Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Comics! the end of the world as we know it!

A banner week in comics! Everything from little tidbits to continuity-shaking mega-events was on hand at the Android's Dungeon. The mouth-breathing virgins at that venerable establishment were all a-twitter over it, in much the same way the rest of us start heart-afluttering when Hippolyta strides into the room (we suspect Hippolyta herself would never under any circumstances stride into the Android's Dungeon, so we'll never see the two worlds meet, alas).

Starting out on the tidbit side would be the latest issue of Conan, a rollicking good time with magnificent artwork and a glowering Cimmerian who's always perfectly in character. Robert E. Howard would very likely have been irked beyond measure by the legendary rendition of his character made by Roy Thomas and John Buscema, but he'd have flat-out LOVED this new run, which bids fair to being the best adaptation of the character yet done in any medium (things are equally good over in Red Sonja, in case anybody's interested).

Also on the tidbitty side is the first issue of 'Legion of Monsters' - we here at Stevereads know nothing about this thing, having encountered it by chance, but half of this particular issue deals with the retro Marvel horror character Werewolf by Night.

Only this is a Werewolf by Night for the Midnighter generation - he's no longer a victim as he was in the '70s. No, he not only controls his transformations but revels in them. In this issue (drawn by Gred Land, whose weirdly photographic work we confess we're liking more and more), our hero saves a comely young female werewolf from her superstitious townspeople, and even though it's only eight pages or so, you want more when it ends. Half the issue is taken up with a rather by-the-numbers Frankenstein's monster story, but we here at Stevereads call for a monthly Werewolf by Night title, drawn by Land and while we're at it, written by this issue's scribe Mike Carey.

Moving out of tidbit range, we find the lastest issue of The Amazing Spider-Man, written with unusual delicacy by J. Michael Straczynski and drawn with career-high skill by Ron Garney.

The story so far: Spider-Man has broken from Iron Man's fascistic ranks and taken his wife Mary Jane and his Aunt May into Motel 6 hiding while he figures things out. Of course since his identity is public his movements have been tracked - although in this case rather improbably only by the incarcerated Kingpin (not the government, which presumably can afford more tracking gadgets than are available at the prison commissary). Kingpin has put out a hit on Peter and is family, so half the issue shows Mary Jane and Aunt May in an assassin's crosshairs.

In the meantime, Straczynski is presented with the unenviable task of needing to tell his story without revealing any of the dramatic revelations over in the concluding issue of Civil War.

He pulls it off wonderfully. Nothing in this issue feels forced or avoiding, especially the Daily Bugle newsroom scene that should have been the weakest in the issue. The neglected central figure in this whole Civil War storyline is J. Jonah Jameson, and he doesn't get the moment he deserves in this issue, but the sequence is very strong anyway, as is the rest of the issue.

'The rest of the issue' boils down to one thing and one thing only: when Peter Parker gets back to his Motel 6 to comfort Mary Jane and Aunt May, his spider-sense tells him something is wrong. He lunges to save Mary Jane and succeeds, only to realize that Aunt May has been shot.

This is a watered-down version of what should have happened - clearly, the whole Civil War storyline SHOULD have huge personal consequences for everyone involved. Identities are known; dependents are known - it shouldn't just be the Kingpin who's making hay off all this.

Nevertheless, it's Aunt May who gets shot this time around. That specific thing has never happened to the venerable lady before, and although Spider-Man #200 upped the ante for Aunt May peril, this is the logical extension of that.

This issue ends with Aunt May gutshot - if she's to live, she'll need extensive immediate medical attention. The writers of Civil War have made it completely impossible for Peter Parker to GET her that aid, without being promptly hauled off to jail. We'll see how - or if - they resolve it in the next issue.

Fortunately, all is not lost at Marvel. As will almost certainly be the pattern for the next few years, Marvel gets to tell its GOOD stories only in alternate places - in the Ultimate continuity, or, in the case of the 'Illuminati' mini-series, the past.

The second issue of 'Illuminati' is a potent little delight. The premise, as all of you will no doubt remember, is this: the movers and the shakers of the Marvel universe (minus the Black Panther, Doctor Doom, and Magneto, much to the detriment of the idea) get together regularly as a sort of Ex-Com board meeting. Our cast is Reed Richards, leader of the Fantastic Four, Iron Man of the Avengers, Prince Namor of Atlantis, Professor Xavier, leader of the X-Men, Doctor Strange, Master of the Mystic Arts, and Black Bolt, king of the Inhumans. Namor is the closest we come to any kind of partisan bickering, although writer Brian Michael Bendis does a wonderful job of it (a wonderful job that SHOULD be ongoing in monthly titles for HALF of these characters ... how shameful is it for Marvel that they have no ongoing title for the Sub-Mariner, Doctor Strange, OR the Inhumans? DC is thinking about giving an ongoing title to Ibis the Frickin Invincible, but Prince Namor goes a-begging?).

In this issue Reed Richards shares with his fellow Ex-Com members his quest to find all the gems of power that outfit the Infinity Gauntlet, the better to make sure they never fall into the wrong hands. Bendis does a curiously un-subtle job of making the point that ANYBODY'S hands would be the wrong ones for that amount of power, and that's not his only failing so far - true, his Reed Richards and his Iron Man are note-perfect, but he clearly has no idea what to do with either Doctor Strange or Black Bolt (about whom it's not even made clear the question of language - without Black Bolt's interpreter present, has any roster of hand-gestures been agreed upon? Does anybody know what he's trying to say, ever?), and his Professor X is a curiously tentative figure.

Still, Jim Cheung's artwork is fantastic as always, and apart from the Doctor Strange mini-series currently underway, this is the best book Marvel's currently publishing.

Over at DC, the sheer number of really, really good titles is, well, a little embarrassing. Those of us who've been reading comics a long time remember vividly an extended stretch - a very extended stretch - in which Marvel comics were almost uniformly good and DC comics were almost uniformly bad. Times change, it seems.

There's the first issue of the 'Brave and Bold' relaunch, for instance, featuring the positively last appearance of that perennial retiree, George Perez. His artwork here is as legendarily, even weirdly detailed as always, illuminating this inaugural team-up between Hal Jordan and Batman.

Alas, Mark Waid's writing ain't quite so legendary. The main problem with an otherwise nifty issue is that (excepting one wonderful scene with our two heroes gambling in Vegas) everybody in it SOUNDS exactly the same, most certainly including scrappy working-poor test pilot Hal Jordan and aristocratic Bruce Wayne. But the artwork is the selling point here in any case, and Perez as usual doesn't disappoint.

Also from DC is the latest issue of Wonder Woman, written by Allen Heinberg and drawn with superb artistry by Terry Dodson. After three issues of Diana Prince-style futzing around, this is the issue where the one true Wonder Woman finally returns, and for all his tendency to nod and wander, Heinberg handles the moment wonderfully. Oh, don't mistake: this still isn't good enough, not by a long mark. The whole premise of '52' and like titles is that for an entire year the DC universe went without the three titans at its top: Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman. The journeys each of these three underwent in that year should by rights be the stuff of comics legend, and yet they've been uniformly botched, leached of the epic significance they might have had. But at least as of the next issue of Wonder Woman, the whole question will be behind us, and we'll be free to concentrate on the traditional character again.

And speaking of traditional characters, the current run on Green Arrow continues to be the gold standard by which the character will be measured. Writer Judd Winick and epochal artist Scott McDaniel continue to give us the best rendition of Green Arrow yet made.
The current issue guest-stars Batman, which is both enjoyable and taunting (as some of you may know, we here at Stevereads stand by our conviction that McDaniel could be the greatest Batman artist of all time), and the dialogue is winningly sharp - the villains who draw our two heroes into separate conflicts refreshingly admit outright that they never expected to actually WIN against two of DC's A-list heavyweights. This is definitive work.

As is the current run on Robin, surely the best that character has ever received (apart, that is, from his occasional appearances in the old Scott McDaniel run on Nightwing). In this latest issue, all Tim Drake wants to do is successfully go out on a date with a beautiful girl, and his evening keeps getting interrupted by Batman and the super-villain of the week. It's funny stuff, rendered just so by Adam Beechen's expert writing. This 50-year-old character has never been in better hands.

But none of this really matters, not this week, not in the shadow of the most important - in every neutral reading of that word - comic of the year. No, Marvel's Civil War #7 must command any comic-book discussion this week, no matter what our mighty Hippolyta says.

And true to form, it's an unmitigated disaster. The entirety of Marvel's Civil War storyline has been one long exercise of poor judgement, a What If story cranked up on black market steroids. Any hope that the fascists-v.s.-freedom fighters plotline could be resolved with any degree of coherence, let alone satisfaction, has been dwindling for months, to the point where the main motivation for reading issue #7 was to see just how big a frickin train wreck it would be.

The answer? Pretty damn big. The bulk of the issue is devoted to the gigantic battle between Captain America's forces and the fascist, gulag-operating forces of Iron Man. This battle rages back and forth - Hercules uses the fake Thor's fake hammer to crush the fake' Thor's fake head, Prince Namor and a bunch of Atlantean warriors join the fray on Cap's side for absolutely no reason whatsoever, the Vision disrupts Iron Man's armor (a trick he must have picked up from Kitty Pryde, but nevermind), and just when it looks like Captain America's side might be winning, a group of oridary working joes tackles him for absolutely no reason whatsoever. This causes Cap, for absolutely no reason whatsoever, to SURRENDER and order his troops to stand down. The issue ends with him in jail, the gulag in full operation, and Tony Stark in charge.

In other words, the bad guys win.

Somewhere out there, Stan Lee is spinning in his grave.

And the worst part of it all is that this isn't the Ultimate continuity ... it ISN'T some What If hypothetical. This IS the Marvel Universe now. A universe in which the government not only controls the superheroes (doling out assignments, hiring and firing, cutting a weekly paycheck) but jails anybody who doesn't play along. A universe in which Venom and Bullseye work for he government and Captain America is in jail.

Howls of contempt for this conclusion have echoed from one end of the Stevereads intern-pool to the other, and rightly so. The combination of how terrible this whole Civil War storyline was handled and how title-by-title strong DC currently is has actually created the temptation to ignore Marvel comics altogether. We'll see what next week brings.


Gianni said...

So Steve, did Hippolyta pay you for the exposure this blog? Granted, I agree with it all, but you've just never mentioned her ONCE in any of your blogs as far as I know.

locke said...

I think Steve gets this, as do the comic readers here, but I also think his Civil War rant is a bit vague and gives the wrong impression: it implies that the outcome of the overwrought event SUPPORTS the Bad Guys Winning, that the Marvel Writers and editors think Tony Stark's American-facist paradise is a GOOD thing. They clearly don't.

I fully agree this mini-series crossover whatever has been a clusterfuck -- there have been a lot of nice individual moments from certain writers on certain titles, and off and on from Millar on the flagship mini, but it's been so disjointed, so scattered, so chronologically scrambled (mostly due to blown deadlines and shipping schedules).

However, I DO like the current outcome. It's the kind of thing Whedon would have done in the Buffyverse, or more aptly, Moore is doing with Galactica -- setting up big changes, showing the dark side of human (or superhuman) nature, muddying the moral waters. In Buffy and Angel, hardly a season went by that a villian didn't get seduced over to the side of Light and Goodness, or at least pragmatic moral relativism, or a hero get slowly sucked into Badness. Same with Galactica (more on Adama's threats to Tyrol this week when Steve posts another SteveSees Galactica entry).

Point is, the outcome of Civil War is CLEARLY bad. The sunnier and more glorious Stark's "victory" is painted, the more obvious it is that it's a dangerous crock. The Marvel Universe has been turned on its moral ear, and that's a GOOD thing -- it just means righting it COULD be all the more fullfilling (assuming they handle it right and do a decent job -- something I'm not entirely confident they can pull off).

After all, remember what the writers were trying to say all along about Bush's America -- they're just taking Civil War to its logical "conclusion" -- after all, after four years of seeing how twisted and wrong and dangerous things were, who won the 2004 election? I know Steve likes his comics in four colors and with flowing capes, but I like myself a little social and political dystopia here and there, especially when it's trying, clumbsy as it may be, to shine a broad light on 21st Century American society.

Anyway, as far as Civil War the Comic (as opposed to Civil War the Political Treatise) goes, it only proves that there are no more crossover "events" in the Marvelverse, but rather just one BIG ongoing crossover: Avengers Dissembled into House of M into Civil War, which is really only the first act of a larger production that will continue this summer.

Of course the other shoe is gonna fall on Stark and Company, and as we all know, it's big and green. Get ready, puny humans. Papa Hulk is comin' home and he's bringing a big-ass broom he's fixin' to break off in Tony Stark's ass...

Greg said...

While I can see Locke's point about Civil War, the whole "9-11 heroes" tackling Captain America seems to point out that the writers were going for (as they said from the beginning) ambiguity as to who was right and wrong. Ditto Tony's speech at the end, which was meant to show us that he had good intentions all along.

But if you're right, I don't think they're capable of righting this, given how badly they've set it up.

On a funnier note, check out the "unauthorized" alternate Civil War #7:

And Steve, Namor #1 ships in June.

locke said...

I think the Marvel writers and editors (including such lefty rabble rousers as Millar and Bendis) looked at the age-old Stan Lee Marvel credo of keeping it in the "real world" (except for, um, the radioactive spiders and cosmic rays) and asked, how, in 2005-7 can we present Captain America as loyal to the government of the United States of America as it currently exists. Remember, this isn't DC or West Wing, where you get to make up an office of the President you can either respect (WW) or outright battle (Luthor's presidency) -- the President of the Marvel (regular and Ultimate) United States is George W. Bush. I think THAT is their touchstone for the whole Civil War thing. What do patriotic superheroes do when they can no longer support the actions of their government?

Having Cap confronted by the 'heroes of 9-11" (and really, aren't we ALL heroes just for having lived through that dark, dark day?... even if we just watched it on TV and then went for a walk in the park?) was simply Millar's way of commenting on to what degree a tragedy such as 9-11 (or the event that kicked off Civil War) can be distorted and manipulated and used to scare citizens toward a fascist state.

Again, don't get me wrong -- I think Civil War was bungled and botched at every turn. But I DON'T blame it for its original premise, or for its denoument, which I think was bold and true to that premise. Not only did the bad guys win, but they won the propaganda war that has the average Americans -- scruffy everyday heroes all! -- on their SIDE.

As for a Marvel world in which Venom and Bullseye are "heroes," it only takes one look at what Ellis is doing over in Thunderbolts to realize how subversive all this is. NO ONE on the creative side is saying those guys are heroes -- not Ellis, not the Marvel editorial board. It's only from Stark and SHEILD's point of view that they are remotely on the side of "good."

As much as I regret the execution, I do admire Marvel for presenting a worldview in which the Bad Guys -- Stark & Co. -- are setting and controlling the public agenda to their own means. THAT interests me, even if the actual page-by-page creative work leaves me cold.

locke said...

Re: Thunderbolts. After all, who could imagine a world in which vicious, immoral villians would be hired by the US Government to take care of dirty work? Why, it'd be like us paying Al Qaeda factions to fight Hezbolah!

Anonymous said...

The idea that Iron Man has been thrust forward as the creepy "he'll kill us all" blind patriot is a cute theroy. Is that why Iron Man is being made THE face of Marvel, and getting play as the star of no less than six upcoming "Initiative" titles? We all realize there's an Iron Man movie coming out? It would have taken nothing at all to have HIM be the resistance leader in "Civil War", and he'd have suddenly been this interesting, human, tortured figure that was worth following. But Marvel chose otherwise. And Locke, dude, Mark Millar is not a liberal. He's a former right-wing speech writer, and his every sentence contributed to comics oozes with contempt for the superhero genre.

locke said...

anonymous, you're gonna have to cough up some evidence of Millar as a "former right-wing speech writer".

here's what I found from an interview with him:

"I’ve always been fairly active in my local Labor Party and everything. I don’t know how familiar you are with British politics, but they’re kind of like the Democrats. So they’re the good guys, you know.

And I’ve always been obsessed. And as my family’s a hugely political family and everything, that’s kind of what I’ve always wanted to be involved in too. All my brothers have actually got very real jobs: One of them’s a politician; another one’s a scientist, but he’s involved in the Labor Party and everything as well. They’ve all got some degree of politics in their blood, you know, and I think I’m just next.

After all, our family’s like the Kennedys or something: There’s like a million of us, and we’ve all ended up going into politics."

and this:

"MM: You're influenced with everything from what you saw on TV last night to the tea you had with your breakfast this morning so it's impossible to say. The current political climate, as nightmarish as it is to live in, is actually a very rich source of inspiration for cartoonists, writers and artists much like the Reagan years of the previous boom."

locke said...

"Mark Millar is not a liberal. He's a former right-wing speech writer, and his every sentence contributed to comics oozes with contempt for the superhero genre."

As for his contempt for the superhero genre, that would seem to SUPPORT painting him as a "liberal" -- conservatives would seem to LOVE traditional black-and-white good-guy/bad-guy capes.

Elmo said...

When all is said and done, IDEAS for great comics are just that: puffs of fanboy air. CIVIL WAR being a great idea doesn't count for much when the people whose effing job it is to make it real get virtually every aspect of it wrong. The execution of the work is what ultimately makes it worth revisiting rather than pulping. So we just have to clench our teeth and await better writers who can tell stories that don't take a sledgehammer to the Status-Quo-Tron every six months. The last time something this controversial was afoot, that I can remember, was the Authority. The reaction by Superman in his own title(775) was a miraculous defense of the genre. That is to say, having people that can do anything running around fighting each other does NOT have to degenerate into an orgy of eighth-grade jerk-off jokes. Here in the shitty real world, we've established that absolute power corrupts absolutely. That's why comics EXIST! To suggest that such a thing isn't true all the time. But CIVIL WAR is the peak that Marvel's been reaching for since Quesada took over- hyperrealism. Costumes are gay, supervillians are idiots and our golden age should be literally repackaged story-by-story via the Ultimate line.
In the most enraging titles, like Daredevil, the most "realistic" line of logic is pursued: a superhero can't outsmart the Feds. He goes to jail. And not for just an issue. It's the thesis of Bendis's run: Matt Murdock is just a lucky guy with cool powers, and he's smart, but he's not better than the crushing stupidity of society.

As a reader, if I wanted to know what would happen to someone running around in red rights and hitting people, I'd do it myself. Being escapism, comics are supposed to show what COULD happen, not what

Jeff. E. said...

not what, what?

locke said...

oh dear.

I'm sorry -- I've had the discussion over what comics "should" and "shouldn't" do and "four-color Golden-Age capes-and-tights hope and optimism" versus "grim, nihilistic, Alan-Moorish moral realism" many, many times over the past 150 years.

Not to mention the merits of big, messy, artistic ideas and intents that FAIL versus small, cliched, familiar routines that are perfectly executed.

But I'd be happy to haul it all out again! Except, dagnabbit, I'm frickin EXHAUSTED and have a full load of work and travel tomorrow... so I'll get to it this weekend! Quiver in anticipation!

locke said...

"I'm sorry -- I've had the discussion over what comics "should" and "shouldn't" do and "four-color Golden-Age capes-and-tights hope and optimism" versus "grim, nihilistic, Alan-Moorish moral realism" many, many times over the past 150 years."

Sorry -- I meant to say I've had this convesation many times over the past 150 years with STEVE. To be clear, STEVE is well over 150 years old. I, on the other hand, am only 22.

Greg said...

That's the real problem with this storyline, the execution. You can't just throw continuity out the window for the sake of a good idea (that's what elseworlds and ultimates are for).

Take the X-Men for example. Would they, who've fought against mutant registration for 30 years (in real world time), simply stay on the sidelines? Yeah, Storm isn't, but she isn't an X-Man anymore. And apparently Wolverine, but he played no part in the central storyline. They were barely (if that) mentioned in the main title. Perhaps in ignoring "Civil War: X-Men" I've missed something.

Then there's Cap himself, who gave up for, to be frank, no good reason. I seem to remember him, talking to a confused Spider Man, saying "When the mob and the press and the whole world tell you to move, your job is to plant yourself like a tree beside the river of truth and tell the whole world 'no, you move.'" Then, in Civil War #7: "We're not fighting for the people anymore...we're just fighting." Gah!

We're talking about a side that will hire villians, make everyone with superpowers register with the government (Do they make AIDS patients register? Which is more dangerous?), arrest and imprison without trial those who don't comply (in the Negative zone, no less), and kill those who refuse to be captured. And Captain "Mark Twain" America gives up?

A few-month-long "Road to Civil War" can't build up enough of a base for this house of cards to stand on.

The problem is that this story, as good as the idea might be, has no place in the current Marvel World.

This would have worked much better in an alternate universe, though it wouldn't have sold nearly as well. But we can all be sure, with near certainty, that given a clean slate to work on, we would have had a more realistic (comic-world wise), more satisfying, and simply a better story. And that's what should count.

We could look to DC's "Identity Crisis" for more believable character interaction when heroes do the unexpected.

Okay....rambling now...

PS. I should say that I bought the whole thing (the main series that is), so I suppose the bean counters are happy.

Kevin Caron said...

I've been dying to comment here, but like the sickly child who looks out the window longingly while the healthy kids play outside, I've been sidelined by a bitch of a work-week...

But no more! As a wise man once said: "Here Comes Kevin!'

1. A quick note - not to defend the Illuminati, as it's a concept I'm not entirely sold on (nor am I actually reading), but Steve, you practically answered you're own question, of Black Bolt:

"(...Does anybody know what he's trying to say, ever?), and his Professor X is...

Duh - No one has to wonder what Black Bolt is thinking, when the World's Greatest Telepath is in the room!

2. Locke, I'm sorry, but I think your "let's give 'em a big round of applause for attempting such a big, ambitious, artistic feat - failure or no!" arguement is a bit weak, for a number of reasons. First, I never found this plot to be terribly original. It's just a big, goofy crossover version of the Mutant Registration Act, or past stories where the government tried to control (or threaten to pull its support from) the Avengers, or Cap's occasional disagreements with the guv'ment (not to mention Squadron Supreme, or New Universe's 'Draft' series, or even Kingdom Come). The biggest difference is that this thing is fueled by the sensationalism of... characters acting completely out of character! Second, your kicking down the straw man of a fan who wants "small, cliched, familiar routines that are perfectly executed" versus applauding the big, ambitious failure doesn't impress me much. I'm as bored with well-crafted but well-over-done stories as anyone here - the fact that they exist doesn't insulate a big ol' stinker like Civil War from criticism. If a comic wants my praise, it better be plain old good, whether its 'ambitious' or not. Third, it seems to me like the bravest thing this book had going for it was the daring to fail in a spectacular way, drawing readers like a NASCAR wreck draws viewers. Daring to fuck up existing continuity and characterizations so that we can see Cap deck Iron Man.

You know what would be more brave? Finding a way to tell this story with believable character arcs - even if it meant using different Marvel characters than the Big Guns. Or, better yet - tackling today's political climate as the vast majority of Marvel's heroes truly would (well, in my estimation, anyway) - by preventing election fraud! Exposing war profiteers! Stoping corrporate polluters! Though Superheroes began fighting alongside the Allied forces in WWII, they've remained vigilantes ever since - heck, Spider-man's almost always been a fugitive from the law, while doing what he felt was right.

Speaking of Spider-man: Peter would never, ever, ever, never, never, ever (picture Dana Carvey as G.H.W Bush) EVER reveal his identity and expose Aunt May (not to mention Mary Jane) to danger. Not only is part of his charm that he's not an idiot (he'd be perfectly aware of the danger he'd put her in), but the whole basis of his life is trying to make up for endangering his beloved Uncle in the first place. Yes, its shocking (and, more importantly) yes, its going to sell books to see him do something so unexpected - but you may as well turn him into a bloodthirsty supervillain to sell books - its makes about as much sense.

There's plenty of unexplored territory for superhero comics to venture into without tossing asside 45 years of character development (what the hell's the point of reading a freaking serial narative if they're going to do that?). Civil War was just a dim-witted, money-grubbing way of trying to put a veneer of current events on hot, sensationalistic hero-on-hero action. Millar proves once again that he doesn't have the chops to craft an engaging adversary for his protagonists, so he falls back on having them fight each other (see Ultimates and his Wolverine run).

3. As Greg points out, using the Civil War Cap quote Steve wrote about months ago, the 'Cap Surrenders' ending is cheap and moronic (great, now the cops and the firemen are acting out-of-character!).

Jeff E. said...

I'd say this blog is full of hot, sensationalistic, comic-book-critic on comic-book-critic action!!

beepy said...

You said it, Jeff! I'm having a hell of a time trying to decide which of them I want to impregnate me with his super-smart seed.

Hippolyta said...

Gianni! I never! Me? Hippolyta? Pay for exposure? I am Wonder Woman's MOTHER, after all, so it is perfectly appropriate that I am mentioned in such a blog entry. Though the flattering light I'm cast in is entirely unexpected! I thought my cynical world view in which altruism doesn't exist had sent Steve a-runnin! Glad to see you've re-joined the dark side Lord Steve.

Elmo said...

I was cut off because my connection sucks, but I'm back! It all goes back to Virginia Woolfe: a true artist should never inject commentary of what he or she hates into the art because then what he or she hates WINS! Civil War is such an over-the-top parallel of reality that it can't stand on its own now, nor will it ever in the future. It won't make sense without a history lesson.

And I personally don't want my comics to be vehicles for some rage-aholic's completely unoriginal ranting. Bush's America is the evil empire. Wow- the five people on Earth that weren't sure can now breathe easier. And it wasted nearly a year's worth of Marvel comics to tell us.

steve said...

Two points to add to all this absolutely delicious verbiage (whenever Locke jumps into the pool, the kids start acting up!):

1. I totally disagree with Locke's first point, way up top: the ending of Civil War #7 IS meant to point toward a bright, happy, sensible future, where people will find it hard to believe there was ever a chaotic time when people DIDN'T either register or get gulaged. Surely the writers couldn't have made this clearer? Tony Stark is suddenly portrayed as calmly visionary; the guy who picks up Captain America's mask is a psychotic vigilante; when he joins the underground resistance, Spider-Man dons his black, evil, soul-sucking costume, etc, etc. Whether or not any of it is convincing is one thing ... but I think it's pretty clear it was intended.

2. I am not 150. Scroll down a few entries and you'll see me serenely (and hotly!) pausing during a hiking trip on the Colorado River - a shot taken, I might add, LAST WEEK!

lockep said...

"1. I totally disagree with Locke's first point, way up top: the ending of Civil War #7 IS meant to point toward a bright, happy, sensible future, where people will find it hard to believe there was ever a chaotic time when people DIDN'T either register or get gulaged. Surely the writers couldn't have made this clearer? Tony Stark is suddenly portrayed as calmly visionary; the guy who picks up Captain America's mask is a psychotic vigilante; when he joins the underground resistance, Spider-Man dons his black, evil, soul-sucking costume, etc, etc. Whether or not any of it is convincing is one thing ... but I think it's pretty clear it was intended."

wow. so, so, so WRONG. you wait and see. that ending, with the glowy sunset and idylls was FULLY intended to be satiric, ironic, subersive, and other undergrad lit words!

just got off a train, so too wiped and fried to take all you whippersnappers (and Grandpa Steve) to the woodshed... but this weekend... this weekend... hell's a comin!

but one point i want to make clear... wait, TWO points:

-- i DON'T like Civil War. i thought it mostly sucked. i seemed to have been backed in (or, more, likely, wandered blindly in under my own steam) to a corner of DEFENDING the thing... not at all... thought it was crap.

-- my disagreement with Steve from the start of this blogstery wasn't that I thought Civil War was GOOD, but that he thought the downer ending with the bad guys 'winning' was WRONG -- i think it was RIGHT, and while i don't LIKE Civil War, i DO like where Millar was going with it in the 'end' and what it all sets up for later...

and oh, oh, yes, that 'happy' ending is a set-up... there is NO way, no how, no sir that Millar, or Bendis, or MJS, or any of the other big-hitter Marvel writers or editors or Quesada REALLY support what Stark did, or feel that the ending points to a positive, genuine new future...

At this point, kids, I'd normally take some time to explain something about Grandpa Steve's tendency toward literalism in his artistic interpretations...

but alas, i'm sleepy, i'm in Iowa, and for the first time in 13 years, i don't have a big, black lab waiting for me to play with her... so i'm going to sign off for the evening...

but tomorrow... oh, tomorrow some heads are a-gonna roll...

(well, no, not really -- i'll probably wake up all rested and de-stressed and forgive everyone, see everyone's points of view as legitimate and well-reasoned, and go back to just making fun of Steve... but in the meantime, anonymous, where's that evidence that Millar is a rightwing conservative? i'm only half mocking -- the past few years have caused several pop culture figures to topple to the dark side -- Orson Scott Card and Dennis Miller to name a few -- so maybe Millar's politics have changed -- maybe i'm getting wrong info about him... so i'm genuinely curious -- where did you get that impression about his politics? is this something that is openly discussed over at Millarworld?)

Kevin Caron said...

Ya know, I heard the same thing, that Millar was a right-wing speach writer, a few years ago, and I couldn't tell you , for the life of me, where the heck I heard it, nor have I ever been able to verify it.

steve said...

Um, just a suggestion here, but maybe people get the 'impression' Millar's a right-wing fascist nutjob BECAUSE of the ending to Civil War ...

Sarcasm? Irony? Mainstream comics simply don't DO such things, ESPECIALLY not in mega-crossover events like Civil War. Name one time such an event hasn't been executed in leaden seriousness from start to finish.

steve said...

Needless to say: very, very sorry about the dog.

lockep said...

"Sarcasm? Irony? Mainstream comics simply don't DO such things, ESPECIALLY not in mega-crossover events like Civil War. Name one time such an event hasn't been executed in leaden seriousness from start to finish."

THAT'S my dang POINT -- that's the only thing I LIKE about Civil War -- that it's ending shows things not usually found in such events. And yes, it probabably would be the first. Again, that's why I like it.

So what can I do to prove this to you, that it's INTENDED as a set-up? What I mean is, what has to happen in the upcoming months over in Marvel? I just don't want them to bring Stark's governmental uptopia crashing down him (in big green Hulk fists) and have you, Steve, say "well, they did away with it because of fanboy outcry" or some such thing. Trust me, this is PLANNED.

Steve, you of all people, if I recall, LOVE Starship Troopers -- that's one of the closer pop culture examples I can think of to compare what's going on with Civil War's ending. (or maybe some of David Lynch's '80s-early '90s stuff like Blue Velvet and Twin Peaks, in terms of setting up a glossy shiny surface utopia and then undermining it.) They are selling a glorious utopia for the EXPRESS purpose of pulling the rug out from under the more impressionable readers in a few months.

The WHOLE point of Civil War, as far as I can tell, is to say to the public - be careful what you wish for in terms of safety and security. Don't turn to the government to protect you from hypothetical threats, because safety and security at the hands of a stronger, more "protective" central government too often are the first steps toward fascist totalitarianism. We need to get ahold of Millar and/or Bendis and ASK them about this. They may play coy, or plead 'confidentiality' but I'd just bet ANYTHING that they are intentionally showing an idyllic, hopeful Stark/SHIELD present in order to bring it crashing down in the near future. Remember, in addition to Hulk returning this summer, Nick Fury is still out there somewhere (I think -- things got very confusing continuity-wise there for a while).

What Marvel is doing is EXACTLY like one of those old classroom exercises where the teacher asked the students to divide up based on eye color and walked them, unknowingly, into fascist segregation and prejudices and then stepped back at the end of the week and said 'now look what you've become, look what you went along with' -- THAT'S what Millar and co. are doing -- they're going to give the Marvel Zombies a few months of Stark's registered utopia and then slowly let the grim darkness and reality seep in (as if the LIFETIME imprisonment in the Negative Zone wasn't grim enough) before turning and saying 'see? see what you supported? see what comes of it?' and then letting Hulk, Fury, Cap, and Spiderman bring it all crashing down.

Which brings me to another question -- are there any readers (probably not HERE on this blog, but out there in comicdom in general) who LIKE the outcome? who SUPPORT Stark's agenda and his new society? I think we've had this discussion before about the general political leanings of the fanboy nation... my guess is that MOST are moderate to liberal, but maybe not -- are there large swaths of conservative right-wing fanboys?

Either way, Millar et al are clearly speaking to the American Public with Civil War, not just the fanboys. Of course, the American public isn't listening or reading, but I imagine that somewhere in the early stages, Marvel thought this whole Civil War thing might "go big and mainstream" the way, say, Superman's death did, and that they WOULD have if not mainstream readers (i mean really, let's not get silly) but at least some mainstream discussion or mentions in the media. Didn't happen.

Another thing to think about is how MUCH things in America have CHANGED since Civil War launched -- when Millar and the crew were creating this idea, Bush had recently been re-elected, the majority still supported the war in iraq and thought the war on terror was being well handled. Now, two years later, things are VERY different.

Kevin Caron said...

I'm with Locke, as far as the interpetation of the ending goes. To me, the end is meant to be a 'bad guys win, to be continued' type deal. Can't say that I appreciate it as much as Locke does - to me it smacks of 'whoops, we couldn't wrap this nonsense up in 7 issues and a year of tie-ins' as much as it is 'oh-HO! You didn't expect THAT, now, did you?'.

Then again, I've only read the parody Greg posted a link to.

locke said...

well, I continue to wish and wash... i wouldn't go so far as to say I "appreciate" the ending of Civil War - more like, thought it was one of the few interesting things in the whole botched deal.

Nor do I think they had to accidentally stumble into a stop-gap ending because they couldn't figure out how to end it. Call me a cockeyed optimist, but I do think they had it planned all along. After all, the LAST thing any of us would accuse Marvel (or any big media company) of doing is NOT seeing the profit potential in dragging something out even further into MORE crossover events. No, they knew what they were doing (big-picture-wise, that is -- not so much with the knowing what they're doing on the DETAILS) - they knew all along they'd have this ending and that it would simply set up a NEW event this summer with the return of the Hulk.

And yeah, there was a large dollup of 'oh-HO! You didn't expect THAT, now, did you?' going on as well.

Still, someone help us out on this Millar the Conservative thing - where are all those thousands of SteveReads blogophiles he's always claiming are lurking about?! If Millar is a screwhead, someone point us to some urls discussing or at least rumormongering on the topic. It's comic book fanboys and the Interwebs -- how hard can it be to find someplace? (I signed up at Millarworld a while back, but have to admit I've never hung out there or read the forums...)

locke said...

oh, and you know who ELSE knows the ending was a fake-out and a set-up? our host with the most... this is classic Steve obtuse button-pushing... and I took it hook, line, and sinker...

locke said...

i should also add that i TOO seem to recall having heard the "millar was a right-wing speechwriter" thing in the past... and can't recall where... and yet, i don't see it in his work, where most of the right-wing screwhead posturing is being done by characters who are later revealed to be flawed.

locke said...

"Some readers might be incorrectly try to frame the ideological split in "Civil War" as Conservative versus Liberal. "It's really lazy writing to make everything black and white," Millar said. "I'm a politics buff and I really hate seeing America divided into red and blue states because I know people in red states who have blue opinions. And we're all very complex. No one person can really even be described as a liberal or a conservative. "I'm a liberal but I totally believe in the death penalty on occasions. People are more complex than you think and I wanted to do the same thing with superheroes."

Anonymous said...

"These are guys, you must remember, who wear leather capes and silky tights as they fly or drive their way around town. They're quite eccentric characters and tend to live outside the rules of society. Once you think of them this way they become a lot more interesting than just super-cops or the agents of the status quo they've been in most comic books for the last two generations."

Anonymous said...

If only he thought characterization was as important as "build 'em, tear 'em down."

Jeff E. said...

Hey all you Civil War fanatics, you better get the next issue ASAP. Shocking spoilers from the next issue are making headlines around das interweb (, et al).

Kevin Caron said...

I think its actually in this week's issue of Captain America - Steve, hurry up and read it so you can post your feedback.

On a personal note - I will have a shocking revelation of comics-related triumph on these pages soon...

locke said...

i am cut off from my comic book pusher this week (and probably next), so naturally i learned the news on frickin' sheesh...

locke said...

without giving anything away to anyone who DOESN'T get their news from GoogleNews or BBC or, let me just point out the IRONY of Steve, all these years, saying "No one is REALLY ever dead -- except Bucky."

And here we are, with a living, breathing resurrected Bucky and...