Civil War II #2: ‘Torture’ Stark duplicates dumb mistakes from 2006

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

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Civil War II: Amazing Spider-Man #1 came out on Wednesday, which gave Marvel fans an opportunity to see how everyone’s favorite wall crawler reacted to the Inhuman prognosticator at its core.  It is safe to say that writer Christos Gage offered more intrigue in a single issue than ASM writer Dan Slott in months.

Here is what you need to know for Civil War II: Amazing Spider-Man #1:

  • Peter Parker lands in New York City after a long flight from Shanghai. He crawls into bed at Parker Industries headquarters to take a quick nap and is shocked to find Johnny Storm — naked. He tells Johnny to put some clothes on or “flame on” so he can turn around. The Human Torch reminds Peter that he is scheduled to spend time with Ulysses, the Inhuman who can see and “experience” possible futures.
  • Spider-Man takes down the Vulture and the “Vulturions” over New York City. Ulysses is with the hero.
  • The two men make their way to Chinatown and stop a rage-filled man who was going to murder his ex-girlfriend.
  • Spider-Man tells Ulysses that if he hones his power, then he can help Parker Industries narrow down projects that will make it through the research and development phase — and therefore help a greater number of people.
  • Ulysses takes a tour of Parker Industries and meets Harry Osborn  **cough**Lyman**cough** and Clayton Cole.
  • Ulysses tells Spider-Man that Clayton Cole, aka Clash, will likely revert to his old ways. The Inhuman tells Spider-Man to prepare for an attack.

As I mentioned in the comments section of my review for Civil War II #1, there is incredible danger in fully embracing a man who only sees possible futures. Ulysses actually admits in the issue that his predictions “almost” always come true, but not 100 percent of the time.

What if, simply by allowing doubt to creep into his mind over his employee’s integrity, Peter Parker inadvertently plants the seeds for Mr. Cole’s recidivism?

What if Ulysses is unknowingly a harbinger of doom that can only transpire if heroes alter the “future-dominos” for him?

These are all very interesting questions, the kind of which are sorely lacking in The Amazingly Immature Spider-Man these days.

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Perhaps the only odd note the issue hits is the opportunistic way that Peter latches onto Ulysses and his ability. He rightly tells the young man that he can probably use his powers to affect more lives than he realizes, but the moment is ruined with a hasty job offer at Parker Industries. Readers want to believe Peter is not exploiting the situation, but it’s hard not to wonder given how petty and immature the character is under Slott’s direction.

Overall, if you’re looking for a book that gets the Civil War II ball rolling, then check out Christos Gage’s work. His effort also serves as a good audition for the role of lead ASM scribe. For the first time in many months I have not felt embarrassed for the title, and that is a good thing. I look forward to buying Civil War II: Amazing Spider-Man 2.

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Exit Question: Is it me, or did this issue highlight how Peter Parker filled his entire inner circle at the company — courtesy of Dan Slott — with back-stabbers, criminals, and super villains?

  • Anna Maria Marconi: Doc Ock’s girlfriend. She went behind Peter’s back with Sanjani on Doc Ock’s nano-technology project.
  • Sanjani: She tried to strike a deal with The Ghost — a corporate saboteur — to destroy Parker Industries.
  • Lien Tang: Peter’s girlfriend tried to murder Spider-Man and traded company secrets to a terrorist organization.
  • Jacob Fury, aka Vernon Jacobs: Parker Industries’ biggest shareholder — and Peter’s “secret Santa” at the company Christmas party — ended up being the terrorist mastermind Scorpio.
  • Clayton Cole: Mr. Cole was formerly the villain known as Clash.
  • Harry Osborn: It’s really only a matter of time before Harry falls off the Green Goblin wagon. We might as well get it over with.
  • Living Brain: The robot is Doctor Octopus.

Civil War II #1: Rhodey’s death a missed opportunity

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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.

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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.

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Civil War II: Did Marvel learn from previous debacle?

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Marvel’s Civil War II doesn’t kick off until June, but readers have been given teasers with a release on Free Comic Book Day and Civil War II #0. The question many fans are asking now is: Did Marvel learn anything from the debacle that was Civil War I?

Anyone who has seen Captain America: Civil War knows that hero vs. hero tales can be entertaining — provided the writers don’t let political hackery get in the way. Marvel’s first attempt at a “civil war” between heroes was a pathetic Bush administration allegory gone wrong, but the “pre-crime” angle this time around may deny the writers the rope they would undoubtedly use to hang themselves.

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Before we go on, here’s what you need to know about the Civil War II content released thus far:

  • Jennifer Walters (aka: She-Hulk) defends Jonathan Powers (aka: The Jester) in a New York City courtroom. She claims he was the victim of “entrapment” by the government while “talking shop,’ but he is convicted of a non-disclosed crime anyway.
  • The Jester is killed in prison before his sentence can be appealed.
  • Captain Marvel wishes she could stop disasters before they happen.
  • Ulysses, an Inhuman who “experiences” the future, teams up with Captain Marvel to try and learn more about his condition.
  • Captain Marvel, She-Hulk, War Machine, The Inhumans, and others use one of Ulysses’ visions to get the jump on Thanos before he can raid a facility housing the Cosmic Cube.
  • The group does stop Thanos but War Machine and She-Hulk are gravely injured in the process.

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At a cursory glance, Civil War II looks like it has enormous potential.

  • When Bendis is on his game, he produces all-star work.
  • Oliver Coipel’s artwork is excellent (as was Jim Cheung’s in the Free Comic Book Day release.)
  • Exploring Minority Report-like themes with Marvel characters is a no-brainer.

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The problem Marvel’s comics division faces is that it’s often its own worst enemy. The company’s track record suggests that a ready-made winner will be turned into a loser by writers who use the event to take political potshots.

My guess is that Civil War II will be much better than the first incarnation, if for no other reason than because President Obama is still in office. Instead of feeling some bizarre social responsibility to convey to readers that all Republicans are evil, writers will focus on broader themes that transcend petty politics.

If you’re on the fence about whether to check out Civil War II or not, then stop in here over the next couple months to get an update. I plan on reviewing the event unless it goes completely off the rails.

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