Civil War #6
Writer: Mark Millar
Pencils: Steve McNiven
Inks: Dexter Vines
Colors: Morry Hollowell
Letters: Chris Eliopoulos
Cover artists: McNiven & Vines (regular) and Michael Turner (variant)
Editor: Tom Brevoort
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Price: $2.99 US/$3.75 CAN
Marvel’s flagship event title of 2006 reaches its penultimate issue in the first week of 2007. The past couple of issues have sparked some controversy and angry reactions among some readers, but they haven’t appeared to have negatively impacted the sales of this limited series. As such, I expect the outraged and entertained alike will be on board for this sixth episode as well, and the good news is that the plotting in this issue shouldn’t elicit extreme reactions. On the other hand, the overall pacing of this issue likely won’t get much reaction of any kind. Still, there are a couple of smaller moments that stand out as strong, and Steve McNiven’s artwork will not disappoint. Ultimately, the theme of personal freedoms versus demands for security falls to the wayside as the series approaches its finale, making room for a big, colorful super-hero rumble. It’s a big genre crossover story, after all, so I suppose such a stereotypical conclusion is to be expected.
Iron Man and Hank Pym busy themselves with establishing government-approved super-hero teams in each of the 50 U.S. states, each with access to the other-dimensional 42 Prison, while Reed Richards toils away in an operating room to correct the flaws in the cybernetic Thor clone. Meanwhile, the underground, anti-registration heroes prepare for an all-out assault, a final stand against Iron Man’s superhuman forces and super-villain recruits. But in order to pull it off, Cap’s Secret Avengers need some key intel, so the group’s newest member is tapped to break into an impenetrable fortress to retrieve it. They also seek to recruit new allies, but those efforts don’t quite work out as planned.
The opening scene focuses on Iron Man and Pym’s efforts to get 50 super-teams set up all over the country, and as such, we catch glimpses and hear about a variety of rather generic new heroes. It put me in mind of the sort of thing we’ve seen from “widescreen” super-hero comics set outside the Marvel and DC universes proper. Remember all of those generic, knockoff superhumans the Authority fought? Or the recent parody characters that turned up in issues 9 and 10 of Nextwave: Agents of H.A.T.E.? It’s as though Millar is trying to break out from the constraints of continuity and tap into the freedom that those toddler-aged continuities offered (not that continuity has been a strong suit of Civil War or anything to begin with).
One of the central concepts of Civil War is that super-heroes possess such unimaginable power, pretty much unfettered by any outside control. McNiven’s artwork here certainly portrays the various costumed characters of the Marvel Universe as gods on earth. The power is palpable, especially among those on the pro-registration side. Iron Man in particular is a powerful visual. He towers over other characters, surveying everything that’s going on. There’s a strong visual cue that Iron Man has gone beyond being part of the establishment but is now above it. McNiven manages to make it look as though Iron Man is not participating in the process but ruling it instead.
McNiven’s depiction of security measures at a notable super-hero headquarters is inventive and dynamic, and Morry Hollowell’s colors really add an eerie, alien energy to it. I’m also struck by how McNiven handles Spider-Man in this issue. Here, he’s cast aside his Iron Spider outfit and gone back to the traditional red-and-blue costume we know so well. McNiven’s affection for this image shines through, as Spidey looks far more traditional in his look and movements here than the other characters. There’s a leaning toward photorealism in the other heroes’ depictions, whereas Spidey boasts a slightly more cartoony appearance. Perhaps it’s the result of McNiven struggling with the web detail in the costume, but I suspect it stems more from a subconscious love for the character from simpler times.
The most interesting and captivating scene in the book is the dramatic encounter between Captain America and the Punisher. In some ways, the scene is laughable in how the Punisher’s actions take everyone by surprise. Furthermore, the Punisher treats Cap differently here than he has other heroes in the past, such as Spidey and Daredevil. But ultimately, the scene works in that it embraces Cap as an icon of military service and honor, and Millar ultimately holds true to the single-minded quality of the Punisher character. One could easily pick apart the sequence in innumerable ways, but on a gut level, it’s an effective and enjoyable scene.
The central theme is downplayed considerably in this penultimate issue, and as a result, there seem to be fewer continuity gaffes and mischaracterizations. Those have been problems that have plagued the title for several issues now, so it’s something of a relief. However, what we’re left with by the end of this issue is a seemingly inevitable brawl, and as a result, the story doesn’t seem as smart. I know this is a super-hero story, but it’s also meant to be a political story. Debate ought to be as common as death rays. I reserve final judgment until the concluding issue, but Civil War seems headed in the same direction as Marvel’s previous event title, House of M, in that resolution doesn’t seem to be a priority. 6/10