If nothing else, artist David Marquez and colorist Justin Ponsor make Civil War II #1 a gorgeous looking comic book filled with fantastic imagery. Tony Stark takes a turn or three yelling at Carol Danvers and America Chavez, and not only do Danvers and Chavez look different, but Stark yells differently. And Marquez tilts the camera angle, and makes some interesting choices and tells the story from creative points of view. This seems like faint praise, but it isn’t, Marquez’s craftsmanship stands alone amongst many modern artists.
Marquez draws eleven costumed heroes listening to Ulysses (the NuHuman with the ability to see into the future, but we’ll come back to that) in various states of ease, but no two characters are positioned the same. None of them have the same build, nor do they have the same expression, or even the same way of crossing their arms. Ponsor amplifies that with a wide array of coloring and gives the heroes more than “white” or “black” skin. Of course it helps that two of the eleven are green, but the fact of the matter is that Marquez and Ponsor fill this comic with individual characters and their natural reactions. The splash page of Thor leading the charge into battle has over three dozen characters coming at the reader – – ON A SINGLE PAGE!!
Marquez doesn’t pull any punches in his storytelling either. He includes an image that is evocative of Michelangelo’s Pietá as Carol cradles the fallen hero of Civil War II #1. That single image could be as iconic to this tale as Superman cradling Supergirl is to fans of DC’s Crisis on Infinite Earths series.
My only quibble with Marquez’s art, which is the same quibble I’m going to have with most anyone drawing She-Hulk, is that Jen doesn’t – and shouldn’t! – have to be slender and swimsuit-model-lean. She’s a HULK. Give her some tone, some other curves. Experiment a little. If the story reveals that her biology is so specific, so unique, make her unique. Don’t just call her unique. There. I’ve said a bit too much about too minor a nit.
Clayton Cowles rounds out the visual accomplishments in Civil War II #1 with dynamic sound effects; sharp, clinical character tags; an array of tones and meter; and even logos inserted into word balloons. Layered atop a comic filled with beautiful drawings, colored with combat red, mystical yellow, and cosmic blue, the text becomes the finishing touch of the story.
It’s just a darn shame the story isn’t as beautiful. There are hiccups and there are McGuffins. Certainly She-Hulk has been shot with missiles before. Armored characters have been punched by Thanos before. Young Jean Grey is the most gifted telepath available and Bruce Banner conveniently is not. Many of these bits can be overlooked for the sake of the story, but the story needs this confluence to happen.
Writer Brian Michael Bendis opens with a comparably quiet introduction to Ulysses and the Inhumans, pacing out the opening scene like the pre-credits clip of a movie. Following the creator credits, things get wild and loud, with the Avengers fighting a giant Celestial and additional factions being called into battle. X-Men, sorcerers, Ultimates, Inhumans, and more Avengers all converge, giving readers a most satisfying fight sequence.
Bendis stages a couple of the mass introductions to make for easy exposition, which Marquez, Ponsor, and Cowles nail, even if a shot or two come off like Sears’ portraits poses. The writer doesn’t linger there, but keeps the story moving, and sometimes that moving gets a little wacky.
The story starts off at some undetermined time in Columbus, then advances “weeks later,” to “the next evening,” before “three weeks later” then catches up to just hours (minutes?) after the Civil War II Free Comic Book Day edition.
Bendis coyly bounces between presuming readers have checked in on the previously released prologues and just flat-out summarizing those issues. Yes, this is the first issue of a seven-issue series, but if you add those other two chapters in, this is actually closer to the end of the first third of the story. Civil War II #1 has thirty-nine pages of new story, and gives readers plenty of background, but it is positioned more for longer-term readers than casual fans. Bendis doesn’t completely spoil the other previously released chapters, but he does button things up, giving readers closure as to what happened to War Machine and She-Hulk in the Free Comic Book Day issue.
The story revolves around Ulysses, and whether or not future knowledge should be leveraged to forego disaster. In this issue Bendis presents both sides and both potential outcomes of the usage, giving readers enough information to make their own decisions. Danvers is shown in a light that is proactive and headstrong, willing to do what must be done to better the world, no matter the cost. Stark takes the high road, preferring to be reactionary. Although he could be perceived as “right” or “morally justified,” especially in the wake of the casualty depicted in Civil War II #1, Stark comes across as petulant, especially as the last page depicts him in a hurry.
This first issue really gives readers a lot to digest and some beautiful art to describe it all. What it doesn’t do, however, is provide enough substance to carry this story out for another one hundred and twenty pages (plus specials, tie-ins, and spinoffs). I’m not sure the premise is really even enough for a sustained limited series. Four issues, maybe. The conflict at the heart of Civil War II #1 is essentially a family squabble about a lost loved one augmented by super powers. Like everything else the super-powered characters of the Marvel Universe do, this is taken to the nth degree. Tony and Carol should, by all rights and within the constraints of the characters, figure out how to solve this amicably. And they still may. But before that happens, sides are going to be drawn and characters are going to support their champion. I suspect a great deal of what’s to come will be justification for decisions made, but I’d rather prefer to read another couple to five issues of fights and gatherings like Bendis, Marquez, Ponsor, and Cowles give us in this comic.
As I did with Secret Wars, I plan to provide a quick rundown of Spider-People in this series. Miles Morales has panel time on the front end of this issue while Peter Parker’s version of Spider-Man is present in the planning and explanation revelations in the middle third. Both have bits of dialog and some of the more lighthearted bits come from those two. Jessica Drew makes a brief cameo, as does Mary Jane Watson, who is actually present when the story dramatically shifts.
For seasoned readers of the Marvel Universe, Civil War II #1 opens with the big bang an event comic book should deliver. It even brings in all of the various teams, and moves the spotlight around. Bendis makes it quite clear who the critical figures are in this story, but that doesn’t stop him from showcasing a number of other characters along the way.
Newer readers, casual fans, or fans of the films might need a bit more than this first issue to decipher all the action, identify all the players, and follow the story’s flow, but there is plenty here to like.
My biggest concern isn’t present in this issue, in fact, the longer I spend writing this review the more I’m convincing myself this is an excellent introductory chapter. It is simply whether or not this story has enough energy to move forward. I don’t see that energy or premise present in this issue, but, in all fairness, this is chapter one. I plead Nick Spencer’s case with the big reveal in Captain America: Steve Rogers #1, but the difference is that is not branded as an event. This is. Both are opening chapters in larger tales. Events require momentum and action, and the action I’m imagining we have yet to see just might be limited to yelling. Thankfully, with Marquez, Ponsor, and Cowles backing him up, the yelling Bendis will bring readers will be magnificent to behold. I just hope he can give this series a boost to sustain it.