NOTE: This article contains SPOILERS for Marvel's "Civil War II"
As is usually the case - in one way or another - the current world of Marvel Comics is going through some serious conflicts. With a new Inhuman able to envision future disasters, the board was set, with Iron Man taking a stand against using such a gift to police the world, and Captain Marvel seeing no other option. Before long, the two came to blows in Marvel's aptly-titled "Civil War II" - but the Marvel Universe was drastically rocked before such a showdown actually took place.
This is a far cry from the movie version of Marvel's Civil War, but there's a good chance that self-described Marvel fans have yet to learn of the events, twists, or - gulp - character deaths. We've got you covered, as we run down the biggest plot beats and details that the average fan needs to know before jumping in themselves, or letting their opinion be known (and with some beloved heroes now dead, opinions have been flying for months). Not to mention the latest vision of the future, turning one Avenger into a murderer.
Behold Marvel's Civil War 2: The 15 Must-See Moments So Far.
James Rhodes... Future President?
Before the action in the many "beginnings" of the "Civil War 2" story itself - there's an Issue #0 and #1, as well as the Free Comic Book Day book that actually begins the events - readers get to see just how pivotal James "Rhodey" Rhodes is to the Marvel world... and not just in his superhero identity of War Machine. Where Tony Stark is a brilliant inventor outside of his armored suit, Rhodes is a soldier. And as the story shows, an incredibly accomplished one. So accomplished, in fact, that the President of the United States is offering him the role of Secretary of Defense.
That's a far cry from the film version most will be familiar with, and it's worth realizing that Rhodey is much more valuable to the big Marvel picture than a supporting Iron Man character (and we don't just mean his relationship with Ultimates leader Carol Danvers). Because it isn't just a cabinet position the President has in mind... it's his future as the first superhero to be elected commander-in-chief.
An Inhuman With Vision
The main character that kicks the "Civil War" into motion is a young boy named Ulysses. Like all Inhumans-in-waiting, he's exposed to a drifting cloud of Terrigen Mist working its way across Earth. Like all other Inhumans, his altered DNA cocoons him as his Terrigen-triggered metamorphosis sets in (and turns his crush into a wild monster). The resulting superpower can't be seen, but is felt almost instantly: Ulysses can see the future, in the form of painful visions he doesn't so much see as experience.
We're straying from the chronology a bit (since the early story jumps around at will), but as the story progresses, Ulysses' visions begin growing in strength, eventually being welcomed into the Inhuman ranks and trained by Karnak. Accompanied by artwork that drives home the point (these visions are jaw-dropping revelations), the impact and ramifications of each just keep growing as the story progresses.
The "Civil War 2" story technically begins with the forces of Earth all united to take down a single enemy: a Celestial Destroyer suddenly appearing in the middle of a major city. Calling on nearly every Marvel superhero and team you can think of, the combined might takes it down, leading to one heck of a party... and one important question. How did they know it was going to appear at all? The Inhumans reveal that the "tip" was actually a vision of Ulysses', with Tony Stark voicing his concerns about trusting such an unproven source - and Captain Marvel buying in completely.
We learn later that another vision shows Thanos the mad Titan appearing suddenly on Earth to acquire a Cosmic Cube he believes to be residing there. The vision lets Captain Marvel and the Ultimates set up an ambush, and Rhodey a.k.a. War Machine decides to tag along (with a villain like Thanos, you take all the help you can get). Unfortunately, the battle goes horribly wrong almost immediately. And we mean horribly.
The Death of War Machine
Readers will need to seek out Marvel's Free Comic Book Day issue to see the battle (and death) mentioned above, though "Civil War 2" does show the panel in which Thanos delivers an all-powerful punch to Rhodey's midsection... presumably killing him in a single blow. Had Rhodey not been present, the Ultimates may not have succeeded in bringing down Thanos and taking him into custody, but his presence means the death of Tony Stark's best friend - dying in service of a cause he warned would only lead to trouble.
When Tony learns of Rhodey's death, he sees the body for himself... before flying into a rage in search of Carol Danvers, the one he's holding responsible for Rhodey's murder (literally). She's hurting just as badly as him, and in just the first issue, writer Brian Michael Bendis showed that this event would leave its mark on the Marvel Universe. And it wouldn't be the only death, either.
The Death of She-Hulk
That's right, Issue #1 of "Civil War 2" also sees the death of She-Hulk herself, Jennifer Walters. Before Thanos blew James Rhodes to bits, he managed to throw an attack by War Machine off target - leading one of his missiles directly into She-Hulk's chest. The impact wasn't shown in the actual battle - only a large explosion out of which Thanos flew to kill Rhodey - but the fallout is, with Carol sitting at her bedside as Tony fumes over the death of one hero. But before she succumbs to her injuries, Jennifer tells Carol that she's right in policing the future, giving her all the fuel she needs to stand against Stark.
The good news? This moment could be referred to as the "death" of She-Hulk. That's right, Jennifer Walters is brought back to life a few issues later (just in time to receive some horrible news). By then the last message delivered to Carol (punctuated by a flatlining heart monitor) have pushed things past a breaking point, but we still await her return to action. But considering her injuries, that could still be some ways away.
Tony Declares War
Driven by rage, Tony decides to put aside even the basic levels of respect or diplomacy by infiltrating the Inhumans base to gain access to a sleeping Ulysses. Neither the reader, nor the Queen of the Inhumans, Medusa, know exactly what he intends (and smothering him in his sleep as revenge for getting Rhodey killed wouldn't be out of the question). Unfortunately, this royal family doesn't take kindly to billionaires breaking into their home and stealing those under their protection.
Medusa attempts to subdue Stark with her superhuman hair, before he electrocutes her and attacks those who come to her aid. A quick diversion later, and Stark succeeds in kidnapping Ulysses from the Inhumans, triggering - in their words - war. Tony may only be kidnapping Ulysses to scan his brain for a better grasp of his powers, but it's an act of war all the same.
A Vision of The Hulk
When the Inhumans arrive at Tony Stark's door ready to launch an all-out assault, the rest of Marvel's top heroes show up to keep the situation from boiling over. But before much can be done, the entire group is struck by a vision from the young seer, his gift now being strong enough to plunge all of those around him into his shared illusion. And as far as visions of the future of the Avengers go, seeing an out of control Hulk scattering the bodies of Iron Man, Thor, Hawkeye into the flaming rubble around him is hard to top.
Understandably, even Tony Stark is concerned enough to drop the fight on the off chance that Ulysses' vision will come true. Mainly motivated out of concern for his friend, leading them all to hurry to Dr. Bruce Banner's lab to see if there's any truth to the fantasy.
The Death of Bruce Banner
Yes, another death - and this one is for real. While the Marvel films may show Bruce Banner swapping between Hulk at will, the Banner of the comics universe has taken a lengthy break from the dual identity, working to keep Hulk at bay while his cousin, Jennifer Walters handles the job (as well as Amadeus Cho, the "totally awesome" Hulk). Understandably, then, he's as surprised as anyone to learn that he will, according to an Inhuman seer, lose total control and kill his friends. But just like everything else in "Civil War 2", things spin out of control fast.
Once Beast hacks into his files and learns Banner is experimenting on himself using dead cells, the trust is shaken (despite Bruce claiming it's those experiments that have been keeping Hulk at bay). And as his presumed friends begin to arrest him for committing no crime, a flicker of rage is all it takes to send an arrow directly into his head.
Hawkeye The Hulk-Killer
If the color of the arrow's shaft doesn't give away the big reveal, the shocker comes when Clint Barton a.k.a. Hawkeye drops his bow and takes to his knees, awaiting handcuffs. The story takes a split narrative at that point, divided between the immediate fallout of Bruce Banner's murder and the trial of Clint Barton. The biggest question being the most obvious: why would a hero like Clint kill Bruce Banner without so much as a warning or raised fist? The answer is less obvious: because Bruce asked him to.
It turns out Bruce Banner wasn't as "in control" of his Hulk side as he let on, living in fear that he might wake up to realize that the blood in his mouth was real, and his nightmares of destruction and death were actually real. So after crafting the weapon to take him down and entrusting it to the man he knew could live with the task, Bruce recorded a video outlining his own death. And with Clint claiming he saw the flick of green in Bruce's eyes that he'd been warned to spot, he's hailed as a hero by many - and a killer walking free by others.
Tony Uncovers The Truth
And finally, the last bit of plot thickening: Tony receives the information regarding Ulysses' brain scans that he'd been waiting for, and the results are... not what he had hoped. What he had been willing to accept as reliable proof that he was, in this case, completely in the wrong. Unfortunately, the 'visions' are not the glimpse into the unchangeable future that some believed, but essentially "guesses" based on the ability to absorb and interpret, subconsciously, the energies flowing throughout the world and the living beings in it.
It's a bit theoretical science-y for most readers, but to keep it simple, just imagine Ulysses is a big computer taking in more data than humans can even observe. Eventually, the computer spits out its prediction based on the input - and Captain Marvel and her team act to prevent it. Tony makes the smart play this time around, inviting everyone to hear his findings and decide for themselves (specifically looking to avoid another faceoff with Captain America). Beast confirms the research, and the heroes collectively give pause. Well... except for Captain Marvel.
Captain Marvel Goes 'Police State'
Here is where "Civil War 2" reaches its largest division, and the story twist with which many readers and fans have taken issue (online, in comic book shops, you name it). When faced with evidence that a Ulysses vision is simply what will likely happen, Captain Marvel determines that likely is good enough to act, offering the example of receiving word someone will pull a gun in a crowd, and waiting to act until they start shooting - since, you know, they might not. It's a military/worst case scenario thinking, and it justifies the Ultimates and Inhumans putting the visions into action on an even greater scale.
It's the same plot of Steven Spielberg's Minority Report (2002), and before long, the idea of arresting and detaining civilians who have yet to commit a crime hits a snag. A snag in the form of a woman apparently linked to HYDRA, but who possesses no such links (or weapons). Captain Marvel is unmoved, and willing to hold the woman without evidence or cause until some can be found. So when Nightcrawler of the X-Men appears to teleport the woman to safety, the unstoppable Carol Danvers is ready to strike back: and her opponents are waiting for her.
The Heroes Take Sides
Fans of previous "Civil War" stories may be surprised to see heroes like Doctor Strange, Thor, Nova, Vision, Spider-Man, Luke Cage, Falcon, and Captain America himself at Tony Stark's side, but the odds are clearly stacked against Captain Marvel when she runs into Tony's allied heroes. Iron Man is probably on the right side of the issue (or less problematic, at least), with Steve Rogers obviously agreeing that holding innocent American citizens without charge because they're "probably" criminals is a bad idea.
Captain Marvel has all kinds of characters on her side, mind you, from brilliant thinkers like Black Panther and Blue Marvel, to heavyweight heroes like The Thing, and the X-Men's Iceman and Storm. And for some added punch to take on Tony's Spider, how about Venom?
The Battle Begins
Once the fight kicks off, it's clear this is the fistfight that the series has been building towards, although there's no actual goal other than a moral victory. It's unclear if Tony Stark and his forces intended to shut down Captain Marvel, S.H.I.E.L.D., and the entire Triskellion headquarters, and since the criminal rescued by Nightcrawler has been spirited away, this seems like a fight mainly to release the anger and hurt feelings of the loss of good heroes (though neither side will likely admit it).
Regardless of the reasons, a spirited battle it is, and artists David Marquez, Sean Izaakse and Justin Ponsor do it justice. Thankfully, the heroes don't just trade blows, but ideologies. The problem is simple: is a glimpse of the future saving bloodshed, or putting free will in jeopardy? But the resulting divide shows it's more complicated than that.
The Guardians Join In
It wouldn't be a truly marquee match-up without the newest 'cool kids' of the Marvel Comics Universe, the Guardians of the Galaxy joining in on the fun. Now, why is it that a group of spacefaring outlaws taking on threats of cosmic importance would worry themselves with a psychic Inhuman? Or, more importantly, come down on the side of the military in the issue? The answer is easy: Captain Marvel is a friend and former teammate. That may not be reason enough for Star-Lord to go up against Captain American himself, but they get points for just showing up.
Unfortunately, showing up means that Star-Lord, Rocket, Groot, Gamora and Drax must look on as an errant blast from Vision turns their beloved ship, the Marauder, into burning scrap. Burning scrap that then smashes into the Triskellion, so it all ends up even.
The Darkest Vision Yet?
As Ulysses watches heroes tear eachother apart over a schism he caused, his powers manifest in a new way, with glowing tendrils stretching out from his body to envelop Captain Marvel, Iron Man, and the Triskellion itself, before his vision spreads to all present. And suffice to say... this vision is a whole lot darker than any seen before. Captain America's lifeless and impaled body is bad enough, but Miles Morales seeming to have killed him raises the stakes considerably.
Both sides of the group stand stunned once the vision subsides (Cap included) as Miles falls to his knees in disbelief. Most readers would have a hard time believing that the young Spider-Man would ever be capable of killing, let alone beating Cap to death. But Carol Danvers has drawn her line in the sand, and isn't about to stray. Placing a hand on the shoulder of the new Ms. Marvel consoling her friend, Carol lets Miles have the bad news: he's under arrest for a murder he's yet to commit.
Civil War II #1-5 are available now.