As I was re-reading some recent issues of Spider-Man and Ms. Marvel this afternoon I had an odd experience. Each comic left the Guns ‘n’ Roses song “Civil War” playing louder and louder on repeat in my mind. As I read (or re-read) Kamala and Miles’ solo adventures each month I find myself wondering where the story could be if it didn’t have to tie into a massive crossover. And as I let my thoughts wander I found myself continuously singing, “I don’t need your civil war…”
A few months ago I wrote a piece about my frustration over Marvel’s impending and (in my eyes) 100% unnecessary mega-summer crossover Civil War II. There were NEVER this many crossovers when I was a kid!! But now they happen all the time and, to my mind, it cheapens the whole idea. To go from Secret Wars to the All New, All Different relaunch to Civil War II and then into another round of Marvel NOW! in one year seems…well, a bit much. Half of those events were massive crossovers! And it’s expensive too! I did the math in my previous post and, rounding down, figured it would cost someone around $500 to read everything that’s a part of this crossover. Well, the crossover’s spread to new titles that weren’t in my initial estimate (and the main title has extended itself too) so now Marvel will be pulling in well over $500 from everyone who is following the entire story. (What’s that Guns ‘n’ Roses? “It feeds the rich, while it buries the poor.”) Ugh.
As summer’s wore on I’ve stayed true to my convictions and haven’t purchased a single issue of Civil War II. I’ve also weeded out the majority of titles from my pull list that are a part of the crossover, starting with Captain Marvel, The Invincible Iron Man, and Deadpool and moving on from there. My belief is these crossovers are conceived primarily to a) grab attention and b) pull new readers into reading new books. But it’s had the exact opposite effect on me. Honestly, I don’t miss any of the titles I’ve dropped. In fact, I’ve replaced all the crossover-heavy comics with equally (or more) fun titles that don’t cater to the crossover madness. In what I presume would be the exact opposite of Marvel’s goal, Civil War II allowed me to pick up more titles from IDW and even start sampling some of the DC Rebirth titles that seem relatively self-contained. And I never read DC!
I had the room to add TMNT Universe alongside IDW’s stellar Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. It’s essentially a monthly collection of short stories featuring the incredible supporting cast that have come to populate the Turtles’ main title. IDW’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Ghostbusters series have the best casts of any comics I read so it was an easy call. In my experience, no one writes a cast as effectively, interestingly, or fun as Tom Watz and Eric Burnham. And Green Lanterns and Nightwing have become welcome additions as well. I can say with certainty the Marvel titles I dropped won’t be regaining their place in my file, even after Civil War II comes to a close. I enjoy my new, exciting, and self-contained IDW and DC titles too much to cast them aside.
However, I’ve continued to read Ms. Marvel and Spider-Man because they are simply TOO AMAZING to stop reading. I couldn’t consider walking away from what G. Willow Wilson and Brian Michael Bendis are doing with these characters…even if I have to weather the Mammon-worshipping crossover storms Marvel unleashes to see it.
And here’s the thing, the stories have continued to be great! But I can’t shake the feeling that they could be so much better if they were free to tell a contained story that didn’t have to navigate all the implications and ramifications of the whole Ulysses mess bouncing around the Marvel Universe. The whole debate feels contrived anyway. It seems a clear call from the beginning. Profiling is bad. Predictive Justice won’t work. How is there a real debate much less a war going on over this? And I do believe the narratives in all these Civil War II tie-in titles have suffered as a result.
A perfect case study is Mark Waid and Adam Kubert’s All New, All Different Avengers. I’m still not certain why everyone isn’t reading this book. I believe it will be cancelled with the new Marvel NOW! arrives in the fall but I’ve loved each and every issue so far. I don’t think Marvel has a more exciting Avengers roster or more interesting stories going on anywhere else right now. And while much of the rest of the Marvel Universe was becoming embroiled in the newest Civil War (thank God Squirrel Girl’s been free of this hackneyed madness!!!), issues #9-12 of All New, All Different Avengers saw the Avengers embark on a journey to find Sam/Nova’s dad which ultimately leads them into the Negative Zone and a battle with Annihilus!
There’s a great dynamic between everyone on this Avengers team. The stories are exciting, the action intense, and the characters are as engaging as they are fun. It was so refreshing to see them in a solid superhero story while all the other titles were getting mired down in this Civil War. All New, All Different Avengers #12 – which saw a stranded Spidey facing down Annihilus on his own, while the other Avengers tried to figure out a way to save him – was easily the most exciting story I read that month!! But now Civil War II has reached my beloved Avengers team as, in the most recent issue #14, Nadia Pym (the All New Wasp) exclaims, “This is not how it’s supposed to be. It’s supposed to be better. These are superheroes! They’re supposed to work together! They’re supposed to be better. When they disagree they have to sit down and talk until they agree. People are looking to them!”
Amen Nadia, amen. Okay, the first Civil War happened. It was its own thing, rich in symbolism and cultural commentary. But, as she said, superheroes are supposed to guide us. What good comes from them going to all-out war with each other once every ten years (or whenever there’s a potential marketing tie-in to a major tent pole movie)? All of the symbolic/mythic issues aside, the worst casualty of this Civil War II are the narratives of the individual comics.
Over in Spider-Man, since the Secret Wars ended, Miles Morales has been trying to handle the classic superhero problem of balance as his school life, family life, and superheroing have him rapidly fraying at the edges. His mom is aware of this and is worried that something nefarious is causing him to be so distant and scattered. His father is trying to do damage control…but his grandmother doesn’t buy it so she’s enlisted a private eye (Jessica Jones!!!) to follow Miles and figure out what’s up. Then, over at school, in a moment of explosive fan-boying, Miles’ best friend Ganke revealed his secret identity to the ex-X-man Fabio Medina (Goldballs) a few days after he joined their school. So Fabio knows Miles is Spider-Man…and Jessica Jones is circling the secret herself. Add to that Miles’ struggle with wanting to be just Spider-Man and not the black Spider-Man after his costume tore in battle letting the internet see the new Spidey on the scene was a person of color. Oh yeah, AND HE FIGHTS SUPER VILLAINS ON THE REGULAR TOO. Whew! All of these plot points are fascinating. And, sadly, all of these plot points feel neglected and wedged into each issue wherever there’s room, around the “Should I or shouldn’t I get involved in this fight?” drama of the Civil War.
The same is true for Kamala Khan in the most recent issues of Ms. Marvel. As I’ve written before, this title is particularly close to my heart. It was the first non-Star Wars comic I started reading after my return to comic collecting and helped open wide the door to that world once again. Since the Secret Wars, Kamala has been living the lifelong fantasy of a superhero-obsessed high schooler as a member of the Avengers…while also trying to be the guardian of Jersey City, protecting her people and her neighborhood when no one else will. Her best friend Bruno’s started dating someone else, leaving her to struggle with her feelings for him; her family is growing and getting busier, leaving her with more feelings to struggle with about them; and she want to grow as both Kamala Khan and Ms. Marvel. And, yes, SHE FIGHTS SUPER VILLAINS ALL THE TIME AS WELL. There is more than enough to fill these pages every month…and just as in Spider-Man, all of these elements are forced to the side to make way for her drama with Captain Marvel (an interesting enough development, which could have come about without a universe-wide crossover). In a brilliant move, G. Willow Wilson has been using Civil War II setup as an excuse to look back at generations of Kamala’s family, tracing their journey from Pakistan to the United States. It is as beautiful as you’d expect coming from a writer of her caliber. But it could also have existed independently without Civil War II.
Siiiiiiiigh…I’m just ready for Civil War II to finally be over :(.
So while the weather has yet to cool, school has returned and with it lesson planning, grading, and…you know…my having to go to work every day. BUT fall will also bring the end of this frustrating and needless crossover. As the Marvel NOW! relaunch swings into action I can enjoy a few precious months of exciting stories that are told to serve the characters in the book more than the money-making dreams of an epic crossover. And, should another come as swiftly as they tend to, I can always take solace in more IDW titles. I’ve read every issue of their Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles title and every single Ghostbusters series they’ve run. I can say with absolute honesty I’ve loved each and every issue of both titles. AND I’ve never experienced the feeling of character development or an important and engaging plot point being pushed to the side for a cash grab.
Still please Marvel pleeeeeease give us a break from universe-spanning crossovers! We don’t need your civil war. Also…wow…I can’t believe I keep referencing Guns ‘n’ Roses :/.