[The following includes SPOILERS for Marvel's Civil War II.]
Marvel Comics' Civil War II event has thus far been generally well-received for its unusually complex storyline. The second Civil War comic book event involves the Marvel superheroes facing division in the ranks over a push to use the future-predicting powers of a newly-emerged Inhuman named Ulysseys to punish, incarcerate or neutralize superhuman threats before they actually commit their eventual wrongdoings.
However, as the stakes get higher and the fate of fan-favorite characters becomes less and less certain, Civil War II is sure to continue to become more controversial. Case in point: Marvel editor-in-chief Axel Alonso has now spoken out about the series most recent shocking twist - one which has some fans saying the publisher has (once again) gone too far.
In the most recent issue of Civil War II's main series, the ideological conflict between the two groups of heroes (those supporting the "predictive justice" initiative and those opposed to it) came to a head when Ulysseys' most recent glimpse of a future catastrophe inovlved the deaths of multiple Marvel heroes at the hands of an out-of-control Dr. Bruce Banner, a.k.a. The Incredible Hulk. In what could easily be the series' most shocking moment to date, before a consensus can be reached among Banner and the group of heroes who've gone to confront him with this information, an outraged Banner is shot dead with a special anti-Hulk arrow fired by Clint Barton, a.k.a. Hawkeye.
The story is related largely in subject flashbacks presented in the form of a trial involving Iron Man (who leads the anti-prediction hero team), Captain Marvel (who's spearheading the initiative) and Hawkeye, designed to leave readers questioning what actually happened. It's eventually revealed that Hawkeye and Banner had made at some point in the past made a secret pact where he (Hawkeye) would deploy the arrow if it ever looked like Banner was about to "Hulk-out" on his friends, relying on Barton's extra-sensitive eyesight to detect the transformation before anyone else. And while the full ramifications of the decision have yet to be felt, Alonso tells CBRthat it was part of the series' main plan from the start:
"At a retreat, Brian pitched the scene as a pivotal moment in the story -- a major turning point that would cause some heroes to reconsider their position and maybe cross lines. We had a long conversation about it, agreed to sleep on it, then revisited it the next day, after everyone had plenty of time to contemplate it and discuss it with each other in smaller groups. When we reconvened the next day, we dove back in, considered all the ramifications and ripple effects well past "Civil War II," and decided that we were in."
The event has set off a wave of response extending well beyond the comics' readership and into mainstream media coverage - unusual for a superhero death but to be expected, given the high profiles of the characters involved (thanks to the success of the Marvel Cinematic Universe). It also gained traction for what some have taken to read as politically-oriented themes relating the question of whether Banner was really about to transform and the broader idea of predictive justice to controversies over the use of excessive force and unjustly-presumed danger by police officers (currently a hot-topic in the U.S.).
In addition, the death of one of Marvel's original top heroes has raised eyebrows among some fans who've turned increasingly sour on the publisher's decision to spotlight a growing crop of new characters created with a focus on diversity, many of whom are set to inherit mantles vacated by better-known originals in the aftermath of Civil War II - most prominently Riri Williams; a young Black woman slated to be the new Iron Man. Whether it was the primary reason for the story turn or not, Banner's death leaves Korean-American teenager Amadeus Cho - aka the "Totally Awesome" Hulk - as the only Hulk left in the Marvel Comics Universe. Says Alonso:
"It certainly solidifies Amadeus' position as the one Hulk of Marvel Universe, and how he reacts to the news of Banner's demise is going to be a very... interesting story. Cho was very close with Banner, so there's that. And he just saw what happened to the last Hulk, so there's that. And he can't be too happy with Hawkeye, right? So what's going to be his next move?"
Civil War II #3 is now in stores.