daredevil is going to get killed by The Wrecking Crew and, in the first of many instances of this very thing happening (in the books reviewed in this particular post, if not chronologically), Carol's attempts to prevent a vision from happening actually causes it to happen. The only thing that stopped the vision from coming true here was Coulson being present to save DD from impalement.
In the final two issues, writer Marc Guggenheim steps away from the events of Civil War II somewhat in order to wrap up the various plotlines in his ending series, but the events of those tie-in issues feed into the various resolutions. Having not read the first six issues of the series, I can't tell how well these four actually wrap it all up, or if the demands of the crossover derailed the overall plotting, but it sure seems like Guggenheim managed to incorporate Civil War II pretty well, although, for the most part, the characters who aren't Coulson have relatively little to do.
I was surprised to find this collection included the 30-page one-shot special Civil War II: The Accused #1. For the life of me I couldn't figure out why Marvel saw fit to stick it in here of all places (it's a pretty direct tie-in to Civil War II, and doesn't feature so much as a cameo from any of the characters in Agents of SHIELD). It took me a bit to figure out who the creators were, but that explained it (I guess): Guggenheim also wrote The Accused, so in that respect it kinda sorta belongs in a trade collecting other Guggenheim-written Civil War II tie-ins.
Essentially a Daredevil story, it opens with a splash page of Hawkeye Clint Barton surrendering after killing Bruce Banner in Civil War II #3 and proceeds to tell the story of the trial that followed. Guggenheim answers any and all practical questions one might have about the trial, which Brian Michael Bendis didn't even feint toward caring about, including whether Matt Murdock was an attorney for the prosecution or the defense (the former), why on Earth Murdock was involved at all and how such a high-profile murder trial got to trial pretty much overnight (I'm still not clear on why it was being prosecuted in New York City, but whatever).
As a Daredevil story, and one with more lawyering than Daredevil-ing, it's a fine one, and Guggenheim manages to expand on the events of the Civil War II issue without really repeating anything from them, given the strange way in which Bendis formatted his script for that issue, which included a bunch of jumps back and forth between the confrontation between the superheroes and Banner and Carol, Tony, Clint and Matt's words in court. Adding a wrinkle to the proceedings is a government conspiracy to ensure that Clint is found guilty, so that the feds can reinstate the Superhero Registration Act (the thing that lead to the warring in the original Civil War series), but Murdock manages to put the kibosh on that.
I can't make sense of the credits enough to be sure if The Accused was drawn by Ramon Bachs and Garry Brown, or just Brown, but I really liked the art, regardless. There's a lot of ink on the pages, and most of the mask-less scenes look appropriately dirty, gritty and even somewhat ugly, while when Murdock does put on a mask and becomes Daredevil, everything looks smoother and more streamlined.
By Mark Waid, Adam Kubert and others
112 pages; $15.99
Number of issues tied-to Civil War II: 3 out of 4
Do the events demonstrate that Carol is wrong and Tony is right?: No
Side: Neutral (although most of the line-up ultimately join Team Tony for the fight scene in the Civil War II, while the others just sit the fight out)
Despite the relatively large role that members of this Avengers team play in the main series--this is Tony Stark's Avengers team, after all, and it includes Spider-Man Miles Morales--the three regular issues of All-New, All-Different Avengers collected herein stick to the fringes of the conflict, amounting to a series of three solo stories that all at least touch on the conflict.
In the first, The Vision plays Go with Ulysses, while asking him about the Baby Hitler dilemma, and he then goes off to kill Baby Kang The Conqueror (Interestingly, at least to me, this issues shows that Captain Marvel had The Black Panther and Spider-Man Peter Parker build a special chamber they stuff Ulysses in for the purposes of getting him to spit out prophecies faster. This seems in contrast with the main series, and this is the first I've seen of Parker playing an active role in the events. After the Celestial Destructor wrap party, he all but disappeared from Civil War II, only appearing at home watching the big fight on TV.)
The second, starring The Wasps and Jarvis, is even more limited in its connectivity. The trio watch vague news coverage of a battle between Captain Marvel and Iron Man, and the trial of Clint Barton for murdering Bruce Banner, and Wasp II freaks out a little at her disillusionment of the very thought of superheroes fighting other superheroes (Honey, this is the Marvel Universe, not the DC Universe; they've been doing this since Day One). She tries to fitfully science a solution to the problem before Wasp I and Jarvis calm her down and assure her this isn't a science problem so much as a human problem.
Finally, in the third, Thor visits Heimdall on the rainbow bridge, since Heimdall can see the future as well. He tells her a story about a time during the earliest days of The Avengers when the Odinson sought him out, and asked him whether or not they should intervene in a war between Doctor Doom's Latveria and a neighboring country, based on his visions of the future. They decided to do so, and it didn't go all that well for them. Mark Waid and Adam Kubert do a kinda neat trick in this story, with the framing sequence told in normal fashion, but the entirety of the flashback being formatted sideways, so that a reader would need to turn the book and read it vertically rather than horizontally.
That accounts for the first 60 pages of the 112-page book. The rest? That would be the All-New, All-Different Avengers Annual #1, the one devoted to guest-creators illustrating Ms. Marvel's fan-fiction (and I don't know, maybe the table of contents and some pages of variant covers?). That's a fun issue, which I covered elsewhere previously.
By Tom Taylor, Marcio Takara, Ig Guara and others
144 pages; $19.99
Number of issues tied-to Civil War II: Three out of six
Do the events demonstrate that Carol is wrong and Tony is right?: Yes
Side: Team Leave Us Out of It (after fighting against the forces of Team Carol)
The first issue herein is a rather unlikely team-up with Squirrel Girl, who shows up on the All-New Wolverine's doorstep in the middle of the night, holding an actual wolverine. His name is Jonathan, and Squirrel Girl thought he would be needed because she mistakenly thought that Wolverine could communicate with wolverines the way she communicates with squirrels. It was an honest mistake, and one that gives Laura and her little clone sister Gabby a pet wolverine.
Why is Squirrel Girl there at all? Well, it seems that Laura has "wronged the squirrel world," and S.G. wants her to make amends, so the two go off on an adventure to rescue a squirrel together. Though there's obviously a lot of silliness to it, writer Tom Taylor uses this issue to resolve the issue of whether Laura and Gabby are going to remain together or not, which ultimately allows him to demonstrate a way in which the all-new Wolverine is superior to the previous model...or at least trying to behave in the way she wished he had when he was still alive.
That's followed by two issues of Laura and Gabby going up against one of the greatest antagonists in the Marvel Universe: Mr. Fin Fang Foom. It seems things go wrong during the sale of a very mysterious, very deadly weapon of mass destruction, which turns out to be what Gabby repeatedly, alliteratively refers to as "Fin Fang Pheromone," a liquid capable of drawing FFF to a target.
Laura is recruited by SHIELD (and Gabby tags along) because the first Wolverine they sent in ended up in the belly of the beast. So Laura goes inside the giant dragon to rescue the older, futuristic, alternate dimensional version of the man she was cloned from, Logan from Old Man Logan.
Artist Marcio Takara has a really great panel set inside Fin Fang Foom, in which Laura, up to her knees in his stomach acid, strikes the same, somewhat iconic pose that the original Wolverine struck in that old issue of Uncanny X-Men, where he emerges from the sewer water and looks up, talking out loud to the not-present Hellfire Club about how they've taken their best shot and now he's gonna take his.
Captain Marvel Carol Danvers and Iron Man Tony Stark, both playing remarkably nice for two pals about to engage in a civil war in a month or so's time after the events of this story arc, arrive to help out, but ultimately the only way to save SHIELD's helicarrier and New York from the Fin Fang Pheromone-crazed Fin Fang Foom involves off-panel nudity and a jetpack. (Speaking of nudity, I notice Fin Fang Foom is going commando throughout this entire adventure. It may be more realistic for a giant, humanoid dragon monster to not wear giant tiny purple shorts, but it still looks off to me.)
Takara draws all three of these issues. That's followed by the Civil War II tie-in arc, drawn by pencil artist Ig Guara and three inkers. Old Man Logan has now joined the cast, having been dragged back to Laura and Gabby's apartment to recover from having his lower half skeletonized by his time being semi-digested in Fin Fang Foom's stomach acid (Miraculously, not only does his flesh grow back, but apparently his healing factor also regrew his jeans, boots and belt!).
The future-predicting Inhuman Ulysses has a vision in his office or cell or dark room at the Triskelion. Here's how he words it:
Wolverine. And an old man. A young girl. Flying through the air. And...I saw an angel? And screaming. And blood. A whole lot of blood.Yeesh. Those little cryptic snippets are the basis upon which Captain Marvel and the other heroes siding with her take violent action, often against their peers? Seems a like playing the stock market or formulating national foreign policy based on Nostradamus or a few random verses of the Book of Revelation.
It's apparently enough for Maria Hill to mobilize a Captain America Steve Rogers-lead strike force to storm Laura's apartment and ask to detain The Notorious OML, on the belief that he's going to kill Gabby. Complicating matters further is the fact that he does kill Gabby in his own timeline, although as has been repeatedly established in his own book and the the X-books, his future is an alternate one, and things happen/happened/will happen quite differently in that world than they do/have/will in this one.
So the logistics of this story are really kind of a mess, with Captain America and SHIELD and OML all operating on visions and/or memories of the future, and fighting each other. Laura and Gabby are therefore caught in the middle of what has turned out to be a self-fulfilling prophecy (It turns out that if you expect Logan might commit a violent act upon those around him, sending a SHIELD SWAT team to fill him full of drug-tipped darts and a Captain America to smack him around and speechify might actually provoke him into violence, rather than deescalate the situation. Surely Team Carol will learn their lesson, and they won't make this exact same mistake over and over and over again!).
The arc ends with Laura telling Cap and SHIELD off, by essentially calling the entire premise of Civil War II idiotic, and forcefully saying she and Gabby would prefer to be left out of the rest of the crossover, thank you very much. Based on the logic of SHIELD here, it's hard to disagree; as with the original Civil War, one side is clearly being set-up as the wrong side, and there seems to be even fewer pains taken to articulate an argument for the Captain Marvel-lead side for acting in anyway that could conceivably be seen as "right," no matter how much one squints or tilts one's head (Interestingly, the original Civil War made Iron Man look like an evil and/or ignorant villain just prior to his big screen debut in his first film, while Civil War II is doing the same to Captain Marvel just prior to her big screen debut in her first film).
Which isn't to say there aren't moments in the arc. Burglars breaking into Laura's apartment, only to find Gabby, two Wolverines and an actual wolverine waiting for them was kind of funny, and Gabby calling Old Man Logan "her interdimensional dystopian future grandpa" was kind of cute. Taylor and his artistic collaborators continue to find the perfect balance between silly normal girl and usually hidden killer with Gabby, who is a fun character...except when that darkness slips out for a panel or two.
By Nick Spencer, Daniel Acuna, Angel Unzueta, Cris Peter and others
112 pages; $15.99
Number of issues tied to Civil War II: 2 out of 5
Do the events demonstrate that Tony is right and Carol is wrong?: No
Side: Team Tony
Nick Spencer is a rather popular comic book writer to complain about these days, as a lot of folks seem to have very, very strong feelings about the current direction of the Captain America franchise, but often lost in those conversations is the fact that Nick Spencer is a very, very good comic book writer, and his Captain America comics, at least the Sam Wilson ones that I have read to date, have all been excellent ones.
The very thing that I've seen some readers complain about online, that Spencer's comics contain politics, is one of the things I like about them (and arguing that a comic book character who was created to argue a particular political position--that is, United States involvement in World War II--shouldn't be political is kind of idiotic). After all, it's not like Spencer is writing diatribes, or twisting the characters to suit transparent ideological positions of his that can't be sustained by the characters themselves. Or, worse, that his comics are boring. They're not. They're highly entertaining, they're incredibly engaging and, yes, they do deal with politics.
Superhero shared universes as old and as well-stocked as the Marvel Universe are, in fact, ideally suited to political comics. I mean, it's awfully helpful that if you're writing a pop culture narrative and you need a character to represent, say, black rage, there is already a pre-existing black character whose actual name is quite literally Rage. Short of political cartooning, wherein the artist might scrawl the word "Rage" across a character's chest in the tableau, you can't really beat that.
Like several other of the series mentioned in this particular post, Civil War II seemed to come up on Captain America: Sam Wilson awfully fast, as the book was still dealing with the fall-out of its previous storyline, a smaller-scale inter-book crossover, in the issue just before the Civil War II tying-in takes place. The first issue collected herein deals with Standoff fallout.
Two issues deal rather directly with Civil War II. The majority of #10 revolves around James Rhodes' funeral, with a kind of neat scene where Sam meets with many of Marvel's most prominent black superheroes: Sam's current girlfriend Misty Knight, Black Panther, Luke Cage, Storm, Doctor Voodoo, Spectrum and Nick Fury (Blade is busy but sends his regards, Nick Fury Jr. isn't sure if he should be there or not, considering how new he is at it). That's followed by Sam's eulogy, which touches on a fairly meta idea about the importance of a black man stepping into Iron Man's legacy (it was a relatively long time ago, in the comics, but Rhodes was Iron Man before he was War Machine), and he even discusses why Rhodes kept it secret at first.
It's a pretty good issue, all around, although because I call Mike Deodato out for it later, I will point out here that artist Angel Unzueta and colorist Cris Peter do a poor job on the crowd scenes at the church, rendering a weird, inorganic-looking mass of beige figures crowding the streets outside of the church and, worse, lining up a crowd of what look like golems or gingerbread mannequins in folding chairs behind the fully colored superheroes in one scene.
The following issue, the one in which Daniel Acuna takes over as artist (and sticks around for the rest of the collection), has both Iron Man and Captain Marvel making their respective pitches to Sam during different team-ups. Spencer has Sam see what Ulysses is doing for himself fairly quickly into the conversations, and he boils it down to a single thing a lot quicker than Bendis manages: It's profiling. He does allow Carol and Tony to both make convincing enough sounding arguments, though, and even allows Carol to say what sounds a bit like a right wing talking point regarding political correctness getting in the way of getting things done these days, but she's also allowed to be self-aware of it while making it: "So if I've gotta be the bad guy here, the one that takes the necessary but scorened action, fine--"
I admire your spine, Carol. I really do. Even when I think your'e marching in the wrong direction--and I definitely think that's the case here.And, to Tony, Sam flies away with an "Even when you're right, you're an $@#!"
But hey, if it's any comfort-- --I do hate being on his side.
The rest of the collection involves a private, over-zealous police force that seems to be a little too aggressive in its profiling of minorities, The Americops, and Rage and Sam's doomed attempt to try to find a middle-ground between the aggressive, profiling, militant police tactics and Rage's aggressive, vigilante violence. As is usually the case for poor Sam, it doesn't really work out well for him, and he ends up in a fight, and looking bad in the court of public opinion. His solution to that particular problem, which involves an appearance by Night Nurse, is to institute a sort of bird-powered superhero analogy to body cameras.
Also, USAgent appears to fight Sam and try to take back the shield, and after their fight scenes, which interrupt the other fight scenes, we see that something sinister and Secret Empire-y is apparently going on, but that's something for the next line-wide crossover.
By Ruth Fletcher Gage, Christos Gage, Kris Anka, Marco Failla and others
120 pages; $16.99
Number of issues tied to Civil War II: 5 of 5
Do the events demonstrate that Tony is right and Carol is wrong?: No (In fact, it does a lot of work to not make Carol look like a boorish lunatic)
Side: Team Carol (obviously)
If the choice between Captain Marvel Carol Danvers and Iron Man Tony Stark were to be made based solely on the quality of the collection of their series tied to Civil War II, then it's no contest: Team Carol all the way. I was actually pretty surprised by the quality of this book, which benefits from some great art by the like of Kris Anka and others, and by the extent to which it ties into the event series. While the majority of these issues take place in and around Carol's Alpha Flight base and her missions with Alpha Flight, during which she never encounters Tony or the majority of the superhuman community, it spans the story arc of the event series, from her spending time with the soon-to-be-late James Rhodes to her apparent post-Obama meeting in Civil War II #8.
It also manages to tell something of a distinct story of its own, complete with its own conflict and villain that runs parallel to the series in the sub-title, and that is based in the pre-existent elements of the book.
Part of the reason I was so surprised by the quality of this trade was my complete lack of interest in this particular Captain Marvel as a character (which is maybe Brian Michael Bendis' fault? I think he wrote the vast majority of Carol Danvers appearances I have read, mostly during the time she was still going by "Ms. Marvel") and her somewhat awkward current status quo, which seems to have appropriated elements of Canadian X-Men Alpha Flight and SWORD (introduced in Joss Whedon's short Astonishing X-Men run). As this collection is opening, she's repairing Alpha Flight Station, where Alpha Flight's Puck, Sasquatch and Aurora, SWORD's Abigail Brand and a bunch of no-name characters in matching Alpha Flight uniforms work with her as the first line of defense against hostile alien invaders.
She answers to what looks like a the ways and means committee of the Galactic Republic's senate from the Star Wars prequels, with holograms of various leaders from Earth and space appearing with their official-looking podiums in a big, black room to occasionally berate her. These include some dashing, handsome Canadian guy, long-time Marvel Universe bureaucrat Henry Gyrich and The Black Panther, who is also on Carol's superhero team, The Ultimates.
Again, that set-up isn't the least big appealing, but I'll be damned if the two people named Gage who write this book don't make it work, and do a damn fine job of showing Carol's reactions to the big events of Civil War II here in a way that seem organic to her worldview. They even do a pretty great job of showing Black Panther's evolving understanding of Ulysses and his visions, with T'Challa expressing his concerns to her fairly early, and Carol doing a great deal of work to address those concerns going forward, because she shares them (In the main series, of course, T'Challa pretty much just turns on a dime from Team Carol to Team Tony, and Carol is generally portrayed as completely uncaring of any potential downsides to policing the future based on the predictions of a new super-person).
|One of Anka's consistently great covers|
By Christos Gage, Travel Foreman, Dan Slott and others
120 pages; $15.99
Number of issues tied to Civil War II: 4 of 6
Do the events demonstrate that Tony is right and Carol is wrong?: Sorta
Side: Team Carol
What side Spider-Man Peter Parker is on is actually kind of important, as he's one of the relatively few moral characters of the Marvel Universe, whose allegiances and alliances telegraph to readers who is right and who is wrong. That's why he played such an important role in the original Civil War; his switching from Iron Man's side to Captain America's being something of a turning point to signal that Tony Stark and company had finally crossed a line.
He was actually largely absent from the main Civil War II series, however. He gets a good zinger at Tony's expense in the first issue, and then seemingly sits the rest of the "war" out, watching the battle unfold on TV rather than participating (Nevertheless, Marvel put him on the cover of both the first issue and, weirdly, on the cover of Civil War II #4). So it's up to Gage to explain whose side Spidey is on and why, and he did so not in the pages of Amazing Spider-Man, which apparently sold well enough that it didn't have to tie-in to the event, but in a stand-alone miniseries.
The series is set mainly in the earliest parts of the Civil War II timeline, apparently just after Ulysses moved in with The Inhumans. Spidey asks his best friend Johnny Storm, who lives with The Inhumans while Reed and Sue are enjoying their no doubt temporary retirement, if he can spend some time with Ulysses to get an idea of how his powers work. While showing Ulysses around Parker Industries' Manhattan HQ--Man, I haven't read ASM in so long, I didn't quite realize how hard they were pushing this Spider-Man-as-old school-Iron Man thing, complete with Spidey posing as Peter's employee--Ulysses has a vision, of Spider-Man fighting Clayton Cole, a former sound-based villain named Clash who is now a researcher at the company.
This naturally leads Spider-Man to start looking at Cole for warning signs, which just as naturally pushes him closer to climbing back into his old Clash suit to fight Spider-Man ("Oh, man," Spidey says to himself, "I did not just self-fulfilling-prophecy myself"). Gage does a pretty great job of writing Cole as a sympathetic character, spending the better part of an issue showing how he just can't get past his criminal past, which leads to the dissolution of a promising relationship, plus constant harping from his rather terrible-seeming parents and pressures from old associates from his life of crime. In fact, Gage probably does too good a job of making Cole sympathetic, as there were several scenes where I felt tempted to yell at the trade in my hands, and tell Spidey to back off. (Ultimately, Spider-Man makes the point that only Clash is responsible for Clash's actions...but readers see more than Spidey does and, to be honest, it's Peter Parker's decision to maintain a secret identity and to do it really, really poorly for someone who's had 10-20 years of practice, that pushes Cole away.)
As for the Civil War-ishness, Spidey spends some quality time with Ulysses, who oddly never changes clothes over the course of the days the story is set over (Actually, Ulysses is wearing a white t shirt in almost every single appearance in all of these books; I do hope he's got a closet full of white t shirts, and that he hasn't just refrained from changing clothes for, like, weeks), and gives both his and Peter Parker's diagnosis and allegiance to Captain Marvel. His experience in the preceding story would seem to have argued against doing so, but he seems convinced Ulysses can stop other peoples' Uncle Bens from getting killed, I guess, and thinks it's mostly a matter of Ulysses honing his powers and of Carol Danvers not abusing them.
Oddly, when Carol asks Spider-Man if she can count on him to fight when the fighting starts, he says she can, but when the fighting does start, this Spider-Man is taking a shower and watching Venom fight Miles Morales on the TV news.
In general, I'm not crazy about Travel Foreman's style, but I think it worked pretty well here, at least with the many talking scenes (the first action sequence, in which Spider-Man fights the, um, Vulturions, is kind of messy and hard to follow). And there are an awful lot of talking scenes. This is actually an all-around rather dramatic Spider-Man story. I kinda dig Clash's costume, too, which has a Spider-Mannishness to it, complete with the sort of "logo" that a kid might draw in his notebook at school.
After the conclusion of the mini-series, the book reprints 2014's Amazing Spider-Man #7 and #8 (from the previous volume of Amazing Spider-Man, not the current one; that was a whole reboot/re-numbering ago). A two-part Ms. Marvel crossover from around the time of the "Spider-Verse" event, I couldn't figure out why it was included here aside from the fact that it had Spider-Man in it and was scripted by Gage from a Dan Slott plot, until I got to the very end: That's when Spider-Man sees Clayton "Clash" Cole in action on the side of good, and Peter Parker gives him a job at Parker Industries.
The villain of those issues also shows up as an antagonist in the Captain Marvel collection discussed above, which was co-written by Gage.
By Cullen Bunn, Andrea Broccardo, Gerry Conway and Mike Sekowsky
112 pages; $15.99
Number of issues tied to Civil War II: 4 of 5
Do the events demonstrate that Tony is right and Carol is wrong?: No
Side: Mostly Team Carol
In the pages of Civil War II, both sides of the conflict claim one of the two main X-Men teams as allies. Team Carol gets the team from Extraordinary X-Men (minus Old Man Logan and Nightcrawler, both of whom side with Iron Man), while Team Tony gets the team from All-New X-Men. What exactly drove each of these two teams of mutant superheroes to the particular faction they threw in with? Why did Logan abandon his team and take up claws against them? Why did teenage Iceman from the past side with Tony, while grown-up Iceman from the present side with Carol? These are some of the questions I wondered after, and expected to find answered in this four-issue miniseries devoted to the X-Men's role in the so-called civil war.
In fact, the All-New X-Men characters don't appear in this series at all, which instead focuses on the Extraordinary team's differences with the Uncanny X-Men, lead by Magneto (remember, this was an X-Men franchise relaunch ago, so the various team line-ups and titles have been scrambled yet again). At the time, they were the tertiary X-Men team, their relative lack of importance in the Marvel Universe apparent from the fact that none of them even appear in the pages of Civil War II proper.
While the series does indeed feature X-Men in conflict with one another, it is really more about the mutants' ongoing conflict with the Inhumans, which would see resolution in one of Marvel's smaller, franchise-specific events: Inhumans Vs. X-Men.
Writer Cullen Bunn opens with a sort of "Masque of the Red Death" riff, in which rich mutants seal themselves in a fancy air-tight party tower as the wandering Terrigen Mist cloud is about to wash over Dubai. Magneto's X-Men team--Psylocke, Sabertooth and M--force their way in and force them to take in all of the city's mutants, but an attack by a new(-ish?) form of Sentinels exposes them all to danger, until Storm's X-Men show up to save the day (These are Grown-up Iceman, Old Man Logan, Teenage Jean Grey, Magik and Nightcrawler). How did they know to show up when they did? Ulysses.
Magneto isn't happy about the fact that the Inhumans have a powerful weapon like Ulysses in their arsenal, since Marvel has set up this weird existential conflict between the Inhumans and the X-Men centering around the aforementioned cloud that doesn't make a lick of sense if you stop to think about it, which one is forced to do when reading about it, which is, like, all the time in X-Men comics, and certainly here.
Storm is worried Magneto is going to do something stupid, like kidnap or assassinate Ulysses, and thu spark a war with the Inhumans prior to the release of Inhumans Vs. X-Men #1, and there's your conflict: Uncanny X-Men vs. Extraordinary X-Men over whether it's cool that Ulysses is foretelling the future, framed through the perspective of mutant/Inhuman race relations and the profiling of Magneto based on his past as a supervillain (Bunn uses the word "profiling" a lot, and seems to have gotten the memo that it was the subject of Civil War II; it's played with in several ways, not just in profiling the future, but also in profiling characters based on their past actions or, in Nightcrawler's view, the way God and the universe operate).
The miniseries is mainly a series of rapidly escalating skirmishes between the two teams, ending with Magneto facing Ulysess, the two factions of mutants on his heels, only to be shown a vision that if he proceeds, the mutants will end up killing one another. There are a couple of surprises, like Nightcrawler abandoning Storm to side with Magneto (which maybe kinda sorta explains why he's on Team Tony, although Storm takes him back before this story is over), Psylocke abandoning Magneto to side with Storm and Rachel Grey being recruited to fill-in for her since I guess every X-Men team needs a psychic...?
I liked the Fantomex vs. Gambit fight and the pair's later encounters, as I kinda like both of those long-coated, sneaky mutants, and I don't think I've seen them sharing scenes before.
Bunn introduces the characters by labeling them upon first appearance (in each issue), which is no doubt handy, given how many damn characters there are and how the bi-annual relaunches are making it harder than ever to be able to keep up with Marvel's merry mutants. It really drew attention to the fact that they keep calling the Logan from the pages of Old Man Logan "Old Man Logan" instead of just "Logan." I guess he doesn't want to be called "Wolverine" anymore, which is fine, whatever, but why is his, like, official superhero name Old Man Logan? They don't call Steve Rogers "Old Man Steve"...
Broccardo's artwork is fine, but terribly unremarkable. Which is still far better than bad.
Overall, the series is kind of a letdown, but then that's mainly because it doesn't do what a reader of Civil War II might want an X-Men tie-in comic to actually do. Of course, since Bunn was crafting his story somewhat independently of Brian Michael Bendis, and at the same time Bendis was working on the main series, he probably only knew the outlines of Civil War II, and not which mutants would actually show up in it...that, or he wanted to involve Magneto's team while connecting this tie-in to the future of the franchise, and this was the way to do it.
The 80-page story is followed up by a reprint of a "Black Bolt and The Inhumans" feature from 1971's Amazing Adventures #9, by Gerry Conway, Mike Sekowsky and Bill Everett. Its relevance? Well, it has Magneto in it, I guess...? Visually, it's a stark reminder of how damn weird the Inhumans used to be in their original, Jack Kirby designs, and how the flatter, more garishly-colored comics of that era accentuated their somewhat monstrous and, well, inhuman qualities. It also reminded me that Gorgon existed; I haven't seen him in any of the many modern Inhuman appearances. I assume he died at some point, but I don't really care enough to look it up.
By Brian Michael Bendis, Michael Deodato, Mark Bagley and others
144 pages; $24.99
Number of issues tied-to Civil War II: 3 out of 6
Do the events demonstrate that Carol is wrong and Tony is right?: Yes
Side: Team Tony (obviously)
Well this took some balls. This 144-page, $24.99 hardcover collection includes just three issues of the title comic book, the back half of the book filled with fairly random filler in the form of 2008's Mighty Avengers #9-11, issues that are only connected to the first half of the book by the fact that they are comics scripted by Bendis that also feature Iron Man, Doctor Doom and Carol Danvers. This then is an instance when waiting to buy a trade of an over-priced $3.99 comic is actually more expensive, as it only would have cost you $11.97 to buy the serially-published issues of Invincible Iron Man collected herein.
Of course, those issues--Invincible Iron Man #12-#14--were the only issues left in the series before it was relaunched with the same writer but a new number one, and I suppose it must have made sense in someone's head to collect the last issues of Invincible Iron Man (volume two) and the first issues of Invincible Iron Man (volume three) in different collections, but it sure looks like a terrible idea in retrospect. Marvel really should have collected these issues with the preceding collection, War Machines, or waited until they had two or three issues of the relaunched Invincible Iron Man to fill this out.
Because really, I don't know how a reader could plunk down $25 for this thing and not feel ripped off.
As for the relevant issues, the first opens with Tony Stark sitting on the ruins of Stark Tower, eating a sandwich. Apparently, someone knocked the tower down at some point, but I'll be damned if I can figure out where. Double-checking Civil War II, in the second issue of the miniseries The Inhumans arrive there with the intention of toppling it after Iron Man abducted Ulysses from New Attillan, but Carol, some superheroes and SHIELD show up to stop them from doing so, but in #5, the issue containing the civil battle, Iron Man tells Karnak, "I'm glad to see you...I have the bill for the building you tore down." The rest of that issue and the next then flash back to Tony trying to explain the fact that he faked his own death in War Machines to the relevant people, his learning of James Rhodes' death, a flashback to a time when Rhodes was still alive and then missing the funeral, which Deodato draws in extreme longshot, using some kind of weird computer effect to fill out the crowd.
The final issue has Tony, an alcoholic, deciding he needs a meeting, so he puts on his disguise of a generic, boxy baseball cap, a jacket and sunglasses and goes to an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. By coincidence, you know who else shows up? Carol Danvers, also in a generic, boxy baseball cap, a jacket and sunglasses! I...didn't even know that Carol Danvers was an alcoholic, nor that Tony was her sponsor. This leads to an eight-page conversation between the pair outside of the church the meeting was occurring in, where Bendis gives them one last opportunity to talk things out like grown-up human beings before he has Carol pretty much murder him in the climax of Civil War II (Oh, um, spoiler alert? Don't worry; he's not dead, just in some weird coma-like state he apparently planned for so Riri Williams can be Iron Man for a while).
It might be something of a poignant end, were it not for how much of those three issues if focused on wrapping up Bendis' apparently aborted plans for this particular volume of his Iron Man run/s and the fact that someone--he, himself?--decided to launch Civil War II before his Iron Man storyline had really run its course.
Well, that and the fact that it is immediately followed by an nine-year-old story arc with next to no relevance, other than the vague reasons I had previously mentioned (and, perhaps, it came from a status quo following the original Civil War, the one in which Tony was the bad guy. He is, after all, leading the/a Mighty Avengers team against the/a New Avengers team, something Luke Cage flashes back to as an example of how sick of fighting friends he is in the pages of Power Man and Iron Fist, discussed below).
By Al Ewing, Paco Medina, Jan Vlasco, Carlo Barberi and others
160 pages; $19.99
Number of issues tied to Civil War II: I'll say 6 of 6...but it's a pretty loose connection, with no bearing on the Civil War II sries
Do the events demonstrate that Carol is wrong and Tony is right?: Not really
It's kind of odd that this collection is sub-titled "Civil War II," given that the actual story arc filling its pages is given the more accurate (if perhaps less marketable seeming) title of "AIM Vs. SHIELD." And writer Al Ewing does seem far more interested in continuing his own storyline, which followed Roberto "Sunspot" Da Costa from the end of Jonathan Hickman's run on Avengers/New Avengers, wherein Da Costa bought AIM and transformed it into Avengers Idea Mechanics, an mostly autonomous nation state fusing good guy superheroics with bad guy mad science to make the world a better place.
This volume serves as the climax to his 18-issue, three collections-longn run, in which Da Costa's AIM fights against both Ultimate Reed Richards' WHISPER and his New Revengers and SHIELD (particularly a faction lead by an a-hole Agent John Garrett). It is actually kinda difficult to review-review this volume, given that one of the great pleasures of it is how much work Ewing put into the plotting, so there are plenty of surprises and reversals in it, the spoiling of which would actually spoil them.
Luckily, I can just stick to the Civil War II-ish aspects for the purposes of these few paragraphs.
In the first of the issues contained herein, the "public" New Avengers, the ones who didn't turn on SHIELD and the U.S. government in the previous collection (and the Standoff tie-in), are shown participating in the battle against the Celestial Destructor: Hawkeye Clint Barton, Hulkling, Squirrel Girl and, of course, Wiccan, whose role in the battle was also depicted in Civil War II proper.
By the second issue, Clint is in jail over shooting Bruce Banner to death, and there's a Ulysses vision of Songbird speaking at Roberto's funeral factored in. But mostly, it's a big-ass fight between the New Avengers' huge, diverse cast of mostly weird heroes, Evil Richards' new team of similarly weird and even more obscure villains and lots and lots of Dum Dum Dugan Life Model Decoys lead by Garrett.
It reads surprisingly well on its own, discrete from either Civil War II or the previous two trades, and though Ewing does get to put some punctuation on his run, it will continue, albeit into a new title, making following it in the future...difficult, to say the least (U.S.Avengers, which may not be long for this world; it's solicited through at least its ninth issue, but according to the most recent sales estimates I've seen, it dipped below 20K almost immediately upon launch)
By David F. Walker, Flaviano, Sanford Greene, Scott Hepburn and others
Number of issues tied to Civil War II: 4 out of 5
Do the events demonstrate that Carol is wrong and Tony is right?: Yes
Side: Team Leave Us Out of It (although a confusing flashback in Civil War II implies Luke and Danny were working with Carol prior to the trial of Clint Barton, while Luke joins Team Tony by Civil War II #4)
This arc is bad, but it's still fun, and maybe as good as a tie-in to such a dumb event series could be if it really did try to honestly engage with the event instead of simply side-stepping it as fast as possible. Walker writes these characters extremely well, and has a lot of fun with Luke's refusal to swear and in recovering the often very goofy characters from Cage's deep past, and other failed or half-forgotten street-level characters from Marvel's past, and reintroducing them, often portraying their past portrayals as youthful indiscretions, or perhaps trying to be something they weren't...or, in at least one case, trying to hang on to something they never were in the first place.
The artwork by Flavianao and Sanford Green is great, and I could look at those two guys' drawings of the two guys in the title all damn day; I particularly like, as I believe I mentioned when discussing the first volume, how huge this Luke Cage is drawn, in relation to Danny, Jessica, Danielle and the whole world around him. He's a literally bigger-than-life character.
Walker's way of dealing with the Civil War II plot is interesting, and I find myself wondering whether the plot for this arc, which isn't quite concluded in this volume, is one he would have written anyway, and he was just forced to fold Carol Danvers in, or if his non-Civil War II plot was an intentional echo of Civil War II, inspired by its plot.
After Luke Cage, Danny Rand, Jessica Jones see news footage of the battle with Thanos that took place in Free Comic Book Day 2016 and ended with War Machine James Rhodes dead and She-Hulk in a coma, and the two heroes attempt to visit Shulkie at the Triskelion but are turned away. They are warmly greeted by Carol, however, who then asks if they can give her a minute of their time so she can explain what's going on.
Jump to the two of them walking to their car, reiterating that Civil War II is dumb and they hope they can avoid being in it (they can't!).
"What was all that 'predictive justice' stuff Carol was talking about?" Danny yells. "Sounded like a bunch of fiddle-faddle to me," Luke says, and they agree to sit this one out, as they are also sick of hero vs. hero fights. On a two-page spread, between two tiers of them talking about it, there's a nice big spread of the Luke Cage-lead Avengers (from the second volume of the Bendis-written New Avengers, I want to say) fighting the Carol Danvers and Iron Man-lead Avengers (from the pages of the Bendis-written Mighty Avengers). Cage, who sided with Captain America in the pages of the first Civil War, was basically in a kinda cold war with the government-sanctioned Avengers between the end of Civil War and the post-Secret Invasion "Heroic Age," I think.
Walker then returns to matters related to his book, as a bunch of reformed criminals and their family members attempt to hire the Heroes For Hire to find a bunch of ex-cons who have since gone straight but disappeared shortly after encountering a group of mysterious vigilantes. And then those vigilantes attack! Followed by the police!
This ends with Danny Rand in jail for assaulting some officers, where he tries to figure out the disappearances. Many of those who have disappeared are also in jail there, and they ended up there without officially being charged or getting trials. Outside prison, Luke calls in favors from many friends to try to figure out the one clue they have, a mysterious device that mixes facial recognition software with the ability to manipulate and falsify criminal records. This is what the vigilantes were doing to bust their victims.
So you can see how this thematically kinda sorta ties in to Civil War II, as innocent--or at least innocent-until-proven-guilty--people are being attacked, arrested and punished for crimes they didn't actually commit. Civil War II comes back to the fore when Ulysses--the prophesying Inhuman that Carol Danvers is using to predict possible future crimes to prevent before they happen--has a vision of Luke Cage leading a break-in at Ryker's to free the incarcerated Danny.
In fact, a confused and frustrated Cage calls Songbird and Centurius to join him as he looks at Ryker's, in the hopes that they can talk him out of doing something stupid and figure out this whole mess, and then "Sweet Christmas, Easter and Hanukkah," in swoop Danvers, Mockingbird, Puck, Spectrum, Storm, Deathlok and a whole bunch of SHIELD troops. They are there to stop Ulysses' vision from coming to pass by arresting Luke first and, just as in Agents of SHIELD and All-New Wolverine, Carol's intervention is exactly what causes the vision to come to pass (slow learner, I guess).
There's a lot of fighting between all parties. I particularly liked the fight-then-team-up sequences involving Mockingbird, who Walker writes close enough to Chelsea Cain that she sounds like the same character, and Songbird, because they have similar names. And I'm always calling Songbird Mockingbird by accident.
It ends with Cage making a couple of speeches in Carol's direction, and then Danny making another one, and she's eventually shamed into dropping it and they help round up the prisoners and clean up the jail. As for the A-plot, which becomes the B-plot, Luke's team is just about to crack where the doohickey being used to find and incarcerate people came from, when a very powerful person in a hoodie teleports to his safehouse and steals it from the hands of his allies.
The rest of the collection is devoted to Sweet Christmas Annual #1, in which Walker and artist Scott Hepburn creates a Christmas Even story involving Luke, Danny, Danielle, Spider-Woman Jessica Drew and her baby,The Son of Satan, The Krampus and Santa Claus. If you haen't read it yet, chances are it is every bit as awesome as you are imagining it to be right now, based simply on the guest-stars appearing in it.
By Nick Kocher, Michael Walsh, Bill Mantlo, Al Milgrom and others
112 pages; $15.99
Number of issues tied-to Civil War II: 3 out of 5
Do the events demonstrate that Carol is wrong and Tony is right?: No
Side: Team Carol
The Civil War II tie-in arc in this collection is book-ended by two comics. The second is a reprint of 1981's Incredible Hulk #271 by Bill Mantlo, Al Milgrom and company, included because it is the first appearance of Rocket Raccoon...and, one suspects, to act as filler. The first is Rocket Raccoon and Groot #7, a done-in-one story by the title's regular creative team of writer Nick Kocher, artist Michael Walsh and co-inker Josh Hixson. That's the issue the cover of the collection came from; that's not James Rhodes' or Bruce Banner's grave they are looking down on there.
I was really quite struck by how stand-alone that first issue was, and how purely comedic it was. Yes, it starred two Marvel characters of a rather high-degree of popularity at the moment, but it was otherwise pretty far removed from the Marvel Universe, lacking in the familiar settings (being in outer space and all) and guest-stars, villains and other Marvel Comics building blocks that generally show up in the publisher's other comedy-focused series, like Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, Patsy Walker, AKA Hellcat and the the recently canceled Howard The Duck. The mode was, additionally, comic in a way that is unusual for Marvel. Unlike the above-mentioned series or, say, a Deadpool comic, it wasn't superhero comedy so much as just comedy.
For the three-issue Civil War II tie-in, the book takes on the more standard superhero comedy set in the Marvel Universe shape, opening with Rocket and Groot in a big meeting with the rest of Team Carol, in which Captain Marvel is doling out various assignments for her predictive justice enforcement (the scene is somewhat at odds with the events of Civil War II, where the pair appear with the rest of the Guardians as a sort of ace-in-the-hole during the one scene in which Team Carol and Team Tony actually come to blows, but given the nature of this book, that's more than forgivable).
Rocket volunteers himself and Groot for a minor assignment (a baby powder robbery in Georgia), and while Captain Marvel knows its for a sneaky, self-serving reason, she lets them go, because it's just Rocket Raccoon and Groot, after all. That sneaky, self-serving reason? Rocket is in pursuit of a bounty he missed a few years ago. Unfortunately for him/fortunately for us, Gwenpool is also in pursuit of the same bounty, and thus it's Rocket and Groot vs. Gwenpool.
This was my first exposure to Gwenpool, but as you may already be aware, her whole deal is that she breaks the fourth wall, like, constantly; she's a comic book character who knows she's a comic book character in a comic book. That means she's constantly talking directly to the readers, which of course is interpreted by all the other comics characters as her being even more completely insane than her namesake.
I don't know how this works in her own book or other appearances, but writer Nick Kocher has a lot of fun with her, and she's pretty perfect for a crossover "tie-in," like this, as she knows how those things work. Since she, Rocket and Groot and lower-tier characters, they are in greater danger of being killed off than anyone else, so the further they stay away from the conflict in New York, the better. When their little side quest leads to a plot from an alien villain to kill Carol, she insists Carol is going to be okay, as it's not like they are going to kill her off in this book instead of Civil War II, and, besides, Kocher wouldn't have the authority at Marvel to kill off Captain Marvel anyway, that would take a writer of Brian Michael Bendis' stature.
At which point in her expanation, Gwenpool sees Kitty Pryde walk by and, when she asks what she's doing there, Kitty confesses she actually has no idea. So maybe it is a Bendis book, after all?
Like the done-in-one that precedes it, it's a pretty fun little story, and Kocher gets some good zingers in. Michael Walsh's art is refreshingly un-Marvelous, too. This book very much resembles an "indie" book in its look, which certainly works to its advantage for sequences like the one in which a grenade hits Gwenpool, shredding her clothes, but leaving the "R-rated" parts covered. She uses this as evidence that she is, in fact, in a comic book, and Walsh's particular style makes it about as un-sexy as it can be, allowing for a joke that would normally be accompanied by cheesecake without any sort of exploitation (Whether or not that's a good thing will depend on the reader, of course, but it's an example of the style draining the book of the expected superhero aesthetic).
To call the book a Civil War II tie-in is a big, long, hard stretch, especially given that they used Civil War II as the sub-title, but it's an enjoyable book on its own, and doesn't depend on any knowledge at all regarding Civil War II.
By Gerry Duggan, Ryan Steman, Pepe Larraz, Richard Isanove and others
112 pages; $15.99
Number of issues tied-to Civil War II: 5 out of 5
Do the events demonstrate that Carol is wrong and Tony is right?: No
Uncanny Avengers is one of the many Marvel titles I tried reading in trade for a while, but ultimately ended up getting lost among all the relaunches. Checking on Wikipedia just before writing this sentence, I see now that there have been three volumes--as in, the book has launched three times--since it debuted in spring of 2013. This particular collection, the third collection of the third volume, is the ninth overall collection of the series (not counting an omnibus, which was just another format of collecting the previously collected stuff), which means there are nine trade paperbacks floating around with the words "Uncanny Avengers" on the cover and spine. Three of those nine say Uncanny Avengers Vol. 1--i.e. one-third of the collected issues of Uncanny Avengers--on the cover or spine. There are further two different Uncanny Avengers Vol. 2 and two different Uncanny Avengers Vol. 3. So if you ever want to try reading the book from the beginning, well, good luck with that!
The premise upon the series' launch was that it would be a joint Avengers/X-Men super-team, the so-called "Unity Squad" of Avengers meant to show the world that super-powered humans and powerful mutants could work hand-in-hand for the greater good in the wake of the events of the Avengers Vs. X-Men series. Since then, Inhumans seems to have been added to the Unity Squad to, as the line-up at the start of this particular trade includes super-humans Captain America, The Wasp and Doctor Voodoo, mutant heroes Cable, Deadpool and Rogue, Inhuman Synapse, Inhuman-who-thought-he-was-a-mutant-for-decades Quicksilver and The Human Torch Johnny Storm, who is of course a cosmic ray-empowered human superhero who is neither Avenger nor X-Man, but has been hanging out with The Inhumans for apparently sexual reasons.
The very first of the five issues collected herein is the most directly tied to the main Civil War II series. It opens with a scene from Civil War II #3, where Hawkeye Clint Barton puts an arrow in Bruce Banner, as told from Deadpool's point of view ("Hey, Clint! What are they arresting you for--one count of "living the dream"?), and about the first half or so of the issue involves Deadpool breaking into prison to have a chat with the incarcerated Clint, and making him an offer of sorts. Pretty good character moment for both.
Then Ulysses gets brought into the picture, giving Captain America Steve Rogers one of his by now expected incredibly vague predictions:
The children of the atom... ...will wage a war. The son of Cyclops doesn't belong here. And he's keeping the wrong company right now. Your team isn't very honest with each other.That is accompanied by an image of a screaming Cable firing big guns, a coupla generic-looking soldier types in helmets and boots lying dead around him. Never mind the fact for a moment that Cable, "the son of Cyclops," is literally from the future, and firing big guns is pretty much his whole deal, Cap doesn't seem to have learned anything from All-New Wolverine, as he gathers up a coupla generic-looking soldier types in helmets and boots to confront Cable, who basically just blows him off as he boards a plane--containing Rogue, as well as Toad and Sebastian Shaw. They are on a secret mission to follow up on a possible way to put an end to the Terrigen Mist cloud which, well, I don't really want to get into it here, but it's one of the dumbest plot points either of the Big Two has ever turned to for a status quo, one that writers like Gerry Duggan just have to try and deal with until the editors decide to finally do away with it.
That takes up most of the next issue, as the mutants are breaking into labs to get research on the mist...which leads to a confrontation with Captain America. They manage to beat the crap out of him until Rogue intervenes, but the ultimate result is that Rogers disbands the Unity Squad and walks off (Oddly throughout their exchanges, both Cap and Deadpool refer to "the mutants," which implied Deadpool himself is not one; did I miss something, and they altered his origin, as they have a few other prominent mutants of late?).
It turns out that this disbandment comes at a bad time--and it's kind of unfortunate that the whole Nazi Cap storyline is running simultaneous to this one, as it's difficult to tell exactly if Steve is acting the way he is because he's stubborn and thinks he's right, or because he's secretly evil and waiting to take over America in the next crossover (For what it's worth, he seems "himself" throughout all of Bendis' Civil War II, rather than being much of an a-hole). Because The Hand has stolen Banner's body, with plans to do their thing: He ultimately emerges as an undead, bigger-than-usual Hulk with a scary samurai mask.
Despite Cap's decision to disband the team, Rogue and Deadpool decide not to share that with the team as they form up and go to Japan where they fight first ninjas and then The Hulk, getting a little help from Elektra.
It's all pretty good super-comics, with some fun, funny character moments, and a rather impressive feat of plotting in that Duggan is able to essentially cater the threat and the action to his team's various super-powers.
All of the art is pretty good, but I was personally a little surprised at how much I preferred that of Pepe Larraz to that of Ryan Stegman, if only because the latter's name is so much more familiar to me than that of the latter.
*I actually already reviewed two of these collections, All-New Wolverine Vol. 2 and Power Man and Iron Fist Vol. 2, in previous posts, but am including somewhat condensed versions of those reviews in this post as well, for the purposes of putting all my reviews of the various Civil War II collections in a single place.