One week after the close of Civil War comes the close of the sidelines book. So many different stories took place in this run, I’m going to have to break them up by individual storylines. Bear with me.
EMBEDDED (Issues 1-11)
This is the main story of Front Line, following longtime Marvel reporter Ben Urich and Sally Floyd, fresh off her story in the post-House of M Generation M mini. The two basically float around for 11 issues, talking to random figures in the Civil War, and come to the big revelation that Tony Stark was pulling strings for some purpose. That purpose was to get the whole registration process to work by planning the Atlantean assassination attempt (see Sleeper Cell below). It works when explained in the final issue, but unfortunately not really when looking at the whole story.
A major problem here, as with most of Civil War, is that Tony Stark is made to be the bad guy. Throughout the first 10 parts of Embedded, Urich and Floyd’s efforts point towards Tony Stark being a shady figure behind the scenes, as well as a king douche bag in the forefront. That’s all well and good, but then with his side winning the war and Stark becoming a prime force of the new Marvel U, suddenly he has to be seen in a bright light, so part 11 features a massive turnaround, where Floyd and Urich see the wisdom of his plan, so they won’t tell anyone.
So all is right with the world, except for me, who had to wait months and months for this non-resolution. Nothing was quite as bad as issue 10, where Floyd and Urich keep trying to tell each other Stark’s secret, but are distracted each time. With all of the other stories done by issue 10, was there really a need for 11? If nothing else, D-list heroes Bantam and Typeface get killed during this storyline. Sad day.
THE ACCUSED (Issues 1-10)
This story features Speedball, who is the sole survivor of the New Warriors after their fateful Stamford mission that started this whole mess. Devoid of his powers and quickly arrested, he’s offered amnesty by registering, by again and again refuses to do so. When he’s given his day in court, he’s shot by a man in the crowd. He comes to, decides to register, and creates the identity of Penance, wearing a costume with spikes on the inside, so he can use his powers (now activated by pain).
This is another story that goes one way for over half its run, then suddenly turns towards the end. The entire series runs on Speedball maintaining that the New Warriors did nothing wrong and should not be treated as criminals. Even when he agrees to register, it seems to be more out of personal motives, rather than seeing the good in doing so. But in the last chapter, suddenly he’s angst ridden about the deaths of the people of Stamford, and creates the new identity as a way to atone for his crimes. This ending came directly out of the blue, and didn’t fit with the rest of the story at all.
Another thing this story featured were the inhumane conditions of the 42 prison facility. With Iron Man, Mr. Fantastic, and Yellowjacket in charge, and Captain Marvel running it, these conditions are completely out of place. It’s somewhat explained as a part of Stark’s plan to get heroes to register, but still, when heroes are killing themselves, something’s wrong with the story.
BACK-UP STORIES (Issues 1-9)
These were no more than three pages at the end of each issue, showing scenes from Civil War next to similar scenes from American history, with voice overs giving commentary. Not really even worth mentioning.
THE PROGRAM (Issue 2)
This was a couple pages showing Norman Osbourne’s reaction to Spider-Man unmasking. I guess it would be a setup to his inclusion in the Thunderbolts, but not really important.
SLEEPER CELL (Issues 3-9)
This story, featuring agents of Atlantis disguised as regular humans, spanned three seperate storylines. The first was a signal being sent out for the sleeper agents to shed their disguises…which largely went nowhere. Why couldn’t they have just been Atlanteans sneaking above the water that day? There was no point to the hiding…at least not at this point in time.
The second saw SHIELD draft a reluctant Wonder Man to investigate. The story I picked up here was SHIELD forcing a registered super-hero into action against their will, but this was a point quickly dropped when Wonder Man was taken down. The agents he was fighting? I really don’t know what happened to them. Don’t worry about it, I guess.
The third saw an Atlantean diplomat shot by a gun-toting Norman Osbourne. This act apparently was part of a master plan (see Embedded), but at this point, it served really only to justify Namor’s rage against the humans, and hinting at his appearance in Civil War #7. This story really could have only had this part, and nothing would really have suffered for it.
Front Line was not a bad read, but it suffered a great lack of importance. Nothing substantial took place in it, and what did was swept away at the story’s close. Though Penance is set to be featured in Thunderbolts, I doubt he will serve any significant purpose in the grand scheme. The sleeper agents are an interesting concept which may be picked up in upcoming stories. Rather bland, but somewhat neat for what it was.