If you’re reading this you probably love movies and TV and board games and video games and comic books and super heroes and all things geeky! (If not, then I’m not sure what you’re doing here.) And you probably have your favorites. Characters you connect with because you can relate to them personally or just because they just look so damn cool. You cheer when they get it right (Deadpool, Yeah!) and jeer when they don’t (Batsoup, Boo!).
As much as we love these fictional characters and want nothing but the best for them and to forever hear their tales, there is one thing to always keep in mind. While most of the creative driving forces behind our favorite movies and comic book and movies based on comic books are fans themselves, at the end of the day this is still a business. And the bottom line is still the almighty dollar. We like to forget that, and hope it isn’t the driving force behind the decisions made by the people responsible for being the guiding hand for our heroes.
But ultimately, it is.
We also live in a time when corporate synergy has never been stronger. Sure, there were comic book adaptations of Tim Burton’s Batman, or the Bane storyline from The Dark Knight Rises borrowed heavily from the Knightfall comic arc from the early 90’s. But it seems these days that the Marve’ls and the DC’s and the Disney’s and the WB’s want to make sure that when you walk out of that theatre you can go to your local comic store and pick up a book that looks at least vaguely familiar to the spectacle you just witnessed. And vice versa if you travel from the comic shop to the cinemas.
It is easy to see this first hand. When Doctor Octopus managed to Freaky Friday with Peter Parker and ended up with his mind in Spider-Man’s body, the Spider-related interwebs lost their mind. People went so far as to send death threats to Spider-Man writer Dan Slott. While I wasn’t a big fan of the story twist, I decided to see where it went. See what they could do with it. And also, it was less than a year and a half from the release of the Amazing Spider-Man 2, I was 100% sure Peter Parker would be back in charge of his facilities by then.
Over that year and a bit, Superior Spider-Man turned out to be a fantastic ride. I’ve sung it’s praises here before. But once we reached the end of April 2014, mere weeks before the new movie, guess what happened? Spock was out, Peter was back in, all was status quo just as in time for the movie.
So it’s no big surprise that Marvel Comics is attempting to Cap-itialize on their latest entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
As I’m sure you are aware, Captain America: Civil War opened this weekend. It is loosely based on a popular Marvel Comics event from 2006-2007. So how best to have something “familiar” for those wandering out of the theatre and into comic stores? Why a sequel of course! Everyone loves a sequel. Civil War II it is.
But Marvel had one other slight snag to deal with. In current Marvel Comics continuity, Steve Rogers has been drained of his super soldier serum and now looks like your grandpa. If your grandpa was incredibly buff. So, much like Peter Parker returning as Spider-Man just weeks before the release of his new movie, guess what happened? Just weeks before the release of Captain America 3…Steve Rogers gets his groove back. De-aged and all super soldier-y again, and ready to take up the mantle of Captain America.
Which he does in the first of two Marvel Free Comic Book Day offerings. Did I mention it was Free Comic Book Day? Well, no, but it is Free Comic Book Day. As in go to a comic store and they will give you comics. For free! Buy some great stuff while you are there too, but…free! Here’s the list of available free books.
Back to Cap, I haven’t read the book yet but Steve Rogers returns as full fledged Cap, just with a new Shield. Like Malibu Stacy’s hat. You see, Sam Wilson aka Falcon, who took over for Rogers when he was gone, is also still Captain America and continues to use the iconic round shield. Is the Marvel Universe big enough for two Captain America’s? I guess we are about to find out. I’m sure it is…how many Spider-Men are there in the Marvel Universe now?
And speaking of Spidey, there is also a prelude story in the Cap book for the big upcoming Spider-Man event for this fall: Dead No More. Because, as we know, no one stays dead in comics.
But back to that big sequel event. The premise hasn’t really grabbed me and sounds like a pitch straight from Minority Report, which I hear they made into a TV show. There’s a new Inhuman in town (though they’ll never straight up admit it, Marvel is all about the Inhumans now as they try to replace the mutants with them because Fox owns the X-Men movie rights) who can predict the future. Captain Marvel is playing the part of Tom Cruise and wants to use this knowledge to prevent crimes. Iron Man believes that you can’t dish out punishment if a crime has not been committed. Fight!
I’m sure there have been lamer story-lines, but the more I think about this the less it intrigues me. Besides the obvious Minority Report joke, how is this even a thing? It’s being sold like this is the first character that could ever see the future. The Googles and common sense tell me that this is not the case. And there are always characters traveling back and forth in time with knowledge that could (and often is) used to prevent future events.
But this is all secondary I suppose. As long as we have “some” reason to have heroes punching each other. The original Civil War event centred around the Superhero Registration Act wherein heroes that wanted to continue operating as such had to register with the government and reveal their identity and submit to training if required. Iron Man said “yay” to this. Cap said, “bite me”. A simple concept at the core, that mostly worked, even if at times the actions of some of the “heroes” in Civil War seemed completely out of character.
The FCBD issue for CWII kicks off with a make out session between James “War Machine” Rhodes and Captain Marvel. Is this a thing? I don’t read either of their books. (Though this was strongly hinted at in the Captain Marvel and the Carol Corps book during Secret Wars.)
Then the Inhumans arrive with new Pre-cog Inhuman in tow. The Inhumans have agreed to let The Ultimates test our new future seeing friend Ulysses. He informs The Ultimates (and us) that he doesn’t just have visions of the future, he actually experiences the events. As if he was there. And on cue he then has an “experience”.
“Th-Thanos. His name is Thanos. He’s He’s coming!”
And some undetermined amount of time later, he does just that. He arrives in, where else, New York, looking to acquire a cosmic cube. Thanks to the warning from Ulysses, the members of The Ultimates and A-Force are there to greet him.
Now one of the hooks leading up to this series is that a character will die to set all these events in motion. And not wanting to reveal all their secrets just yet, the book puts two characters in dire straits. And if you’ve read this far, you’re probably not worried about spoilers, but turn back now if you are.
By stories end, She-Hulk is badly injured and “barely breathing”. But she’s a Hulk, I’m sure it will take more than a missile to the bosom to kill her. James Rhodes on the other hand, we don’t know the status of, but after going toe to toe with Thanos, things are not looking good. Cue the obligatory “The story continues in Civil War II” ad copy.
When I first read the Civil War half of this issue, I remember it feeling a little amateurish. Even with Brian Michael Bendis writing and decent art from Jim Cheung. I’m not sure what it was about it that made me think that. It just felt like fan fiction and had a very big case of “really, this is the set up for your big event?”. But, looking back at it while doing this “review”, it doesn’t seem as bad. Maybe not their strongest work, and perhaps even rushed for this freebie. It also likely needs to be a story that can be just “thrown away” as many will start this experience with Civil War II #1. But hey, it’s free!
(The rest of the issue is an origin story and first appearance (?) of the new Wasp who next appears in All-New, All-Different Avengers #9 in a couple of weeks.)
Well, this got unexpectedly long. I do tend to ramble. And I think I barely touched on the Free Comic Book Day Civil War II book that this post is titled after. But who cares. Free comic books!
Sweet Home “Episode Four”
Comic Review: Undiscovered Country Volume 4
Noteworthy Issues: The Amazing Spider-Man #61 (June, 1968)