Writer: Paul Jenkins
Artists: "Embedded": Ramon Bachs (p), John Lucas (i), Laura Martin (colours)
"The Accused": Steve Lieber (p&i), June Chung (colours)
"Sleeper Cell": Lee Weeks (breakdowns), Sandhu Florea (finishes), J.Brown (colours)
War Poetry Segment: Jorge Lucas
Publisher: Marvel Comics
I'm at a bit of a loss as to what this comic is meant to be offering readers of Civil War. The main story, "Embedded," seems to be wavering between an attempt to provide a man-on-the-street point of view of the current state of the Marvel Universe, an anti-authority dissection of the motivations of the main players (in this issue S.H.I.E.L.D. and Iron Man demonstrate they are being disproportionate in their attempts to convince heroes to register - Gee, y'think?) and a journalism-based story in which neither of the main players seems to be doing any digging or investigating - all of which adds up to a pretty dull read. The "Sleeper Cell" story amounts to a few pages of filler that is only really becoming a story in its fourth instalment (and even then, only just). And the war poetry segment is as ill-conceived as ever, drawing contrived real-world parallels to the events of Civil War for no apparent reason other than to create a sense of gravitas. If a story is strong enough, it shouldn't need this kind of false bolstering, and I certainly don't think it's doing Millar's core title any favours.
The only story which really shows any promise is "The Accused," an exploration of Speedball's tribulations following the Stamford incident. His story could support a book on its own, and it's the only story in which Jenkins ever seems to reach beyond his editorial mandate and delve into some very human feelings and experiences which have arisen as a consequence of the registration act. The trouble is, it's hampered by the anthology format, and loses a lot of its impact through being delivered in bite-sized pieces which have themselves been held up by the delays to the main Civil War book.
My problem is that the book deserves to be better than this. Jenkins has shown himself to be a great writer with his past work, and it's sad to see him wasted on a book like this. The artists are also turning in decent work, as even though I'm not a particular fan of Ramon Bachs' style, he's maintaining a consistent look and feel for the main part of the book, and his storytelling is more than clear. Steve Lieber does better with his artwork on "The Accused," and ensures that I want to see more of the story, even getting away with the real-world parallels of this issue's cliffhanger thanks to his subtle and underplayed image of an assassination attempt on Speedball. The trouble is that, as a whole, the book just fails to come together, and there's so much filler that it simply isn't worth buying for the few strong elements that can be found in its pages.
What's more, this book shows up a real weakness in Marvel's editorial handling of the event, as the details that we get from Jenkins throughout Front Line mean that the title contradicts many of the plot points in other Civil War titles. It conflicts with what we've seen of the superhero prison in Amazing Spider-Man. It conflicts with the manner in which Goliath died in Civil War #4. That none of these deviations really affect the storytelling means that they are forgivable when examining the issue in isolation, but it does raise concerns over just how well co-ordinated Civil War really is.
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