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.
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.