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Civil War General - Part 3

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In most wars, it would be impossible to get real insight from the generals controlling the action.  But luckily, the only American Civil War being fought this year is taking place in the Marvel Universe.  And the man presiding over the whole thing, moving pieces around as he sees fit is Tom Brevoort, editor extraordinaire.  Tom was kind enough to sit down with Broken Frontier and talk about the buildup and execution of issue #1 of Marvel’s Civil War.

Civil War General - Part One
Civil War General - Part Two

-- SPOILERS AHEAD --

BROKEN FRONTIER: In CIVIL WAR #3, we see members of the Pro-Registration side out on recruitment missions.  Perhaps more importantly, we see them all being rebuffed by Black Panther, Dr. Strange, and Emma Frost and the X-Men.  All throughout the buildup for this, readers were told that we would see neither side portrayed as "bad", but would the "good guys" really resort to what Emma Frost referred to as "blackmail"?

TOM BREVOORT: I think you choose a certain interpretation of the narrative to fit your viewpoint. I don't think Tony Stark is blackmailing anybody in CIVIL WAR #3, Emma's offhanded comment notwithstanding. And if he is, he's certainly not doing a very effective job of it. But I don't think the Pro-Registration guys come across at all badly in any of those sequences, and definitely not as guys using Gestapo tactics and the like to get what they want. They're going out and trying to recruit obvious superhumans to their side—or, at the very least, convincing them not to provide aid and comfort to Cap and his guys. But they don't threaten, they don't use force, and they leave peacefully in every case. What about their approach would you label as wrong?

BF: It's mostly the presentation.  The Pro-Reg side is shown being rebuffed three times while not gaining any allies.  Why not show them gain some support here? After all, if Black Panther and Dr. Strange are against this why would readers have a different opinion?  Also, the Pro-Reg side is the one where the people are seen questioning, Sue Storm mentioned something about fighting "half of our Christmas list."  Peter Parker has questioned it; Tigra has questioned it, etc. And it didn't seem as if Emma meant her comment to be "offhanded", she seemed rather serious when comparing stories. 

Tony uses standard fear tactics, instead of highlighting the good that can be done, he only references stopping the evils that he sees coming.  Also, Bishop, who we know from the Civil War: X-Men series is Pro-Reg, is shown in a very traditional villainous pose when he shows up. 

Meanwhile, we have not seen the Anti-Reg side recruit anyone; everyone who has joined has done so willingly.  No one on this side has been shown to question their actions at all.  They have not approached anyone and been told they were wrong.  Readers can only go by what they are shown.  You may point to the Young Avengers coming on board against their will but their "joining" was portrayed more as a rescue where their only crime was stopping a mugger. 

Also, in the scene where they are leaving the diner, they are shown in the classic, traditional, Superman hero pose—running down the alley, tearing open the shirt to expose their emblem off, and on their way to save some people from certain doom.

TB: Tony and the Pro-Reg side have clearly gained a lot of support—he's got a veritable army of super heroes by his side at the middle of the issue.  But scenes where Tony or his guys go to other heroes and they come on board aren't very interesting, and don't illuminate the conflict. They'd be largely a waste of space, not moving any element forward.

You'll see the Anti-Reg guys question what they're doing as well, once we get to that point in the story. But I don't think not questioning one's actions is a sign of rightness—it's villains who most often don't question their actions, whereas men of conscience are always examining what they're doing, trying to be sure that they're making the right choices.

And I think you're reaching incredibly when you talk about Bishop being drawn in a "very traditional villainous pose". Here at Marvel, we call that "dramatic” and we've been using that sort of stance for 45 years for heroes and villains alike. I think this is another case where your personal biases affect how you choose to interpret the material. You're finding intent where there is no intent. Heck, here's the panel description from the script:

5/ We look around and see Bishop standing here (looking cool), obviously
interested.

BISHOP          : We TALK?

BF: Well, I’d say he looks more “devious” than “cool”: Eyes split wide in anger, hiding in the bushes and sneaking around, the close up shot of directly overhead.  It’s eerily similar to a shot of Anakin Skywalker when he joins the Dark Side in the last Star Wars film.  But, anyway, moving on…

The first image we see of the Anti-Registration side is them on the cover of the Boston Star defeating the Sinister Six.  Last issue we talked about how the public response to the heroes taking down the Doombot was simply because they stopped a menace from destroying the city, shouldn't this get some favor back in Cap's corner then?  After all, they defeated a public menace in full view of a newspaper cameraman.

TB: It certainly might; whether it does, and to what extent, remains to be seen.

BF: Why would the Anti-Registration side need new identities?  Captain America even mentions that they're only needed when they aren't doing the "important stuff." Wouldn't they be better served just waiting underground?  Being outside in public in anyway would seem to be an unnecessary risk with absolutely no reward.

TB: There are only so many hours in any given day that anybody wants to spend sitting around in badly-lit, badly-heated safehouses. There's also the necessity of buying groceries and the like. As wanted fugitives, and fugitives whose true identities are largely public, one has to assume that names and faces are being flashed all over the media. So having cover identities and the ability to move about in public without having to look over their shoulders so much, being able to maybe contact loved ones and so forth, is a valuable commodity.

BF: Cap uses the term "Cape-Killers" to describe some of the S.H.I.E.L.D. agents sent to stop them.  At first this seems like just a term Cap uses, but later on, one of the S.H.I.E.L.D. agents uses the term as well.  Again, in line with my first question, if you plan on painting both sides as equals, why would the term "Cape-Killer" be used, especially if the idea is to subdue and not kill?

TB: S.H.I.E.L.D.'s Superhuman Restraint Unit has adopted the nickname "Cape-Killers" in the manner of military squads throughout history. It's not an official designation, but one that both sides may use as terminology in discussing this unit—it's a whole lot easier to say than Superhuman Restraint Unit Number One.

BF: Still, the term and does not paint those soldiers in the best light.  "Capes" has always been seen as a synonym for "Superheroes" and killing has never been portrayed in comics as anything close to heroic.  If the plan is not to murder someone, then should the term "killer" be used?  Wouldn't something like "captor" be better?

TB: I think you maybe aren't familiar with the psychology of soldiers on the battlefield. This sort of nickname is common—"Cape-Captors" sounds pretty weak and lifeless. Half-assed. There's a certain machismo associated with a unit nickname like this, and "Cape-Killers" is certainly in keeping with the sorts of names these units give themselves—a quick Google search turned up dozens, including "Hell on Wheels", "The Tigers of Burma" and "The Screaming Eagles".

BF: Ok. Let’s now move to the man who is in charge of these “Cape Killers.” Tony Stark has never been the most well regarded of the heroes, but in this issue he tricks the Anti-Registration side into a trap, and then tells Captain America he believes in this with all his heart after last issue expressing doubt.

TB: I think Tony does believe in what he's doing, but it's a massive undertaking, with global ramifications—he's probably right (and human) to have some doubts, at least internally. Doesn't mean he isn't committed to the course he's chosen, or that he doesn't believe in what he's doing.

And I think if Cap's crew were the Masters of Evil, or even the Thunderbolts, you'd have a very different interpretation of Iron Man's trap.

BF: You’re right, if Cap's crew were the Masters of Evil instead of his fellow heroes there would be a different opinion.  But aligning any known hero with a group of villains will do that.  Cap is not surrounded by villains, he's surrounded by heroes.

TB: Well, that's all in the eye of the beholder, isn't it? Cap and all the guys who are standing beside him are Federal Fugitives—and Cap himself is on the most wanted list. In that context, I think Iron Man's ruse is a perfectly legitimate tactic, and no different from what he might use against the Masters of Evil or any similar organization. I don't think it paints Iron Man poorly.

BF: In Tony Stark's speech to Captain America, he says that "The public doesn't want masks and secret identities anymore." but it has been widely said that the Registration Act would not call for the unmasking of heroes to the public. 

Meanwhile, both Tony and Peter have unmasked in a very public fashion. Seeing as how Tony's team is made up of mostly heroes with public identities, is there really going to be a choice to unmasking in public? 

I'm reminded a bit of my middle school history teacher telling us that Lincoln freed the slaves in the Confederacy and not those in the U.S.A. during the Civil War and wondering why they didn't realize the other shoe would drop eventually.

TB: Um... no. The Registration Act does not call for anyone to unmask publicly—only that they reveal their identity to the proper authorities, and qualify for accreditation as a registered super hero. It's pretty straightforward. Could that change in the future? Sure—but it could also change in a hundred other ways, including a total disbanding of the Act. The fear you express is one that's shared by some of the anti-registration forces—but that doesn't mean it's correct.

BF: Also of note is that while Peter unmasked in an issue of CIVIL WAR, Tony unmasked in a tie-in issue. How does this affect Marvel’s mandate that CIVIL WAR is a completely self contained story? 

TB: First off, Iron Man's identity reveal is a total irrelevancy to CIVIL WAR #3, and to CIVIL WAR as a whole.  Secondly, this is a crossover—of course the tie-ins are going to have important events in them. That's the whole reason to do them in the first place. But what we've said all along, and what I maintain is true, is that you can read CIVIL WAR and only CIVIL WAR and get a complete story.

BF: But as the de facto leader of the Pro-Reg side and the biggest proponent of it isn't his unmasking an important and integral part of the story?  I merely point it out because while Peter Parker is a bigger known Marvel commodity, Iron Man has been more important to the story itself.  Tony Stark is the man that was spit on in issue #1; he is the one who has been the biggest proponent of the Act; he is the first person to have publicly unmasked, etc. 

Aren't these important elements of the story?  Shouldn't people who are only reading Civil War (especially new readers) know that Iron Man has unmasked himself and shown the world that he is Tony Stark?

TB: The shot answer is "no." If it's not germane to the events depicted in CIVIL WAR itself, then it's irrelevant. So it's only important if a reader of CIVIL WAR needs that information to understand what's going on. This is no different from the questions people ask about why Cable is with Cap's side—in the context of the main CIVIL WAR book, all you really need to know is that Cable's a big cyborg guy with a gun. But if you want to know more, or you walk in the door with knowledge of what Cable's been doing the past few years and want to know how that all flows together with his appearance in CIVIL WAR, then you turn to the tie-in—in that case, CABLE & DEADPOOL, in the case of Iron Man's identity, FRONT LINE.

We only have 22 pages a month for CIVIL WAR, and a cast of thousands. It’s impossible to show everything. We're constantly making choices based on the needs of the story and the limitations of the format. If we had infinite pages and infinite time, we could incorporate everything, and cover every facet of the story in incredible depth. But we don't—so the barometer we've been using is: "If a new reader sits down and reads CIVIL WAR #1-7 without anything else, what does he need to know in order to understand it."

Yes, that means that added shading and potentially important events in the characters' lives during this storyline will occur in the tie-ins. But that's what you want from the tie-ins in any event—we're all tired of hearing people complain about tie-in books that don't contribute materially either to the larger story or to the character's ongoing story. So, we're making this specific effort here. That doesn't mean we'll be successful 100% of the time, but we're trying.

BF: Moving on to Spider-Man… In his own solo books, Spidey has reluctantly gone along with Tony Stark's plans. He has expressed concern and in some cases outright opposition.  Yet during this fight, he not once pulls a punch nor expresses any concern for the other's well being. 

Yes, this is a battle, but should he really be jumping headfirst into a fight with Captain America (someone his beloved Aunt has called a hero on many occasions) as his usual wisecracking self?  And on that subject, considering what Maria Hill had done to him in recent issues of New Avengers, would Peter so willingly be assisting S.H.I.E.L.D. in anything?

TB: We've seen Spider-Man mix it up with other super heroes over the years countless times and always evidencing his unique personality while doing so. So I don't think it's out of line for Spidey to be leaping around and punching Cap and cracking wise—that's what he does. And while Spidey may have reservations about S.H.I.E.L.D. and Maria Hill, he's there alongside Iron Man, rather than being alongside S.H.I.E.L.D., if you see the difference.

BF: I do. Now, is the actual plan of the Registration Side to capture and subdue?  It starts that way initially but it is obvious that they are the first ones to strike.  When the battle starts Captain America subdues Iron Man through an electronic device while Goliath tries to create cover for a retreat. 

Meanwhile, once he gets his power back, Iron Man viciously beats on Captain America when it's obvious he could subdue him just as easily.  Do things here get a little too viscous a little too fast?

TB: The actual plan of the Registration side is to try and parlay with Cap and company—to get them to see reason, much the same way that Tony and his guys spoke with the Panther, Dr. Strange and the X-Men earlier in the issue. They do show up loaded for bear—hope for sun, prepare for rain—but the intent is genuinely to talk, at least at first. It's Cap who throws the first punch—although he feels justified in doing so because of the way Wiccan and Cloak were tranquilized to prevent his side's immediate withdrawal—which is in essence slapping away the hand of friendship and camaraderie that Iron Man offers to him. If Iron Man fights back strongly, he's got a pretty good reason to.

BF: Finally, this issue marks the official return of Thor to the Marvel Universe as he shows up on the last page as S.H.I.E.L.D.'s trump card of sorts.  This begs the question, why would the Norse God of Thunder be on anybody's side?

TB: That's a good question, and one of the reasons we have another issue coming out next month.

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