Sunday, September 4, 2016

Marvel's Civil War II is even stupider than the first one

Mainstream comics are inherently ridiculous, which is probably why I enjoy them so.  Lately, by which I mean for at least the last decade, the trend from Marvel and DC has been to have a big "universe changing" event that mostly happens in it's own limited series, while splashing out into the majority of other titles being published at the time.

Probably the first that I really followed, at least as an adult, was the first Civil War series. Brief synopsis: Lesser known superhero team fights a team of villains, and an entire school full of children get called, backlash is that the government institutes mandatory regulation and training of anyone that tries to be a superhero, Captain America is against, Iron Man is for, they fight. I tried to read all of the tie-in books, but ultimately got really annoyed when different writers decided to write the same character, at roughly the same time, and get them completely different. If you read the chronological order, you go directly from one issue where Stark and Cap say: "We have our different opinions and we respect that." To the next where the President tells Stark that Cap's opposing the registration act, and Stark says: "I'm going to put him down."

This is also my first exposure to Iron Man being the biggest asshole of the Marvel universe. To help in his fight against Cap and his rogue Avengers, he clones Thor from a strand of his hair that he secretly stole and kept for such an occasion (Thor was long gone, doing Thor things) replaces most of his brain with a computer, and gives him a fake Mjolnir that he built. Fake Thor is then the perpetrator of the only thing more important in a crossover event than heroes fighting heroes: The death of a character that's popular enough to be recognizable, but not enough to merit his own title. Here we had Bill Foster as Giant-Man who gets killed by Fake Thor.

I like and dislike crossover events for kind of the same reasons. They pit hero against hero, which is kind of counter to how heroes are supposed to work, but it's also great to finally get to see them fight and see which is stronger, etc. Recently Marvel did Infinity which lead right into Secret Wars, which were both amazing, and made me forget my previous dislike for crossover events. Now we have Civil War II, which I kind of feel exists purely because there was recently a Marvel movie that had the same name.

Now, let me tell you what was going on in Marvel comics right before CW2 kicked off. Steve Rogers had long been "drained" of his super soldier-serum, and was working for SHIELD as commander, and had handed his shield off to Sam Wilson, who was previously The Falcon. After an encounter with a reality warping child, he was killed, and then resurrected all super-soldiered up again, but also secretly an agent of Hydra (there are reasons, which are actually kind of fun, but beside the point.) He assume the name of Captain America again, but decides that it's okay for there to be two of them.

It seemed pretty natural to me, that Hydra Cap would get involved in some kind of event or initiative, and be on the more restrictive side of it. Nope, he's not involved in Civil War at all, other than half a page where he says that his involvement in the last one was enough for him... Okay. So, yeah, Civil War II starts up because of a new Inhuman that shows up with the ability to predict the future. He predicts a couple of near catastrophic events, and all of the heroes are there and ready, so the world is saved. Captain Marvel, fan favorite badass with realistically normal emotions and morals, comes down hard on the side of predictive justice. "Let's use this information, incarcerate people that are about to do something until the time has passed, and then let them out again." Tony Stark, on the other hand, is our voice of reason, kind of, initially he has concerns with where these visions are coming from. Is he actually seeing the future? Or is he somehow processing information and algorithmically extrapolating the future? "That's dangerously close to profiling." Is almost an exact quote of Tony Stark. Which based on his past, it feels like he's fighting against that, almost purely because someone told him that profiling is bad, not because it's what he actually feels. Although he does express, later, that he got involved in the last Civil War, and he end up being on the wrong side. So maybe he's acting against his leanings intentionally, Regardless, after doing all kinds of scans, it's revealed that Ulysses, the aforementioned Inhuman, takes in all kinds of information from the universe on every wavelength, and processes that information to come up with his predictions.

There's all sorts of questions to be asked about that: Once the vision has occurred, has the future been altered enough to invalidate the prediction? How accurate are his predictions? Are they subject to personal biases that he might have? By averting one possible future, are they opening themselves up for something worse? So far, none of these have been answered yet, some of them are used as philosophical arguments about acting on the visions too much.

So far, two deaths have occurred as part of this event. The first is surprising, and surprisingly non-sensical. Bruce Banner is formerly the Hulk, Amadeus Cho, supergenius friend of the Hulk, somehow sucked all of his Hulk-iness away, and is now the Hulk. Ulysses has a vision that Banner Hulks out again, and kills all of the Avengers. Literally every superhero shows up on his doorstep, and says: "Hey buddy, whatcha been up to? Working on anything gamma related?" Banner gets angry at everyone's lack of trust, and then Hawkeye (Clint Barton) assassinates him with a damn arrow, designed by Banner to kill him should he ever Hulk out again. "Was he, wasn't he?" is the big question, and Barton goes on trial, and is ultimately acquitted since no one can say for sure.

The second death, which has been getting a lot more publicity, is that of James Rhodes, AKA War Machine. In this instance, they get a prediction that Thanos is going to raid a facility on Earth, and kill everyone in the process of stealing something gizmo.

Now, let me talk about Thanos for just a second, if you're not much of a comic reader, you might know him from his brief appearances in the first Avengers movie, and as the guy behind the scenes in Guardians of the Galaxy. Thanos is quite possibly my favorite villain of all time. Physically he's strong enough to go toe to toe with Hulk. Intellectually, he's a super genius, he has access to any alien technology you could probably think of, and is capable of developing his own. While he's generally very technology oriented, he's not opposed to getting down and dirty with a bit of magic as well. He's long had an association with Mistress Death, who is an intelligent embodiment of death, he is infatuated with her, and she has brought him back from the dead on numerous occasions to do her bidding. He has occasionally filled in as something called the Avatar of Death, basically her champion in the affairs of the universe. On top of all of that, he's quite unstable. He's frequently the villain of the story, although occasionally he works with heroes to save the universe, where he resides, or to get revenge against the true villain of the story. He always has a plan, and frequently he succeeds in his plans, he has actually destroyed the universe, at least once, but then built it again, because he changed his mind.

I spent a paragraph talking about how stupid powerful and evil Thanos is, because the group of people they brought to fight him approaches Star Trek "away team" levels of stupidity:

Blue Marvel: He's living Anti-Matter. Among lots of other things, this makes him very difficult to hurt, and nearly impossible to kill.

Spectrum: She's living light! See above

Captain Marvel: She's pretty tough, she could probably survive getting punched by the Hulk, so okay. Apparently her powers also work by absorbing energy, and then spitting it back out. A big part of their strategy was to let Thanos shoot her with things, and the she would throw it back.

She-Hulk: I don't mean to be sexist or anything, but she's frequently shown to be less strong and durable than the Hulk. As much as I love her character, she wouldn't be my first choice for a fight with Thanos, since I doubt he's ticklish, but she's not the worst.

Dazzler: She's a normal mutant, her only power is that she can convert sound into light. Literally she's a character that was introduced a disco star. Light can do a lot of things, but I really don't think she belongs anywhere near a fight with Thanos

Medusa: She's the queen of the Inhumans, has intelligent control over her hair, its not made of snakes. For most of my teens, when I was reading very old Fantastic Four comics where she was sometimes a villain, ally, or even a member of the FF, I thought her hair was just normal hair, that she could control and had a lot of. Recently I've discovered that it's stronger than steel, basically her hair constitutes more mass than the rest of her body, and it's all individually manipulable steel wires that are microns thick. She still doesn't belong in a fight with Thanos, she's the queen of the Inhumans. The number of people that she could tap that would be better suited for this fight than her is staggering. Not the least of which is her estranged husband, Black Bolt, who is functionally a mute, because if he were to speak at a normal volume, his voice could destroy the west coast. Hey! Maybe he could scream at Dazzler, and she could convert all of that energy into a focused light beam and cook Thanos? No, he's not there though.

War Machine: James Rhodes is a good guy, a better guy than Tony Stark. He's wearing a heavily modified castoff Iron Man suit, who knows how far out of date. As far as Thanos goes, this is a man, in a can.

I think there might have been a couple of others, but they're not that important, and I don't have the book handy to recap.

So, this goes about as well as you could hope. They do manage to capture Thanos, although when you're dealing with Thanos, who knows what he was actually intending to do. He could have a machine that gives him even more accurate predictions than Ulysses. Actually, I'm fairly certain I've read comics where it's confirmed that he has that kind of technology.

Sorry, side track. Thanos, of course, doesn't just give up when he is confronted by group of Earth heroes with varying levels of fabulous hair. After losing his gun that he was carrying for some reason, he punches War Machine in the chest, and crushes him to death. This makes the missile he was launching go wild and hit She-Hulk in the chest. War Machine dies shortly thereafter, and She-Hulk is in critical condition, every comic which mentions her states that she probably won't survive the night.

So, THIS incident, where a bunch of people willingly decide to take on a mad god is the rallying point of whether or not predicting the future is bad. Not the guy who was murdered by his former friend for something that he might have done.

Yeah, crossover events are kind of stupid.

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