Monday, March 05, 2007

Marvel Civil War Wrap-Up...

“I'd like to comment on the Morrison X-Men, but I disliked it. A lot.
Heck, I used to think I hated it. Then Civil War taught me what real hate was...”

-a blogger

Maybe hate is overstating it, but I think that the final issue of Civil War (Did I say final issue? As if this series told a complete, beginning-middle-end styled story? Ha!) filled me with an overwhelming sense of ennui – pure, stupefying boredom. And reinforced my distaste for “Big Event Comics” of all sorts. Civil War, of course, was marketed as the self-contained focal point of a much larger Marvel Universe “Event”, and Quesada claimed long ago that “you don't have to read anything but the CW main series to get the whole story.” This isn’t actually the case, of course.

For one, you had to read or read about a whole lot more than this mini in order to understand what was developing and why. Without the supplements, the Civil War series itself was nothing more than a really long super-fight in the vein of The Infinity Gauntlet, where the composition of each team seems arbitrary, motivations are almost totally absent, and non-fighting sequences are just filler between the widescreen, big-budget battles. (Which, mind you, Steve McNiven manages to lay-out and detail with impeccable skill.) Meanwhile, the explanations – like, as to why is Captain Marvel alive again – come via other mini-series and ongoing titles.

For two, I fail to see a “whole story” anywhere in this series. Certainly, this issue offers very little in the way of closure – though Cap has been captured, some of his group continue to oppose Tony Stark’s new world order. The legislation remains in place, as it was at the start, but it’s still resisted, as it was at the start. We shouldn’t be surprised, though, I suppose. Just as Civil War was spun from the threads of Big Event Comics House of M, Decimation, and Disassembled, it’s also the jumping-off point for more Big Event Comics like World War Hulk. It seems that Marvel and DC are fast at work in creating a state of perpetual Big Event Comics, and the whole story will always be just another massive crossover and mini-series away. (This, not coincidentally, is why the only Marvel and DC comics I regularly buy tend to be wholly disconnected from crossovers and their influence.)

And for a third, I don’t see where they could possibly be going with this. Tony Stark has become Adrian Veidt, near as I can tell, but without any sense of irony or literary purpose. Veidt’s decision to murder millions because it might save billions situated him structurally as the villain of Alan Moore’s Watchmen, but a villain with scrupulous ethics and who remained an enigma. Importantly, the story ends at the moment where Veidt would become its hero and his intentions and feelings would need to be revealed to us – perhaps because the substitution of villain for hero is an uncomfortable or too complicated one, or perhaps because Moore was attempting to tell the superhero story to end all superhero stories and it should appropriately have an ending. There will be no ending here, though – and it’s unlikely that Tony Stark will become the cold, even villainous, logician that Veidt was, especially with a film coming in the near future.

As a single comic, taken in isolation, Civil War #7 reads like the final five minutes of a World Championship Wrestling pay-per-view event from 1998. The nWo’s Hollywood Hogan and WCW’s Sting square off in the middle of the ring while nWo-ers The Outsiders fight the WCW’s Steiner Brothers at ringside. Someone throws a chair into the ring and it becomes clear that all bets are off. Another wrestler emerges from the crowd and joins the fray. And then another runs in from the dressing room to fight him. From now until the end of the show, a steady stream of bodies appears from nowhere to join in the melee, the audience and announcers screaming ever louder with every additional wrestler until, eventually, every single man on the roster is duke-ing it out somewhere in the arena. And then they cut to the credits and the show’s over with no clear resolution. Only we know that it’ll begin again the day. Maybe Sting will be in a wheelchair and cursing his loss, but we know that he’ll get out of it again. Maybe Hogan will have been promoted to president of the company, but we know that it’s only a matter of time before he’s toppled. Maybe it’ll happen at the next pay-per-view – which, conveniently, the announcers plug right before your feed cuts out.

But, then, I stopped watching wrestling a long time ago.

1 comment:

Omar Karindu said...

Given what Millar and Brevoort seem to think they were doing, I suppose I could (reductively) locate the problem at the level of story structure.

Instead of fitting the SHRA into the first issue (well, the Illuminati prelude one-shot, actually -- yecch, crossover marketing), it seems to me that the way to play it would have been to start with Stamford and then present some sort of moral panic followed by a period of SHIELD imposing martial law and a hero draft with various folks picking sides very uneasily -- no one (except mperhaps Cap) really wants to be a mavericks and outlaws, but at the same time even the guys who accept SHIELD's draft don't trust Maria Hill.

From there, you run things pretty much the same way, except that you end with Reed and Tony having brokered the SHRA as a compromise that removes Hill from control of SHIELD, creates general amnesty, and ends the martial law stuff.

Brevoort and Millar seem to think they produced a "rule of law" conclusion, rather than a perpetual state of emergency as they actually did. Rearranging the story so that there's actually a contrast between the state of emergency measures and the legislative act doesn't solve the deeper problems in concpetion for the story, but it would at least be making the point Millar bafflingly insists was made by the published version.