Rhodey Thanos Civil War II

Marvel Comics’ Civil War II officially kicked off on June 1 with James Rhodes … kicking the bucket. Fans were given a hint of his fate in late may with Civil War II #0, but writer Brian Michael Bendis and artist David Marquez made sure by the end of the first issue that everyone knew War Machine just saw his last* battle. It is hard not to believe, however, that killing Rhodey instead of pitting him against his best friend over a complex issue was an error on Marvel’s part.

Here is what you need to know for Civil War II #1:

  • A huge cast of superheroes square off against a Celestial Destroyer. A tip by The Inhumans allowed Iron Man, Dr. Strange, Captain Marvel and the others to devise a plan that would send the entity to its home dimension.
  • Tony Stark throws a party for the “unqualified, top-to-bottom home run of a win.” The mood is spoiled when it is revealed that Ulysses, an Inhuman who “experiences” the future, was the one who provided intelligence on the Celestial Destroyer’s arrival.
  • Captain Marvel asks Ulysses if he wants a job with The Ultimates after Jean Grey fails to read his mind. Tony Stark wants nothing to do with the young man. He warns everyone that using Ulysses’ power to confront people over a possible future is dangerous and wrong.
  • Ulysses has a vision of Thanos coming to earth and tells The Inhumans to contact Captain Marvel.
  • The events of Civil War II #0 unfold. She Hulk is greatly injured and Rhodey dies.
  • Tony confronts Carol Danvers, aka Captain Marvel. She tells Tony what happened and his is livid. “I told you! I told you this would happen!” he screams. Carol says she did the right thing and that Rhodey would act no differently if he had it all to do over again.
  • Tony storms off to “make sure none of [the superheroes] play God again.” She Hulk wakes from a coma and tells Captain Marvel to fight for the future (“It’s our future, Carol. Not his.”) before her heart stops.  Doctors try to revive her and the issue ends.

The good thing about Marvel’s decision is that there are plenty of legitimate arguments to be made for killing Rhodey. Unlike turning Steve Rogers into a Nazi-sympathizing Hydra Agent, James Rhodes’ integrity was not violated in the decision-making process. Soldiers die. Every time a warrior steps onto the battlefield, he knows that he might not live to see another day. That’s just how it works.

The bad thing about Marvel’s decision is that it robs readers of a chance to see two friends battle over fierce ideological differences while ultimately finding peace in the end. Both Tony and James would respect the other’s willingness to die for core principles, and in the long run their friendship would probably be stronger for having gone through the ordeal.

A standoff between Tony and Carol has the potential to be powerful, but the better choice would have been Tony vs. James.

Civil War II 1 Iron Man Rhodey

In short, Civil War II appears as though it will be a good read if Marvel finds a way to avoid the mistakes of Civil War I (e.g., inserting partisan politics in the story to make on side look evil). It’s just unfortunate that Bendis missed an opportunity to dial up the dramatic tension by keeping Rhodey alive.

*“Last battle” until a Cosmic Cube, a magical gem, or a spell brings him back to life.

Iron Man Captain Marvel

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About the Author Douglas Ernst

I'm a former Army guy who believes success comes through hard work, honesty, optimism, and perseverance. I believe seeing yourself as a victim creates a self-fulfilling prophecy. I believe in God. I'm a USC Trojan with an MA in Political Science from American University.

8 comments

  1. You didn’t mention that Rhodey’s death happened off screen, with him not even speaking in the issue as far as I remember. That was pretty insulting to his character, I thought. There’s no shame in dying in battle with Thanos, and I understand why they did it the way they did from a story structure perspective — but Rhodey is an important character with a lot of history. To have him get killed off screen and not even get to say or do anything cool was not a good way to handle it.

    Secondly, I can’t understand Tony’s problem with what they did (before Rhodey’s death, anyway). If Professor X had told them that he sensed Thanos and such and such location, or Doctor Strange detected a magical disturbance, they would’ve gone there to stop him. I don’t see how this is different, at least when we’re dealing with a known supervillain — someone used his powers to tell them where a bad guy would be and when, no different than a hundred other ways that could’ve happened (in the world they live in, anyway).

    I get that Tony said not to do it and it turned out badly, but as far as I can see all that means is that they should’ve brought more people. It seems like Tony’s objection itself is the reason why things went badly. I just don’t see how it takes away anyone’s free will to know where someone is going to be or what they’ll probably do in the near future.

    This isn’t Minority Report; they’re not tracking down random people who will probably commit crimes, and they’re not going after people who currently aren’t wanted for anything who this seer guy says are going to commit crimes. Whatever Thanos was doing, taking him down would always be the right thing to do.

    I feel like what they should’ve done if they wanted to vindicate Tony was have the seer send them after, say, a reformed Thunderbolt, someone who was bad in the past but isn’t now, but he says they’re about to commit a big crime. Their team jumps him, he fights back because he’s being attacked, and he dies or one of their team does. That would show that this approach was bad and was causing more trouble than it solved. Catching Thanos in the act, though, seems like a total win all the way around. If anything, by catching him unawares they probably prevented the deaths of more heroes since he’d be less ready to fight them. Let me know if I’m missing some element of this.

    1. “Rhodey is an important character with a lot of history. To have him get killed off screen and not even get to say or do anything cool was not a good way to handle it.”

      I think they handled it fine in Civil War II #0, although I do think it was weird not to show a bit more of the battle in the first issue.

      “Secondly, I can’t understand Tony’s problem with what they did (before Rhodey’s death, anyway). If Professor X had told them that he sensed Thanos and such and such location, or Doctor Strange detected a magical disturbance, they would’ve gone there to stop him. I don’t see how this is different, at least when we’re dealing with a known supervillain — someone used his powers to tell them where a bad guy would be and when, no different than a hundred other ways that could’ve happened (in the world they live in, anyway).”

      As Tony mentions, Ulysses is only seeing possible futures. Professor X is seeing reality as it unfolds. My theory (this is what I would do if I were writing Civil War II), is that Ulysses’ power will have an “observer effect” element to it. The “future” he sees and “experiences” is just one future in a quantum field of possibilities — but when others give his testimony credence it makes the probability of that future happening more likely. She-Hulk says it’s “our” future, but by observing Ulysses so much they are essentially giving one man incredibly power over their collective future. Again, my theory all hinges on how his powers actually work.

      “This isn’t Minority Report; they’re not tracking down random people who will probably commit crimes, and they’re not going after people who currently aren’t wanted for anything who this seer guy says are going to commit crimes. Whatever Thanos was doing, taking him down would always be the right thing to do.”

      You’re forgetting what happened to Jester in Civil War II #0. He was essentially arrested for a “mind crime” — if She-Hulk was correct — and then he was murdered in prison before she could begin the appeal process. It is possible that someone or some organization is very much are going full “Minority Report” on people.

      I cannot believe Jester’s murder was just a coincidence. What if Ulysses is an unwitting pawn in a plot of Kang’s? What if he’s only seeing possible futures Kang wants him to see as part of a much larger scheme to control time? As of now I am firmly on Team Stark. The full embrace of some kid who just got his powers a few weeks ago and doesn’t even understand them does not seem prudent.

  2. The funny thing is, Tony plays God all the time. Too bad She-Hulk couldn’t have pointed that out when he basically enslaved her during Civil War 1.

    Guess it’s not okay when other people try to do it…but, if they were fighting Thanos–someone they all have experience fighting–why didn’t they bring an army of Avengers? That’s what it usually requires.

    Also, then they explain why She-Hulk’s healing factor didn’t work? I mean, she has recovered in minutes from severe wounds before and easily.

    1. “The funny thing is, Tony plays God all the time. Too bad She-Hulk couldn’t have pointed that out when he basically enslaved her during Civil War 1.”

      Civil War I was total joke, but there is no way to change that … so unfortunately people will always have that on Tony. His development of AI with zero oversight is certainly an attempt to play God.

      “Guess it’s not okay when other people try to do it…but, if they were fighting Thanos–someone they all have experience fighting–why didn’t they bring an army of Avengers? That’s what it usually requires.”

      The just needed enough people to serve as decoys. The magicians all teamed up together with one powerful spell to send the Destroyer back to its home dimension.

      “Also, then they explain why She-Hulk’s healing factor didn’t work? I mean, she has recovered in minutes from severe wounds before and easily.”

      My guess is She-Hulk will be just fine. She woke up from the coma and someone will restart her heart. She took a giant missile blast directly to the chest, so in this case I’m glad they didn’t just have here “heal” in about five minutes. I hate when writers using “healing factor” to have the superheroes be invincible. Years ago I read an issue of Wolverine where I think he was incinerated…basically nuked. I think he was nothing but a charred skeleton but the writer had his “healing factor” bring him back. I wish I could remember the exact issue. I just said, “This is dumb,” and stopped buying the title.

  3. There’s a recent article from The Verge called, “Brian Michael Bendis tackles America’s profiling problem in Civil War II.” It’s an interview with Bendis himself, where he talks about how the idea for Civil War II came about. In short, this seems like more politically charged fare, and this time, the police are in Marvel’s crosshairs. Ugh.

    1. “There’s a recent article from The Verge called, ‘Brian Michael Bendis tackles America’s profiling problem in Civil War II.’ It’s an interview with Bendis himself, where he talks about how the idea for Civil War II came about. In short, this seems like more politically charged fare, and this time, the police are in Marvel’s crosshairs. Ugh.”

      If Bendis gets too political, then it will at least be fun to watch it all break down into something gloriously stupid. This particular part from the interview caught my eye:

      “I started teaching myself early on, in my earliest days of Ultimate Spider-Man, the idea that nobody is the villain of their story. The Kingpin sees himself as a hero. Norman Osborn [the Green Goblin] sees himself as the hero. This is something you’ve heard before, but everybody thinks they’re right. I’m already writing that way as a writer. I always tell the story that there’s no “ha ha ha crazy” villain. Everyone damn well thinks they’re the hero of the story and right. So, to come into a story like this, and I’m already thinking that way, that’s what the job is. The job really is to not express one idea over the other. It’s to express both ideas equally so that the audience on their own can decide what side they want to be on. So just keeping it balanced is the hardest thing to do. But it’s not when I equally see Carol and Tony’s point, and I actually really do.”

      It is incredibly important to keep things balanced when it comes to the heroes, but it appears as though Bendis is hesitant to make sure everyone knows that evil is evil. Yes, Kingpin may think he is right — but it should be clear to readers in the vast majority of cases that he is wrong. I don’t want a cheesy mustache-twirling villain, but I also don’t want my comics drenched in moral relativism.

    2. Guess I’d have to read it to see if it’s any good. Considering I read all of his X-men run and never want to see his style ever again…I guess it may be a long time.

      I read the interview. What a sycophant. This guy always has an idea, and it’s always quite clear who’s right and who’s wrong. For example, when Jean invades Iceman’s privacy and out’s him then tells him who he is and what he needs to do with his life, there’s no ambiguity, and Jean’s actions from Bendis’ perspective were perfectly justified. Jean’s next thought pickup from any normal person would have been ‘get out of my life you *add expletive*’. Cyclops starts a ‘mutant revolution’…which is only revolutionary because Magneto is a part of it. Other than that, the separated schools catch mutants and trains them like it’s Pokemon like they always did. Other than looking menacing the ‘ideological conflict’ isn’t a conflict at all…the only confrontation is over the stupidest story idea in X history…bringing the original 5 to cause the older original 5 to not give a crap…oh yeah, and destroy Beast as a character.

      Really…I love the paragraph about his fans and making stories where the heroes ‘do things’ because the characters in all of his X-books that he took over don’t do anything at all. I’m pretty sure he brought the young 5 original X-men back because he had no clue what to do with the current characters and decided to play games with the old crew out of boredom and personal frustration. The worst thing about his X-men run was that he promised a great deal and did nothing at all.

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