The summer entertainment season has begun, not only in cinemas with blockbuster event comic book movies but in the pages of comics themselves. DC Comics re-branded itself with a new logo while leadership was shaken up at the highest levels of DC Entertainment and Warner Bros. for a new vision when it comes to their movies and comics - beginning with DC Rebirth #1 last week, a monumental status quo changer for the DC Comics universe and one that we loved.
On the Marvel side, there was a similar amount of buzz and controversy last week as well with the launch of the new Captain America: Steve Rogers series where the WWII veteran and original star-spangled Avenger was revealed to be an agent of Hydra all along (or was he?!). That momentum continues on the comics front this week with new #1 issues for Batman, Superman, Green Arrow, among others from the DC came, and of course, the true beginning of Civil War II from Marvel. It's a great time to be a reader!
While its title is similar and clearly timed for the release of Captain America: Civil War in movie theaters across the world, Civil War II is very different than Mark Millar's original Civil War crossover event from 2006-07. Where that event dealt with governing and registering vigilantes and anyone with powers, Civil War II explores the question of whether someone with the ability to potentially see the future should strive to protect it, or alter it.
Warning: This post includes spoilers for Civil War II #0 and #1
Designed to also serve as an entry point for new readers, issue #1 works well as a standalone self-explanatory launch of this new event and status quo shift. The main characters are all explicitly introduced for newcomers, and the relationships between the major players and the bigger teams are explained as well, bolstered by wonderful art by David Marquez. Issue #1 is already making headlines for featuring two potential character deaths, but to really see how the first few weeks of Civil War II begin, it's crucial to read last week's issue #0 and early May's Free Comic Book Day preview issue, both of which offer the background and fill in the gaps we see explored in #1.
Quite fittingly for a story about seeing the future, Civil War II's intro (again, which we consider to be the FCBD issue alongside #0 and #1) isn't linear, as the story jumps back and forth from different perspectives of the Inhumans, the Ultimates, Tony Stark, and the central figure driving the main plot - a newly transformed Inhuman named Ulysses who has visions of the future. Or more accurately, he can feel disasters coming that are imminent. Such a power is exactly what Captain Marvel, leader of the Ultimates, is so desperate for - a way for her team to prevent cosmic disasters and threats to Earth before they even surface. They need to be quicker and now they might have a way to be so quick that they can solve problems before they're even problems.
A Victorious Team-Up To Start
Issue #1 opens with a massive battle where the heroes of the Marvel universe come together to successfully thwart a surprise attack from a giant celestial being. The Inhumans are fighting alongside the Avengers, New Avengers, Ultimates and a team of magic users lead by Doctor Strange. It showcases what heroes should be and they win! Civil War II begins with a big win, something extremely rare in these big-time crossover events but very and intentional this time according to writer Brian Michael Bendis who expresses pride to this fact in an interview with The Verge.
After celebrating the victory at Tony Stark's skyscraper, Medusa - leader of the Inhumans - reveals to Captain Marvel and the main Avengers how they knew about the alien attack. They introduce Ulysses - a young man who's as scared of his powers as he is excited to be in the same room with a celebrity like Tony Stark.
And then it begins...
Taking an arguably surprising stance on the debate of whether or not Ulysses and his visions should continue to be used as tools for the superhero community - even after clearly saving the world the day prior against a Celestial being - Stark points out the moral issues of such an idea. For the "Futurist" and someone who's been through recent, universe-altering events such as Secret Wars, it's odd for such a character to be almost anti-save-the-world but it's all based on a key idea - What if these visions aren't exactly accurate and what if Ulysses sees someone like an Avenger as a potential future threat. Do they lock up someone for potentially committing a crime (cue the modern America profiling issue comparisons) that they haven't actually committed?
The sticking point and the most agreeable part of Stark's argument is the logical conclusion he draws - that what Ulysses sees, his visions or experiences, aren't exactly accurate. This was proven from the opening battle. If the Ultimates are able to prevent these events from happening the way Ulysses sees them in his visions, they can't be visions of the future because they don't end up being the future... They're inherently inaccurate, instead serving as 'What Ifs' or perhaps even a view into an alternate timeline. Making matters worse, Ulysses' mind cannot be read by telepathic powers of others (young Jean Grey tries), meaning there's no way to know for certain if what Ulysses says is or always will be true, which presents another layer of issues when it comes to trust.
And Then It Happens Again...
Readers jumping in at #1 will have to go back to #0 to see Ulysses come into contact with the Terrigen Mist to see how he gets his powers and his first vision, but they'll have to go back even further to the FCBD preview to see the second time he uses them (like I said, not a linear story so far). After being picked up by the Inhuman Royal Family moments after this transformation and first visions of an apocalyptic future, Ulysses has another nightmare-esque vision and tells Medusa that they need to contact the Ultimates immediately. Keep in mind, this is weeks after his powers had already let the Inhumans team-up with the Ultimates and Avengers to stop the Celestial and after the Captain Marvel vs. Tony Stark had their resulting debate.
This new vision is of Thanos coming to Earth and so the Inhumans head to Ultimates HQ (the familiar Triskelion base) just as War Machine is visiting (he's dating Captain Marvel) and warn them of Thanos. With only three hours notice until the foreseen attack, the Ultimates and Inhumans setup an ambush where they know Thanos will be - at the Project P.E.G.A.S.U.S. installation (where alien and other explainable energy sources are researched).
Thanos is after a Cosmic Cube that he believes S.H.I.E.L.D. still has possession of and he arrives right where (and when) Ulysses said he'd be and so the battle begins. But not everyone makes it out alive. She-Hulk is critically wounded and War Machine is punched so hard he seemingly explodes through his armor. He's dead. Captain America: Sam Wilson #10 will feature funeral for Rhodey says Marvel Executive Editor Tom Brevoort to Newsarama.
Civil War II
A successful defense against a predicted attack followed by another successful mission (they did stop and capture Thanos after all) where there were casualties doesn't work for Tony Stark and he arrives at the Triskelion, angrier than ever, to confront and blame Captain Marvel.
This is why War Machine was the character that needed to bite the bullet, so to speak, to launch the conflict. He's the only character with a strong personal bond to the leaders on both sides of the debate. A long-time best friend of Tony and a lover of Carol Danvers.
The issue ends with She-Hulk flat-lining (don't count her out yet!) and Stark claiming he's going to stop anyone from "playing god" ever again. The cover art for Issue #2 shows him flying while holding the hand of Ulysses, seemingly being pursued by the Inhumans as if Stark has kidnapped the kid.
The next issue, Civil War II #2, hits shelves and digital platforms June 15th but yesterday the first teaser for Issue #3 promised something even bigger: another death. Shipping for July 6th, Marvel Comics may see another big name hero become a casualty of Civil War II, leading us to believe that She-Hulk definitely won't be dying. Another character will join Rhodey instead.
Looking long-term into the future, Marvel has also already begun teasing the post-Civil War II new status quo beginning this fall with the (re)launch of Marvel NOW! which describes the events of Civil War II as "cataclysmic."
Our only major gripe with Civil War II - outside of the main issues so far not giving any personality to the Inhumans outside of Ulysses - are its insanely expensive cover prices. Issue #1 comes in at a whopping $5.99 since it's a 56-page book but comparatively, the 80-page DC Rebirth #1 last week was priced at only $2.99. Something's not right there. The next issue comes down in price a little but is still at a hefty premium of $4.99 which is simply too much.
Share your thoughts and theories in the comments on who could die and what happens next in the Marvel universe!