Civil War

Civil War Re-enactment

Earlier today, Marvel announced that they would be launching a new line of prose novels of their most popular stories of all time.  The first novel, to be released in June 2012, will be Civil War, and is being adapted by Stuart Moore.  There is currently no word on what other novels would be released.

My question is why Civil War?  I’ll admit that I didn’t really like Civil War.  I’m just not a fan of the whole “hero vs. hero” thing.  Which is probably why I find it difficult to believe that the non-comic reading, Marvel fan would be interested in something like this.  It also seems like an odd choice to release a Civil War novel so close to the release of The Avengers movie.  How do you advertise it?  “You just saw your favorite heroes team-up to fight evil, now read about them fighting each other.”  Or, “you just saw Captain America fight to save his country, now see him fight against his country.”  Or, “if you’re tired of liking Iron Man, then read about him becoming an insufferable douchebag in Civil War.”

Aside from the odd timing with the movie, I find this an odd choice based on who they have to be marketing this to.  Civil War hasn’t been around for very long, but it already seems irrelevant to today’s status quo (politely correct me if I’m wrong).  So, this can’t be a tool to bring in new readers.  Also, Civil War sold so well that any Marvel readers that may be interested probably already have it.  Personally, I think if Marvel really wanted to get people buy more Marvel products, they should have gone with a simpler, maybe older story.  Don’t ask me what, because my history isn’t very good.  But something that shows the heroes being heroes.


DC’s bad, but Marvel ain’t so good either

It’s always fun to listen to a back and forth between J.R. and Casey over the major crossover events of both DC and Marvel. If you could not tell, J.R. is a DC fan, while Casey’s firmly with the Marvel line. And thus, sides are chosen and the conversations begin. Casey’s argument is easier to both make and support, as the company has had a constant string of crossover events that began back in 2004 and still have some time before they wrap up. Identity Crisis to Infinite Crisis to Final Crisis with at least one countdown mini series (or numerous ones together) – it’s fairly obvious that DC has been completely wrapped up in this.

But don’t think that Marvel hasn’t been just as bad about the major event crossovers – they’re just a little more sneaky about it. The first big one was House of M, followed by a lead-up to Civil War, then the event itself (which was delayed over time), then World War Hulk and finally Secret Invasion, which seems like it has been going on forever. But unlike DC, Marvel was also running crossover events elsewhere – the two Annihilation series for its cosmic characters and Endangered Species and Messiah Complex for the X-Books. That’s quite a bit as well.

Think about all the tie-ins Marvel events have gone with as well. For each of the three major arcs, side mini-series have been released to flesh out the story – just like DC did with each of its books. Alongside that, several books have gotten absorbed for several months while the event was going on. House of M claimed numerous titles (from my collection, New X-Men, Uncanny X-Men and Cable & Deadpool spring to mind) aside from its minis. Civil War did the same thing, tying up New Avengers while putting out several side minis and launching Front Line, which ran 12 issues during the event. World War Hulk tied up Hulk (of course) as well as having its minis and another Front Line. Secret Invasion? Both Avengers titles have been tied up FOREVER, numerous minis have been released and of course, Front Line. From what I read, X-Factor, Captain Britain, Deadpool and others have given issues to the event.

On the other hand, no DC books I’m reading (Booster Gold, Green Arrow and Black Canary, JLA, JSA, Teen Titans, Legion of Super-Heroes) have tied into Final Crisis. For that matter, neither have the Batman books (which have a story of their own going). That might give cause for arguing the overall importance of the event, to which I would point to the Marvel events which have their mini-series so the titles themselves do not have to reflect the event. The argument can go back and forth until your head starts spinning. Trust me – I just got mine to stop.

My point here is not to bash Marvel or DC. My point is the show that one cannot justifiably argue about the crossover events of one company using the other as a defense. Both companies are just as bad about them and the sheer number of titles they put out with them. So shut up about it and go read what you enjoy. It’s just easier that way.

Debut Issue

Kick-Ass #1

When I walked into the comic shop this week I had no intention of picking up a new book, even one with as snazzy a title as Kick-Ass. (I actually got two new books, this one and Ed Brubaker’s Criminal #1.) But it’s action packed cover and bold title caught my eye. When I saw that it was written by Mark Millar and drawn by John Romita Jr., I thought I’d give it a shot. Millar wrote some of my favorite stories including Civil War, Ultimates 1 & 2, and the amazing “Enemy of the State” arc in Wolverine. Romita Jr. has been a Marvel mainstay for years and always done quality work.

Kick-Ass is an Icon book, which is Marvel’s creator owned imprint. That means it doesn’t take place in the Marvel universe. In fact, it happens in a world not unlike our own. Kick-Ass asks a question: With all the crazies in the world why has there never been anyone to put on a costume and fight crime? In this book, Dave Lizewski does just that.

What’s so special about Dave Lizewski? Nothing at all. He’s a high school student. He loves comic books. Other than that, he’s a pretty nondescript guy, just sort of fading into the background of life. He decides to become a costumed hero not because he has any special ability or anyone to avenge, but just because he’s bored. He spends a few weeks in the gym then buys a wet suit and a ski mask and heads out to fight crime. He has no combat training, no name, and no idea what he’s getting himself into. Needless to say, it does not end well.

The main character doesn’t seem particularly smart or likable, but he’s the right kind of crazy to make you wonder what he’s going to do next. And when the first issue ends with the hero bleeding to death in the middle of the street after being stabbed in the chest and hit by a car, you have to wonder what issue two will bring. I’ll stick around for that, at least.

Ten Reasons "One More Day" Is the Worst Spider-Man Story Ever

#1 – Continuity, Shmontinuity

The biggest thing wrong with “One More Day” is that it throws at least twenty years of Spider-Man continuity out the window. Ask Joe Quesada or even Dan Slott and they’ll tell you that it doesn’t. That every story is still completely intact. That it all still happened, only people remember it differently. Well, that argument falls apart after examining a couple of the key new developments of “Brand New Day”. Even accepting the memory change, things simply could not have happened exactly as the last twenty years worth of Spider-Man comics says they did and still arrived at “Brand New Day.”

First off, Spidey’s organic web shooters. After mutating into a giant spider, he managed to revert to human form but retained the ability to shoot webs without the aid of his mechanical shooters. If that all still happened exactly the same way, then why does Spider-Man need the web shooters again? Does he still have the organic webbing ability, he just doesn’t remember he has it? Or does he not have it anymore, which would mean that the story in which he got the ability never took place?

Harry Osbourne. Is he back from the dead or did he never die? Or did he die and people just don’t remember that he died so the Harry walking around now is simply a figment of everyone’s imagination?

What about all the people who knew Spider-Man’s secret identity, even those who learned it before Civil War? How can those characters still have the same relationship with Spidey when they suddenly forget who he is? (Side Rant: And aren’t people like Dr. Strange and Charles Xavier going to question why they suddenly had one particular memory erased? It’s not as if they never knew, as the first issue of “Brand New Day’ states that Spider-Man did in fact unmask during the Civil War, but now for some reason no one remembers his name or what his face looks like. They seriously aren’t going to try to get to the bottom of that?)

Those are only a few examples. There are many more continuity questions raised by “One More Day” and the resulting “Brand New Day”. What parts of Spider-Man’s history have been changed? What parts are the same? The story opens up that last twenty years of continuity and allows any writer to go in and change anything they see fit and simply point to “One More Day” when a fan asks for an explanation. I didn’t like it when DC did it with Infinite Crisis and I certainly don’t like it when it happens to my favorite character.

Ten Reasons "One More Day" Is the Worst Spider-Man Story Ever

#4 – The Spider-Man Swings Alone

As much as the intended purpose of Civil War was to tear the Marvel Universe apart, it did an excellent job of bringing things together. After setting it up in House of M, Civil War established an over arching theme to the entire universe. You really got the sense that all of these characters, even in their own books, existed in the same universe at the same time. What happened in books like Captain America and Iron Man had ties to what happened in other books like Wolverine and New Avengers, and so on. Not in the sense that you had to read everything to get the whole story but that you’d get some bonus insight and background information if you did. One can argue that Marvel’s always been like that, but to me it seemed much more prevalent post Civil War. I was such a fan of this newly integrated universe that I started collecting five new Marvel titles after Civil War.

Right there in the thick of things was Spider-Man. This was a relatively new place for him. Before joining the New Avengers Spidey had mostly swung solo, sticking to his own book(s) and doing his own thing, barring the occasional team-up or special guest appearance. He was sort of where Daredevil is now, and even he has some dealings with The Hood to tie him into New Avengers. I, for one greatly enjoyed the character’s wider integration into the universe over the last couple years. Peter’s friendship with the Avengers, his mentor relationships Captain America and Iron Man, and even the new spin on old connections brought about by the unmasking. Realistically, what more could you have done with Spider-Man and J. Jonah Jameson?

“One More Day” and the resulting “Brand New Day” storyline have effectively wiped away those stories and pulled Spidey back into his own corner of the Marvel U. All of his relationship and character developments over the last twenty years, but specifically the last three, have been called into question. Who does Spider-Man know and not know? What did he do and not do? How will writers tackle the issue of Spidey’s place in the Marvel Universe without throwing their hands up and saying “It’s magic, we don’t have to explain it.”? Will it even be attempted or will Spider-Man just stick to his own books and drop by New Avengers merely to shoot webs at something and say a funny one liner? My money’s on the latter.

Civil War: Front Line

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.

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.

Rant: Delay, delay, delay!

I remember back in mid-July when I picked up my copy of Civil War #3 and was shocked to see Thor standing tall on the final page. Wow, I thought, this story is getting really good! I couldn’t wait for the next issue of Civil War to see how Cap’s team was going to deal with that. So I waited. And I waited. And I waited.

This story comes to mind because in less than 24 hours, I’ll be posting my review of the Civil War mini-series. That’s right, the same one who’s third issue caused me to walk to a comic shop in the sweltering mid-July heat. And this issue will be only the fourth one to come out since that time. A seven issue mini-series. It launched back on May 3rd, 2006. Depending on who you talk to, this extended scheduling may have been purposely done by Marvel. I don’t think three months past a monthly format was the intent, but it did allow all the stories around the Marvel Universe to be told in their own ways. Problem is, most of those stories wrapped up a few months ago. Much of the Marvel Universe has gone past the Civil War, making the final issue slightly lackluster. Even major tie-ins like New Avengers and Spider-Man have begun their post Civil War stories, leaving everyone else scratching their heads.

Marvel is the major example of the declining importance of regular schedules in high-profile books. As shown of late, the higher profile the comic, the less likely it is to actually come out on time. While rank and file titles, in no means lacking in quality, crank out an issue a month (or more), the highly advertised books will make their debut date, then whenever they feel like it. It’s gotten to where many fans have come to expect hyped-up mini series to vanish before they end their stories.

A big part has become the popularity of getting writers from other fields to write comics. Kevin Smith, once a highly praised comic writer, has gotten a lot of flack over this. Two of his mini-series, Daredevil: The Target and Spider-Man/Black Cat, came to an unexpected halt in 2002, after one and three issues, respectively. The latter was finished three years later, with an obvious shift in tone over the lull, and the former has yet to have a second issue. The ridiculous delays have damaged Smith’s prestige in the eyes of comic fans, and few people are actually expecting him to finish his Daredevil book.

A more recent example would be Ultimate Wolverine vs. Hulk, a mini-series written by David Lindelof (co-creator of Lost). The book had two issues, then nothing. Marvel continued to solicit, then push back the release date of the third issue, until finally at the end of 2006, it cancelled the book until further notice. While they assure it will eventually be finished, skeptical readers are not holding their breaths. Another highly-anticipated story gone due to inability to put out stories.

The trend is not limited to mini-series, either. After Grant Morrison left New X-Men for a DC-exclusive deal, it was announced that the retooled X-Men would be headed up with a new flagship title called Astonishing X-Men, written by Joss Whedon (creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, amongst other things). The first story arc (issues 1-6) came out in a timely manner, and was highly praised by X-Men fans. However, the second storyline (issues 7-12) started meeting delays that the other X-Men titles (Uncanny written by Chris Claremont and X-Men written by Peter Milligan) did not suffer. Therefore, the flagship title began falling behind the other books. Six main characters (Cyclops, Emma Frost, Kitty Pryde, Beast, Colossus, Wolverine) found themselves in something of a limbo, awaiting the next issue. When the storyline completed, Whedon and penciller John Cassaday announced they would be returning for 12 more issues, but with a more spaced out pace (bi-monthly issues). However, the second issue, even with two months between, was still delayed. The book is now on issue 20, where other books launched at the same time are in the mid-30s. It’s still promoted as the flagship X-Title, though. That should say something about the X-World.

Finally, I have to say that it’s not simply guest writers from other industries causing problems. Take NYX, the supposedly regular series by Marvel editor-in-chief Joe Quesada. After four issues, the book simply vanished. Missing so long, high-profile artist Josh Middleton left for DC and the book was eventually retooled as a mini and finished with little cheer after seven issues…two years after it began.

DC isn’t completely innocent of this either. Mainstream books like Teen Titans and Justice League of America often miss their regular weeks due to delays, but are usually followed by two issues released within two weeks of one another to make up. It is rare that a DC book will simply vanish. For a shining example of DC’s dedication, their 52 mini-series, set to be released once a week for 52 weeks, has not missed a single week (as of issue 41). In this field, DC is a much better example of making deadlines.

So should we sacrifice timely comics in exchange for high-profile creators? I say no, no, a thousand times no. What’s the use of an exceptional comic if it doesn’t come out at all? Hopefully the fling of such creators will die down and we’ll enjoy our better titles at a more regular pace. If I wanted to see the work of the creator of Lost, I’d watch Lost.

NOTE: Is Bryan Singer ever going to do a run on Ultimate X-Men? It was announced like two years ago. God, I hope not.