The great war that erupted between former team-mates Tony Stark and Steve Rogers all comes down to one final battle; Rogers has a secret weapon but Stark knows a secret. This series has been a lot more interesting than I expected it to be as writer Charles Soule has delivered on a compelling vision of a Marvel Universe still divided by the events of Stamford and it’s escalating aftermath. The entire book has followed a smart plot and this issue is no different, there are even a few fun surprises left in Soule’s hand. Lenil Francis Yu’s art is great and the epic super-heroics more than live up to the legacy of the series’ namesake. This is a great conclusion to a very well put together miniseries.
Writer Charles Soule has created a compelling alternate timeline that lead to the Civil War stretching on for years and the development of a divided America hugely influenced by rival leaders Captain America and Iron Man. The Blue, a place of freedom and hard work, and the Iron, an unrivaled technological utopia with strict superhuman monitoring, have spent a decade or more in a state of cold war, but recent events have lead to all out hostilities with Cap ready to sacrifice himself to de-power the superhumans of the Iron. Tony and Jennifer ‘She-Hulk’ Walters meanwhile have uncovered the truth about the war’s escalation, it was the Skrulls all along!
Civil War remains an excellent blockbuster event (to my mind it is bested only by House of M and maybe this Secret Wars if it finishes as strongly as it has been so far), one that encompassed the entire Marvel Universe and, with the exception of the X-Men, gave everyone involved some powerful story arcs driven by action, emotion, and ethics. Soule has done well then to recapture a lot of what made that event work so well; his ensemble is broad with a healthy mix of interesting characters on both sides of the war. Centering in on Tony, Steve, and Jennifer with plenty of characters in the background is a smart move though as it anchors the epic conflict in human drama – Steve’s decision to de-power fellow ‘heroes’, Tony’s guilt over the war, and Jennifer’s general awesomeness (and love for Tony).
Whilst the revelation that Skrulls had been behind the key events driving this version of Civil War came in part 4 it is in this issue that it really hits home. All the pain, bloodshed, and sacrifice has been due to the machinations of an otherworldly foe and the weight of how misguided Tony and Steve have been really presses down on the two men. Soule is smart not to go to far with this reveal though, the Stamford incident and subsequent tensions between Cap and Iron Man were all real, in fact it seems like everything up to the final battle was the result of our heroes being at war (though who knows when Skrull-Panther took over and what she was up to in the background). This retains the ethical heft of the original story and the sense of responsibility that Steve and Tony carry for letting things get out of hand, whilst allowing for this series to follow a very different but still organic timeline. The choice of Skrulls as the overall villain here is great as it allows Soule to play with the timeline of the original universe, wherein Civil War was followed by the Skrull’s Secret Invasion (it is even noted that Veranke and her Skrulls were the remnants of an abandoned invasion plan); it’s a re-purposing of the original continuity that is fun for readers of those events at the same time as offering a natural arc for this book (plus Soule gets to play with the core universe a little by posing the question “Was Bucky ever…really back?“)
The action scenes truly are epic in this issue with artist Lenil Francis Yu really getting to have some fun; Logan and Cap fighting side by side was a highlight, but pretty much every panel of superhero warfare was awesome in scale and execution. Yu’s art flows smoothly throughout the book leading to the claustrophobic conclusion in the depths of the divide; the pacing and composition of those final panels of Tony and Steve really hit hard as both Yu and Soule deliver a great redemptive moment for these misguided heroes.
It was perhaps no surprise that this book would have to end with Cap and Iron Man making the ultimate sacrifice to ensure that the Blue and the Iron found peace, but the execution of that story has been excellent from start to finish. The characterisation of Tony as a weary leader haunted by the tough choices but supported by a loving relationship with Jennifer is a real triumph and perhaps my favourite version of this character ever, whilst the Cap as hardened general angle reveals a Steve Rogers who did what he had to despite the cost to his soul. The spirit of the original book is alive and well here, both sides still fighting for an justifiable cause, as is the nobility of it’s finale. Soule has delivered on the promise of revisiting a classic story and has done so with aplomb, this is easily one of the strongest books in the Secret Wars event.
Civil War #5 // Writer – Charles Soule / Artist – Lenil Francis Yu / Colourist – Sunny Gho & Matt Milla // Marvel
– The relationship between Tony and Jennifer was a real strength of this book; it served many purposes (humanising Tony and showing his growth from an adolescent playboy to a responsible adult and leader; raising the emotional stakes for Tony and the audience; giving Soule-favourite She-Hulk plenty of well-earned page time), yet despite the story-mechanics of it Soule was always able to write a touching and genuine love between the characters. It always felt like these two characters were in love and there were plenty of great one-liners amongst the frank emotional dialogue (Tony: “God, you’re magnificent” Jennifer: “You are not wrong“. Damn, now I really want these characters together in the main Marvel Universe.
– In contrast the Peter and MJ story never quite worked for me, mostly because I never really understood why MJ was confined to the Iron. This issue made it clearer as Peter finally (in the epilogue no less) explained that MJ chose the Iron as it was a better environment to raise their daughter in (as opposed to an environment where she could she her father Spider-Man everyday?!). This story was always kept a little too off-screen for it to matter, and I suspect it was only included at all because Peter was so important to the original book and he needed an emotional arc here too.
– I was pleased to see a load of X-Men well integrated throughout the story as they were largely (and regrettably) absent from Civil War. The revelation that Logan was now Grey Hulk was amazing… Amazing! Especially as the Blue threatened to send a Hulk to the Iron way back in issue 2, which Tony quickly dismissed, “If you had a real Hulk I think I’d know about it”
– It doesn’t seem like there have been any real tie-ins to the wider Secret Wars event; not a big problem at all and probably a decision that gives the book a more self-contained and re-readable format, but I must admit that some of the other event books have been able to do some really fun things with the mechanics of Battle World