Writer: Mark Millar
Artists: Steve McNiven (p), Dexter Vines (i), Morry Hollowell (colors)
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Civil War #7 is not actively awful; Mark Millar at least is too good to let that happen, but it is conspicuously below average.
The pacing is woefully inadequate, with an overlong fight scene exactly like every other overlong fight scene we’ve seen in the past eighty-odd issues segueing clumsily into an erratic and choppy montage straight out of bad primetime U.S. TV drama; as Reed writes his letter to his wife, you can almost hear the generic MOR soundtrack playing over the half-formed scenes and soppy narration. The resulting combination is a deeply unsatisfying climax to this supposedly epic series, and although I’m not entirely surprised, I’d still expect something better from Millar. And if you were hoping to see any actual plots resolved, you’d be disappointed; the Doctor Strange/Watcher subplot we were told was so very important is completely ignored, for example, and the much-vaunted central moral question Marvel were so smug about withers away into confusing nothingness. The less said about the big “42” mystery, the better. The anaemic script isn’t much to speak of either, with such delights as Reed “C**t” Richards observing Spider-Man in battle and declaring him to be “amazing.” Because he’s the Amazing Spider-Man, you see? How clever; I have actually seen people calling Civil War “the new Watchmen” based on swill like this.
Steve McNiven continues to indulgently waste space with huge panels full of static, plasticky figures that fail to convey any plot or characterisation whatsoever; witness the characters lining up for battle in the opening pages, actually looking bored by the fact that they’re shortly going to be fighting for their lives. The non-existent storytelling might have been easier to deal with if McNiven had occasionally attempted to put more than a handful of panels on each page, but that’s just as likely to be a scripting problem as it is a fault of the artist.
If you liked the previous issues of Civil War, you’ll enjoy this. You’d also be quite deranged, as this has been the most weakly-plotted, content-free excuse for a major storytelling event, let alone one with alleged intellectual depth, that I’ve read in a long time. Civil War seems like it’s been the same fight scene repeated for ten months and eighty issues, climaxing (if that’s the right word) in a limp non-comittal excuse of an ending in which even this emaciated plot remains largely unresolved. Surely Marvel can do better.
When first announced, Civil War sounded like it had genuine potential as an interesting mini-series that would mirror real world issues and establish the new status quo for the Marvel Universe. Unfortunately, though it has delivered on that last point, the real world parallel was tenuous at best and the series’ ending has turned to be something rather uninteresting. This is made all the worse by the fact that I was really looking forward to this series. The first couple of issues really captured my interest and brought out some genuine comic book excitement in me.
Before I start I want to take a brief moment to say that Marvel is, and always has been, my favourite comics’ publisher, and, though I’m not a blind follower of everything they put out, I still read more of their titles than anyone else’s and tend to enjoy them more as well. These things therefore make the disappointment that is the last issue of Civil War all the harder to bear.
This issue has been hyped to high heaven by the powers that be at Marvel and there was a lot of expectation and prejudice surrounding it. I went in with an open mind, hoping to find an ending that would eclipse all my previous reservations about the series. This isn’t such an ending. Marvel was promising the monumental death of a much loved character. Everyone and their uncle knows by now that that character is Captain America.
Except he doesn’t die: it’s a symbolic death of the Captain America identity as Steve Rogers realises he’s be en acting as much of a tosser as Tony Stark over the last couple of months and goes to prison to atone for his sins and end the conflict.
That’s not a memorable ending. It’s just weak. Why, then of all times, does Cap decide that he’s not doing the right thing? For Christ’s sake, he’s been doing this for 6 issues already! He’s beaten up S.H.I.E.L.D. agents without a second thought. Obviously, I wasn’t expecting the actual death of Cap or Iron Man, but couldn’t Marvel have come up with something better than this? The annoying thing is that other writers also seem to view this as a complete cop-out. In Amazing Spider-Man this week, Straczynski has Peter think about Cap that: “He’ll never sacrifice what he stands for. Not as long as he’s alive,” and Bendis is writing a book about heroes who are still sticking it to “The Man” by not registering and continuing to fight crime.
This is actually quite an interesting point. Bendis has indicated in interviews that Cage and his New Avengers feel like Avengers because “Cap told them they were.” Yet they’re purposefully going against his wishes by not registering, even after he sacrifices himself to protect them. What ungrateful gits! However, Cage, Spider-Man, Falcon and all the other Secret Avengers ought to be seriously pissed off with Captain America. He’s spent months convincing all his friends to break the law and help him oppose the pro-reg camp. Then, when things get really tough, he just turns his back and says “Hey, actually I was wrong but I’m happy to go to prison. How about you guys?” Is this how a hero behaves? More like a spoilt brat in my opinion. It would be interesting if Cage and the others actually formed the New Avengers just to spite Cap. That would be a fun and completely justified concept! Namor in particular should harbour a serious grudge over this. All the renegade heroes got pardons but what about the Atlanteans? Namor has just invaded the U.S., a sovereign nation, and openly attacked their paid law keepers. That’s a pretty serious international incident, leaving Atlantis in a rather unenviable position.
The Atlanteans’ inclusion and the manner in which it’s done, is just one of many examples of bad story-telling in this issue. Granted, it is the final issue and all loose ends must, or at least should, be tied up, but things just happen during the battle that aren’t explained and without any build-up or emotional depth. The Atlanteans just appear in the nick of time. Then all of the pro-reg newly engineered heroes and Captain Mar-Vell just turn up. There’s no reaction shown from the others. Here’s a guy everyone thought was dead, and when he pops up, not a single person remarks on his presence. The issue reads like Millar’s just trying to tick all the boxes. Spider-Man kicking ass. Check. Reed paying for his sins in a small way. Check. Sue realising she loves Reed. Check. Cap / Iron Man confrontation. Check. Other moments are simply bad. Ben Grimm, a.k.a. The Thing, returning just at the right time from a different continent and deciding to fight for Cap’s boys despite his opinions expressed in Fantastic Four is plain silly. One redeeming moment is Hercules, who’s enjoyed some star treatment throughout Civil War, smashing the mistake that is Clone Thor’s head in. But surely a clone should be more flesh than metal. And there’s definitely another contender for worst line of the year in the form of Iron Man’s threat to Cap: “Let’s hope I don’t have to put you through all that pain again, huh?” Huh indeed.
The idea behind the ending to this series has been credited to Joss Whedon. I’m not sure whether this means Cap’s surrender or the letter that Reed writes to Sue that serves as closure to the story, but I hope for his sake it’s the letter. This does turn out to be a satisfying way to wrap up the series, but it would have been more interesting if it hadn’t been written by the man who is currently trying his best to be the Marvel Universe’s biggest wanker. The events he highlights give an overall view of the post Civil War landscape and offer teases of things to come. Some of these are a bit confusing though. Of the villains used by the pro-reg side, they decide to send the two arguably most sane and least “evil” back to prison and keep the two complete psychopaths on the government payroll? Millar suggests U.S. Agent has fled to Canada to avoid the draft, when in Choosing Sides he’s sent there by Iron Man. Sue returns to Reed. Why? He hasn’t even apologised for his actions. However, I rather like the look of the Texas super team and would definitely like to see more of them!
Marvel has indeed set up a new status quo that holds the potential for some interesting stories in the future. Unfortunately, they’ve apparently forgotten that the story that gets things to this point should also have been interesting in its own right. After a promising start, Civil War ends as a real disappointment. Though it isn’t all bad, even McNiven’s great art can’t save this issue. Hopefully, this will be quickly put behind us and we can move on to better things.
Steven G. Saunders:
Forgive me if I seem a bit surly. Well, okay, don’t. I don’t really care. Unless you’re made of chocolate. Then I love you.
Where do I start on this “final” installment of Civil War? Where? First, let me state that I don’t hate Mark Millar’s writing. Have I said that before? I can’t remember. Anyway, I actually highly enjoy his writing and think he’s a talented chap, but I’m sure he knows that. His writing on issue #7 was actually pretty good… it’s just too bad the story sucked some serious goat-nads. See, I dug the battles, but they were too abrupt. They seemed to “STARRRT!!!!” then “fin…eh…” You know? Lame. Also I wasn’t that impressed with Namor showing up. Still, points for having him pop up anyway and but DAMN it looked good.
Then we have the bit with Captain America.
How does it anger me? Let me count the ways. I know Marvel said that people would either love or hate what is done to Cap. I don’t think that was the moment they were talking about (that moment is down the road in the near future). However, maybe they did mean the part where Cap is tackled by post-9/11 poster-people and then Cap is all like “the city is being destroyed!” Then he cries. CRIES. What the &^%$? No, he didn’t cry “What the &^%$?” That’s what I did. He cried. Sobbed. Wept. Turned on the waterworks. Who the hell thought of that? Is Cap PTSD or something? I mean this is a guy who fought in World War II and even smacked Adolf f-ing Hitler. A couple buildings get knocked down and he quits? New York City has been having the crap knocked out of it by all sorts of stuff, from monstrous to cosmic for decades in the 616. A supes brawl isn’t really anything new. Seriously. It’s like watching pigeons poop on cars. Although I can see what Millar was trying to do, the execution comes off as stilted and poorly conceived. I think Cap surrendering makes sense, actually. He wants the violence to stop and has had it, etc. etc. etc., ad nauseum. But like… that? Come on. I expect better, dammit. Captain America going down like that? Like how it’s shown? Weak. Just weak.
There’s more, but I would need more hookers and blow to get into it. Some aspects of this book were great, or bordered on great. I dig how things have been set up for Marvel’s fine stable of writing and art talent to go crazy in this new sandbox that has been created. I also think that I might enjoy Civil War< more once I see the fallout and read it as a collected edition. One thing readers must keep in mind, which I didn’t, is that the Civil War series doesn’t end. It’s really just the end of the beginning. Everything has been a set-up. An establishing act. It looks like Marvel is pushing in a new direction and meaning it this time. I can get behind this. However… Oh, the “however”… I just don’t think it played out well in this issue. I suppose I can bring up the Reed and Sue thing, too, but I’m sure others will. Suffice it to say, I thought it was weak. I know! “Steve, you surprised me yet again!” *insert straight-faced emoticon*
Speaking of surprises, what do you guys think about Tony Stark becoming the head of S.H.I.E.L.D.? Yeah, pretty much saw that coming. What’s next? Jack Flag as the new Iron Man? HAHAHA… Okay, just kidding. Or am I?
A lot of folks freaked about the Punisher picking up Captain America’s mask. Some simply state that it’s because it was a nice “shot”; Others rave about its meaning. Oh, he’ll do something with the mask. Something naughty, I bet. I would just like to point out to Frank that the hookers and blow are mine. All mine. He can have whatever else.
The only scene that made me smile, truly smile, was the little one with Omega Flight. Awwww… I can’t wait. It was a one panel, sliver-scene, sure, but it was nice. If that’s the only story-bit I’m going to love, though, there’s problems.
I could go on and on, but I will spare you. Basically, I feel that Captain America and the Punisher were handled poorly in the series, that this issue could have been SO much better (I actually like that the “bad guys” won), and that the art by Steve McNiven was godly. Oh, sweet Christmas, was it godly! The best part about Civil War is the art. Hands down, no contest. Sadly, I didn’t read what I did of this crossover looking for a nice coffee table art-book. I don’t believe Civil War #7 to be marred by bad writing, per se, but poor pacing and plot construction… Which IS bad writing, I know, I know. I mean that the dialogue is pretty good and the single panels read well enough.
I’m certain that I’ve missed something. Rest assured, one of the other Slugfesters touched upon it. They’re much better at this kind of thing than I am. I will say in closing that I hope that Civil War #7 is amongst the last of the landmines we have to step on in the path to Marvel’s New Universe Order.
“Holy crap! No way! I don’t believe it!”
No, those aren’t exclamations of happiness, but rather the shocked outbursts I made when reading this issue. Part of me is still computing things. I mean, when I read Civil War #6, I knew that it would be near impossible to find a way to conclude a limited series that had so far been buildup, but this is just a copout.
This issue concludes Marvel’s grand epic. Coming straight off the cliffhanger in the last issue, Civil War #7 opens with the two factions, Captain America’s “Secret Avengers” and Iron Man’s “Avengers” squaring off at the Negative Zone prison. After a teleportation backfire, they end up in the middle of Manhattan for one final showdown. See, apparently Cloak, whose power is teleportation, and whose job was to get only the Secret Avengers out of the Negative Zone so they could escape the raid, somehow screws up and teleports everyone. Oops...After that, it’s a classic superhero fight scene, with some pretty cool parts. The rematch between Hercules and Clone Thor is short (counting only four panels plus a full page panel) but oh so sweet, with the Olympian going Shaun of the Dead on Mr. Clone. The Taskmaster tries to take down the Invisible Woman, and fails, prompting the greatest line in the entire series: “Okay. This isn’t good.”
However, some things in this finale make no sense and are quite contrived. Despite clearly stating he’s going to ignore the whole mess, Namor arrives with a full battalion of Atlantean troops to back up Cap. Hmm, a leader of a sovereign nation attacking representatives of the U.S. government? Sure he’s done it before, but shouldn’t Namor realize the consequences of his actions? Also, speaking of that Taskmaster scene, he was aiming to kill Sue, but Reed is able survive the blast? They have the same uniform, you’d think they would be just as vulnerable. Plus the Thing shows up, out of the blue, apparently knowing exactly when Captain America’s strike was going to be.
Then there’s the ending, which just made me shake my head and ask why. Captain America surrenders. After gaining the upper hand in an anti-climatic showdown with Iron Man (who apparently has a death wish, go figure), Steve Rogers gets taken down by an army of cops and EMS responders, sees the destruction going on in Manhattan around him (Lesson here: never try to escape to a big city with an army of superpowered being behind you), and turns himself in. And just like that, the fights over. Apparently, the Secret Avengers don’t have that strong of a conviction, they’ll give up as soon as asked.
After that, it’s a wrap-up accompanied with a way too scientific love letter from Mr. Fantastic to the Invisible Woman, which takes the time to explain everything that’s happened since the battle. In an interesting note, Iron Man becomes the head of S.H.I.E.L.D., reducing Maria Hill to a coffee grabbing lackey (a perfect ending for that character). Tony takes the time to talk to Miriam Sharpe about the future and his plans. One of my biggest complaints was that the Stamford mess was handled completely wrong. All the focus went to one kid, Damian Sharpe. Hundreds of kids died, but everyone else was ignored for one person. Right....Something about that just doesn’t seem right.
Aside from the utterly lackluster finale, the art is amazing. Steve McNiven’s style is completely unique, unlike anything else I’ve seen. The fight scenes are utterly crisp and fluid. The look on Taskmaster’s face when confronted by the Invisible Woman captures both fear and projects a darkly humorous tone. The one page spread of Clone Thor getting the coup d’grace from Hercules is by far the best shot of the series, hands down. McNiven also is no slouch when it comes to group shots; the opening page is a definite “name the countless heroes” moment. The inking and coloring also carry the unique feel, adding a certain quality to the book, making it unlike anything else.
All in all, Civil War was a limited series full of potential, poor executions, and plot threads that go nowhere. Hey, what happened to the Watcher showing up in issue one? Was that ever touched upon? The Punisher took up two full issues, but only to serve as a launch pad for a new series. The motivations were weak, character decisions worse (seriously, whatever happened to actually trying to support a cause?; the Secret Avengers did nothing to help themselves, instead getting into fights), and the finale utterly disappointing. I really wanted this to be a good story, I expected it to be, considering Millar was the writer. In the end, it was nothing but an overhyped, far too crossed-over disappointment. At least the art was pretty.
One of the most salient criticisms of Civil War has been that of its lack of political sophistication in reducing a fairly complex argument about the social responsibilities of superheroes to a big fight, with our costumed heroes engaging in lots of punching and kicking in place of any kind of ideological debate. Whilst this issue doesn’t deviate too far from that template (especially for the first half, which is essentially one huge - and admittedly enjoyable - brawl between the pro-reg and anti-reg factions), it also makes the surprising storytelling choice to base its climax around the “revelation” that all this fighting hasn’t actually done anything to address the arguments surrounding the Superhuman Registration Act. Much has been made of Joss Whedon’s contribution of a knockout ending to this series, but truth be told, the climactic moment falls a little flat. When Cap’s moment of clarity comes, and he admits that his side won the fight but lost the argument, you can’t help but feel that the whole sequence (and the culmination of the entire series as a result) could have been more powerful if it had taken the time to build a more compelling argument for either side to lose.
As with DC’s Infinite Crisis, Civil War has been as much about setting up the new status quo for Marvel’s superhero universe as it has been about making good on the promise of its own story concept, and there are some fairly interesting epilogues for certain characters which hold a certain amount of promise for stories to spin out of this event: particularly notable are the Punisher’s possible assumption of the role of Captain America; the rocky road to marital reconciliation between Reed and Sue Richards; the New Avengers’ new status as underground rebels; and Tony Stark’s much-leaked new position as head of S.H.I.E.L.D. However, whilst these sequences might work as adverts for future books coming soon from Marvel, they’re not a successful substitute for a satisfying ending to this one. I’m resigned to the fact that these big crossover events don’t really exist to simply tell a good story any more, but the second half of the book seems so overwhelmed by its duty to get the ball rolling on several new Marvel projects that it seems less like the final issue of a major storyline and more like a “taster” book along the lines of DC’s Brave New World and Countdown one-shots.
Steve McNiven again proves why he’s such a boon for the book with this final issue, coming up with some truly memorable images in amongst the chaos of the opening free-for-all. Cloak’s teleportation of multiple heroes into the skies of New York, Namor’s surprise entry into the fight, and the grisly demise of “Clor” at the hands of Hercules are all impressive moments which cement McNiven’s reputation as one of Marvel’s most talented artists of the moment. His depictions of the horrendous aftermath of the big fight and the surrender of Captain America add a much-needed resonance to the events, and the moments of high emotion throughout the issue (such as Sue’s reaction to the injury of Reed Richards, or Tony Stark’s resignation to defeat at the hands of Captain America) all benefit from the intensity of his pencils. Now that the series is over, the arguments about his lateness are sure to dissipate, and we can enjoy the complete story without the distraction that fill-in artists would have provided.
Anyone who’s familiar with Mark Millar’s work on Ultimates or The Authority will know what to expect from his finale on this book, and the writer has become so adept at co-ordinating climactic battles which tie all the elements of the preceding story together that he makes it look easy (Captain Marvel even crops up in a hastily-included cameo which presumably exists only to justify his tie-in appearance in Civil War: The Return). Still, it’s a shame to see that a book with such obvious potential to explore the same kind of political issues which have underpinned Millar’s two volumes of Ultimates has avoided any attempt to add depth to its examination of the ideas behind the Superhuman Registration Act. Civil War has probably accomplished everything that Marvel could have wished for, with high sales, considerable coverage in the mainstream media, and widespread approval from fans. However, there’s a nagging feeling that it could have been more than the status-quo-altering device with a preponderance of juicy fight scenes that it turned out to be.
Expectations are a bitch. When I first heard of the plans for Marvel’s Civil War, I was all sorts of jazzed for the event. I think most Marvel readers were. Here we had a powerful idea for a literary conceit, paralleling the Patriot Act and its possibilities for abuse, whereby superheroes would be those whose motives and loyalties would be questioned by the government, the public, even themselves. It held such promise, and I could see so clearly so many possibilities for the storyline. As the event neared, the tagline said it all: “Whose Side are you On?” My friends and I took sides immediately and waited for the war to begin.
I was on Cap’s side myself, even though from the very beginning I saw that Iron Man had the better argument. It wasn’t that I bought wholesale into Cap’s stance on personal liberty, though. Instead, I was extremely wary of a government that demanded superheroes’ secret identities. Marvel’s previous Secret War showed the dark side of what a government could do with its heroes (even if it was a rogue Nick Fury who was controlling the strings). The beginning of the Civil War addressed this nicely, and gave me Cap’s thrilling stand against the tyranny of S.H.I.E.L.D. Commander Hill and his escape on a jet. That moment will stay with me.
As the series progressed, however, the limitations in what Marvel either could do or was willing to do became more noticeable. Heroes chose sides rather arbitrarily, and at times seemingly at the expense of years of characterization. Leaders on both sides became extremists, and almost unrecognizable from the heroes I had read about for years (They cloned Thor!? He allowed the Punisher to be on his squad!?). And despite Marvel’s claim that they would not be taking sides, that it was the reader who would have to determine his or her own stance, there were definite biases being drawn (all culminating with Marvel’s standard-bearer, Spider-Man, switching to Cap’s side and announcing that it felt good to finally be on the “right side”). The event was not living up to its billing, in my eyes.
Or was it just that my expectations were not being met? I had definite ideas how the war should play itself out, and a few of them have come to pass, but many haven’t. I can’t blame Marvel for that, and to piss and moan about Marvel not doing something I expected them to do is unfair. Now, with the final issue of Civil War on the shelves, I can admit that the battle between the heroes had some memorable moments (“Amazing” “Spectacular” - McNiven’s art is truly awesome), and recognize that the aftermath allows for a multitude of intriguing new storylines, but can’t help but sigh about the lost potential of the event itself.
I’ll leave it to others to rail against specific plot points of the last issue: Cap’s “cop-out,” the question whether Thor is a clone or a cyborg, She-Hulk’s whining. Looking at the issue overall though, I have to conclude that the war delivers largely on Marvel’s promise for a knock-down, drag-out superhero fight, and DOES change the status quo among heroes in the Marvel Universe. How this plays out in the years to come is something to look forward to, if you’re a Marvel fan. But I’m going to try to keep my expectations down.
What did you think of this book?
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