Civil War #5
Writer: Mark Millar
Pencils: Steve McNiven
Inks: Dexter Vines
Colors: Morry Hollowell
Letters: Chris Eliopoulos
Cover artists: McNiven/Michael Turner (variant)
Editor: Tom Brevoort
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Price: $2.99 US/$3.75 CAN
The good news is that this issue doesn’t boast any kind of shocking development/ethical travesty such as the one in the previous issue that sent fans into fits of frenzy, angered over a gratuitous death and mischaracterization of longtime Marvel icons. The bad news is that the plotting in Civil War continues to disregard the actual premise behind the event. The emotion that arises from these circumstances makes for compelling drama in the super-hero genre, and there’s no denying that Steve McNiven’s meticulously rendered artwork is mesmerizing. Unfortunately, that same eye for detail is lacking in the plotting. It’s a shame, because there was a lot of potential in the original concept, but the story has now degenerated into heroes acting as villains for no good reason.
Spider-Man has decided his government-approved allies have gone too far in the war on their former colleagues and wants out, but he finds his way blocked by Iron Man, a legion of S.H.I.E.L.D. agents and super-powered criminals who have agreed to do the government’s bidding. Meanwhile, Captain America’s Secret Avengers is thrown into turmoil when a rather unpopular costumed figure approaches them with an offer to join their ranks.
A considerable chunk of this issue is taken up by Spider-Man’s desperate flight from the law and its “agents,” so this fifth episode reads rather quickly. Still, I appreciate the parallels that Millar sets up in this issue’s plot. We see Iron Man and S.H.I.E.L.D. make deals with devils by putting costumed killers to work as “good guys,” while Cap and company must decide whether or not they’ll compromise a certain level of their idealism by teaming with the Punisher. What’s more interesting is that Cap’s side seems to struggle more with its decision than the government does with its own (and it’s definitely the more dangerous and disgusting of the two deals).
McNiven’s art stands out as the greatest appeal of this core crossover title. he not only brings appropriate tones of majesty and power to these god-like characters, but he drives home the drama of the grim events in the faces of the players. “Daredevil’s” quietly defiant scowl in the final scene says more than any dialogue balloon or symbolic statement ever could. Furthermore, Spider-Man’s fear shines through from behind his broken mask. Morry Hollowell’s mix of muted and glowing colors really help to reinforce the script’s serious atmosphere. My one qualm with the art is the cover design (standard version). Though striking, the various issues of this series are starting to blend together. It’s too bad they’re not playing around with color schemes more.
This issue serves as a launching pad for Warren Ellis’s upcoming stint on Thunderbolts. Longtime DC readers will recognize strong similarities with John Ostrander’s Suicide Squad series of the 1980s. I remain interested in the Marvel take on the concept of villains being used as reluctant soldiers, but I’m not sure this was the right context in which to introduce it. Furthermore, there are so many minor but obvious plot points that go unaddressed. First of all, am I the only one who expected Tony Stark to have implanted some failsafe shutdown trigger in the Spider Armor? Or a tracking device? Furthermore, the authorities’ failure to grill defectors from the Secret Avengers about plans, membership and other hideouts seems a rather glaring omission. Furthermore, such a scene would have made more sense that the Happy Hogan welcoming committee routine conducted out in public, for some reason.
My biggest qualm with this issue is the attack on Spider-Man. He is registered. He says he’s willing to work with S.H.I.E.L.D. as a professional super-hero. His problem is with the violations of people’s civil rights, with the imprisonment of so many superhumans without trial or hope for release. Iron Man and S.H.I.E.L.D. open up on Spidey because he’s not toeing the company line. It doesn’t appear as though he’s violated any laws, and that’s what this story is supposed to be about: a debate over a law and whether it’s justified or unjust. Iron Man and company’s acceptance of Peter Parker being brutalized makes no sense. And we’re not talking about a slippery slope here. The notion just doesn’t make sense given the context of the story thus far. 5/10