So this week Civil War II officially begins in the Marvel Universe. I struggled with this post. I almost deleted it a few times. I’ve wrestled with my thoughts about all this for months, ever since I came back into the world of comic collecting. I knew Civil War II was coming. I knew it would probably touch just about every Marvel title, as did the first. And I wanted nothing to do with it. Now the time has come and my thoughts haven’t changed. I’ve no desire to write something needlessly critical or negative (and I hope I haven’t). But as someone who loves comics, as someone who’s excited to be back in the world of comic collecting, all of this has been bothering me. So I need to get this off my chest.
Let me begin by saying the idea of regular universe-wide crossovers is new to me. As a kid
I only ever remember this really happening once – when the X-Men’s battle with Onslaught spilled over into the rest of the Marvel Universe. Don’t get me wrong, it was exciting! I bought, read, and still have each and every issue. I loved it. It felt important. But back then it was largely exciting for me because, to my teenage self, it was a once in a lifetime event. EVERYONE was coming together to take down Onslaught! This was a threat like no other! In reality, I’m sure there were others. Infinity stones are always causing trouble. But they all seemed very few and far between. Yet now this sort of thing has apparently become a once or twice a year event. I can’t do it, financially. But more importantly, I won’t do it principally.
I wasn’t reading comic books when the original Civil War hit and ripped the Marvel Universe apart in 2006-07. Of course I knew it was happening and I followed the major plot points. (I’ve even been tempted to go back and read it all now, so I can experience this historic moment in its totality for myself.) Like Onslaught for me when I was a teenager, this idea of all the heroes being divided and battling each other over political ideology was unique at the time. It was also an important and timely examination of America under the Patriot Act. Just what civil liberties should we be willing to give up in the name of safety? This is another example of comic books acting as modern myth, giving us stories with humans who possess godlike powers yet still end up exploring issues we face in our lives, in the hopes that we can learn from their struggle.
This summer though, it appears the heroes of the Marvel Universe will be driven apart by a different force – synergetic cross-marketing. No matter how hard I try I can’t not hear the voice of Marvel’s marketing department saying, “Hey everyone! You know that great movie? Read this comic too! It has (pretty much) the same name. It conveniently begins on Free Comic Book Day…which is conveniently the day after the movie opens. Yay!” every time I see an advertisement for Civil War II. Now Captain America: Civil War continues to rule the box office and Marvel’s mega summer crossover has begun just in time to ride that wave with the release of Civil War II #0. Now, I don’t mean to say the story itself will be poor or unworthy of my time. The story is in the beyond capable hands of the incredible Brian Michael Bendis and Olivier Coipel. I’m sure the story will be a fun and worthwhile read…but I just can’t bring myself to jump on board. It’s not the story (or its quality) but the idea that motivates it that bothers me.
When I quit comic collecting the average comic book cost $1.50. Sure, there were bigger issues here or there that cost a little bit more but your regular, run-of-the-mill comic was $1.50. When I returned to the comic store I found that the average comic now runs $3.99. Yikes. But you know what? I still happily buy them because I find the quality of the stories and my enjoyment of them make it easily worth the cost of admission.
But with these universe-wide crossovers the cost adds up quickly. According to Marvel’s website, the original Civil War storyline had a grand total of NINETY-EIGHT comics in it. Wow. The average cost of a comic book in 2006 was $2.99. That means it would cost approximately $294 to read the entire series, as it came out. Almost $300! For ONE storyline! And, okay, for a one time, historic, landmark thing it’s still crazy but I can kind of see it. But it’s not a onetime thing anymore.
Civil War II (judging from the Marvel Comics solicitations for June-August of 2016 as reported by IGN) will include no less than EIGHTY-ONE titles! And now comics have gone up in price. Using $3.99 as a base it will cost you $324 to read everything, as it comes out. And that’s not even the end of the storyline. When all is said and done, it may end up costing someone near $500 to follow Civil War II through it’s entire scope. No matter how hard I try, I can’t see any hint of artistic inspiration or a story’s intrinsic need in this event’s creation. This story doesn’t feel organic or even necessary. That’s not to say the comics in the event won’t be exciting and wonderful in their own right. But they exist because a big movie is out and the corporate minds wanted a lucrative tie-in. And Marvel JUST ENDED a universe-wide crossover a few months ago with Secret Wars. It is a money-making scheme, pure and simple. I can’t either financially or in good conscience participate. So I am a conscientious objector to Civil War II.
My objections aside, Civil War II has come. It will spread uncontrollably through all the Marvel titles. And it’s not something I will to be a part of. The advent of this newest universe wide crossover was part of the reason I dropped Captain Marvel from my monthly file and the main reason I won’t even consider adding The Invincible Iron Man until the fall. They are leading the charge and I want to be as far from the frontlines as possible.
There is a part of me that worries this will become overwhelming, to watch the enthralling stories in so many of the titles I follow regularly be put on hold to play out the minor plot points in a marketing machine. The whole thing, tying all these titles together to milk as much money from the consumer upsets me, angers me a little, and leaves me feeling generally frustrated. And I needed to say that. Comic books have been a lifelong love for me. And sometimes you get annoyed by what you love. As the great Billy Joel sang on the Piano Man deep cut “Ain’t No Crime,” “And you’ll love ’em forever / You may love ’em forever / But you won’t like ’em all of the time.” So yes Marvel Comics, I’m upset with you right now. But I still love you. And I’m hoping you’ll give the massive crossovers a rest after this one. At least for a little while. Please?