[WARNING: Contains SPOILERS for Civil War II]
Despite his meteoric rise to fame in Marvel’s Cinematic Universe, life has been pretty rough for Iron Man Tony Stark as of the last couple decades. The first Civil War found him tyrannically enforcing the Superhero Registration Act (a.k.a. the Sokovia Accords) and fighting against former friends and colleagues. During Marvel’s second round of internal strife, Tony Stark took the high road, morally (perhaps), but he still wound up pushing the bounds of his own code of ethics, as well as losing two of his closest friends.
The costs of Civil War II may grow higher yet, as it looks like Tony Stark himself will pay the ultimate price for his principles.
Marvel just released the final cover for Civil War II #8 (via CBR), the coda for the entire series. The cover is fairly stark (sorry), consisting only of the book's title and the battered helmet of the Golden Avenger laying in the mud. Things were already looking bad for the head of Stark Industries, since the promo for the series' climactic seventh issue features Captain Marvel hoisting Iron Man’s battered body above her head.
If the latest cover isn’t just a tease – which it likely isn’t entirely – Tony Stark has been separated from his armor literally and/or figuratively and perhaps his very existence. Take a look at the brutal cover below:
Initially plotted in seven books, writer Brian Michael Bendis (Jessica Jones) and artist David Marquez (All New X-Men) announced earlier this year that the event sequel would be delayed due to several factors and would also receive an extra issue which better ties a bow on the conflict. Due to the delays, events in the Marvel NOW! Divided We Stand event have already revealed a tragic occurrence which takes Tony Stark out of the running somehow. While the cover of Civil War II #8 makes it seem pretty grim, according to what scribe Bendis told IGN, looks can be deceiving:
“There are many people who look at that cover and read whatever they want to read into it no matter what I say. I have decided to get very zen about the whole thing and let it unfold and let people see what they want to see.”
With a controversial plot and a very muddy philosophical ideology, it’s unsurprising that Civil War II has split Marvel fans down the middle and even frustrated some due to the confusing number of crossover books and related story lines. The second Civil War saga has, however, maintained its relative ambiguity, as Bendis intended:
“Some people think Carol is the monster of this story. Some people think Tony is the monster of this story. Some people think Carol is the hero of the whole Marvel universe. Some people think that I should be taken out back and spanked. All of these things are valid.”
With any major, MU-rending event, a lot of positive and negative feedback has cycled through Marvel's (electronic) mailbags and Twitter, of course. Bendis himself has fielded a lot of excited and worried fan correspondences, as well as some straight-up ugliness. The Marvel scribe told readers to expect the unexpected, nonetheless, since his concept for the series was to keep True Believers on their toes. Bendis also reminded fans that he’s only human, and to try not to villainize him (too much, anyway) for Civil War II and its results:
“People have made up their minds before they saw the first preview. People saw the first page of the first issue and they're already decided the side they were on and who was right. With every issue, I try to turn the screws a little bit and get them to challenge their own opinion, right? And then keep trying to challenge it and challenge it and challenge it. That was very fun for me and I've enjoyed that. Even last week the initial reaction to Issue 6 was so lovely and I'm enjoying people enjoying it. I'm also enjoying people screaming at me because they don't know what's going to happen and they think they know what's going to happen and that's fun too. That's just a friendly reminder that I'm an actual human person with a family. You don't have to treat me like a wrestling villain, but that's okay.”
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Civil War II has already proved to be a divisive event for Marvel devotees. While some found it to be a shadow of the prior Civil War, others have been caught up the high-stakes drama which has left no character truly safe. In the long run, though, major spectacles like this wouldn't have any impact if they didn't break a few eggs and shake up the fan base, as well as hopefully grabbing the attention of new readers. Whether or not the second superhero schism will find the success of its predecessors won’t be fully known until after the dust settles and Marvel tallies up the sales.
With the life of now massively popular characters like Tony Stark and Bruce Banner on the line, though, Civil War II could attract attention beyond the usual readers, though. The trouble is, with all the cross-referenced books, it may be difficult for the casual comic fan or new reader to keep up. Hopefully, for the sake of fans new and old, Bendis and Marvel will conclude this latest superhero showdown in the appropriately satisfying manner.
Of course, no one wants Tony Stark to die. Fortunately, in the superhero world, death isn’t quite the problem it is in the real world. It does appear that some part of the original Iron Man is still around (at least, his essence) in the future issues of Invincible and Infamous Iron Mans. We'll keep you posted on all of Civil War II's closing moments and Marvel NOW!'s forthcoming events.
Civil War II #7 arrives on November 23 and Civil War II #8 arrives on December 28.