Tag Archives: David Marquez

A Civil War II Review – Lighting Strikes Twice?

Civil War II, coverTITLE: Civil War II
AUTHOR: Brian Michael Bendis
PENCILLERS: David Marquez, Olivier Coipel, Andrea Sorrentino
COLLECTS: Civil War II #0-8
FORMAT: Hardcover
PRICE: $50
RELEASED: February 1, 2017

***WARNING: Spoilers lay ahead!***

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

There’s a good event comic somewhere inside Civil War II. You just need to squint really hard to see it. As amazingly talented as Brian Michael Bendis is, what he turns in here doesn’t truly get going until issue #5, and by that point you regret buying in to begin with. The series is also bogged down by a certain been-there-done-that feeling. The original Civil War was one of the biggest hits Marvel has ever had. By comparison, Civil War II feels like a knock-off song played by a shoddy cover band.

In the original story, the question of whether superheroes should register their true identities with the government caused a major rift, and subsequently a war. This time the divisive issue is “predictive justice,” or in essence, profiling. When a young man named Ulysses is suddenly able to see vivid visions of the future, Captain Marvel sees a crucial opportunity to stop instances of crime, injustice, and tragedy before they ever occur. Iron Man, however, can’t live with punishing someone who hasn’t done anything wrong yet. What’s more, the exact nature of these visions are unclear. Is Ulysses truly seeing the future, or just a potential future? As they search for an answer, heroes will fall in more ways than one.

civil-war-ii #4, two-page spreadThe predictive justice idea is a sufficient divider, and reflects recent real-world events involving police brutality. The Black Lives Matter movement specifically comes to mind, especially when we see what happens to Miles Morales. But it’s when we drill down on the notion of another war amongst the heroes that Civil War II begins to fall apart.

Civil War ended when Captain America surrendered, realizing how costly and violent the conflict had become. The idea that all of these heroes, most of whom were involved in that same war, would allow things to escalate to this degree a second time makes them all look irresponsible, and even downright stupid. This is especially the case after Hawkeye straight up murders Bruce Banner with a literal crowd of heroes watching. But of course, if the heroes don’t fight, you have no story. So you have to make it work.

The way you massage that into working, for my money, is to have the heroes lament having to fight each other again. The original Civil War is barely even acknowledged in this book. It’s almost as if Civil War II is trying to hide from it. While it goes without saying that this story has to stand on its own, it’s a sequel. A sequel to one of the most renowned stories Marvel has ever done, no less. Instead of dancing around it, why not embrace it? The payoff would seemingly be a deeper story.

Civil War II #5, 2016, Spider-Man, Captain AmericaBut even with that added depth, Civil War II would face the problem that it’s simply not that interesting until issue #5. Ulysses has a vision of Spider-Man clutching a dead Captain America in front of a decimated Capitol Building. Given how young Miles is, and the obvious real-world parallels, this is where the story finally starts to gain some momentum. Hindsight being 20/20, this should have happened in issue #3. You put the Miles vision in issue #3, and Bruce’s death in issue #5. That way, Bruce’s death doesn’t feel so glossed over, and it’s fresh in our minds when we get to the final confrontation.

How about this: Captain Marvel puts Miles in prison following the vision in issue #3. (That opens up issues with Miles’ civilian identity. But we can work around that.) After Banner’s death and Hawkeye’s subsequent acquittal, Iron Man’s crew breaks Miles out of prison. We then get the confrontation in front of the Capitol Building as they were presented in issues #7 and #8. Would this little switch fix everything? No. But it would at least up the intrigue level earlier, and perhaps take us on more of a ride from start to finish. In truth, James Rhodes doesn’t even have to die in issue #1. As was the case with Banner, his death is almost glossed right over.

Our primary artist is David Marquez, with Olivier Coipel and Andea Sorrentino tagging in for specific sequences. Marquez delivers big here, particularly in issues #5 and #6. His stuff with Miles is very strong, which makes sense, as he and Bendis worked on Ultimate Comics Spider-Man together. He gives us an absolutely gorgeous two-page spread of Spidey overlooking Times Square, watching the Hawkeye trial. And of course, primary colorist Justin Ponsor gives us the Marvel Universe in all its glory.

hawkeye-civil-war II #3, David MarquezWe do, however, see a lot of what I’ve come to call the “Marquez doe-eyed pouty face.” Marquez is good with facial expressions. But we see variations of this one over and over, perhaps most notably when Hawkeye surrenders in issue #3 (shown left). We see it multiple times from Carol Danvers and Ulysses. We see it so much it becomes distracting and borderline comical.

As many problems as I have with Civil War II, I’ll credit Bendis for one thing: Not killing off Tony Stark. That was what a lot of us were expecting, given Rory Williams had essentially taken up his mantle in Invincible Iron Man. Instead Tony ends up in a coma, and we get a vague explanation about how he can’t be treated. Frustrating in its lack of specifics, but better than having to go through the usual death, funeral, and resurrection routine.

Civil War II could have worked. It would never have been what its predecessor was. But it could have at least been a compelling story. What they gave us had its moments. But by the time things finally got off the ground, it was too late. Given how all-encompassing Civil War II was in terms of its effect on other books, this story can be given partial credit for DC Comics regaining all that lost momentum last year.

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A Civil War II #6 Review – Following the Moral Compass

Civil War II #6, 2016, cover, Marko DjurdjevicTITLE: Civil War II #6
AUTHOR: Brian Michael Bendis
PENCILLER: David Marquez. Cover by Marko Djurdjevic.
PUBLISHER: Marvel
PRICE: $4.99
RELEASED: October 26, 2016

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

***WARNING: Spoilers lay ahead.***

An irony occurred to me after reading Civil War II #6. All this in-story drama and controversy among the superheroes is occurring because a teenager named Ulysses can supposedly see visions of the future. The actions taken by the heroes as a result of these visions have brought about the deaths of James Rhodes and Bruce Banner, the ruining of Clint Barton’s public life, and a lot of bad blood among our characters.

But now it’s all come to a head thanks to a vision of Miles Morales, Spider-Man, another teenager. As if we needed further confirmation that this story is really about the violence we see on the news every day, particularly involving young people.

After last issue’s startling vision of Spider-Man moments after murdering Steve Rogers, the battle between the heroes has come to a stand still. Our characters reel from what they’ve just seen and ponder their next move.

This issue brings us some of the best work David Marquez and have done together. Naturally, much of it involves Miles. The genuinely unsettling two-page spread of Spidey and a dead Captain America is simply re-printed from last issue. I’d normally call that shamefully cheap. But it works to preserve the emotional intensity of the moment.

Civil War II #6, 2016, David Marquez, Miles Morales visionThe page at right is the best in the issue. It shows us Miles’ emotional state after seeing what he did, and is a classic example of showing instead of telling. I love that they took us inside the vision for one panel, and the red smears in the page gutters are a nice touch. Though that actually looks more like paint than blood. I think I had walls that color once…

Marko Djurdjevic’s cover also adds a new dimension to the idea of Miles murdering Captain America. With his own shield? Really? C’mon man.

The reaction that Steve Rogers has to this is important. It’s as big a character moment for him as anybody else. Not surprisingly Bendis gets it right, positioning Rogers as the compassionate moral compass. He then accents it by having Black Panther switch sides, saying that “if you are on Captain America’s side…you can rest easy knowing you are on the right side.”

This, of course, casts poor Carol Danvers as the bad guy. Her protege Ms. Marvel even   stands against her in this issue (Though she’d already done that in the Ms. Marvel ongoing.). Carol has more or less been in the bad guy position the entire time, making her decisions based on events that could happen, rather than what has happened. Perhaps recognizing this, Bendis takes time in this issue to remind us she’s still trying to do the right thing, and doesn’t want to hurt Miles. We see her guilt, and she gets a nice moment of reassurance from Peter Quill. But the violence that’s resulted from all of this is causing her case to fall apart. Kitty Pryde’s expression in the image below says it all.

We get what I imagine was meant to be a bit of foreshadowing for Champions, as Ms. Marvel, Nova, and young Cyclops rally to protect Miles. The delays that have plagued Civil War II obviously tarnish that. But this scene was my first exposure to Riri Williams, who will be taking on the Iron Man role soon. I imagine that’s the case for quite a few readers. So perhaps the upside is worth it.

civil-war-ii-i-am-grootCivil War II showed up late, in more ways than one. This story just found its second gear last issue, and it finally feels it has the stakes an event comic should have. Hopefully those stakes continue to rise. Toward the end of the issue there’s a spooky page with Ulysses. A descent into evil may be forthcoming.

The question is, does he drag Carol Danvers down with him?

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A Civil War II #5 Review – A “Black Lives Matter” Moment

Civil War II #5, 2016, coverTITLE: Civil War II #5
AUTHOR: Brian Michael Bendis
PENCILLER: David Marquez. Cover by Marko Djurdjevic.
PUBLISHER: Marvel
PRICE: $4.99
RELEASED: September 21, 2016

***WARNING: Spoilers lay ahead.***

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

It’s been a bumpy road for Civil War II. Despite its epic scope and game-changing plot points, it’s largely been a big bag of “meh.” And that’s not even getting into the scheduling delays.

Now, five issues in, it looks like things have finally picked up. The end of this book left a knot in my stomach. Despite having already killed off Rhodey and Bruce Banner, this series now finally has that heart-wrenching element that so many event comics strive for.

Thanks Miles Morales, and uh…sorry?

Ulysses, a new inhuman who can apparently see visions of the future, has torn the Marvel heroes apart. In Civil War II #5, they finally come to blows. Captain Marvel, who believes in using Ulysses to stop certain events before they happen, has assembled a group to fight against a team led by Iron Man. Tony Stark vehemently opposes acting on these visions, and questions their credibility. But by the end of the battle Ulysses has yet another vision, in which one of the Marvel Universe’s youngest heroes does the unthinkable. In a story that’s already seen the Bruce Banner murdered by Hawkeye, and Rhodey die in battle, the burning question is: Will Miles Morales be next?

Civil War II #5, 2016, Spider-Man, Captain AmericaThe image at left is our big vision reveal. Miles clutching a dead Captain America in front of a decimated Capitol Building. It may as well be an page from Red Skull’s dream journal. Now all the prior emphasis on Miles makes sense. Bendis and Marquez were planting a seed with a character they both have a lengthy history with. It’s fitting.

Virtually every Marvel book that doesn’t have Star Wars in the title has been effected by Civil War IISpider-Man is no exception. But in the main series Miles has mostly been a background character, albeit one Bendis and Marquez have made sure to keep around. I keep circling back to the two-page spread of Spidey watching the Hawkeye trial verdict on one of the big screens in Times Square. Intentional or not, it brilliantly positioned Miles as someone removed from some of the larger issues that plague more experienced heroes. There’s a certain naivety about him, partially because he’s so young. Those two elements are what set this moment apart from, say, the vision of the Hulk from issue #2.

But lets not kid ourselves. Like its predecessor, Civil War II is trying to be more than just another event comic. Its subtext speaks to the world we live in right now. Civil War speaks to post-9/11 paranoia, and Civil War II speaks to police profiling. It’s not an accident that Miles, a young minority, is shown harming Captain America, a symbol of American justice and values. This entire sequence with the vision and the subsequent arrest of Miles Morales is a Black Lives Matter moment. It’s Marvel looking at what happened with young men like Michael Brown and Eric Garner.

Ms. Marvel, Civil War II #5, 2016It’s one thing to show us characters dying in a story about proactive justice. It’s another thing to really connect it to the real world. This is the emotional punch that Civil War II has been missing. It’s a shame we had to wait this long to feel it.

Ms. Marvel also accentuates the big reveal very well. It feels a little too coincidental that the other teenage minority in the scene just happens to be the one consoling Miles.

Speaking of subtext, Miles has an awesome line during a fight with Venom. As the longtime Spidey villain is taking shots at Miles for not looking or acting quite like Peter Parker, our hero replies with: “Another Spider-Man expert telling me how it should be.” That’s barely even subtext. He may as well be looking up at his critics.

The sad thing is, most of what we see up until the vision sequence is largely forgettable. Marquez, artist Sean Izaakse, and colorist Justin Ponsor give us a very action-posed two-page spread of the heroes about to collide. There’s also a lovely shot of Hawkeye cloaked in shadow as he presumably goes into hiding (shown below). But by comparison, it all seems very generic and business as usual for a superhero epic.

Hawkeye, Civil War II #5, 2016, David MarquezFrom a comic book sales perspective, DC Comics has outpaced Marvel since the start of its Rebirth initiative. I estimate Civil War II is largely to blame for that. Marvel may have banked too much on the success of its predecessor, and additional eyes from Captain America: Civil War. The story has failed to capture imaginations until now. We finally have something to sink our teeth into, but it may be too little too late.

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A Civil War II #3 Review – The Latest Casualty of War

Civil War #3, 2016, TITLE: Civil War II #3
AUTHOR: Brian Michael Bendis
PENCILLERS: David Marquez, Olivier Coipel
PUBLISHER: Marvel
PRICE: $4.99
RELEASED: July 13, 2016

***WARNING: Spoilers lay ahead.***

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

I haven’t talked about Civil War II yet, and I can’t put my finger on why. Initially, I was very turned off by the concept of doing Civil War again. Even the title. Civil War II. It feels like there should be a subtitle there, doesn’t it? Civil War II: The Secret of the Ooze, or Civil War II: Judgment Day. How about Civil War II: The Legend of Tony’s Gold?

But I think the real reason it’s taken me this long is because I was waiting for this thing to get good. We’ve got a compelling story that echoes the real-world issue of police profiling, with virtually every major character in the Marvel Universe involved. As an exclamation point, War Machine was killed off in issue #1. But what we’ve seen thus far, this issue included, has been mostly talk. Obviously not every superhero comic needs to be padded with mindless action, especially when you’ve got a story that hinges on a moralistic issue. But issues #0, 1, and 2 went by feeling unimpactful. Even Rhodey’s death happened off panel, and feels glossed over in this issue.

Compare this to what we’d seen by issue #3 of the original Civil War main series. We had our inciting incident, the creation of the Superhuman Registration act, the unmasking of Spider-Man, the unveiling of a prison in the negative zone, our first real fight between the two sides, and what appeared to be the return of Thor. While the central issue in Civil War II is no less poignant, the story feels softer by comparison.

Civil War II #3, Bruce Banner, Tony StarkThe good news is while issue #3 still feels flat in terms getting readers to pine for that next issue, it’s definitely impactful. About as impactful as an arrow through the head…

As most people reading this likely know, Bruce Banner dies in this issue via a killshot from Hawkeye. Ulysses, a young man who apparently sees the future, has seen a vision of the Hulk on a murderous rampage. Continuing in her attempts to use Ulysses to stop such disasters before they happen, Captain Marvel leads a who’s who of heroes to apprehend Banner. Acting as the voice of reason is Tony Stark who vehemently opposes these “preventive” measures. As it looks like Banner is about to Hulk out, an arrow goes through his forehead.

The issue goes back and forth from the present-day trial of Clint Barton/Hawkeye to flashbacks of the confrontation with Banner. Bends gives the issue a great sense of foreboding. The early dialogue with Banner, Stark, and Carol Danvers feels like an oblivious, and in this case innocent man being led to the gallows. From a writing standpoint, it’s the strongest moment in the book. It’s followed closely by the moment Clint is discovered as the assassin, and he’s simply got his hands out awaiting the cuffs. He knows he’s killed an innocent man, a founding Avenger and a friend no less, and he’s accepted his fate.

This is obviously a very emotional issue, and Marquez’s characters convey everything very well. Stark, Danvers, and Barton are perfectly somber during the court proceedings. Banner’s tension is visibly mounting as he realizes what’s happening to him. We see him go from nervous, to frightened, to defensive. But jjust as he’s starting to get angry, he’s taken out. The result is sheer terror from both Stark and Danvers. Marquez gives Tony a very subdued anger when he says: “Who’s next on your hit list, Danvers?!”

Civil War #3, 2016, group shot, David MarquezThis group shot at right is awesome. Props to colorist Justin Ponsor for making it pop the way it does. And that sky looks gorgeous.

As a Miles Morales fan, I appreciated how our young Spider-Man was peppered in throughout the issue. Bendis, Marquez, and Ponsor worked together on Ultimate Comics: Spider-Man back in the day, so that was fun to see. We even got an appearance from Ganke!

Olivier Coipel tags in midway through to draw a flashback conversation between Banner and Barton, in which the former gives the latter the means to kill him if he ever Hulks out again. Thats another scene where the colors stand out. It takes place in a seedy bar, and the color palette gets darker and feels dirtier. We also see more black in this scene than anywhere else in the issue. It sets the scene perfectly.

The verdict is left in the air, in favor of a cliffhanger where Tony and Mary Jane Watson seemingly discover how Ulysses’ visions work. I’m hoping that, combined with the emotional impact of Banner’s death, will finally kick things into high gear. This story feels less like a war, and more like a colorful debate where people are accidentally dying.

Although for the record, I’m not convinced Rhodey is dead. Both he and Banner will come back eventually anyway. But I don’t think he died in this story. They made a point to have that scene with he and the president early on. Something feels unfulfilled there…

Images from author’s collection.

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An Ultimate Comics Spider-Man, Vol. 3 Review – Hangin’ With the Big Guns

Ultimate Comics Spider-Man Vol. 3TITLE: Ultimate Comics Spider-Man, Vol. 3
AUTHOR: Brian Michael Bendis
PENCILLERS: David Marquez, Pepe Larraz
COLLECTS: Ultimate Comics Spider-Man #1118
FORMAT: Hardcover
PUBLISHER: Marvel
PRICE: $24.99
RELEASED: January 9, 2013

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Nobody can deny Ultimate Peter Parker had his share of problems. But at least he never got mixed up in a friggin’ war that divided the country. But Miles Morales endured. While he was still learning the ins and outs of the hero business, no less!

Shortly after a fateful showdown with his Uncle Aaron, a.k.a. the notorious Prowler, our new Spider-Man finds himself in the middle of a conflict that has literally split America apart. As The Ultimates do battle with the Hydra, Miles must prove to Captain America that he’s worthy of being the new Spider-Man. Worthy or not, Miles will soon be hanging with Iron Man, Thor, and a person who’s not overly fond of him, Spider-Woman.

With the Miles Morales character, Brian Michael Bendis continues to play around with some of the same themes that went into shaping Peter Parker, but inverting them to give Miles a different, yet familiar story. In almost every version we’ve seen of Spider-Man’s world, Peter’s Uncle Ben is virtually a saint. He’s a warm hearted, nurturing presence in Peter’s life, who teaches him that all important lesson of power and responsibility. Miles’ Uncle Aaron is, to put it mildly, not a saint. When the Prowler learns of his nephew’s new abilities, he uses his relationship with Miles to make a power play on the city’s crime scene.

Ultimate Spider-Man #12, David MarquezFittingly enough, Miles ends up learning a lesson about power and responsibility from his uncle, just as Peter learned one from his. Sadly, what happens to Miles’ uncle also leaves him with a similar sense of guilt. The themes are the same, but the circumstances are different. It’s very clever.

Once we get into the “Divided We Fall” storyline, things start to get bumpy. It’s difficult not to compare Miles’ journey to Peter’s, given they’re on such parallel paths. At this point in the original Ultimate Spider-Man book, Peter hadn’t really ventured into the grander Ultimate Marvel universe yet. His supporting cast was expanding in the form of a modernized Gwen Stacy, as was his rogues gallery in the form of an angry and vengeful Dr. Octopus. With Miles, a lot of that same expansion is missing. Granted, this is a different ball game entirely. In the original series, Bendis was reworking a classic set of characters. Miles is an entirely new character running around in a universe that’s already very familiar to us. But as Miles is still learning how to be a hero at this point, I’d have rather seen him on his own, as opposed to getting swept up in a crossover.

Still, Bendis makes the best of the situation and provides us with some good character moments along the way, the best of which happen in issues #13 and #14 when Miles meets Aunt May, Gwen Stacy and Mary Jane Watson. It’s a pivotal passing of the torch moment, which for good measure includes Captain America. Cap comes around on the issue of there being a new Spider-Man a little fast for my taste, but it was the best we could hope for in order to get Miles into the big battle fairly quickly.

USM, Gwen Stacy, Captain AmericaIn terms of his trademark witty dialogue, Bendis manages to hit the mark a little better this time around. Miles’ best friend and confidant Ganke came off strong in this book, particularly in the scene where he’s geeking out over little phrases and tag lines Miles could yell out during fights (“Yahtzee! “Sacagawea!” “Charles Barkley!”). I get the impression that Bendis sees a lot of his childhood self in Ganke. But in terms of humor, the best line in the book belonged to Gwen Stacy. When Cap arrives to rain in Miles’ meeting with Aunt May and the others, she says: “I didn’t know the eagle from the Muppets was going to show up and fart on us.” There’s a visual for ya…

While the previous volume had a problem with a revolving door of artists, David Marquez stays with us for the majority of this book. For my money, he now has as much claim to shaping the Miles Morales in his “formative” years as Sara Pichelli, if not a little more. During the “Divided” proceedings we get a two-issue interlude from Pepe Larraz, who does alright. The fact that he has the same colorist as Marquez helps the proceedings.

Thankfully, now that the big war is over Miles can get back to more “local issues” in New York, which hopefully won’t involve big name heroes. Thus far Miles’ adventures have had their downsides, but Ultimate Comics Spider-Man still has its own distinct charm.

RATING: 7.5/10

Image 1 from comicvine.com. Image 2 from henchmen4hire.com.

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