The first comic I remember buying off the spinner rack at a local convenience store was Amazing Spider-Man #275. That was April of 1986, which would mean I was eleven. Now, I’m sure I read comics prior to that, but that was the first one I used my own money and set myself on a course to spend many, many more dollars over the next number of years.
But eventually interests change, and money has different priorities. My pull box at my favorite comic shop got lighter and lighter each month until it was always empty and they recycled it. I picked up the occasional trade paperback that piqued my interest such as The Walking Dead, Preacher, 100 Bullets and Y: The Last Man. Not many capes in that selection. I guess little Jimmy was all grown up.
But then a funny thing happened in the summer of 2006. I don’t even remember how, but two series grabbed my interest: DC’s Infinite Crisis and Marvel’s Civil War. As I started to read, the collector juices started flowing again. As I tracked down waaayyy too many tie-ins and crossovers, I was once again hooked and have been reading consistently ever since.
And doing crazy stuff like reading and posting about all of Convergence (that last post is coming, I promise!) and Secret Wars. After the break I’ll look at two books that focus on Civil War’s main adversaries, Steve Rogers and Tony Stark: Civil War #1 and 1872 #1. As well as the Steve-centric Planet Hulk #2-3 and the Tony-centric Armor Wars #3.
Also, if you are like me and haven’t read all of Johnathon Hickman’s Avengers run leading up to Secret Wars, be sure to take Tom’s Road To Secret Wars course at gabbinggeekuniversity.com. The reading materials are online here: Part One, Part Two, Part Three, Part Four, Part Five, Part Six and Part Seven.
And that course is a prerequisite to the other parts of this series: Part One, Part Two, Part Three,Part Four, Part Five, Part Six, Part Seven, Part Eight, Part Nine, Part Ten, Part Eleven, Part Twelve, Part Thirteen, Part Fourteen
Civil War #1
It seems so commonplace now for Tony Stark and Steve Rogers to be at odds. It seems like it keeps happening over and over again in the comics. The big Avengers finale before the end of the multiverse involved Old Man Steve and Tony once again duking it out. And some semblance of Civil War will be the basis for the next Captain America movie.
So it’s easy to forget that prior to Civil War in 2006, none of this tension existed. Steve and Tony managed to be BFFs for about forty years.
This book begins with an altered version of events from the original series. In the 2006 version, the final battle does take place in the Negative Zone prison, and Cloak is used to teleport people back to New York where the battle continues. A battle the ultimately leads to Captain America surrendering as he sees the damage they are causing.
In the 2015 version, the Black Panther has rigged the prison to explode (it’s not clear if he is acting alone or on Caps orders like he claims) and when Cloak telports everyone away he doesn’t close the portal in time and the blast comes through as well, killing 15 million people and setting the stage for continued conflict.
It’s six years later and the nation has been divided in two. Tony runs “The Iron”, everything east of St. Louis, Cap runs “The Blue”, which is everything west. They have agreed to sit down and discuss peace.
As a sign of good faith, Tony has brought a gift for Cap’s right hand man Peter Parker. His family. MJ and another version of a Spider-Daughter named Maybelle. It’s not quite clear why they aren’t able to be together while other people seem to have been able to move at will into whatever camp they supported. Ryan and I will get into that a bit more below.
Needless to say, for the sake of this comic not ending after 10 pages, the talks don’t go so well. From the get go, Tony and Steve are at each other’s throats. Things go from bad to worse when Miriam Sharpe, the mediator of these talks, is assassinated. Albeit accidentally, as the bullet appears to have been meant for Captain America.
To confuse matters, the bullet appears to have come from the west. From Cap’s own side of the Divide. Cap dispatches Peter to try to catch the shooter. Oh, did I mention that Spider-Man has wings now? Makes sense since there are no buildings to swing from. Peter uses his spider-sense and locates an unmanned gun two-and-a-half miles away.
Cap believes the only person who could make that shot would be Bullseye, a known ally of Tony’s. Tony claims to have nothing to do with any of this.
As Cap and Spider-Man leave the Divide, Cap states:
“Stark will never let this war end. So we’ll end it for him.”
Ryan shared his thoughts as well:
ryan: Civil War was interesting.
I have a hard time imagining a central conflict like that would lead to so much strife though. Both sides have psychics. Both sides could verify that Tchalla who caused it, whether Tchalla acted alone or under orders.
But for a comic they need some reason to have it escalate. So it’s a bit forgivable. But what is this nonsense about only one person able to make that shot?
Black Widow could make that shot. Hawkeye probably. Or, I dunno, anyone with Stark armor.
jimmy: Maybe they’re all dead?
ryan: Could be. Strange that there’s only one decent sniper in the war then.
jimmy: For sure. And maybe Cap knows better but just used it as his excuse. Tony even says “Bullseye doesn’t work for me”.
ryan: Who was the woman that called the peace treaty?
jimmy: I never knew her either. Miriam Sharpe, anti-superhero protester. First appeared in Civil War #1. I had to look that up. Plays a big role in original Civil War apparently.
ryan: Don’t remember. And I actually read all of Civil War.
jimmy: Me too.
And another different version of a Spider-Man daughter. And why were Peter and MJ kept apart in the first place? Seems like you could travel between the Iron and the Blue if you wanted. Unless Stark was holding them captive.
ryan: Which seems dickish even for Tony.
Plus, why did Spidey have wings? That’s useful when there are no buildings around, but Tony makes repulsor boots for a living. Doesn’t that seem like a better invention for flying?
And why does Peter’s spider-sense help him track down an umanned gun? Is that still enough of a threat to start him all tingling? If so, how does he ever get near a Wal-Mart?
jimmy: Seemed to be Falcon’s wings, perhaps there was a dedication to him if he was dead. And the abilities of Spidey’s spider-sense is very plot specific. And maybe he can’t get those boots on the Blue side.
ryan: They’re going to have to go an extra long way to make sense of the MJ/daughter thing. Because when we see the story unfold it’s sad with the reunion getting cut short. But what can he do in the middle of a desert?
Oh it turns out HE COULD JUST FLY HIS FAMILY TO FREEDOM.
Maybe The Blue has crappy dental and braces don’t grow on trees.
jimmy: I found it odd too that the daughter even existed. But I guess there is time between the destruction via Cloak and the “Divide” in St. Louis for Peter and MJ to do the webbed mambo.
But yeah, why can’t MJ and daughter go with Peter? Never explained.
ryan: Maybe things in The Blue are really The Suck.
jimmy: Well, they can’t trade with anyone.
ryan: Makes sense. It’s just, what, everything west of St Louis. That should be pretty easy to economically isolate.
What could they possibly produce that other countries might want. Except for movies and TV shows and iPhones. Beyond that…nada.
jimmy: Well, they are definitely the only producers of hair dye, as Tony can’t get his hands on any. Man, he aged fast in 6 years.
And it specifically says people moved from East to West depending on which side they supported. So again, why were Peter and his family separated?
ryan: I think there’s only one answer.
They didn’t want to lose rent control on their Manhattan apartment.
jimmy: Haha, perhaps.
Have you read 1602? (Neil Gaiman original recipe or Secret Wars extra crispy.) The series takes place in a timeline where Marvel superheroes exist in the Elizabethan era. The similarly named 1872 has the same concept but puts our heroes and villains in the American Wild West.
In this timeline we have ultimate good guy Steve Rogers as the sheriff, Tony Stark as the former inventor turned town drunk and Wilson Fisk as the local non-law abiding saloon owner pushing his weight around. So, pretty much what you would expect. And since this is the Wild West, we’ll need a token American Indian causing trouble. Enter Red Wolf. A bit of an obscure Marvel hero with a bit of a rotating roster of alter egos that seems to pop up whenever Marvel needs a Native American in a story.
(Marvel is planning to bring this version of Red Wolf into the post Secret Wars universe, and they have already received some flak for Red Wolf’s sterotypical appearance.)
The story is pretty straight forward here, or “tame” as Ryan called it. Red Wolf is lynched by a mob and they attempt to hang him. Sheriff Rogers steps in and rescues him. Red Wolf is accused of trying to blow up the damn, and he’ll get his day in court whether Wilson Fisk likes it or not. The mob eventually comes for Red Wolf as he sits in prison, but are relieved of the duty and their lives by Rogers and a reluctant and drunk Tony Stark.
As a show of defiance, Rogers decorates the front of Fisk’s Saloon with the dead bodies of his men. Fisk gets a message from Senator Roxxon that he is not happy about this failure and has sent a new team to clean up his mess. A group consisting of Bullseye, Elektra, Grizzly and Doc Ock.
Planet Hulk #2
As I’ve covered previously, I’ve never read much Hulk. So according to Tom Kelly, this “Doc Green” Hulk was the last incarnation of Hulk prior to Secret Wars. From what I can gather he is one of the intelligent versions of the Hulk that comes up every few years or so.
When I read this issue I got the feeling that maybe old Doc Green could remember pre-Secret Wars. Tom tells me that he thinks Doc is just well traveled on Battleworld, and he may be right. He talks about knowing a bunch of different Captain America’s. One with a metal arm (Bucky Barnes), one with the mutant gene (??) and one with wings (current Cap and former Falcon Sam Wilson). And also of knowing many different Steve Rogers.
Before Cap and Doc start their trek to the Mud Kingdom to free Bucky from the Red King, we are shown a flashback to a “forgotten kingdom”. (A clue that there were domains previously that were destroyed and replaced by Doom?) It is a war torn domain that Steve and Bucky are barely surviving until they see a poster to “Join the Super Soldier Program”. What’s interesting is that the poster features the Sam Wilson Cap. So timelines and ages are pretty screwing in this domain compared to the common 616 timeline.
The rest of the issue sees Cap, Doc and Devil Dinosaur fighting off gamma enhanced killer plants, bulls and finally confronting a gigantic, shall we say, Abomination?
Planet Hulk #3
Ok, so not an Abomination. Well, yes, an abomination. But not, THE Abomination. More specifically a Sea Hulk. In any regard, he is no match for a red Tyrannosaurus Rex.
As the trio recover and head back out on the road towards the Mud Kingdom we are shown another flashback to the Cap and Bucky Super Soldier days. Cap in a very Army-stylized Captain America outfit and shield. Bucky in his familiar Winter Soldier gear, complete with bionic arm. We see their comradery and brotherhood as the two are the last stand against the villain Holocaust.
The rest of the issue is a lot of talking between Doc Green and Cap as they discuss the killing of the Red King. Cap says he won’t do it, he’s just there to rescue Bucky, but Doc says he has to keep his word to Doom and Cap says, “Doom can bite me” and Doc says, “hey man, I get you, I’d kill him myself, but I can’t have Hulk blood on my hands”.
Once the three amigos enter a cavern to make passage a storm hits, darkening the skies. As the lighting strikes continue on and off, Cap finds himself alone. Green and Devil Dinosaur have been captured. Cap too is eventually taken down by the spears of the Tribal Hulks.
Armor Wars #3
I found it a little odd that Peter Urich was Spyder-Man…and it was a secret. I guess it makes sense that people could have more than one suit of armor. But changing from one to the other (not to mention if you are out of the suit for any length of time you are ravaged by a killer virus) must be a real pain. It’s not like you could wear your other suit of armor under your armor. Of when you change, web up your extra armor and carry it around on your back. And if Peter’s suit only had “spider-powers” because it was infected with a “spyder virus” wouldn’t that mean he had the suit in an uninfected state prior to that? Anyway, these are the things we’re not supposed to thing too much about. At the end of the day, Peter is dead. R.I.P.
The very cooly named Thor Machine (James Rhodes) is still working on repairing the data from Spyder-Man’s suit to learn the secret of who caused the infection that requires them all to wear armor. From what has been pieced together so far, it seems that Peter’s Uncle Ben may have also discovered the secret. Hence his very suspicious death via heart attack caused by an “armor malfunction”.
Rhodes also knows that Wilson Fisk is somehow involved in all of this. When he confronts Fisk, surprisngly (sarcasam) he does not come quietly, instead calling on an army of his own iron men to protect him. In a Princess Bride-esque “I expected you were going to expect me” move, Rhodes has brought along some friends of his own. An army of “War Machines”. (Couldn’t he have brought some more Thors? Fisk is too small a fish, internal domain politics, etc?)
Meanwhile, after a tense attack on Arno Stark’s headquarters, complete with battle against a platoon of Machine Men, Tony Stark and Arno end up battered and have crashed onto the street below. However, though 2.9 issues of Armor Wars have set them up as enemies (to a degree), the two begin laughing and cheerfully agree that they need to talk. Is Tony more involved with his brother’s dealings than we would have thought?