Back in 2006, when Marvel first released “Civil War,” it was intended to raise questions of freedom vs security, of responsibility and justice, and to answer those questions through a no-holds barred beatdown between super heroes. Whether or not it managed to achieve that is debatable, although for all its flaws, “Captain America: Civil War” managed to handle it incredibly well.
Now, with “Civil War” back on everyone’s minds, thanks to the excellence of the “Captain America: Civil War” movie, Marvel is trying it again with “Civil War II,” with Iron Man and Captain Marvel going head-to-head. “Protect the future” or “change the future,” at least those are the choices it offers, so how does it work out?
Do note that there will be spoilers in this review. You have been warned.
In the weeks leading up to “Civil War II” #1, we had two different zero issues – one offered on Free Comic Book Day that shows Captain Marvel and a handful of heroes going to fight Thanos after the precognitive Inhuman named Ulysses predicts his arrival (and the consequences thereof) and another one sold in shops that shows Ulysses getting his powers in the first place, along with a little spotlight on the two heroes who bite the dust this issue.
This issue starts after the latter, while the FCBD zero issue happens in-between the pages. But after a quick reintroduction to Ulysses, the issue kicks off with a huge, potentially cataclysmic invasion from another dimension. It takes the combined might of all the Avengers teams and magic users Marvel has to offer to push them back, but the threat is resolved within the first few pages.
What are these creatures? Where did they come from? Will we ever see them again? All good questions that the comic glosses over, quickly calling it a “celestial destructor,” and saying “Yeah, it’s gone now, we’re good.” Instead, it’s time to celebrate, with Tony giving an oddly-specific toast about how the Inhumans knew exactly where and when it was coming.
Which, of course, leads to the big shocking reveal of “Oh yeah, one of our new guys can see disasters before they happen.”
And that, for some reason, causes Stark to completely change his views on the whole situation. It seems like his skepticism is based on the uncertain, mysterious nature of Ulysses’ power, although he seems to go very quickly to “Let’s never use this to our advantage ever again” based on a few “what if” scenarios. Admittedly, his point about Ulysses just seeing a “possible future” is fair, because they did manage to avert the future that he saw.
Captain Marvel, on the other hand, is all in. “Stop disasters before they happen? Yes, good, let’s go all in on this Inhuman’s unexplored powers.” Hers is a more “the ends justify the means” approach, trying to preemptively stop attacks and disasters.
So this is supposed to be the big conflict of the story: do they use Ulysses’s power to prevent problems before they happen, or do they leave the future as it is?
However, this is also known as a false dichotomy; there are middle grounds that can be explored. For example, when the visions show something big and catastrophic, use it to be prepared, like they did with the big celestial invader earlier on in this issue, and leave the little things. Or use the knowledge to just be aware that something might happen – set up extra security around a bank the visions might show someone attacking.
It seems like they’re framing Carol’s side as “Arrest people for crimes before they can commit them,” but that’s not the only option; in fact, her focus right now appears to be just on the big things.
Iron Man mentioned a hypothetical to Captain Marvel – “What would you do if a vision showed you going bad?” and she just replied with “It depends.” But a more reasonable answer would be, “Let me know where things go wrong, and we can work to ensure that doesn’t happen.” There are diplomatic ways to change the future that they’re not discussing, at least not in this issue.
Now, Stark does raise a fair point about it only being a potential future, given that they averted the disaster because they knew of it. The future is always changing in Marvel comics, and I mean always – how many times have the X-Men averted a bad future? How many characters are stuck in the present because the future they came from no longer exists? And that’s not even getting started on the “Age of Ultron” (comic, not movie) time travel shenanigans, or the fact that they’ve literally pulled the original X-Men out of the past and now they can’t go back.
“Timey-wimey” does not come close to describing how changing the future and history works in the Marvel universe.
However, those questions and concepts will have to wait, as “Civil War II” goes straight to “We goofed up.” A mission gone wrong costs War Machine and She-Hulk their lives, after they went to pre-empt an attack by Thanos that Ulysses saw. To actually see the battle, though, the FCBD zero issue is required.
Now, typically Thanos is a huge threat, requiring the best that the Marvel universe has to offer. In this case, a moderately-sized team managed to take him down, albeit with some major losses. In fact, he was treated more as a plot device to show things going wrong than an actual danger.
Still, it does give us a nice dramatic scene with Tony mourning his friend, with a good amount of the “anger” stage of grief included. So both Tony and Carol have lost someone important to them, and their frustration is reasonable, but civil war-level anger? There’s gonna have to be more than that.
And while killing off Rhodey does work as a catalyst, given his connections to both the characters and his willingness to join in the battle, She-Hulk’s death just seems extraneous. We already have one character to mourn over, so her death seems to serve no purpose aside from making her tell Carol to “fight for our future,” a phrase which will undoubtedly be taken way too literally.
Of course, that’s also two great characters killed just to serve as plot points for others.
Honestly, the debate over changing the future, preempting crimes, and using future knowledge – while not a bad topic at all – could be put to better use if it weren’t used in a “Civil War” frame. There are discussions to be had, points to be explored, and moral dilemmas to look into, but it’s hard to do that when it’s all going to boil down to “heroes turn against each other, now they fight.”
Before ending this review, however, credit must be given to the artists: David Marquez does a fantastic job with all the characters, the scenes, and the coloring is clean and effective. There are some well done scenes that just show the different characters talking, but their expressions perfectly capture their emotions. If only the story were as strong as the art.
Still, it’s only issue 1, so things can change for better or worse as the story progresses.