I really can’t add much more to four really great critiques I read of it:
1) Jim Roeg, “Civil War #7: RIP Marvel”
2) Brian Cronin at Comics Should Be Good
3) Dave Campbell, “Civil Waaaah”
4) Chris Sims, “Civil War in 30 Seconds”
Marvel and Mark Millar get almost 100% wrong what something as ultimately silly and fragile as a fictional universe full of super-powered people needs to sustain itself. I wrote sometime ago here about how human beings in fantastic settings need to remain recognizably human. So, for example, I suggested that a good storytelling premise in a mainstream superhero comic might be to ask, “Why don’t people in DC-comicsville give the Joker the death penalty?” Or, “Why don’t people in either of the major superhero comics universes unquestionably accept the existence of the supernatural and of God, given that supernatural events regularly define the course of their lives?”
These are only good storytelling premises in these fictions if you use them to further explore the element of the fantastic which defines those fictions. Maybe DC people are more benevolent than us-people. Maybe they’re weirder than us-people.
Instead, in Civil War, what we have is Mark Millar asking the dullest possible question: how can I make a world of people from Atlantis and Asgard, a world of undestroyable metals and space gods, and so on, more like our own world? This is why Tolkien was right to say that fantasy and allegory are not happily partnered. Millar can’t even deliver competent allegory: the various commenters who have called the series “ham-fisted” in its views of the current American political situation are being generous.
Fanboys love to dramatically swear off the demon rum of their favored culture swill, like supervillains talking about how they will have revenge against a world which has scorned them. But man, I’m way beyond Dr. Doom here, into Kid Miracleman territory. I really have no interest in seeing what happens next in the story of Marvel’s superhero titles.
I thought Carla Hewitt’s column today, about how CW precludes certain kinds of stories from being told, was good as well.
Interestingly enough, I read this entry back-to-back with yesterday’s, and I wonder if the some of the same arguments against centralization might not also apply here. The reduction of the MU to a referendum on registration seemed to render a lot of the characters 2-dimensional, and it will make characters and plots outside of the Initiative pretty difficult to write for a while.
I read Joss Whedon’s proposed ending the other day, and that at least made narrative senseâ€”but no, I don’t think anyone can say Marvel did anything productive here.
Good point, CG–it aligns their universe so that everything has to be told in terms of the reconstruction of the shared fiction, rather than pluralizing the story-telling capacities of the shared fiction.
Clearly you need to check out this version of Civil War:
Not that it’s saying much, but there’s no way it’s not an improvement over the original.
You should have gone with Annihilation. None of the characters are popular, so the writers could do anything they wanted. Quasar? Vaporized. Thanos? Had his heart ripped out of his chest. Nova? The leader of the free forces of the universe. Certainly a fine old time, just straight up whiz-bang and no ham-handed political “allegory”–is it allegory when you’re practically being beaten over your head with the moral of the story?
Annihilation was in fact quite great, and a shocking contrast to Civil War in terms of “big crossover even that is actually wonderfully entertaining, consequential in terms of its fiction, and consistent with the medium’s best qualities.” That and the recent Dr. Strange mini are the only Marvel comics lately that haven’t left a bad taste in my mouth. Even Dan Slott’s She-Hulk, which I adore, has irritated me more as it has gotten caught up in Civil War.