Written by: Sal Crivelli, Special to CC2K
Now that Civil War is nearly drawing to a close, we can look back and examine what a total and abysmal failure it is. Of course, I'm not referring to book sales. I'm referring to taste and story. “Quality,” a word that is strangely absent from many of my favorite mediums as of late. Popular comics and movies have chosen to prefer bullshit popcorn entertainment over substantial popcorn entertainment. When Spider-Man defeats the Vulture, and then muses about "great power" and its relation to "great responsibility," at least we were given an opportunity to see a character's morals stack up against the ramifications of punching a man more than twice your own age in the face (gay looking flight suit, notwithstanding). In something as asinine as Marvel's "internet splitting" Civil War, we're treated to another bumper-sticker, dime-store quote. "Whose Side Are You On?" The more important question, in retrospect is: "Who Gives a Flying Fuck?"
With the Civil War over (yes, the final issue isn't due for another two weeks, with tie-in books like Frontline and Amazing Spider-Man intertwined in the same temporal fate; it truly "ended" a long time ago), I've taken my opportunity to look back and highlight exactly where Civil War went horribly awry, and take it further by highlighting the top five dumbest things that came out of this trite piece of over-the-top, incomprehensible trash they pawn off on general culture as "contemporary political allegory." Please. I've seen more accurate depictions of current US political climate in episodes of The Real Ghostbusters.
Civil War #1:
The New Warriors' reality TV show ambushes what I can only assume is the location for one of those "swingers clubs" I hear so much about. Unfortunately, one of them blows up some children and it's time to go to war! Politically!
Captain America is invited on the S.H.I.E.L.D. hellicarrier, with why-hasn't-Nick-Fury-come-back-yet personality queen Maria Hill at the helm. She informs Cap that it's time to reign in some super heroes. In what Marvel expected to be a completely blindsiding move, Cap refuses, fights some Agents, and then jumps out the window. I read several reviews of this issue from actual reputable sources, all of whom were totally blown away by Cap's decision to defy his government. Am I the only one who wasn't the least bit surprised that Captain America would be against the idea of turning against his team-mates, all of whom have either saved him or assisted him in saving the world, instead of helping the butch, hero-hating, neo-humanist in hunting down the only people able to stop Galactus? You're kidding! A character comprised of all the ideals and morals that America supposedly embodies, topped off with a strong sense of personal loyalty and principles, would fight tooth and nail against a force that threatens to compromise them? No!
Here’s where the book gets stupid. The Superhuman Registration Act requires all “super-humans” to register with “the government.” Which government? The United States government? I would assume so, being that it’s American legislation. The only proviso is that the U.S. government seems to have little-to-no actual force in carrying out this law. Leave that job to S.H.I.E.L.D. Nevermind the fact that S.H.I.E.L.D. isn’t a uniquely American task force. It’s a “world peace-keeping task force.” This means S.H.I.E.L.D. probably falls under the jurisdiction of the United Nations. And if that’s the case, there is absolutely no earthly way the United States government (especially under the Bush administration, featured in the first issue) is going to sanction an international organization to carry out U.S. law. I’m sorry, it’s just simply inaccurate.
Furthermore, the law itself specifically states that these super-humans who “register” with the U.S. government will be trained and then put into mandatory service with S.H.I.E.L.D. I guess this would have to work in the framework of House of M, with hundreds of thousands of mutants now de-powered. I only say this because they’ve done the whole “register your powers” thing with mutants, and it didn’t fly. Plus, the whole discrimination against a group of people because of their race (or in this case, “genetic distinction”). Any lawyer would have a field day creating the concept of “super powered beings,” as a separate distinction from race, nationality, genetic disorder, or sexual orientation. As such, the act specifically targets this specific group of people, something that (if we’re still operating in the U.S. judicial system) directly violates another piece of American legislation: the Constitution.
However, even if we’re going to ignore all this, we still have to focus on one more bit of info the Act itself mandates: mandatory military service. Sounds like a draft, to me. Not only that, but it’s not even an American draft. It’s an international draft. This means that the United States drafted legislation that dictates any American who obtained his or her “powers” (ostensibly) from a source other than the genetic mutation that creates “mutants,” at birth (and let’s face it: we’re in the Marvel Universe; you step on a puddle with some radioactive whatchamacallit, you’re “Water-Man” now!), must now (among other responsibilities) serve in an international army. The United States government is going to draft legislation that drafts American citizens into an international organization that fights for unknown, classified reasons, based solely on their unique genetic distinction. Sorry, but we’re now in the realm of science fiction. You cannot create a politically allegorical piece of pop-literature, set against the backdrop of the current political climate, and ignore United States policy and law-making tradition. Sorry! Even before we completely ignore character motivations like Tony Stark, Reed Richards, Peter Parker, Doctor Strange, and the entire X-Men, we’ve lost the oomph Civil War is supposed to deliver, because it’s politically impossible. Oh, and the Act (which we’ve established is a direct slight against a genetic group of American citizens) is passed in like, a matter of months. Wrong again.
Here’s where Civil War is wrecked. Here is the point in which it is clear that Civil War is built on a foundation of sand. There’s simply no legitimacy behind the Act, and the very catalyst behind the conflict in the story. Of course, the other problem is: you have a world of superheroes who are trying to fight against a piece of arbitrary legislation. What’s a high-tech suit of armor or a shield that cuts through steel going to do against a law? It’s a concept. It’s like declaring war on drugs or terror, or some such nonsense.
With that said, there are even more dumbass problems with Civil War. These are the top five problems and issues I have with the series that take it from “stupid” to “fucking retarded.”
1. Late books – If you’re going to do an inter-company crossover of this magnitude, and stretch it into nearly every single book you have under your banner, shouldn’t you have the whole story written and spaced out? And if we can assume you’ve gone and done this, wouldn’t you have a massive meeting (or several little meetings) with those editors and writers of each book you’re going to involve in the crossover, and make the few important things happen. One of them is to have the whole story mapped out, so when you send the story to the artists, they have the books drawn and finished before they’re meant to go out. Like any job, if you commit to a major project, make sure you have the foresight to ensure you can do the damn thing. This book was late a ton of times, and everyone made excuses. The whole thing could have been avoided by utilizing organization, communication, and fortitude.
2. Cohesion/Continuity Problems – You need to have the story flow through these books in a cohesive manner. The story simply does not do that with almost all the books that are supposedly “companion pieces.” Frontline, the book that is supposed to be the secondary piece to the main title, is a) more intricate and nuanced with specifics and points that aren’t even glossed over in the main book, and b) still inconsistent with the main story! Clone-Thor blows a hole through Goliath with his hammer in the main book, and then in Frontline he fries Goliath’s brain with lighting. It’s one of the only superhero deaths in your whole fucking story, and you got the “how” wrong! How can you fuck that up? Apparently you can fuck that up when you have thousands of people pay for your product and make excuses for you.
3. Inconsistent Characters – Spider-Man took off his mask. In front of the media. Sure, it makes for an interesting story, but regrettably Marvel lacks the talent to demonstrate it properly. This is of course in direct contrast to every single issue of Spider-Man, wherein he outlines how important it is for him not to reveal his identity to the public. And oh yeah, Iron Man would totally act like this. He’s the villain of this dumbass story. Why? Because he’s “the man.” He’s the rich, white guy who “knows what’s best.” So we take his years of service and super-heroism and throw it out the window in favor of his blind allegiance to a flimsy law. Sorry, I’m not buying it. And Captain America’s complete lack of tactical intelligence and rational thought. He is not a character. Neither is Iron Man. They spout the ideologies (which by the way, people: aren’t ideologies at all!) the writers and originators of this travesty assigned them, and no more. They are polar opposites, now. Why? Because… Whose side are you on???
4. Absolutely No Hope of Conclusion – We know, because of the late books and necessity to release other comics on their regular schedules, that the Act is still in place and the superheroes are still divided. Oh boy! No resolution! At least until the Hulk shows up! Then we’ll see the return to our classic, monotonous, super-heroes coming together and uniting against a common enemy. I can’t say I’m excited. Or interested.
5. Contrived storytelling – Cap and his merry band of fugitives decide to storm Iron Man’s stronghold prison in the negative zone because… then… they can beat up… Iron Man? That’ll certainly get…. What does Captain America want, again? Exactly what is he hoping to accomplish through this? I understand his necessity to be a fugitive from the law due to his busting up S.H.I.E.L.D. on the hellicarrier. But afterwards, why is it Cap is still hiding out? And what is the plan? They originally were taking out super-villains left and right, causing Maria Hill to fear that his numbers were growing. So? They’re out of the way and fighting bad guys? Is that the plan? “No, we need to take the war to Iron Man!” O…K….. Why? Maybe I’m just not politically savvy enough to get the delicate subtleties of Captain America’s “airtight” plan. Airtight, of course, because it’s cutting off oxygen to the brain.
In the end, Civil War is a contrived juggernaut, which doesn’t seem to have any hope of losing steam until mid ’08. I guess in the scope of this war, the real sides were Corporate Marvel and fans who wanted an interesting and talented story. I guess my side lost.