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It was one month ago that this blog asked if Marvel’s Civil War II would avoid the kind of mistakes made during 2006’s first Civil War event. Mark Millar and others turned Tony Stark into a Dick Cheney-esque villain to forward an embarrassing Bush administration allegory, and as a result the story tanked. Brian Michael Bendis has seemingly learned nothing in ten years. His Tony Stark jokes about torturing others “a little bit” in scenes that are unnecessary in terms of moving the plot forward.

Here is what you need to know for Civil War II #2:

  • Tony Stark goes to New Attilan and kidnaps Ulysses. An Iron Man decoy defeats Medussa and Karnak while the real Tony escapes to a secret location.
  • The Inhumans head to Stark Tower. Karnak vows to tear it down when S.H.I.E.L.D., Captain Marvel and the rest of The Ultimates appear.
  • Captain Marvel wants “one chance” to get Tony under control.
  • Tony hooks Ulysses up to a brain scanner and threatens to beat him to see how the young man’s brain waves affect his precognition.
  • Friday downloads a “copy” of Ulysses’ brain just before the other heroes locate Tony Stark and confront him.
  • Ulysses says Tony tortured him, and the billionaire’s response with a smile is, “a little bit,” (because torture is supposed to be funny?).
  • Ulysses has a vision that the Hulk kills all the heroes, but this time the episode is seen by everyone in the room.
  • Captain Marvel arrives at Bruce Banner’s lab in Alpine, Utah.

While one can debate the definition of torture all day, it is much harder to deny that the scene in question was unnecessary. It only serves to make Mr. Stark look unhinged.

Ulysses even says, “You could have asked me to do these tests,” to which Tony says nothing. There is no response because Tony Stark, even while grieving for his friend, would have demanded an opportunity to study the kid’s brain.

Given that Ulysses has said he is (or was) a huge fan of Tony Stark, and given that the Inhumans let him web-sling around New York City with Spider-Man, it’s a safe bet that they would have allowed him to wear a few brain scanners. There is no reason to engage in character assassination in order to tell a good story, but for some strange reason Marvel likes turning Tony Stark into something from CIA leaker Edward Snowden’s worst nightmares.

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Stark’s CIA black site tactics are then juxtaposed with the measured diplomacy of female heroes. Bendis writes a scene that screams, “Imagine if the world were run by women — there would be no more wars! They would look into each other’s eyes, connect with universal sisterhood of things, and come to an agreement. Darn those…those…men!”

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The problem with hero versus hero events is that it is obvious that Marvel’s current staff does not know how to write a legitimately balanced story. The Russo brothers proved that it can be done with Captain America: Civil War, but for some unknown reason the comic book scribes are incapable of such a feat.

The result, sadly, is that readers think, “These guys are dysfunctional losers. The world would be better off without them. Why should I buy this?”

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Civil War II could have been an intriguing tale, but turning Tony Stark into “Torture” Stark does not bode well for future issues. Perhaps Bendis will right the ship, but as of now it looks like it’s the captain who is trying to sink his own vessel.

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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.

12 comments

  1. “Stark’s CIA black site tactics are then juxtaposed with the measured diplomacy of female heroes. Bendis writes a scene that screams, “Imagine if the world were run by women — there would be no more wars! They would look into each other’s eyes, connect with universal sisterhood of things, and come to an agreement. Darn those…those…men!”

    I’m not surprised by this at all. Bendis can be a good writer, when he keeps this stuff to himself. However, it seems like he’s been unable to as of late, what with RiRi from the latest Iron Man run and now this. Sounds like he’s trying to echo Sally Field, who made a similar comment about how “there’d be no wars” if mothers ran the world at the Emmys or Golden Globes.

    I’m also not surprised that he’s revived the Tony Stark is a straw man conservative thing again.

    1. “I’m not surprised by this at all. Bendis can be a good writer, when he keeps this stuff to himself. However, it seems like he’s been unable to as of late, what with RiRi from the latest Iron Man run and now this. Sounds like he’s trying to echo Sally Field, who made a similar comment about how “there’d be no wars” if mothers ran the world at the Emmys or Golden Globes.”

      If Bendis’ name rhymed with Sam Lott, then he would just bash you over the head with “there would be no more wars if women were in charge” dialogue. He’s more subtle about it, but it’s definitely there.

  2. Bend it like Bendis.

    I wouldn’t worry about it. If it’s anything like his X-men run, Iron Man going full Hanoi Hilton will have no actual consequence, nothing will change and everything will be just as it was. The only thing that will effect you will be the annoying repetitive dialogue that you can’t differentiate based on comic book personality.

    I’m laughing at the Medusa portrayal, I guess Marvel is having a hard time figuring out if she should be an older badass queen with sexual license or a concerned sister girls club gender studies escapee. Maybe to Bendis they are the same thing. I’m sorry…not maybe. I think the Medusa Marvel has been selling lately would be using words closer to “shut the hell up CM, choke on my hair ball” and “your pretty useless not-Thor, even when there’s a misogynist around….the only thing you’ll fight” or “Your joke of an organization isn’t even good enough for a laugh anymore with you in charge, Maria” …okay that doesn’t really sound like Medusa…it sounds like me! See…I can WRITE LIKE BENDIS TOO.

    1. “I wouldn’t worry about it. If it’s anything like his X-men run, Iron Man going full Hanoi Hilton will have no actual consequence, nothing will change and everything will be just as it was. The only thing that will effect you will be the annoying repetitive dialogue that you can’t differentiate based on comic book personality.”

      Now that I’ve been reading Invincible Iron Man, Spider-Man, and Civil War II on a regular basis I have to say that Bendis can be incredibly frustrating. There’s…no payoff. Readers have stuck with IIM for 10 issues, and it seems like nothing has happened. I’m a pretty patient guy, but it seems like his building…and building…and building to something, but yet it never comes. Will it actually be worth 11 or 12 issues by the time we get to the big reveal? Probably not.

    2. Yeah. His biggest problem for me is that he misses, on purpose, opportunities for some good drama. I can only speak for the X-men I read. He seeks to make cyclops a revolutionary, with the ‘che’ imagery, but never really pulls the trigger. Earlier writers had him there already with the X force black ops. Bendis’ cyclops is more tame, with only the flash of being ‘edgy’. He tries to set conflict within the original 5 X-Men from the past, but only Jean and Bobby are developed, and the one chance he has, Jean’s outrageous violation of Bobby’s privacy is never used. He begins potentially good arcs with Magneto and Magik, and they both come to nothing. Eva, a character introduced for Bendis to make commentary basically acts as an annoying deus ex machina. Freezing time and altering it so Bendis can undo the damage he causes and return everything to normal. Its lazy and lame.

    3. I have that problem with Bendis, too. It seems like he’s always building toward something huge… and it never happens. He’s kind of like current Doctor Who showrunner/executive producer Steven Moffat in that regard. Moffat also plants seeds of what should be an amazing storyline, but it ends up disappointing/confusing the viewer and not going anywhere. I’m still scratching my head at the “Silence Will Fall” storyline that he started in Season 5 and ended in Season 7. Plus the current Doctor, Peter Capaldi, is terrible.

      That’s one of the things that irks me about long-term story arcs… they never seem to go anywhere. I mean, pretty much every show I’ve watched that had one ended up not resolving anything. The X-Files, Burn Notice, Alias, current Doctor Who, Haven, Heroes, Fringe, Lost, etc all got bogged down in their own plot and it eventually collapsed under their own weight.

      My frustration with that type of storyline is why my book and its sequels (I currently have nine plotted out, but I think there will be more than that) is largely stand alone in nature.

    4. “That’s one of the things that irks me about long-term story arcs… they never seem to go anywhere. I mean, pretty much every show I’ve watched that had one ended up not resolving anything. The X-Files, Burn Notice, Alias, current Doctor Who, Haven, Heroes, Fringe, Lost, etc all got bogged down in their own plot and it eventually collapsed under their own weight.”

      That is a very fair point. I’m not sure why so many good writers seem to fall victim to this particular issue.

    5. “That is a very fair point. I’m not sure why so many good writers seem to fall victim to this particular issue.”

      I’m not sure, either. I don’t know where people got the idea that comic books and TV shows NEED long, complicated story arcs. Comics and TV both used to be largely stand-alone in nature, with the occasional two-part story (the original Star Trek series only had one two-part episode, “The Menagerie.”). Episodic shows are much easier to follow than arc-heavy shows. With comics, it started in the 1980s when crossovers became the norm, and in TV, it started in the 1990s or so with overrated shows like “The Sopranos.” At least, that’s my theory.

    1. Disclaimer: I haven’t actually read Civil War, but from what I’ve seen here about Civil War 2, it looks like “second verse, same as the first”.

      Sigh. True. It’s just sad because it didn’t need to be that way.

  3. “The result, sadly, is that readers think, “These guys are dysfunctional losers. The world would be better off without them. Why should I buy this?””

    Exactly what i thought after reading the issue, it’s basically impossible to pick a side because everyone act as an idiot. And that ending with Carol going to “talk” with Banner… i’am the only one who think that probably the whole thing’ll become some sort of self fulfilling prophecy?

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