What if their solution to the conflict was to split a nation into two separate territories governed by their idealogues?
Charles Soule explores that possibility with a Secret Wars mini-series set six years after Cloak’s teleport saves a squad of superheroes while dooming fifteen-million other heroes and civilians. With the country separated down the middle, Rogers and Stark govern their sides according to the principles that separated them before.
Those in the Iron who exhibit superpowers are required to register with the government, while those in Rogers’ Blue are free to do as they wish as long as they harm no one and help out whenever possible.
On a particular day in the Divide, the two sides have agreed to meet to hash out reunification. When a bullet meant for Rogers hits mediator Miriam Sharpe instead, war is declared, and Rogers expects a clear victor this time around.
Soule is a perfect fit for the Civil War series — the scripting gets right to the point without taking for granted the scope of both sides. When Stark requests land be given to the Iron in order to help with population issues, you wouldn’t be remiss if you immediately thought of what’s happening between Israel and Palestine — a heated conflict with no clear answer.
The issue invokes other real-world conflicts as well. When Stark argues, “Freedom is not having to worry about the country full of gun-nut maniacs right on your border,” Civil War absorbs the gun debate.
And by including other characters who have a stake in reunification, Soule puts a spotlight on countries broken in two, held together by the most fragile of cease fires. Like a government-sanctioned family reunion a la North Korea, Peter Parker gets a moment with Mary Jane and Maybelle. Now, imagine if something happened at the Korean DMZ, something along the lines of a mediator being assassinated, like Sharpe this issue.
War could break out, like it does here after Rogers calls Peter to task to find out who the sniper is. The breaking of the Parker family underscores what’s at stake if Stark and Rogers go to war, and when evidence frames Stark, the gloves come off.
It’s clear by Marvel’s choice in having Leinil Yu provide pencils that the company considers Civil War a pretty big deal. Yu is excellent as usual, providing panels filled with engaging drama. In contrasting sequences — a young girl discovers her power of flight in the Iron while a young boy in the Blue levels a mountain with a blast — Yu shows exactly how different things can be. In the east where Iron Man’s code is law, Carol Danvers appears with backup. It’s a bit police state, but Danvers gently brings the young girl up to speed — unchecked power can create problems, like when a newbie flyer comes too close to a jetliner’s airspace.
As for the boy in the Blue, Cassie Lang appears with a simple message. “You want to blow things up? Blow ’em up.” The freedom is there to choose, and anyone who decides to harm anyone else will bear the full brunt of punishment when the Punishers come.
Both approaches are vastly different, and Yu captures the tension and freedom with thoughtful compositions.
Longtime collaborators Gerry Alanguilan and Sunny Gho work in perfect tandem to finish the pages with finesse. The inks fill in Yu’s stylistic details with a sort of precision that can be described as controlled chaos — sketchy lines imbued with reinforced-steel. Gho’s colors add dimension in a way that lifts the characters expression from two-dimensional to three. The palette isn’t flashy, but Gho creates contrasts that command the eye.
The balanced approach to the production of the comic is just another layer to a story filled with layers, like a genetically modified onion. It’s good seeing former comrades Stark and Rogers on opposing sides, and Soule seems eager to play up the rivalry with tons of dramatic tension and extremism which makes for a more compelling story befitting the title — civil war is a conflict in which both sides do harm to the whole, and thus, themselves.
That said, I’ll end this review with some lyrics from Guns N’Roses.
The song: Civil War — “Look at your young men fighting. Look at your women crying. Look at your young men dying.
The way they’ve always done before.”
Next Issue: Civil War #2 Review