Saturday, 30 July 2016

The Comic Which Proved Marvel Has Lost Its Goddamn Mind

Marvel has seen better days. While the company thrives under Disney, while it endures and presses forwards with its films, there's no denying that the comics themselves are mixed at best. It's not simply that for every good comic there's a bad one, but that every good comic is infected by the bad. There are cancerous blights which choke out the good storytelling, infesting promising storylines and corrupting the few true gems which really stand out above all others. These viral infections go by two names: Shock factor and crossover crises.

You might recall not too long ago that we discussed how Captain America was, for lack of a better expression, all but openly sodomized by writer scrawler Nick Spencer in his own comic. His very founding ideas were spat upon, the themes he stood for flung aside as if they meant nothing; and Marvel allowed a gibbering maniac who ditches good storytelling in favour of "POLITICZ GUYZ!!!!" to openly screw over his very history. Why was he allowed to do this? Because either Marvel wanted something big to overshadow DC Comics' own big announcements, or they simply wanted the publicity. If you want to know more, the link is right above you, but instead of examining the company's history of screwing over characters for publicity, we're looking at something else. We're looking at the event which has made me personally give up on Marvel entirely - Civil War II.

The original Civil War itself is infamous for its countless failings. Everything from writer infighting to inconsistent details and poor characterisation all but utterly ruined its pages. Despite being brought back time and time again, most comics fans will often cite how it. As such, the very idea of a sequel was met with disdain and extreme distrust at best. Even ten years on, very few truly wanted to see a second Civil War, and fewer displayed genuine enthusiasm for the story. Still, after a decade's worth of feedback, some hoped that Marvel would have learned its lesson. Well, Marvel took that feedback into account, wiped its backside with it, and presented what was left as Civil War II. It's one of those rare events which not only disregarded all warnings, but used the complaints as suggestions for what to do next. Either out of open contempt or sheer blind insanity, Brian Bendis proved that Marvel can always make things worse somehow.

Almost any story which starts with the abrupt, pointless and shocking deaths of major characters is always off to a bad start. Slaughtering War Machine and She-Hulk in the most moronic ways imaginable (AKA War Machine dies to sudden out-of-nowhere Thanos and She-Hulk is apparently killed by a bloody man portable rocket of all things) the crossover promptly careened into various other comics, barging in and making things worse. The whole idea is basically Minority Report with capes, but the precog himself is somewhat unreliable. Captain Marvel (Carol Danvers) arguing that precognition should be used to block these attacks, while Iron Man argues otherwise.

As before, what was promised to be a balanced and fair debate with no right answer has devolved into a Crossing class cluster-fuck. Repeatedly taking the side of Stark, the comic is all but beating the reader over the head with how wrong Captain Marvel is, proving that precognition is unreliable at best. Slowly wrecking her character that bit more in each issue, the "debate" has devolved into little more than this:

Iron Man - "The premise you were acting under was incorrect."
Captain Marvel - "lolno"

Of course, Iron Man is hardly all that sympathetic given some of his actions (abduction of a teenager being just one crime) so it looks like Marvel is trying to make both sides as unsympathetic as possible. In all honesty, the entire event could take up multiple essays to cover all that has gone horribly wrong thus far. Thankfully, we instead have one shining moment of such pure unrefined excrement that it isn't needed - The Bruce Banner scene.

Long story short, Captain Marvel and co. get a flash of the Hulk going on a rampage and standing over the bloodied corpses of his allies. Between the bodies, the burning buildings and the Hulk looking as if he could challenge Satan himself for most evil being in existence, it's a grim look at the future. Still, it's one they should be able to easily handle. After all, the Hulk losing his temper and going on a rampage? The heroes have dealt with that a thousand times before. They endured him pulling a full-on Jihad against the entire Earth after crippling many of its heroes, and many have even talked him down out of sheer reason.

So, with a single vague idea of what might happen in the future - one single image of a possible outcome bereft of context or the events leading up to it - how do you think they handle it? Do you think that Captain Marvel might approach Banner warning him of this, monitoring Gamma Radiation around him, and generally trying to keep him calm? Do you think that, being a founding member of the Avengers and a being who has saved the Earth countless times over, his long standing comrades might give him the benefit of the dobut thanks to his experience? Well, if you're Brian Bendis then no, apparently he doesn't deserve any of this.

Instead here's what happens - The Avengers decide to ignore the billion times General Ross only made things worse via this tactic, and try to beat Banner into submission with sheer brute force. The Avengers show up en mass, spoiling for a fight and practically looking for an excuse to rip Banner's head off. Apparently forgetting that stress and violence tend to bring out the angry green giant of the Apocalypse, they all start aiming their guns/bows/fists/powers at them. Well, some of them do. In the only possible move which could make things worse, apparently they didn't even properly decide upon what to do before arriving. As such, half the Avengers start getting ready to arrest and/or kill Banner, while the other half effectively respond with "Wait, we're doing what!?"

So, not only has Danvers risked unleashing the very thing she wants to stop, she brings the Avengers themselves to the brink of full on civil war out of sheer stupidity and lack of forethought. Apparently that military training and tactical planning must have leaked out of her head the second Bendis got hold of her. As you might imagine, this does a lot to start stressing Banner out, and in his confused, betrayed and understandably angry state, he looks as if he could lose control any second. In fact it's so bad it looks as if it would take only a slight push to finally drive him over the edge, which is helpfully provided by Beast.

Hank McCoy has always been one of those fun and fondly thought of characters from the X-Men roster. Like Banner, he was a hero there at the very beginning of his team's foundation and stayed throughout its many changes. Among many other threats, he has repeatedly opposed governmental snooping, invasion of personal privacy and governments using profiling to attack and abduct/kill others. How does he ruin things exactly? Hank starts invading Banner's privacy, stealing his files and investigating his personal history. Through this he learns that Banner is still experimenting with Gamma radiation, an understandable concern and something to obviously discuss in private with Captain Marvel. Wait, no, instead he decides only once they arrive at Banner's location, successfully pissing him off further.

Banner is understandably fuming at this betrayal, this despicable treatment by his old friends, and starts to give them a piece of his mind. He then promptly gets an arrow to the head for his troubles. Yep, Banner just dies there and then, murdering one of Marvel's oldest and most beloved heroes at the drop of a hat. Who offed him? Why Hawkeye of course! Yes, the Avenger who (until the last couple of years) was best known for adamantly arguing against murder as a solution to their problems resorts to killing people when prompted. Once again, established history and the work of a hundred past writers is just up and forgotten.

Oh, do you want to know the punch-line to this blight upon Marvel's history? Banner isn't even the Hulk anymore. Really, he's actually managed to achieve his long-term goal of ridding himself of the Hulk for good, and has settled down in retirement. So, all those worries about him turning into the Hulk again, and then killing him out of fear of him changing? Yep, all utterly pointless. Civil War II tries to show some sign of awareness for this in a later issue with a character briefly bringing up this fact, but it fails to address the problem. This information was widespread and well known, and there's no way a character would make this error.

This really represents everything wrong with Civil War II. The plot is driven by the sheer stupidity of its characters, it ignores anything the author hasn't written personally, and it murders heroes purely because the author can do it. Banner himself marks the third major death since this event started, and Bendis seems to only know how to do two things these days - Cause suffering and have people snark. That's really it, and any other story idea is driven almost purely by sheer stupidity or the author forgoing logic in favour of having events just happen. All of it is made just to shock the reader rather than produce anything worthwhile, and it's not only painful but tedious by this point. Fans aren't going "Wow! What could happen this time!?" so much as "Alright, what are they going to fuck up this time?"
None of this is to say Bendis can't produce great stuff of course (just see Ultimate Spider-Man among many accomplishments) but he keeps dropping the ball when it comes to almost anything involving the big Marvel universe.

Now, all of these problems are big enough in of themselves. You have a big flagship event failing miserably, a badly written story and characters being treated like crap. All of that is a recipe for a turd pie if ever there was one. However, that isn't what truly makes this so much worse. It's the fact that these events are actively invading and harming otherwise good comics.

Ever since Carol Danvers finally took up the mantle of Captain Marvel, her series has been relatively strong throughout, ranging from middling to great. She has been allowed to stand out on her own and many of her cosmic tales have been able to establish her under this new name. Now, in the wake of this, all we are going to get is a lengthy series about the aftermath of Civil War II, dealing with how badly she screwed up under other writers. It's actually gotten so bad that even Ms Marvel seems to have distanced herself from her icon, so we can expect that fun and engaging comic to get dragged into shitville as well. The same goes with Hulk. Ever since Cho took over the role as Hulk, the series had a few interesting arcs exploring Banner finally gaining the freedom he wanted despite a lack of powers. Even after having been separated so many times before, the subjects were genuinely interesting, and all that has just been ended by needless murder. When a crossover even is bad, it isn't just a bad comic, it lessens the company as a whole.

Personally, this is the straw which has broken the camel's back. While previously I was personally able to hold out hope for the few good series still being made by this company, it just proves there is no safety. Even if you gain a genuinely great creative team and lack DC's infamous editorial demands, some moron overseeing a big event can wreck everything for you. Simply put, the company can't be trusted to actually offer fun and engaging stories without resorting to misery the second they are given half of an opportunity.

Perhaps others will argue against this, but speaking as someone who has read through comics from the early Avengers years to the dark age itself, there is simply no reason to stay. Until Marvel actually gets its act together and remembers that meaningful pathos is required to actually drive a story onward, not simply death and misery, we won't be covering this company's antics. Quite frankly it's too tedious and too painful to bother anymore, and I have grown extraordinarily tired of seeing the worst in what was once a great franchise. As such, the next comicbook articles will focus upon the better series still running today, and the ones which actually deserve your cash. Not those who kill characters while demanding you pay attention to their controversy.


  1. Wow... That.... Is some real BS.

    The Hulk (specifically Bruce Banner) was the character that got me interested in Superheroes. I'm actually a bit sad that he's dead

  2. This is the reason I don't read comics besides trades I know are going to be good.
    Even ignoring what actually happened, it's not a case of if somebody's going to fuck everything up, it's a question of how long it's going to take before somebody fucks everything up.

    Looking at the actual event though, this is just pathetic. You know what attracts readers more than shock value? Good stories, however everything I've seen online from fans tells me people don't want fun stories any more, they only want more shock value, and the writers are going to keep trying to give the fans what they seem to want.
    As an example, not having any shock value moments like this or heavy impact/mass slaughter was actually some of the reasons Fear Itself was panned, whereas I was just happy to find a book where the heroes all teamed up to fight a villain and I thought it was just a fun time.

    1. Seems like we're on the same page overall then, and i'll admit i'm rather disgusted at how many big outlets will bend over backwards to praise this stuff. It started to become clear that too many were desperately wanting faux pathos (read: relentless misery) at about the time of the original Civil War, and it only got worse from there. Hell, the fact that so many big outlets claimed Avengers Arena was a work of genius just goes to show just how bad this stuff can be.

      As for Fear Itself, i'll actually agree with you there as well. I've got a fondness for that book even if it went against JMS' fantastic run on Thor, just because it felt as if it was pushing things back towards good vs evil rather than having Tony Stark or Captain America throwing a screaming tantrum and trying to kill their old allies.