In the third issue of Marvel’s Civil War II, one of our favorite Avengers faces trial for his involvement in the death of another hugely iconic superhero.
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.
In a crossover event that will likely bleed aftershocks into the world of comics for years to come, Marvel brings us Civil War II, the spiritual sequel to the infamous Civil War arc, which pitted Iron Man against Captain America in a battle of morality with dire real-world consequences. This summer, the Marvel superheroes are once again split into #TeamCap and #TeamIronMan factions, but it’s Captain Marvel, not America, that Iron Man is butting heads with. Penned by Brian Michael Bendis with art by David Marquez, Civil War II explores the issue of determinism vs. free will when the opportunity to predict future threats arises.
Previously, in ‘Civil War II’…
If you’re not up to date with the biggest Marvel moment of the year, let us fill you in real quick. A newly-powered Inhuman named Ulysses has the ability to see the future, and it’s these uncontrollable visions that have Earth’s Mightiest Heroes choosing sides once again about what they think is right. In the red corner is Tony Stark – he believes that the events yet to come should be tackled only when they occur and that anything less is irresponsible and dangerous, and in the blue corner is Carol Danvers, who believes that Ulysses is the missing piece in her plan to proactively prevent problems before they happen.
Tensions rise from “civil disagreement” to “catastrophic” when Colonel James Rhodes, aka War Machine, aka Carol’s boyfriend and Tony’s BFF, is killed in action on a ambush mission against Thanos – a mission Carol led a team on due to the intel gained from one of Ulysses’ visions. Tony kidnaps Ulysses from his home on New Attilan and experiments on him in order to find out how his visions work – we learned in Captain America: Sam Wilson #11 that Tony doesn’t trust the pure objectivity of these predictions.
When he’s apprehended by Carol and the Avengers, who interceded with the Inhuman royal family to prevent all-out war, the stress of the situation causes Ulysses to have another vision, this time with a new factor – he projects it into the minds of everyone present, and they all experience it along with him. What they see is a disaster – one of their own, The Hulk, seemingly on a murderous rampage, with the dead bodies of Iron Man and Captain Marvel clutched in each of his fists.
None of this is your call.
In issue #3 of Civil War II, we find our heroes on the stand in the Manhattan Federal Court House, being interrogated by a rather familiar blind prosecutor, Matt Murdock. As Carol, clad in military garb, and Tony, in a somber three-piece suit, answer Murdock’s questions, we learn that a huge contingent of superheroes traveled to Bruce Banner’s secret lab in Utah in order to confront him about what he may have in the works that could possibly culminate in the prophetic vision that they all shared with Ulysses. In a flashback, Bruce is startled, but reluctant to talk about his current research.
The amassed heroes explain the Ulysses situation to Bruce, and break the bad news – that he’d been in one of the visions, wreaking carnage. Even Tony, who’s very much there to support and protect Bruce, seems more convinced that the visions are true, having experienced one himself, but he was also frank with Bruce about his moral dilemma, admitting that with opinions being so divided, the gang came there to get some sort of proof before taking any action against one of their own.
Unfortunately for Dr. Banner, proof, of a kind, was almost immediately found. While Bruce had been facing the mob, Dr. McCoy had been hacking the servers at the Utah lab – cool friends to have, these guys – and discovered that he’d been experimenting on himself without telling anyone, injecting himself with treated dead gamma cells – a process that seems, to date, to have been working: he hasn’t Hulked out in nearly a year.
Regardless of this claim, Maria Hill tries to place him under arrest, and Banner starts to become angry, yelling at his friends about the undue accusation. But before anything else escalates, he’s taken out, shot dead by an arrow fired from the treeline. As the entire team leaps to pursue the assassin, they soon realize they don’t need to – Hawkeye surrenders first his bow and then himself as he awaits them miserably, with wrists presented to be cuffed.
Back in the courtroom, Clint Barton sits in prison scrubs – this is his trial, for the murder of Bruce Banner. Back on the scene of the crime, Steve Rogers asks Clint the big question, one that’s repeated by Murdock as Clint takes the stand: why? Why did he do this? Clint’s answer, as his face floods with tears, is because Bruce Banner asked him to. Under oath, Clint recounts how Bruce came to him months ago and elicted a promise from him – that if he ever Hulked out again, Clint would kill him.
In a flash-even-further-back, Banner reveals that no matter well he’s been doing, he believes that he will always be a risk – that he dreams as the Hulk and sometimes can’t work out if what happened was real or not. He wants to be stopped once and for all if he ever turns green again, and claims that Clint is one of the few people who could do it at his request and live with the decision. He even provided Clint with the poison to kill him, which was on the tip of the fatal arrow.
Hank McCoy’s testimony backs up Barton’s witnessless story – his hacking of Banner’s files reveals evidence that the arrow tip was an invention of Bruce himself, and even provides a video diary of Bruce confirming what Clint claims. However, no one who witnessed Banner’s death thinks that he was actually Hulking out in the moment that Clint killed him. Tony, who was standing next to him, swears he wasn’t, but Clint insists that, through his superior eyesight, he saw Banner’s eyes flash green.
As Carol finishes her own witness statement, she defends Barton’s actions, though she had no part in planning them. She seems to truly believe that Clint prevented the Hulk-related disaster to come and that Banner’s untimely death saved many lives. She’s also been unapologetic in her use of Ulysses’ power since the incident, telling the court she’s continued to lead preventative missions based on the Inhuman’s information – it seems nothing will deter her from this path, and she even blames Banner’s death on himself, claiming that he was the only person who wanted him to die.
Tony, on the other hand, is furious at the turn of events and the focus of the trial – that the issue at hand isn’t proving that Hawkeye killed the Hulk. He obviously did. However, the court is not investigating the legitimacy of Carol’s actions in using these predictions and what part they played in the death of Bruce Banner – that no matter what the consequences are, she keeps barging forward in this quest and that she may be the source of the collateral damage. Tony and Carol fought about this issue once again directly over Bruce’s cooling body, and several younger Avengers, including Ms Marvel and Miles Morales were horrified by Captain Marvel’s coldness, declaring their allegiance to Tony.
Given that the original Civil War played such a massive part in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it’s easy to believe that this story could be the foundation of something we’ll see in years to come. With a brand-new Captain Marvel on the way, Iron Man (probably) not going anywhere, and a brilliant Hulk who’s not yet had his time in the sun, could this dilemma be one we might see on screen? Or is the idea of an Avenger slaying another Avenger – possibly in cold blood – something that would be deemed too dark for a family-friendly movie?
Either way, Clint’s predicament is a delicate one. I feel for him, I really do, but I don’t think he made the right move. Banner requested to die, yes, but he wasn’t Hulked out. Why the hell did Clint shoot without empirical evidence – as in, the big green guy actually popping up? If all he saw was a bit of green in the eye – something the panels didn’t show, for the record – could Bruce have brought himself back from the brink, gotten it under control? Is Clint’s crime a tangible microcosmic example of the issue discussed by She-Hulk in Civil War II’s prologue – the policing of intention and not allowing chance for redemption?
The issue ends before the jury gives their verdict. Tony, at home, claims despondently that as a “genius futurist” he knows what the verdict will be, but is brought to attention by news from Friday – that thanks to the calculations they’ve been running on Ulysses brain activity, she knows how the visions work. To be continued…
If you want to see how Civil War II is affecting a particular character, you can check out the complete list of tie-in titles and follow along – for instance, if you want to know how Daredevil got brought in to prosecute a fellow superhero, check out The Accused – but we’re recapping the action of the main series as it unfolds over the next few months. In issue #4 of Civil War II, the jury will pass verdict on Clint Barton – is he guilty of murder? From Marvel’s online catalog:
Sides are harshly divided as the Marvel Universe’s trial of the century reaches its shocking verdict! Now, the abstract issues are very real for the heroes of the Marvel Universe and battle lines must be drawn. Captain Marvel or Iron Man, who will each hero stand behind?
Civil War II #4 will be released on Wednesday, July 27.