The first issue of Marvel’s Civil War II sets Iron Man against Captain Marvel in a conflict of morals enhanced by a great personal tragedy.
If you knew something bad was going to happen, how far would you go to stop it before it began? Would you convict — or even kill — someone who has not yet committed a crime, in order to prevent future tragedy? This question is the catalyst of the conflict in Marvel Comics’ massive new crossover event, Civil War II.
Marvel’s original Civil War, as you probably know by now, pitted Steve Rogers against Tony Stark in the matter of government control over the actions of superheroes, with Iron Man on the government’s side and Captain America leading the resistance against superhero registration. Civil War II is a spiritual sequel to that arc, delving further into the classic issue of determinism vs. free will when an Inhuman called Ulysses who can see the future — including future crimes — enters the Marvel playing field.
Previously, in ‘Civil War II’…
This time around, one Civil War faction is again led by Tony Stark as Iron Man, who believes that the punishment should not come before the crime, but the other is headed up not by Captain America but by Captain Marvel, Carol Danvers, who believes that glimpses of the future should be used to stamp out threats before they happen. Earth’s Mightiest Heroes will once again be torn apart in order to defend what they believe is right.
Marvel revealed a while back that Sam!Cap, Deadpool, The Hulk, Luke Cage, Daredevil, Black Widow, Black Panther, Thor, and Star-Lord will be on Team Tony, whose motto is being marketed as “Protect the Future,” and that Team Carol (“Change the Future”) will include Steve!Cap, Bucky, Vision, Spider-Man, She-Hulk, Ant-Man, Hawkeye, and War Machine.
So many beautiful friendships split straight down the middle — we’ve got Cap against Cap, Tony against Rhodey, Spidey against Deadpool, Clint against Natasha… not to mention the fact that Steve currently can’t be trusted — who knows his true motivation in all of this.
Civil War II is a huge crossover which will consist of an eight-issue limited series published as the official Civil War II event and dozens of tie-in issues across Marvel’s current slate of superhero titles. If you want to see how Civil War II affects a particular character, you can check out the complete list of tie-in titles and follow along, but we’ll be reviewing the main series, where the bulk of the action will take place, as it unfolds over the next six months.
Civil War #1 came out just this week, but it’s the first installment in name only — the series was ushered in with an tie-in issue on Free Comic Book Day and an introductory issue #0 released on May 18.
Civil War II #0 features She-Hulk, Jennifer Walters, in her day job as a lawyer, lecturing a courtroom about the dangers of punishing people for mere thought, rather than deed, setting up some poignant reminders for us all as the upcoming anarchy is unleashed.
Meanwhile, the President offers Colonel Rhodes the position of Secretary of Defense, with an implication of Rhodey eventually becoming president himself, as the current one sees a superhero president as an inevitability and would prefer to see someone like Rhodey instead of a rich boy like Tony who would buy his way in on a weird popularity contest.
We also meet Ulysses, a normal college student who gets swept up in the Terrigan mist and emerges an Inhuman with confusing powers, and see Carol Danvers at the Triskelion, juggling the news from her various teams (Alpha Flight, A-Force, Ultimates) while discussing her pipe-dream mission, to proactively prevent disasters before they happen, in order to give heroes a chance to catch their breath.
Protect the future? Change the future?
The bumper-sized 40-page Civil War II #1 opens on Ulysses, lost and confused, being rescued by several of the Inhuman superheroes, including their leader, Medusa. It cuts immediately into a huge battle between a giant celestial being and dozens of Marvel heroes, one that’s won cleanly and safely, followed by a gigantic party in Stark Tower to celebrate this rare true victory. It’s revealed that the reason the fight was so successful was that the Inhumans were informed about the threat by Ulysses, who has visions of events before the occur. Their tip-off allowed the heroes to be prepared in advance.
Carol wants to hire him — he’s the missing piece for her proactive protection plan — but Tony butts heads with her immediately on the morality of such an act. Ulysses explains his prophetic vision further: He tends to experience the event as if he were there physically, losing track of reality, but the Inhumans have been training him to cope with it enough for him to identify details of a certain situation, gathering enough information to correctly predict the when and where of this specific event in time to provide a warning.
Despite this particular day working out for the better, Tony continues to shut down the idea of using Ulysses’ power as a way to combat problems before they occur, pointing out that not every circumstance will be as clear cut as the battle they just fought.
Several weeks later, Ulysses awakes with another vision, this time of Thanos, which leads to a chain of events that play out in the “missing scene” events of the FCBD issue. It also immediately establishes Rhodey’s conflict of loyalties — he’s sort of dating Carol, a fact which is also charmingly portrayed in the current Captain Marvel solo title, penned by Agent Carter showrunners Tara Butters and Michele Fazekas, and visiting her at the Triskelion.
Carol, T’Challa and Rhodey are warned about Thanos by a group of Inhumans, including Medusa and Ulysses, who’s struggling to understand his powers of seeing the future. Carol continues to see Ulysses as a potential tool, with the most important and life-changing power in pretty much the history of ever, and takes a team to ambush Thanos. They do successfully capture him, but the mission goes very badly, and many of the team are badly injured, including Rhodey and Jennifer.
Back in Civil War #1, the story picks up with Tony being informed of this mission a) taking place and all and b) going south, and, tragically, of Rhodey’s death. He has a furious confrontation with Carol when he discovers that this went down due to another of Ulysses’ visions, and although both of them are crying and grieving, Carol stands by her actions and said she’d make the choice again, claiming that Rhodey was a soldier who went into battle and that he would have done the same again, too. Tony leaves, announcing that he’s going to make sure no one is able to “play God” in this way again. Carol is heartbroken but bolstered in her own stance by Jennifer, who regains consciousness to reassure her, “It’s our future, not his… fight for it,” before seeming to flatline. To be continued…
Civil War II starts a little slow, but the second half of this double-sized issue packs a Hulk-sized emotional punch as the personal grief injects passion into what was, before, a mere philosophical argument. This is also a story for movie fans to keep an eye on — with the upcoming introduction of Captain Marvel into the MCU, this plot is prime film adaptation fodder, and Marvel knows it. The release of this series was also bumped up and specifically scheduled to capitalize on the release of the Captain America: Civil War movie, and it shows. This may be a sequel to the Civil War comic, but there are definite movie-specific crossover themes and even imagery — Carol cradles Rhodey’s broken body in a wide shot identical to the way Tony does in the film.
Throwing back to Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Carol’s preemptive punishment plan sounds a bit too Project Insight for me. I was a staunch #TeamCap supporter in the first Civil War comic as well as the movie, but I might be changing sides for this particular battle. At the moment, I’m feeling more convinced by Tony’s argument than by Carol’s. This may be due to the fact that Civil War II’s writer, Marvel legend Brian Michael Bendis, is also responsible for Tony’s current solo title, The Invincible Iron Man, so he really has a handle on portraying that perspective convincingly. However, my feelings reserve the right to flip pretty quickly. In an unusual scheduling move, Marvel will release another issue of Civil War II next week, and the preview reads:
As the Marvel Universe reels from the events of the first issue, Tony Stark decides to take matters (and the law) into his own hands and declares war on the Inhumans. But not everyone agrees with Tony’s perspective and they are willing to die trying to stop him.
Civil War II #2 will be released on Wednesday, June 15.