Hawkeye killed the Hulk – but was it murder? Marvel’s Civil War II #4 reveals the verdict of Clint Barton’s trial and its effect on Captain Marvel and Iron Man.

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 Civil War II is the shake-up of the summer – in a thematic follow-up to the original Civil War crossover event, which was recently adapted as Captain America: Civil War, Marvel once again pits hero against hero in an ethical divide that results in catastrophe. Steve Rogers is sitting this one out – too busy being in Hydra, I guess – and instead Tony Stark faces off against Carol Danvers, otherwise known as Captain Marvel. 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.

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Previously, in ‘Civil War II’…

Thanks to the powers of a newly-emerged Inhuman called Ulysses, Tony Stark and Carol Danvers are currently locked in a battle of morality over how best to protect and serve mankind. Ulysses possesses the ability to see the future – he gets hit with visions of future disasters – and Captain Marvel is thrilled to be able to use these predictions to prevent the events from happening. Iron Man considers this path to be risky and flawed, and believes the punishment should not come before the crime.

As Carol pursues her course of action, the success rate is rising, but so is the body count – War Machine, her boyfriend and Tony’s best friend Rhodey, was killed in an ambush on Thanos, and the She-Hulk, Jennifer Walters, was left comatose. When Ulysses has a vision of Bruce Banner Hulking out and killing superheroes, a huge contingent of Avengers go to confront him about what he might be doing. This confrontation leads to Banner’s death – as his temper rises in argument with Carol, he’s shot with a special poison by Clint Barton, who gives himself up immediately and claims Banner asked him to do it.

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Banner’s death, even if he Hulked out, was not planned or sanctioned by Captain Marvel or S.H.I.E.L.D. – Hawkeye is apprehended and put on trial. Banner had been experimenting on himself to keep the Hulk at bay, but evidence arises that shows that he definitely did ask Barton to take him out if he ever showed signs of going green again, and even provided him the weapon to do it with. However, no one – except Barton himself – seemed to think that Bruce was actually Hulking out in that moment.

As the world awaits the outcome of the trial – Avenger slays Avenger is making major headlines – both Tony and Carol seem to find Clint guilty, however, the case fuels Carol’s resolve to keep using Ulysses and Tony believes that Carol should be the one held accountable by the law for her dangerous tactics. Meanwhile, Friday has been running tests on the scan of Ulysses’s brain Tony managed to grab when he kidnapped him in a fit of rage and grief (he gave him back and only tortured him a little, it’s fiiiiine) and seems to have come up with answers about how these powers of prediction actually work….

In front of all of us, knowing what you now know…

“Hawkeye Walks!” The verdict’s in – Clint Barton is acquitted. I’ll say straight up – I was honestly expecting the opposite, and I found it really hard to get a read on what either Tony or Carol believed should happen, when they gave their testimonies. Tony was grieving hard over the loss of his friend, but Carol seemed to believe that Clint had done the right thing and saved many lives – or at least, she was willing to take that stance for the sake of defending the use of Ulysses’ power.

However, now that Clint’s officially in the clear, neither of our major players seem very happy about it. When bringing the news of Banner’s death and the results of the trial to his cousin Jennifer Walters, who’s finally healing and waking up, questions are raised about where Carol stands in all this. Yes, telling someone they’ve lost a loved one sucks a whole lot, but Carol also doesn’t look like she supports the results of the trial – she looks guilty, angry and sad.

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The entire Civil War II series opened with a courtroom statement from Jennifer condemning the punishment of thought, so it fits that she’d be completely against Hawkeye’s actions, however, she did support Carol in her quest and as she slipped into a coma, encouraged Carol to stand against Tony and “fight for” their future. This seems hypocritical given that as a lawyer she seemed completely morally against what Carol has ended up doing, so I’m really interested to see where She-Hulk comes down on the issue now that she’s awake – and whether Carol is actually pro or anti the Hawkeye verdict.

Tony, on the other hand, was visibly apoplectic on the stand, according to the pundits. As Miles Morales spies on the action in Times Square, video billboards scroll the news that Hawkeye is acquitted, and newscasters let us know that a whopping 87% of the nation agrees with the verdict – that some see it as a form of assisted suicide and that others just aren’t that sad to see the Hulk taken out once and for all. Not only is Clint a free man, he’s fast becoming one of the most popular superheroes in the world. Given his miserable tears when he shot his friends, I get the feeling he’s not too keen to be lauded for this action, so he’s another person I’d like to hear from ASAP.

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Meanwhile, Tony himself is asking for help and perspective instead of working himself up into self-righteous hysteria in an insulated bubble – good job, buddy, making progress! As he appeals to his unseen confidante, he explains what he’s learnt about Ulysses and why – despite not actually wanting to be, he’d much rather have discovered that he was wrong and that these powers were a new and pure and objective force for good – the truth about the visions is worse than he ever feared.

Once the tests were run on the downloaded copy of Ulysses’s brain, Stark’s theory about the subjectivity of the visions – that Ulysses’s own experience must color them, with fear or bias – proved to be correct, on a much more massive scale than anticipated. How this Inhuman power works is that Ulysses’s mind absorbs all the data from every energy field existing in creation and churns out pictures made out of that – so what he sees is like a mass, theoretical hallucination. No matter how likely the predictions are, they’re just algorithms of possibility, not unchangeable snapshots. “It’s math. It’s guesswork,” Tony explains, and adds that since Ulysses fully experiences theses visions – lives through the disasters and horrors – they affects him mentally through trauma, therefore affecting future visions.

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He reiterates the idea that it’s textbook profiling on a huge scale, and that Carol, by acting on it, is profiling individuals – suspecting or targeting people based on assumed information, not actual proof. No one involved in these visions is being given a choice to do or not to the things that the universe predicts that they MIGHT do – “Without personal accountability, what are we?” Tony asks, returning to the question of freedom and human rights that Jennifer was fighting for in her case at the beginning of the series.

As Tony is recounting his findings, we see an example of what he’s describing – a recent mission where Ulysses had a vision while meditating (he’s also got a whole face paint thing going on now, his life in New Attilan has him looking less like a college student and more, well, not human, every day) – and Carol acting on it, going to apprehend a lady banker and opening her apparently suspicious briefcase, expected to be full of incriminating material, to find it empty. Failing to find anything, Carol has the banker dragged off and held by S.H.I.E.L.D. regardless, which in anyone’s eyes is veering into seriously unethical policing.

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Now that Tony has laid his cards on the table, it’s revealed who he’s talking to, who he’ll stop his crusade for – Steve, of course. After the disaster that the last Civil War wrought between them, Tony doesn’t want to ever be the cause of anything like that again. But it isn’t only Steve present, it’s a whole team of heroes, Carol herself included. He’s just letting Steve make the judgement call, because Steve is morally unimpeachable… aside from the whole Hydra thing that nobody knows about, of course. That hasn’t played into this story yet, but believe me, it will.

Carol looks unimpressed at the findings, and continues to look unimpressed and betrayed to boot when her ally Hank McCoy agrees that the science checks out. Tony puts her on the spot about the facts: now that she knows how it works, what will she do? Unsurprisingly, she’s still unswayed, and when asked by Tony what percentage chance there would have to be for Carol to feel that mathematical probability was a good enough reason to dole out punishment before crime, Carol admits that she’d go as low as a 10% chance on actually being right if it did, in fact, turn out in the world’s favor.

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I do believe that Carol wants to save the world, but this is insane. I genuinely cannot work out if she just doesn’t want to admit she’s wrong or if she truly believes that this type of threat analysis is worth the moral decrepitude. Just in case you need a direct comparison, this is the same as the reasons Nick Fury claimed Project Insight was a good thing, in Captain America: The Winter Soldier (“For once we’re way ahead of the curve.” “By holding a gun at everyone on Earth and calling it protection.” and we all know how that turned out.

Carol peaces out, refusing to listen to any more. As Tony appeals to the others that given what they now know, the use of this power isn’t Carol’s to make, she goes to visit the presumed-guilty, apparently-innocent lady banker who she’s still holding in custody, suspected of being a Hydra spy. S.H.I.E.L.D. has still found no evidence at all against Allison Green and yet Carol still accuses her and demands that they go find the proof they need. This is what we have come to – not catching people red-handed, but grabbing randoms off the street and then investigating their lives to find some evidence of wrongdoing. These practices are so far from basic civil rights that it’s impossible to imagine how this can be allowed or how Carol has anyone decent – like T’Challa – on her side. In the first Civil War, I was a card-carrying member of Team Cap, but in Civil War II I’m with Tony all the way.

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Before Carol can start waterboarding or something, Allison Green vanishes in a puff of purple smoke – a teleportation cloud that signals the presence of Nightcrawler, whom Carol presumes was sent by Tony. She sets out to arrest Tony – but he’s bringing the fight to her. It seems like her determination to prioritize personal opinion over scientific fact has pushed many of her former allies too far – Tony and a HUGE crowd of supporting superheros – both Caps, Thor, Vision, Ms Marvel, Dr Strange and Cyclops, just to name a few, land on the base to confront Carol and possibly bring HER in. Each leader takes a turn at ordering the other to stand down, but when Iron Man claims that Captain Marvel is out powered, she reveals who else she’s got on her side – the Guardians of the Galaxy!

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 – but we’re recapping the action of the main series as it unfolds over the next few months. In issue #5 of Civil War II, things are set to get even more heated – will Carol really continue to follow this path now that the truth is out? And does Ulysses get a say in all of this? Marvel teases:

The devastating fallout from the first half of this event is enormous and being felt in every corner of the Marvel Universe. The truth about Ulysses’ future-seeing power is revealed and it is a game changer. Sides are irrevocably drawn and the gauntlet is thrown for the biggest battle in Marvel Universe history. And that’s just the stuff we can tell you. All this, and the story goes galactic!

Civil War II #5 will be released on Wednesday, September 7.

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