Civil War II #8: Marvel’s Minority Report no Cruise thriller

Marvel’s “summer” event, Civil War II, is finally over with its eighth issue! Or…is it? Brian Michael Bendis’ conclusion to this hero vs. hero tale “ends,” but not before warning readers that they are in for more good guys beating the tar out of good guys in 2017 and possibly beyond.

Anyway, check out my latest YouTube review and let me know what you think in the comments section below. As always, make sure to like and subscribe if the format is up your alley.

And, if you’re going out this weekend for New Year’s Eve festivities, then have fun but stay safe.

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Civil War II No. 7 perfectly explained by Miles Morales: ‘This is weird. Even for people like us’

Brian Michael Bendis’ Civil War II #7 is finally out, although the “summer” event still has one more month to go. On deck is Marvel’s Inhumans vs. X-Men. If you want to know what the company’s obsession with hero vs. hero tales means for our cultural mosaic, then check out my latest YouTube video below.

If you like what you see, then make sure to subscribe for future reviews. And, as always, let me know what you think in the comments section below.

Civil War II #6: Brian Michael Bendis gets political when fans want escapism

Marvel’s Civil War II #6 is out, and Brian Michael Bendis could no longer contain himself. It was only a matter of time before his cautionary tale about racial profiling featured a “Hands up, don’t shoot!” or an “I can’t breathe” moment, but on some level it’s hard to be too annoyed because it was so predictable.

Anyway, check out my latest YouTube video and let me know what you think about the issue in the comments section below. It seems as though Marvel is so obsessed with scoring political points these days that it has forgotten that many readers turn to superhero stories as a form of escapism.

Civil War II #5: Team Stark v. Team Danvers throw down

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Brian Michael Bendis’ Civil War II #5 hit stores this week, and someone must have slipped something in his drink because he dedicated the entire issue to a massive brawl between Team Stark and Team Danvers. Is that a good thing? A bad thing? You’ll have to check out my latest YouTube video to find out.

After you’re done watching, let me know what you think in the comments section below — particularly you’re thoughts on the Inhuman Ulysses’ latest vision.

Civil War II: The Accused #1: Guggenheim does Daredevil well despite flimsy ‘SRA II’ set-up

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This blog asked the following question roughly four months ago: Did Marvel learn from the mistakes of Civil War I? The answer to that question is a resounding “no,” and Civil War II: The Accused #1 further highlights that unfortunate point. As was the case with Christos Gage’s work on The Amazing Spider-Man and even Brian Michael Bendis’ on Spider-Man, fairly impressive writing is undermined by the story’s weak foundation.

Marc Guggenheim does an admirable job showing Matt Murdock’s role in the project, but editorial mandates will give many readers heartburn. In short, Marvel has planted the seeds for Civil War III. Sigh.

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Here is what you need to know for CWII: The Accused #1:

  • The Department of Justice has asked Matt Murdock to join its case against Hawkeye, aka Clint Barton, who killed Bruce Banner. The ace lawyer accepts the challenge.
  • Barton asserts that Bruce Banner gave him the means to the Hulk if he returned. He says he does not know if he did the right thing, but that he had “a reason and it was a good one.”
  • The trial starts and the judge seems to have her thumb (actually, her entire fist) on the scale in favor of Murdock and his team of federal prosecutors. Hawkeye’s legal team meets with Murdock and tells him there is a conspiracy to make sure the superhero winds up in prison. Matt is told that if he looks for the truth then he will find out that he is being manipulated like a puppet.
  • Daredevil breaks into the Department of Justice and comes across a meeting between a military general and federal prosecutor Evelyn Stanzler. The government wants Hawkeye in prison to give officials “political cover” to introduce Superhuman Registration Act II. A murder conviction will give them what they need.
  • Murdock shows up in court and withdraws the government’s motion to exclude Bruce Banner’s video diary from the case. He knows the move damages his case, but does so because he believes it will give Barton a fair trial.
  • Barton is ultimately acquitted. Most people believe Hawkeye did the world a favor.

The key bullet point here is the last one because people in the Marvel Universe would believe that a living and highly unpredictable nuclear weapon should be dead — especially after years of witnessing his destructive capabilities firsthand.

The government does not need to execute a successful conspiracy to launch Superhuman Registration Act II because the sound rationale for it never disappeared after it failed the first time.

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CWII: The Accused #1 makes the case (no pun intended), that nefarious forces need a conviction to persuade the public that it is time for SRA II, which is laughable. The only reason why some readers do not get the absurdity is because Marvel turned Tony Stark into a psychotic warmonger in Civil War I.

If you want to see Mr. Guggenheim do the best he can with the shoddy hand he has been dealt, then check out CWII: The Accused. If you are tired of seeing heroes fighting heroes — and one side always being portrayed as cartoonish goons — then hold onto your cash. Amazing Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows is looking like a must-read.

Bendis nicely sets up ‘Champions’ in Spider-Man #8, but classic heroes turned into giant goofs

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Brian Michael Bendis is one of Marvel’s key writers, but in a previous life he may have been a circus juggler. Spider-Man #8 somehow manages to move the title’s plot forward, set the stage for Champions, and seamlessly tie into Civil War II. Technically, Mr. Bendis hits all of his marks. Creatively, however, SM #8 once again shows why many older Marvel fans are fed up with the company.

Here is what you need to know for SM #8:

  • Jessica Jones and Luke Cage confront Miles Morales on a rooftop and say they know his secret identity.
  • Miles is upset to find out that his grandmother hired Jessica Jones to spy on him, but he is glad to hear that his mother tried to pay the investigator to cancel the contract. He agrees not to say anything to his family after the older heroes tell him to get his act together.
  • Miles is summoned to the Triskelion, S.H.I.E.L.D. headquarters, by Tony Stark. A large group of superheroes are informed by Stark and Captain Marvel that everyone will confront the Hulk about Ulysses’ vision of him killing everyone.
  • Bruce Banner is killed by Hawkeye, as previously shown in Civil War II #3.
  • Nova, Spider-Man, and Ms. Marvel are stunned by what happens and the two young men publicly state their allegiance to Tony Stark. Ms. Marvel breaks down into tears because her role model set the stage for Banners’s death.

This sounds like a great issue, right? Well, sort of. One’s enjoyment or hatred of SM #8 really hinges on his or her opinions on Civil War II. Bendis — and artist Nico Leon — do an admirable job showing young heroes who struggle to find their place in an “adult” world, but at the same time it all comes at the expense of classic characters.

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There is a scene after Banner’s death where the three kids come together to comfort one another that is incredibly poignant, but the feeling disappears the moment one realizes that Captain Marvel and every superhero who sides with her has taken on a goofy position to make Civil War II work.

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In short, Mr. Bendis has nicely set up an “us against the world” dynamic for the future “Champions” that will also serve Spider-Man well, but in many ways he is doing so at the expense of icons like the original Spider-Man, Peter Parker.

If you are an older reader, the best way to show your displeasure is to withhold your wallet for any title that engages in character assassination of the heroes that made Marvel what it is today.

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‘Civil War II: Amazing Spider-Man #4’: Dan Slott’s ASM #17 haunts Christos Gage’s latest effort

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It’s hard not to feel sorry for Christos Gage. The guy was asked to write a Spider-Man story that stood on its own while also supporting Brian Michael Bendis’ Civil War II and Dan Slott’s run on The Amazing Spider-Man.

Question: How does the hero who a.) asked The Prowler to resort to corporate espionage on behalf of Parker Industries, and b.) teams up with Carol “Minority Report” Danvers have the moral authority to lecture a confused man like Clayton Cole?

Answer: He doesn’t.

Civil War II: Amazing Spider-Man #4 is a book that actually reads better the less one knows about the current Marvel universe. For people who just want to roll around a few philosophical questions about redemption and free will like marbles, Mr. Gage’s work satisfies. For people who love the character Peter Parker, however, the issue is just one more reminder of just how intellectually discombobulated he has become thanks (in large part) to writer Dan Slott.

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Here is what you need to know for CWII: ASM #4:

  • Spider-Man tries to talk Clayton Cole off a psychological ledge during the one-on-one battle predicted by Ulysses. Peter wants the scientist to give up his “Clash” technology and start a new life.
  • Robot Master reconstitutes himself and attacks the two men just as Peter seems as though he might have a breakthrough.
  • Clayton leaves Spider-Man to deal with the villain on his own, saying that he needs to go his own way.
  • Spider-Man defeats Robot Master, who vows to take Parker Industries to court for Cole’s attack.
  • Peter Parker and Ulysses discuss the Inhuman’s powers, whether they are appropriate to use, and how to channel them to save lives. Peter now says it would be wrong for Ulysses to work for Parker Industries because the company will be stronger by learning from its own from failures.
  • Spider-Man agrees to work with Carol Danvers to profile potential future criminals. He will fight for the cause if necessary, but says he will act like her personal Jiminy Cricket (It worked out so well with Doctor Octopus, right Pete?)
  • Clash steals a massive amount of off-the-books cash from Roxxon and announces that he will no longer work for other men. The villain begins to recruit for a criminal empire.

Fact: Clayton Cole wanted to “redefine” himself as a hero using Clash technology.

  • What then, we must ask, gave Spider-Man the moral authority to say that Clayton Cole should not do that, but Hobie Brown as the Prowler can?
  • Why is Dan Slott’s Peter Parker a stand-up guy for asking Mr. Brown to break into a business and steal technology for his own selfish reasons, but Mr. Cole is “ruining” his life for trying to turn over a new leaf as Clash — the superhero?
  • How can Peter Parker, a man who has been falsely convicted in the court of public opinion multiple times, endorse Captain “secret detention” Marvel?

In short, CWII: ASM #4 is filled with creative contradictions, which are not treated as such. As was stated in previous reviews, it is tough to discern how culpable Mr. Gage is for the story’s flaws when a strong argument can be made that he is doing the best he can with messes made by other men.

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If you have read the previous three issues of Civil War II: The Amazing Spider-Man, then you may as well buy the conclusion. If you have held off this long, then skip it and take note: The modern Spider-Man is like a boat without an anchor in a storm that shows no sign of breaking.

Again, I feel bad for Mr. Gage — but even more so for the writer who eventually replaces Mr. Slott. Where does a man begin with so much rubble to clear? I guess we’ll find out.

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Related:

‘Civil War II: Amazing Spider-Man #1’: Gage offers reprieve from Slott fare

‘Civil War II: Amazing Spider-Man #2’: Gage explores ‘self-fulfilling prophecy,’ recidivism, and redemption

‘Civil War II: Amazing Spider-Man #3’: Peter Parker turned into hypocritical jerk to keep story going

 

Spider-Man #7: Bendis writes strong tie-in to Civil War II

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Brian Michael Bendis’ Civil War II has taken its lumps in terms of fan interest and sales, but the story is helping to define Miles Morales. Spider-Man #7 features the young man trying to determine whether he will stand and fight alongside Tony Stark in a war over the Inhuman named Ulysses, or if he will sit on the sidelines and let the veterans sort it out for themselves.

Here is what you need to know for Spider-Man #7:

  • Miles is having nightmares about the potential future he experienced, where the Hulk goes completely off the deep end (even by the Hulk’s standards), and kills everyone.
  • Miles’s parents cannot sleep. His mother knows that private investigator Jessica Jones is keeping information about Miles from her. Jones had to use her superhuman strength to carry Rio out of her office…and send a message to stay away.
  • Miles’s father wants the investigation (launched by his mother-in-law) called off, but the two parents seemingly don’t have the power to make it happen.
  • Miles web-slings around New York to clear his head and runs into Lana Baumgartner, aka Bombshell. After she stops a robbery by blowing up a van, Miles says her behavior is symbolic of a lot of other superheroes: “You stopped a robbery, but you started a fire.”
  • The two teenagers talk about the upcoming war between superheroes and Lana says that Miles is being manipulated by the “rich white dude” known as Tony Stark to do something against his will. Her reasoning — that’s what “rich white dudes do.” (Note: Don’t expect Bendis to ever have Miles Morales sarcastically reply: “You mean like Steve Jobs or Bill Gates or Elon Musk?”)
  • Miles has a nightmare during class and is forced to leave the room. He goes up onto a roof as Spider-Man and is confronted by Jessica Jones and Luke Cage.

All things considered, this was a pleasing issue for Bendis and it was made even better by strong work by artist Nico Leon. Whether one likes Civil War II or not, one of the long-term benefits of the tale is that it serves to define young characters like Miles.

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The challenge for Bendis, however, will be to adequately show the “now what?” — the follow-through that often seems missing from his work. The writer has a habit of toying with big ideas and then placing them aside to focus on something else.

Whether Bendis is writing Tony Stark in Invincible Iron Man or Miles Morales in Spider-Man, in many ways he keeps them in a holding pattern. He occasionally dips and swerves the plane to the left or the right, but at some point in time his passengers realize that they have been deceived — they’ve just been flying in circles.

After seven issues of Spider-Man, readers want to know “Who is Miles Morales?” While it is true that he is a young character who is finding his voice — and part of the fun is going on that journey with him — it seems as though Bendis is being stingy with key aspects of the hero’s personality. Either the writer doesn’t yet know what the character really represents, or he is scared that readers will not like what they hear.

If you planned on checking on Spider-Man, then Bendis’ seventh issue is a good jumping-on point. Potential customers just need to know that  Miles Morales’s character development has been frustratingly slow since the series first launched. Perhaps the conclusion of Civil War II will change that.

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‘Civil War II: Amazing Spider-Man #3’: Peter Parker turned into hypocritical jerk to keep story going

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Marvel “events” have a weird habit of warping a character’s personality in order to arrive at an author’s desired outcome — superhero integrity be damned. Civil War II: Amazing Spider-Man #3 officially falls victim to this recurring annoyance. Writer Christos Gage takes Peter Parker’s penchant for getting on his high horse and (in keeping with the theme of the story), jacks up the amplitude to a bizarre level. By turning the character into a hypocritical jerk, the prognostications of the Inhuman known as Ulysses once again come true.

Here is what you need to know about Civil War II: Amazing Spider-Man # 3:

  • Clayton Cole, aka Clash, meets with Robot Master. The villain, whose real name is Mendel Stromm, discusses his plans to steal money from Parker Industries but is ambushed by Clash.
  • Peter Parker laments having fired Clayton. He sulks at table as Harry Osborn Lyman condescendingly pats him on the back and says, “Clayton’s a grown man too. He made his own choices, and he’s responsible for them. Now it’s on him. (Note: How sad is it that a former Green Goblin now must lecture Peter on what it means to take responsibility for one’s actions?)
  • Robot Master, having anticipated a double-cross by Clash, notes that his mechanical minions have been upgraded and are ready for a fight. A battle ensues on the streets of New York City.
  • Spider-Man shows up to save the day. After Robot Master’s technology forms into a giant robot (and Spidey jokes, “Always giant robots…”), the two eventually agree to divvy up the tasks. Spider-Man agrees to “trust” Clash and leave him with the giant robot while he chases down Stromm.
  • Both men defeat their respective opponents. Spider-Man then decides to lecture Clash on what a rotten person he is the moment the dust settles. The hero says that “Peter Parker” is going to let Clayton have his job back — provided he turn over all of his sonic technology.
  • Clayton gets an “angry Beavis” look in his eyes from the old Beavis and Butt-Head cartoons, and then attacks Spider-Man —just like Ulysses predicted.

This issue had so much potential. It is hard not to look at Robot Master’s lab, which appears to be something out of Tim Burton’s wildest dreams, and not anticipate a good read. Mr. Gage generally does an adequate job — and Spider-Man fans finally gets a decent fight scene — but it appears as though the constraints of Civil War constantly undermine the book.

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Consider this:

  • On one hand we have Peter Parker, a sulking mess who doesn’t understand basic responsibility. Harry recounts how Peter behaved like a stalking ex-boyfriend by sending Clayton “message after message” via “voice, text, email” to try and apologize … for firing a guy who probably deserved to be fired. At Parker Industries, it’s almost impossible to get terminated. (Does anyone know what happened to Lian Tang, the Parker Industries girlfriend who tried to kill him? I wouldn’t be surprised if she still has a job…)
  • On the other hand we have Clayton Cole, a guy who outwardly appears to be a nutcase (bulging eyes, screaming fits of rage, crying on the job, sweating, etc.), in addition to the issues raging beneath the surface. The audience is often encouraged by Mr. Cage to have sympathy for the man, but it is always negated by his actions.
  •  The question becomes: What the heck is the point of all of this?

As has been said before, Christos Gage handles issues of redemption and responsibility much better than the series’ regular writer, Dan Slott. The interactions between characters are more natural, which in turn give the action scenes added weight (i.e., Gage’s stories do not feel like a kid who mashes his action figures together and then expects you to care). It’s just a shame that Civil War makes it difficult to judge whether editorial mandates are the cause of The Amazing Über-Hypocrite, or if that is an mistake that rests solely on Gage’s shoulders.

Fact: Spider-Man is a vigilante. Vigilantes do not get to stand upon a giant moral pedestal and lecture other vigilantes about the collateral damage brought about by their actions.

Peter Parker of all people should know that Clayton Cole — a fellow man of science — sees his knack for sonic technology as his “great power,” which also comes with “great responsibility.”

Peter Parker of all people should also know that Clayton Cole would feel added pressure and guilt, given that he erred with his powers early on in life. Therefore, a well-written Spider-Man in this issue would not have behaved like a massive tool in the immediate aftermath of a street battle.

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In short, Civil War II:: Amazing Spider-Man #3 is worth checking out if you purchased the first two issues, but you can probably sit out the finale if you still haven’t coughed up any hard-earned cash.

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Editor’s Note: Just to keep the sound motif going, what is with the Amazing Spider-Man #15 “echo”? Clayton asks Peter Parker to trust him in battle, which is what Mary Jane did during her battle with Regent. Oddly enough, Peter had legitimate reasons to not trust either of them…

Related:

‘Civil War II: Amazing Spider-Man #1’: Gage offers reprieve from Slott fare

‘Civil War II: Amazing Spider-Man #2’: Gage explores ‘self-fulfilling prophecy,’ recidivism, and redemption

Amazing Spider-Man #15: Dan Slott’s Regent took down a god, then falls to … Mary Jane