The problems with sequels is expectation. When you have a project that is received so well by an audience, a follow up is not always able to reach the levels of expectation people want from that product. For every “The Empire Strikes Back” and “The Godfather II” there’s “The Matrix Reloaded”, a sequel that advanced the story but did not reach the level of expectation people had for it.
The biggest Marvel event of the past decade was Civil War. Marvel, doing what they do best, assembled every character in their arsenal and gave us a story that touched upon some real life issues in a way that wasn’t preachy and didn’t pound you over the head with it’s obviousness. To create a sequel to a story that is so well received would be a tough job for any team.
Marvel Civil War 2, issue 0, is a good start to this new story. In what will be the over arching theme of the story, we explore the idea of the struggles folks in law enforcement, and super heroes, have when it comes to dealing with criminals. These are folks who, just like real life, see the absolute worst in people. As seen by Maria Hill in the story, you have folks that will tend to think that once people commit a crime, they’re always going to be bad. No one can change. You have others like She-Hulk who, as a lawyer in the story, defended a former criminal who she states was wrongly accused of a crime simply due to a conversation he had with authorities. Whether the guy was still bad or not was irrelevant. Based on the evidence the guy was innocent and should be given the same respect anyone else would.
There’s a great line in the story from She-Hulk. “Because we as a society have to be careful about punishing people for thought.” A beautiful line that really speaks to life as we know it today. As a politician will tell you daily, 9/11 changed out lives in so many ways. One way has been this delusional belief that if we throw enough money, law enforcement, secret agents, or military at a problem, we can stop tragedies or crime before they happen. Much like abstinence education in schools, this concept is quite flawed and dangerous. Can the military, law enforcement, spies, etc., stop some problems before they occur? (And can abstinence prevent unwanted pregnancy?) Of course. I’d be foolish to say otherwise. But these issues are not so black and white as folks want to make it seem. By going so hardcore with this thought police mentality, folks that in the past would not be bothered are now being treated as suspect number one simply for dressing or thinking the wrong way. Then these same people scratch their heads in befuddlement when some of these innocent people get royally pissed and become the very people they were suspected of.
Brian Bendis does a masterful job in this issue of laying out the theme of the story without making things preachy. Which is good because this is such a nuanced issue. We’re setting up a disagreement between two folks where both sides have every reason to believe they are right. This is not a right or wrong answer. I also appreciated how the story felt complete while setting up for future issues in the story. I’ve always appreciated his ability to have long, drawn out stories while respecting the fact that comics being comics, each issue should be it’s own self contained world that a new reader can pickup without feeling they need a PhD in Marvel studies to understand what is happening. Honestly, it is tough to do so for other writers that I feel don’t accomplish this I’m not implying they’re bad writers.
The art from Olivier Coipel was a nice mix of classic Kirbyesqe character design and locations with modern character appearances. The locations are a big thing with me in comics. There are some artists that don’t give much thought to having locations that appear to be lived in. Whether it’s an alien planet or Manhattan, locations in comics have to feel like they’re alive somehow. The locations, especially the work of the courthouse at the beginning of the story are simply beautiful work.
This is a good start to a massive story that is to come. Much like other Marvel events, the story will be told in future issues of Civil War 2 as well as their other titles. I can’t wait to read how Ms. Marvel ties into this personally. I love Kamala Khan. This story is real low key but leaves enough on the table to entice you to read more which is all you can ask for as a comic book lover. Will it be as good as the original Civil War? Who knows and who cares. Civil War will always be Marvel’s greatest event achievement. Comparing the stories regardless of the shared title is silly because it will put more pressure on this story than there needs to be. Enjoy this for what it is, damn fine writing and damn fine art.