Written by Brian Michael Bendis and drawn by Jim Cheung, Free Comic Book Day: Civil War II opens with War Machine descending on the Triskelion as Captain Marvel and Black Panther await a different visitor. Coincidental, yes, but also convenient enough to fill an entire page of this free adventure.
Taking advantage of War Machine’s role in the feature film, this comic puts the beneficiary of Tony Stark’s weapons systems front and center, and then constructs the rest of the cast around him. Captain Marvel, Black Panther, and She-Hulk appear, as do a handful of Inhumans and Human Torch. The plot involves Thanos and intersects with a NuHuman that can see future events (hence the other Inhumans).
Intended to pique curiosity and garner attention, this comic has all of the key ingredients to generate buzz: recognizable characters, tragic events, big battles, and epic villains. With only eleven pages to operate, even the character beats seem like plot devices, rather than true development. Bendis gives readers plenty to absorb, and manages to avoid the major Marvel characters (Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, Black Widow, Spider-Man, and Hulk) that the general public would recognize, choosing instead to focus on the next wave of stars. And Thanos.
Free Comic Book Day: Civil War II is a quick read, but the art from Jim Cheung (with inks by John Dell, colors by Justin Ponsor, and letters from Clayton Cowles) makes the first half of this comic anything but quick. Cheung’s work is intricately detailed, and, despite several moments in this tale straining for want to become a splash page, no one panel ever consumes more space than two-third of a page. The backgrounds are fairly simple, save for when they appear as set introductions, which gives Cheung plenty of opportunity to focus on the characters present. Based solely on the art, I’m pretty sure a Cheung-drawn Thanos vs. War Machine comic would shame half of the artists currently working in the industry.
The issue isn’t just those two characters, however, as this installment sows the seeds for the upcoming, primary Civil War II series. At the end of the Civil War II portion of this issue, there are two heroes down and an air of mystery surrounds their individual statuses. Are they clinging to life or dead? Some readers may leap to conclusions, but given the introductory nature of this issue, I’m content to wait and see.
The second half of this comic comes a little closer to home, at least as the Spider-Man corner of the Marvel Universe is concerned. “Buzzed” introduces readers to the all-new Wasp who is set to make more of a robust appearance in All-New, All-Different Avengers #9.
Written by Mark Waid and drawn by Alan Davis, this chapter is told in caption boxes by the winged protagonist, who eagerly spills her history to the reader. It’s not everything, and some details are naturally omitted, but Waid’s choice to have the character introduce us to the character is practical and proper.
Matt Hollingsworth’s colors are bright and bold during the Wasp’s action sequences, but muted a bit when the Wasp reflects on her days prior to donning a costume. As expected, Davis (with Mark Farmer inking) makes it all look fantastic.
As Bendis does in the lead story, Waid gives readers just enough of a sample to tease. No one is going to set this issue down and declare the new Wasp their favorite character, but there is enough here to put the character on readers’ radars. Although I find myself wondering why we need a new Wasp, when Janet Van Dyne hasn’t been seen in awhile; she always seemed more than capable of handling larger stories or more of a starring role, but just never really had the right chance.
Free Comic Book Day: Civil War II is a nice offering with some fresh new material masterfully planned to tie in to ongoing stories from Marvel. There’s enough here to serve as a sampler for things to come, and putting it on paper to get it in people’s hands is a smart move. My only nit to pick is the use of the term “asshat” in what could otherwise have been a shareable comic for younger readers. Sure, most of the target readership would already have heard the term from the “Ant-Man” movie, but it does seem unnecessary in this vehicle.
Otherwise, I’d strongly recommend readers track down a copy of Free Comic Book Day: Civil War II. Yes, Spider-Man is completely absent from the pages of this comic, but I’m sure most of you Spider-Fans will find some enjoyment in the stories contained here. Besides, it’s free, right?