Jun 1, 2010

[Comics] Civil War (Marvel)

Civil War (Marvel)Let me tell you an odd story.

I'm a big fan of Doctor Doom, you see, and the more recent changes in the Marvel Universe have also involved significant strides for our dear green-caped supervillain. Me in the OCD-like nature decided that I wanted to pick up those comics that feature the Doctor in the limelight, but in order to properly do so, I figured that I needed to revisit the major story arcs that have shaped the Marvel Universe in order for it to become its present form.

And thus began this strange side project of mine to try and read pretty much all of the major crossover events of recent history in order to be fully prepared to enjoy the recently concluded Dark Reign and Siege storylines to the fullest. Yes, I know how crazy this sounds, but it makes perfect sense if you factor in the odd marriage between my geekiness and my obsessive compulsive nature. Thus this was the first step in that effort.

Various characters of the Marvel Universe. Pro...Image via Wikipedia

Civil war was the big 2006-2007 crossover comic book event for Marvel Comics that was certainly designed to change the paradigm for that reality. It certainly presented strong themes as part of its overall story tone and resulted in a number of major deaths, which is also becoming par for the course in the comic book world these days. This is a review of the entire event and not necessarily just the 7 core books related to it.

The story begins with an accident - over 600 people are killed in Stamford, Connecticut after a bad run-in between the New Warriors and some villains in the area. All this while the Warriors were filming a reality show based on their lives - right up until the point when Namorita fails to disable Nitro and he proceeds to use his power to take most of the small town with him. The incident shocks the nation and thus pushes forward the long debated legislation related to the Superhuman Registration Act.

The act manages to successfully become law and this causes a schism in the superhero community. Everyone is forced to decide whether or not to register in order to continue to take the fight against evil or to go rogue and becomes criminals in their own country. The sides eventually polarize between the two perceived leaders of the different views - Iron Man for the pro-registration forces and Captain America for those against. And thus the story unfolds.

This was never really meant to be a novel and original concept once you get down to it - the concept of registration for superhumans has been a long-running themes for mutants in the Marvel Universe and it's funny how the US government here finally decided to turn their attention to the greater superhuman community at large. It probably helped a lot that most mutants had already lost their powers due to M Day. Given all this, it would have been funny had the mutant population took a moment to just laugh at all this and say "been there, done that" or something.

The series did lead to some interesting developments, one of them being the Front Line comic, which tries to tell the story from the perspective of the more average citizen. Similar to the Marvels mini-series. This time the "protagonist" who represents the population at large is Ben Urich of the Daily Bugle. It was a nice concept to revist, although I don't know if it warranted the number of issues it got. Let's face it - the human aspect can be a get boring amidst the chaos of all the titanic heroes fighting.

Another angle they tried to push was comparing this conflict to pretty much every other conflict in US history. As much as I appreciated the desire to parallel the philosophical debates of past wars, I didn't feel it was necessary to blatantly pain panels comparing the two side-by-side. It felt like spoon-feeding information to the reader, almost to the point of insulting our intelligence or trying to push a political agenda.

As for the main story, well, it just really felt wrong. Let's face it - superheroes were always outside the law given are essentially vigilantes. Why it had to become such a big issue for the government all of a sudden was strange enough. What was stranger still was the desire to somehow become legitimate for all the heroes when they've been breaking the law for decades. Plus all the petty squabbles, the deaths and all the posturing by the big guns of the Marvel Universe was just annoying. I think the only side to all this that I genuinely enjoyed was the conflict between Mr. Fantastic and his wife Sue Storm and clearly how powerful she's become in recent years. And that's about it.

Plus they had Spider-man be one of the more prominent unmasking events, which felt so WRONG given how he had so closely-guarded his secret identity for years before this event. Yes, this is me speaking as a bitter Spider-Man fan.

Civil War was clearly an event that was driven by the leaders in the editorial offices with little regard for how it would affect characters in the long run. Clearly there could have been better application for their efforts, but this is what we got instead. It gets 2 nanite-controlled supervillains out of a possible 5.

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