In the first of a new regular series of features, Tom Buxton analyses Issues 1-3 of Marvel's latest crossover to determine how the series can improve...
SPOILER ALERT – The following 1000 words contain revelatory plot details aplenty taken from Issues 1-3 of Civil War II, meaning anyone looking to stay spoiler-free had best read those editions before glancing down the page…
“Evolution does not necessarily favour the longest-lived […] the biggest or the strongest or the fastest, and not even the smartest. Evolution favours those creatures best adapted to their environment. That is the sole test of survival and success.”
In this new regular series of feature articles, our goal will be to examine how some of the most popular, controversial and / or ambitious comic-book storylines, adaptations and spin-offs can conform to Harvey V. Fineberg’s words, finding ways by which to “best adap[t]” themselves to “survive and succeed” amidst an ever-increasingly competitive world of fictional superheroes, supervillains and super-confrontations.
From the Marvel Cinematic Universe to DC’s Rebirth campaign, from Michael Bay’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles saga to AMC’s seemingly never-ending The Walking Dead TV series, don’t expect any stone to be left untouched, nor for us to hold back when it comes to laying down the law on how such renowned brands need to progress in order to further their critical acclaim.
First things first, let’s take a look at Marvel Comics’ ongoing Civil War II storyline. Not unlike its esteemed 2006 predecessor – or this year’s big-screen adaptation, Captain America: Civil War – this long-awaited follow-up is fast splitting opinions amongst the publisher’s fandom, with some applauding Brian Michael Bendis’ audacity in killing off key characters and sending shockwaves through the post-Secret Wars Marvel Universe, while others bemoan the lead scribe’s insistence on having his protagonists divide for the umpteenth time.
Yet although Bendis can’t hope to unite the two factions at each other’s throats in his seven-part crossover – at least judging by the Divided We Stand tagline which his superiors are employing to describe the impending state of the MU after this event – there’s still time in the remaining four issues for him to ensure that both real-world factions of the readership leave Issue 7 wholly satisfied with their 4-month spanning experience.
Read on to discover our round-up of the top three strategies the Alias: Jessica Jones creator needs to pursue in order for Civil War II to survive in fans’ memories long after 2016:
- UP THE PERSONAL STAKES OF THE CONFLICT
As of Issue 3, this already divisive summer event has seen the deaths of both War Machine and Bruce Banner’s incarnation of the so-called Incredible Hulk, both developments which could very well come to redefine the MU as readers know it in the years ahead. At the same time, though, considering that Civil War II focuses on almost the entirety of that shared universe, it’s impossible to ignore the sense that plenty of the heroes and antagonists involved – even those with their own tie-ins like Spider-Man, who’s simply showing the prophetic Inhuman Ulysses the ropes right now – don’t have much of a reason to be fighting in the titular conflict, making the globe-spanning confrontation at the miniseries’ core appear that much less significant than the monumental battle which took place over the Superhero Registration Act ten years ago under Mark Millar’s watch.
Whereas there was absolutely no denying how much of a seismic effect Millar’s original story arc had on everyone involved with proceedings, we sorely need to see more at risk for the likes of Spidey, the young Avengers who’ve been revealed as splitting from their comrades after the conflict and especially the Inhumans, who’ve done little to reveal precisely why Ulysses’ survival means so much to them even at the cost of the lives of Rhodes and Banner, yet who should really be central players in the war compared to the roles they’ve had so far. If there’s to be any hope of Civil War II one day coming to the big-screen in the form of an Avengers / Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. – goodness knows, the latter show struggles enough to tie itself into the MCU these days that it’s a worthwhile concept – then Bendis absolutely needs to place his focus on making each and every player of his sequel tale’s overarching battle feel just as personally invested and just in danger of having their life uprooted forevermore as was the case in 2006.
- SHOW WHY THE MARVEL UNIVERSE WILL NEVER BE THE SAME
Perhaps the biggest gripe this writer had with last year’s otherwise spectacular Secret Wars event was how, despite Axel Alonso and company’s claims that the MU could never revert back to its original state once the Fantastic Four essentially rebooted Earth-616, the opposite proved true just months later as many beloved teams like the Avengers, the X-Men and the like returned to their pre-Wars status quos, albeit with slightly altered line-ups or Inhuman plagues on the horizon. In this sense, Bendis has a profound opportunity on his hands to one up Jonathan Hickman’s tome by confirming why the MU’s writing teams can’t pull out a deus ex machina to allow them to reset their characters’ recent decisions – the less said about Spidey’s much-loathed One More Day reboot, for example, the better.
Judging by the promotional images unveiled to hint at what’s to come with the Marvel NOW campaign’s return this Autumn, life won’t revert back to normal for some time for the likes of Iron Man, Doctor Doom or the Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, but that needs to be the case across the board, and as such, in a similar vein to our first point, Bendis couldn’t do himself any harm by displaying the universal ramifications of Iron Man and Captain Marvel’s latest brawl rather than keeping the conflict too macro for the remaining three issues.
- CREATE AN INNOVATIVE, UNPREDICTABLE SERIES FINALE FOR THE AGES
A common bugbear amongst Marvelites these days is the clichéd manner in which most of the company’s crossover events inevitably culminate, namely with a visually bombastic yet emotionally hollow duke-em-up that takes up the majority of the final issue’s 25-page running time, thereby leaving the dialogue ushering in that story arc’s resolution to feel rushed at best, almost non-existent at worst. To that end, perhaps the most important move Bendis can make between now and Issue 7 will be setting up a dramatically rewarding denouement which pays off the moral dilemmas surrounding Ulysses’ omniscient powers, super-heroic accountability and above all the consequences of playing with fate rather than simply depicting Tony Stark and Carol Danvers beating each other silly in predictable fashion.
Naturally, a plotline named Civil War II has to contain its fair share of action set-pieces, many of which will no doubt feature in the storyline’s second half, but equally, what made Civil War’s climax so emotionally compelling – especially compared to the disappointingly retcon-esque final scene of Marvel Studios’ Captain America-branded adaptation this Spring – was how much of Millar’s emphasis lay on Cap’s realization that he’d taken his vendetta against Stark too far, leading to the citizens of New York City turning against him before he could strike the finishing below.
Simply repeating this sequence would rob Bendis of any claims of inspiration, of course, but if he can find a way to tie together the hopefully enhanced personal stakes and MU-shaking implications of his 7-parter together to form a dialogue-centric, subversive finale, then his arc as a whole will surely be remembered with all the more reverence as a result.
How do you think Civil War II can evolve in its second half to leave a lasting impact? Be sure to let us know your thoughts, and don’t miss our next Adapt or Die feature focusing on the three ways The CW’s Supergirl must develop in order to survive Season Two…