SUNDAY BARBECUE: Abhay x Civil War II - The Conclusion

The final part in a short series of write-em-ups written in a panicked rush, for no discernible reason.

By the end, the air really goes out of this balloon.  Look at the colors on this page-- this is a scene taking place outdoors.  The beautiful solid gray outdoors.

I kinda get why they didn't repeat the "curvy line with a gradient fill underneath" move from panels 1 and 3 in panel 2.  Maybe it'd look off if they all had the same color background (?).  But why pick that bland gray?  If you're not going to have any effort on the backgrounds, why not go hot pink or a bright yellow or ... a color that's just purely an emotional color, or that pops more? Would that not have worked? Or is that solid gray an emotional gray for you....?

You know: not every panel needs to have a background. But I really have to think they might want to have turned into the skid a little more than they did here...

The story fades away with a fart, too.  After the Big Status Quo change, a character that was on Carol Danvers's side all along told her that she was right all along ... okay... and then, Carol Danvers says "thanks-- here are some ads for upcoming Marvel comics"; then goes and tells Obama that she wants to talk to him about the future, for some reason.

We live in the future -- Obama ain't around-- American life is A+.  So whatever they talked about -- I guess it wasn't anything all that helpful...

I should probably try some kind of plot synopsis in case you haven't read this thing:

The inhumans find Scott Stapp, a magical douchebag who can kinda tell the future except shitty.  Iron Man keeps going "hey, his future-telling is shitty" but Carol Danvers says no it isn't-- even though she's never proven right anywhere within this series, we're meant to believe she is as equally good as Tony Stark, whose opinions are based on science and experience with alternate futures.  Okay. A bunch of plotlines start but go exactly nowhere-- e.g., She Hulk is angry about something and yells the word "And?" a lot but And Nothing, end of storyline.  The superheros fight because Carol Danvers is depriving a woman of her civil rights (another abandoned storyline).  During the fight, the superheros see a vision of the future where Black Spiderman has killed Captain America.  Black Spiderman and Captain America go to the place where they'll murder each other, but instead of murdering each other, Carol Danvers beats Tony Stark into a coma.  Hawkeye comes to her and tells her that very important things are about to happen, in other comics, sold separately, at some future date, presumably.  Obama tells her he's proud of her.  She says thanks.  The end.  

So.  I guess that's a story you could tell...?

I mean, is it worse than other crossovers?  Not really. But maybe people are harder to satisfy now.  I mean, if you don't like the big Marvel crossover, you can go get your superhero fix from EVERY OTHER PART OF OUR CULTURE now.  So.  What Marvel sells is worth less and costs more.

I wonder what that feels like.

I always get this "We did it-- we won" vibe from comics, but... what does anyone need a Marvel comic book for anymore???  I don't watch Supergirl but I read the young people on that tumblr, Harold, which means I basically end up watching the sexy parts of Supergirl in gif format every week, and... Seems like that means something to people that the comics aren't built to provide.  But maybe it's all translating to fans and new audiences and all that stuff in some way I'm too narrow-minded to appreciate.  I don't know.  It's none of my business, I guess, at the end of the day.

If I walked into Civil War 2 with that as one of my questions-- "What does anyone need a Marvel comic book for anymore?"-- well, I know that question I don't have an answer for after this experience.  But that's a tough one...

Too tough for me!

Cue My Adolescent Sniggering Theme Music.


...I mean, is there a better choice?

There probably isn't.

There's only so many songs.

Best part of Civil War 2:  when the superheros stop and realize that maybe they can have a superhero fuck-fest on the steps of the Capitol.  Maybe they can have a superhero fuck-fest all day, every day.  What's the downside of the superhero fuck-fest?  The dry-cleaning bill...?

Civil War 3: Superhero Fuck-Fest.  Coming to a BBS near you in 2018.

Annnnnd that was the Adolescent Sniggering part of our evening.

I found it kind of interesting that the Obama era political comic ended with a "we have to worry because of the guy after you" speech.  Thanks, Glenn Greenwald, wherever you are, I guess.

We had to worry about all of them, though.  The idea that there are these Responsible People in the world who are Very Serious and deserve our deference... Well, that just seems like its own fantasy, one that lets people keep sleeping through some Same Old Shit, and tell themselves that crap was okay because Their Guy was doing it.  But eh-- it's at least some kind of  tolerable message there, at the end, at least.

Though the comic then ends with a triumphant hug to the Deep State and a celebration of public apathy towards war crimes, et cetera.

So.  I mean, I have three minutes so the contradictions of modern liberalism are probably beyond the scope of discussion here, but there is a sort of weird fog of dysfunction over the ending.  At least for me, just since when I look back over recent history, the "what did people believe" of it all gets a little perplexing.

Not a terribly fun comic. Poor storytelling.  Some occasional cute dialogue bits, but just as many that were just... very strange.  (At one point, Tony Stark yells that young people don't know that hair salons used to be called barbershops, which... how old is Bendis??  He wasn't that old the last I checked.  Did he drink from the wrong Grail cup?  What's going on over there???).

And it's 6.  So, that was me trying to do this Sunday Barbecue thing.  I don't know how it all turned out-- I'll do an edit to fix the images now, but.  Thanks for tuning in if you did.  Hope you have a good rest of the weekend.


SUNDAY BARBECUE: Abhay x Civil War II - Issues Five and Six

There's a lot here to point at and snicker about.  Let me try to have at least one of these be a little more coherent... Let's see how that goes!

Issues 5 and 6 definitely don't work.

The basic storytelling is not involving or exciting.

Check out this bit-- the guy in the top left corner getting hit into the sky (Luke Cage) is being snatched up at the bottom right panel by a giant random Sasquatch...?  It took me a long time to figure that out because the camera is as far from the character in peril as possible for both panels-- you have no sense of Cage ever being at risk, especially because in between are characters rocketing off to outer damn space, making Cage's earth-bound difficulties seem pretty inconsequential by comparison.

The comic wants to utilize Michael Bay/MTV style edits to make the action scenes chaotic (I suppose a person could argue that the Bourne films are a likely point of reference, but this reminds me more of Bay).  Now, I happen to like Michael Bay-- I know, I know--  but his kind of editing (Bayhem, or what have you) works because a pummeling visual assault just bullies you as a viewer into a peculiar kind of submission-- and you might like that, or I know a lot of people don't.  But comics doing that... Comics is never anything but an active experience.  So I don't know that type of technique could possibly work, even under ideal circumstances.

That said, there've been action scenes that have been chaotic in comics.  Certainly manga; some Paul Pope comics come to mind.

But I think a critical difference is the lack of subjectivity to the camera, maybe.  Who is the camera in this fight scene?  The "camera" (for lack of a better term; the reader's POV, point of view) is just ... wherever.  Are we supposed to be worried for Luke Cage?  Which character's experience are we rooted in?  The comic is so committed to this "Which side will you choose" marketing idea, that it can't commit to anything or else half the audience will be alienated; choices haven't been made.

If I think of a fight manga, I usually think there's a clarity in who the reader's identification character is, that doesn't get lost even if the artist might use speed lines, or weird blur smudges to convey speed or confusion...

The bigger problem may be my lack of imagination that... I just seriously can't imagine there were people saying "I'm rooting for Carol Danvers in this comic." Even among people who might support profiling because.. she's just not being presented as a legitimate point of view.

If there were pro-Danvers people, I'd think it was because of work done outside the comic, on Danvers's own series by other creators -- a pre-existing affection that this book relied on to its detriment.  Because the scenes of her arguing her point are so unpersuasive-- it's just her rolling her eyes while other characters make their point.

When given a moment to engender audience sympathy, Danvers is presented as experiencing PTSD-like flashback symptoms, suggesting that even Danvers's ideology is not caused by legitimate beliefs but trauma.  How can you root for trauma symptoms?

There are people who believe that profiling immigrants or others is warranted in order to deter crime and terrorism.  Those people are in charge now, shit-- plenty of people support that ideology. I'm just not sure this comic is ever really making their case, is the thing.  But it'd be hard to present that case without being like, "yeah, the future kid is right-- that black superhero's up to no good."  That'd be a tricky place to go!

There could have been scenes early on where Carol won some arguments -- by actually preventing horrible things.  But I feel like all the early scenes were Carol preventing Maybe Things while Tony Stark stood next to her yelling about how his liberal ideologies were going to be proven right by later events in this comic series.

Taking a step back... in the 4 minutes I have remaining, I think the interesting thing to ask is what were their choices?

They want to feature Carol Danvers as an interesting character.  Does that to some extent require them to break the character?  You know: to put her in a dramatically alive position?

It may not make her "likable" -- having not read any of the Kelly Sue work or whatever, the appeal of this character is totally lost on me right now.  (She just seems like a cop-- who roots for cops??) But you know, they want to make her dramatically interesting enough that she can shoulder her half of a Civil War.  How do you do that without sacrificing likability?

You know, I thought they had a hard time with Tony Stark after Civil War, but at the same time... That character got way more popular after that series, too.

They have this desire to be an exciting company for this new audience of women or whoever they're targeting -- how do you satisfy that while still putting your characters in new places, treating them like characters and not just super-fucking-boring "exemplars of goodness", not treating them like DC characters?  Tricky spot to be in...

* * * 

And it's 5.  One last one and we wrap this up.


SUNDAY BARBECUE: Abhay x Civil War II - Issues Three and Four

Whoever finishes a revolution only halfway, digs his own grave.

-- Georg Buchner

So when we last left off, the Civil War characters were going to go talk to Hulk because Scott Stapp had a vision of Hulk being real mean-like.  So then: it cuts ahead to a Trial of the Century for Hawkeye -- because Hawkeye decided to murder Hulk from a nearby tree, rather than let Hulk get mean-like.  Trials Of the Century usually take (a) months to start and (b) months to finish, but this all took about 24 hours in Marvel time.

(Daredevil is either prosecuting the case or the defense attorney on the case-- it's hard to tell because he's aggressively examining everyone, without any of that fuddy duddy "advocacy" business getting in the way.)

Anyways, the jury lets Hawkeye go because they're like "oh Hawkeye killing the Hulk-- well, that was more like assisted suicide than murder."  Uhm: but assisted suicide last I checked was still illegal.  So.

Anyways: then there's a lenghty part where everyone in the comic turns to Carol Danvers and is like "Carol Danvers, you are a horrible woman who no decent person could ever feel any affection towards."  (But it's okay because Marvel is feminist now).  And then Carol Danvers rolls her eyes, flies through somebody's ceiling, and threatens to rob a woman of her civil rights until finally-- FINALLY-- a bunch of superheros show up to start the Civil War.

Four months seem like a long time to wait for a Civil War to start in a comic book called Civil War 2.  But it's not like I'm in a hurry.  Where do I have to be today?  Well, I have some laundry to do.  My shirts don't smell right.  People are starting to notice.  I can feel their stares.

Let's shift over and do a lame joke... 

Cue my Lame Joke Theme Music!



Goddamn, I need better lame joke theme music.

I'm out of practice!


I remember when I got caught experimenting on myself.  There's no shame to it!


On the "why wasn't this a big crowdpleaser" level... I don't know that the story's especially un-engaging.  It's moving from big moment to big moment. Well, unless you like the Captain Marvel character-- if you like that character, I'd have to think  this would be dismaying because that character's not been presented as a valid character in this, very much.

You can say the same is true of Iron Man in the first Civil War except... Iron Man was kind of in a shambles after Civil War.  Didn't they have to reboot Iron Man's brain a year after Civil War, erase his memories, etc.?  It would seem the "let's make one character a total villain" thing would be something you'd want to course-correct about that first Civil War, but if anything, this seems more extreme because all of the good characters like Tony Stark and none like Danvers.

But besides that... I don't think the art's that exciting.  The rendering is nice but look at this page-- it's a page where Tony's talking about all these exciting things that got prevented thanks to Scott Stapp, but ... It's a drawing of Modok, a drawing of some guys rappelling towards a building (presumably a building where something exciting happened?), and a pinup of some superheros posing.

There's no storytelling going on here, really.

How exciting would that be for fans?

The art has to tell a story-- otherwise, it's not comics.  It's just pin-ups.

Do you think that contributed to fans not getting excited?  Or are modern comic fans so divorced from the art-appreciation part that it doesn't even make a difference anymore?  I couldn't even guess.

Like, what emotions am I supposed to be looking at here?

I don't really quite know...

Determination?  Anger?  Curiosity?

I'm kind of at a loss.

Oh wait, Sasquatch and five characters I can't name are siding with Carol Danvers -- nevermind.

Anyways, politically, this comic continues to be deeply weird, though I can see from the clock I'm running out of time.

But the comic seems to be engaged in an argument that racial profiling is bad even though it's right a lot of the time...?  Which.  That's a weird way of phrasing that argument.  It's sort of reminds me of Zootopia, where that movie was like "we all should want more harmony with minorities, who are fundamentally predators but maybe have the ability to control their predatorial natures."  Uh, that would be a lot cooler without that second half of that sentence!

Isn't the better argument that racial profiling is bad because an evaluation of something's morality sometimes goes beyond statistics and numerical results?  I don't know.  We'll see where this goes.

Favorite dialogue in this stretch:  "And?"  "And?"  "And?"  "And?"  

...He's getting paid by the "And?"  Baby needs that "And?" money.

And it's 4pm.

SUNDAY BARBECUE: Abhay x Civil War II - Issues One and Two

The mental fog after reading this is not clearing up as quickly as I'd like.  Was the premise of this that I'd have interesting things to say?  Oh god.  Oh god no.  Oh god what have I done.

The thing that struck me was how quickly and without hesitation the series announced what it was about.  "Here is the moral dilemma that will be the premise of this series, kids."  I imagine that's sweet relief for people who buy the comics religious-like on a Wednesday, your True Believers, not having to wait for the story to reach the same point as the marketing materials.

But:  it's weird reading all at once after the fact because within 30 seconds of finding out that there's an Inhuman who can see the future, Tony Stark and Captain Marvel are like "well, I guess we have no choice but to have an all-out superhero civil war because of this moral dilemma that each of us is able to carefully articulate."  I can't tie my shoelaces in the morning if I don't have a cup of coffee.  And I can't tie my shoelaces after I have a cup of coffee either.  My point is I never learned how to tie my shoelaces-- all I do is fall down.

I think I also immediately figured out why people hate this crossover though:

It's about the Marvel superheros fighting over which of them loves Scott Stapp from the band Creed more.

Was that what happened?  Did people buy these comics and just go, "Wait, is that Scott Stapp from Creed?  Creed sucks!"  For a multi-zillion dollar publishing outfit, they sure gambled a lot on Marvel Comics fans loving With Arms Wide Open.

Why am I reading about this douchebag??

There's some other music person he looks like more but I can't put my finger on it.  But he looks like he should be singing about how Jesus is going to high-five him for not having sex before he's married, not mixing it up with Spidermen.  That is not really an endearing character design, but maybe I'm just not in touch with the youth of today, their Christian rock, their Dude Perfect youtube videos, etc.

If there's some tremendous political message here, yet, I'm not picking up on it.  So far it's just "what if Minority Report had blackrifice in it?"  I don't ... I don't know what the answer to that is but I'm going to spend four hours today to find out!  Whee!

Well, actually, there is...

I mostly missed the whole Woke Era of Comics at Marvel-- I skipped Thor being a girl, or Captain America being a minority Nazi, or all that stuff.  Judging from these two issues, that stuff is really awkwardly done.

Not just in the dialogue which has some ... odd dialogue choices.  The dialogue I had to stop and scribble down in my notes: "Carol. Just in time for parcheesi." "That line was parcheesi." "True. But I'm in mourning."  ... I don't know what parcheesi is because I'm only a middle-aged man, not Methuselah.  What the hell is being said here???

But there's a scene where Tony Stark is torturing Scott Stapp from Creed-- you know, the sort of "the power to inflict violence = awesome" kinda thing that I'd associate with Marvel comics, but then mid-way through this torture scene, Iron Man (Marvel's #1 hero celebrating the military industrial complex) starts lecturing Scott Stapp about implicit bias...?  And how implicit bias means we all have received racist ideas whether or not we want to cop to them???

It's fucking weird.

Is the Marvel version of being woke just, like, "there are people out there that don't realize gender is a fluid spectrum -- so we're going to shoot rayguns out of our eyes at them until their skin melts off their flesh"?  Like, I don't know how progressive you can be when your entire genre is rooted in a fetishizing an ability to inflict mass violence.

It's nice these people are trying.  The results seem very awkward though.

What else do I have in my notes... "Stan Lee's biggest sin was that everybody after him wants to write wisecracks."  And that's it for my notes.

Let's go to the mailbag!

Well, I haven't read it but I'd hope March...?

Oh wait, that's not a superhero comic.

But isn't it though?


I'd love to edit this but it's 3pm so I have to hit post and get back to ...



Something about the Hulk...

SUNDAY BARBECUE: Abhay x Civil War II -- Prelims

"Sometimes I won. Mostly I lost. But you put the show on speed... I chew all they asses up. All them Grand Masters and them Europeans... with they government subsidies and whatnot to sit on they asses and play all day... they ain't livin'in the world. Put the clock on 'em, put the heat on they backs, they break down. Put 'em in the park fishin' for dollars, and they break. That's Bobby Fisher-- some say he's the greatest player to ever play the game. I never played him. All them patzers sittin' around the park... waitin' for him to go back there, like Jesus. Me, I don't give a shit. Put the clock on that motherfucker... I'll chew his ass up just like the rest of'em. Chew it right up."

-- Samuel L. Jackson in FRESH, written by Boaz Yakin

* * *

CIVIL WAR II, by Brian Michael Bendis, David Marquez, Justin Ponsor, Virtual Calligraphy, Clayton Cowles, Axel Alonso, Tom Brevoort, the great Wil Moss, Alanna Smith, and Marko Djurdjevic.

Hi. This is a thing I wanted to try this year:

I'm going to read Civil War II, and after every two issues write something, with the plan being I post up some kind of something every hour. Half hour to read two issues; half hour to write something-- more or less.

I didn't read Civil War II while it was being published-- I am reading the collected edition courtesy of Comixology. I had read issues #0 and #00 -- I thought either #0 or #00 (or FCBD #1) was actually the first issue of the series, but that turned out to be an elaborate ruse. And at the time, I just figured "I can't figure out how to buy the first issue of your comic book" was as good an omen as a person could ask for to avoid a thing.

But I wanted to put the clock on and see how I'd do. I haven't done this in a while-- I feel super-rusty-- and I wanted to see if I'd bite the dust if I tried to think up anything interesting to say in a short window of time. I've felt a little drained of good humor lately-- a little low on the vim and vigor.

Thus and therefore: let's put the clock on. Let's get the heat on the back. Let's fish for some dollars.

(Plus, who hasn't seen that website Twitch and thought, "Hey, what would Twitch look like except for writing angry, inappropriate nonsense overreacting to comic books?"  I know I'm not alone.  The future is mine).

I'll be drinking some white wine that I got as a Christmas gift. I'll also at some point be ordering some fried chicken from Postmates for lunch.  It's Sunday, I got the day from work, and I got a big hit comic book to relax with.

What could go wrong?

* * *

What's interesting about Civil War II besides the fact that it's the Cadillac of comic books?

Well, one, I thought it'd be an easy thing to try this whole idea out on. I'm old and extremely tired of hearing about these characters, but having opinions about Marvel comics is a pretty easy thing for a person to pull off, as tasks go.  The audience "having opinions" is something that has sustained these comics for many years, I would think.

And there were a few other questions that struck me as being ones a person who read Civil War II would want to be asking themselves while they read it (besides "What went wrong with my life?" or "Is this why no one will ever love me?") ... I can't say I'll be answering any of these, on account of time-- this might just be a total car crash-- I'm feeling pretty rusty-- but here's a bunch of questions I thought a person might want to try to ask themselves, while reading Civil War II:

1) What's going on with the characters? What do they want, what are they afraid of, and what is the reader learning about them from the story?

So, for starters: basic meat & potato questions that a person wants to ask themselves when experiencing any kind of story.

Especially for a Brian Michael Bendis (hereinafter referred to as "Bendis") comic-- his orientation is usually more on character than on plot. He doesn't really write "mysteries" a person can solve at home, at least not that I've ever been around for.  Based on every other Bendis comic I've read, I don't think it'll be fun trying to guess the ending of this comic, say.

Todd Alcott (who has shown up at the Beat in the past) has a saying, something like what a character wants is the reason the movie is happening. (When he talks about Jaws, he phrases it as "the path of the protagonist is the meaning of the movie"). I don't know if that's true or not-- but it sounds like a workable enough theory that maybe these are good questions to keep in mind.

I don't really care if someone's being written "in character" though.  At this point, I don't really know who the characters are anymore, probably. They stopped being written any way I understood them a long time ago, I would guess, and status quos have changed enough, that maybe that's nothing a reasonable person can expect.

In the 00 and 0 issues that I read, I remember being confused that Thanos robs banks now. That's what I remember happening in the two issues that I read:  there's an Inhuman who can tell the future named Ulysses or Samson or something like that; Marvel's trying to make the Inhumans happen (which will *never* happen) for business reasons; Thanos showed up to rob a bank or something, carrying machine guns, which is not how I remember that character ever acting, I thought he was more a Space Dictator, but I guess...???; there was a fight; and then a couple weeks later, I was talking with a friend, and they said "oh, James Rhodes got black-rificed in that fight because one of the squiggles in the 00 issue was the minority dying so that the white characters could experience emotions" and I went "I didn't even realize that had happened when I read it-- are you being for serious?", and apparently he was.  So, that's all I remember about those two issues, but I think it's enough where I don't have to revisit them for this re-read.

Also worth noting: for that first Civil War series, the Marvel superheros being written out of character turned out to be a feature, not a bug.

2) Is this fun?  Are the fights cool?  Am I seeing cool shit go down?

It's a superhero civil war-- somebody's probably going to get punched, I'd figure.

Though, once your eyes get old, and you get weary of this world...

For me, most mainstream fight scenes just started to look like ... drawings of characters in "classic fight poses", but with the poses placed close enough to other characters in "Classic fight poses" so as to resemble characters fighting. As opposed to drawings of two characters actually engaged in a struggle, where the artist seems cognizant of both characters having their own weight, gravity, momentum, impact, etc.

Set aside manga.

The fights I remember in mainstream comics, the fun part was watching how characters would use their superpowers against one another -- Riptide spins his body and flings out shurikens, but Colossus uses his metal skin to withstand that long enough to break his neck.

Or if not that, then there'd be a scale to the proceedings-- Wonder Man and Hyperion punching each other into the sun, while an army of dead superheros fights the living to keep the galaxy from exploding.

But cut to modern comics, cut to me being gross and old, without vim or vigor, and I felt like I was just seeing characters drawn with their arms out in punching gestures near other characters drawn in slightly different punching gestures.  

That had become "enough", if there were just enough of those characters drawn onto a page.

But look, is this the only criteria to judge fun?  Of course not.  Other things can make a series like this fun: cliffhangers; character turns; "Everything is different now" status quo changes.

So, let's see what we got!  Shoe money tonight!

3) Is this purely an editorial product or are Bendis's themes discernible in the mix?

At this point, the question of whether or not Bendis has written a "good comic" is especially meaningless. They made a Netflix show of one of his comics that won a fucking Peabody, and he got to go to the Peabody's (!). This life's a game, and that dude's played the game well, man. (And I think he's deserved his success-- he worked very hard for it, anyways.)

So now that he's had this whole career, whether one comic is good or not doesn't seem all that Life-or-Death.  But what strikes me as interesting is you can now see this entire career of him exploring and reexploring particular themes and go "oh how does this fit into that"...

More specifically, Bendis's career-long obsession is characters negotiating situations where the Old Systems don't work anymore-- characters either choosing to redefine themselves because of their exhaustion with the old status quo, or having new status quos thrust upon them.

And from the beginning of his career (Kingpin getting stabbed by his underlings; Ultimate Spiderman confessing his identity to Mary Jane, etc.), that's been his focus, moreso than on plots or fight scenes or anything traditionally "of comics".  He has always made dominant the experience of watching character try to think their way through shifting status quos, usually out loud.

He has a total interest in the chaos and creative possibility of a certain kind of instability (though significantly less interest in the moments after that initial liminal moment, in resolving his changed status quos, which can create a certain frustration with his work).

So, yeah: how does Civil War II fit in that?

Civil War II would seem ideally suited to be in keeping with that theme. "Here's a new status quo, some characters like it, some don't." But we know he has to answer in this same comic to editors, marketing, line-wide publishing plans, machinations perhaps greater and more ridiculous than we are meant to know.

So: who won? Who won the Civilest War of them all?

4) What went wrong? Why is this the "Bad Crossover?"

Spoiler warning:  "Here at ICV2, we've certainly been hearing about significant pull box abandonment by comic store customers over the past few months[.]"

I haven't been following the "Comics News" too closely but the impression I've gotten is this crossover was particularly badly received. This was the "Bad crossover" -- so bad that people started wringing their hands about the future again.


What made this worse than Siege? Fear Itself? The Lanterns of Arbitrary Character Death (I forget what that one was called)? Those were all fucking terrible. All crossovers to an extent stink because of how often the story gets smeared out across multiple books, rather than a team creating a strong dominant title that creates a possibility space for spin-offs (which I thought was the obvious strength of that first Civil War).

I think crossovers and the "creative environment" they result in is noxious and tends towards ripping off fans, plus more troublingly, stunting the growth of other creators. But I've thought that for years and years, and that didn't stop dumb-sounding shit like Avengers vs Xmen from selling.

So, what happened here?? What changed? Why is the bad one?

I'm pretty excited about finding out!

5) What's going on with this comic politically? Intentional messages? Unintentional messages?

The history of these crossovers is pretty fucking gnarly.

Well, the first Civil War at least ended with fascism triumphant because progressivism decided that opening up a meaningful dialogue with Nazis was better than punching them the fuck out. Liberal readers got to enjoy the fantasy of having an unearned smug sense of superiority while avoiding engaging with the world with anything more than empty talk; right wing readers got the fantasy of wielding unchecked power to control their world, even though the brazen stupidity of their ideas should've given them at least some pause; everybody got what they wanted...? Oh, this was all horribly cynical, but "Mark Millar Comic Discovered to be Cynical" -- that's too edgy an insight for a lowly comic critic like me; I haven't earned those stripes yet, not yet.

My memories of Secret Invasion are a little more tinged with anger, one that hasn't gone away. Not so much because of how that comic was about how righteous it'd be to violently suppress an evil religious minority who've infiltrated your society, or how the only downside of doing something as completely warranted as that would be that it could lead to a fascist demagogue seizing control at the end of that conflict. That's not ... not really great stuff, but I get what happened there --  they assumed who their reader was, what the Default Human Experience was, and proceeded accordingly.  I was a brown person reading comics before comics started pretending it wanted brown people to read comics; so, that's just not some surprising thing to me.

No, the part that's never stopped bugging me, all these years later, is there was a one or two page scene of the comic lecturing protesters for being naive, for naively supporting the civil rights of religious minorities. I think protesters are fucking heroic, and responsible for great social achievements (the end of child labor, women having the right to vote, the 40 hour work week, civil rights, etc.), so found it very unsettling for a fiction purportedly about heroism to attack actual heroism.  And that whole scene has really magnified in my mind given the way the world has gone in the last year. Now that the chips are down, superheros ain't coming to save anyone-- Hillary Clinton's too busy cough-fainting in the woods. All you see saving people is each other, massive groups of people responding to calls for help, coming out of their homes, standing with one another because they know nothing changes for the better without them.

So I'm especially uncharitable to the memory of that comic, at the moment, as it has only become more goddamn contrary to the thing keeping me sane anymore, as the years have gone by.

But look, years have certainly gone by: those two crossovers were a while ago-- nearly 10 years ago on Secret Invasion (!). Those were long before Marvel decided to sell itself as a company that panders to woke youths instead of pandering to charisma-free loners. Sales strategies evolve. Maybe people's philosophies evolve, too, maybe-- it'd be awfully nice to think so.

Civil War II should be interesting because it was created on the cusp of a whole mess of shit, changes that I don't think anybody can really lay claim to having their head wrapped all the way around; created by people who at the time were at least selling themselves as liberals since it was advantageous for them to do so -- but at a time when I think a certain kind of liberal was plainly telling themselves fairy tales.

So: I'm curious what all seeps in. If anything!

6) Is there anything-- anything!-- interesting at all about the presentation?

I'm just going to tell you my pet peeve, before we read this thing. It's a thing I noticed and once you notice, you can't stop noticing it. But when comic-drawing dudes and dudettes don't really have chops in laying out pages, they all pull the same move to avoid having their comics be extra-fuck-boring to look at.

They do widesceen panels-- which are the most boring fucking things on earth; how someone with zero imagination whatsoever draws comics-- but then in order to spice up the proceedings, they just have one character vertically take up two widescreen panels.

Here, I'll do a little drawing to show the kind of layout I mean:

I. Hate. This. Kind. of. Layout.

Because once you start noticing people doing it, you can't stop noticing it. Because some people, this is their ONLY MOVE.

I mean, it's a cute move-- I get that it "works." I don't know if Wally Wood put it in 22 Panels that Always Work, but sure, fine, it works, fine. I just hate it anyways. I hate it. I hate it so much. Irrationally? Very well-- irrationally.

But it's become the thing I look for now when I look at comics from this sector of the business-- "do they draw pretty but then hide their lack of storytelling chops behind this one whole move?" I say that out loud. In a comic shop. Scaring children.

I hate it so much.  Have more than one move!

So, I want to see a fun layout.


But we'll see. We'll get what we get!  I got a clock on me, so what gets said is what gets said.  If you got two cents about the issues we're going to be reading, you can toss 'em out.  And let's circle back at 3pm, for ...



Issues 1 and 2 of Civil War 2!

Sunday Barbecue!