Tag Archives: James Rhodes (Marvel)

A Civil War II #4 Review – Rules of Engagement

Civil War II #4, 2016TITLE: Civil War II #4
AUTHOR: Brian Michael Bendis
PENCILLER: David Marquez. Cover by Marko Djurdjevic.
PUBLISHER: Marvel
PRICE: $4.99
RELEASED: July 27, 2016

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

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Civil War II feels like an epic, important superhero comic. It’s got major character deaths, a moral dilemma that has divided our heroes, and the future hangs in the balance.

So why does it feel like nothing has happened in this series? This story is more than halfway over. But it feels like we’ve barely started.

Last issue we saw Clint Barton, a.k.a. Hawkeye, murder Bruce Banner before he could become the Hulk and cause a cataclysmic disaster. Such was the word of Ulysses, an Inhuman who can apparently see the future. Now Barton has been exonerated, and our heroes are left wondering what comes next. Tony Stark pleads his case: That Ulysses’ visions are only of a potential future, and to act on them eliminates free will from the equation. But for Carol Danvers, it’s better to be safe than sorry. By the end of the issue, battle lines are drawn. But Carol has some unexpected back up on the battlefield.

 So why does it feel like nothing has happened in this series? Let’s take a brief look back at these issues and see if we can spot some trends…

Civil War II #4, two-page spread, Spider-Man, David MarquezIssue #0: The president tells Rhodey he should aim for the White House, Ulysses has his first vision.

Issue #1: Heroes avert disaster thanks to Ulysses’ vision, they talk to him about said visions, Rhodey dies in a mostly off-page fight.

Issue #2: Iron Man kidnaps and questions Ulysses, who has a vision about the Hulk.

Issue #3: Hawkeye kills Bruce Banner to prevent a disaster.

Issue #4: Hawkeye is exonerated, the heroes get ready to fight.

There’s so much talking. Explaining, expositing, philosophizing, arguing. Even when Banner is killed it’s an abrupt shot to the head in the middle of a big conversation. There’s tension in these issues. But in the sequel to the biggest superhero event comic of all time, we’re strangely low on actual superheroics and events. That’s why, even though much of consequence has happened in these pages, it feels like very little.

As I’ve said previously, it’s not that every superhero comics needs to have people punching planes to have a major impact. And laying the foundation for something big like this is important. But you’ve also got to hold the reader’s interest and keep them engaged. Civil War II is not as engaging as it should be. Especially at this point in the game.

Carol Danvers, Civil War II #4, David MarquezOn the plus side, artist David Marquez and colorist Justin Ponsor are turning in some good stuff. I love the splash page of Spider-Man overlooking Times Square as the news breaks about Hawkeye (shown above). Once again, our team makes a point to toss Miles Morales into the mix, despite him having little to do with the events unfolding. It’s as if he represents a civilian’s view of everything we’re seeing. Given how young, and relatively inexperienced Miles is, that’s a good role for him.

I do have one nitpick: Let’s be careful about the teary, doe-eyed, pouty faces. We get a bunch of them from Carol Danvers as she tells Jennifer Walters what happened to her cousin. Hawkeyes had a similar expression last issue when he surrendered. That expression is meant to convey the emotional impact of the moment. But at this rate, it’ll be comical by next issue.

And what of next issue? By the looks of things, we’re finally going to get to the fighting. The Guardians of the Galaxy will be thrown in for good measure. As is always the case with Marvel’s event comics, there are a bunch of miniseries titles that are running parallel with this one. We’ve got Civil War II: Choosing Sides, minis dedicated to characters like Spider-Man and the X-Men, and different tie-ins with ongoing books. I assume if you want more information on what heroes are on what side, you can look there. I haven’t, for no other reason than this series hasn’t inspired me to do so. And I doubt next issue will be much different…

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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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