And now a word about Civil War

For those of you who aren’t neck deep in comic book continuity, Civil War is Marvel’s latest crossover bonanza.  It involves a “Civil War” between two factions of super heroes, led by Iron Man and Captain America respectively.

“Why are they fighting?” you ask.  Well, there was an accident during a super hero/super villain tussle that left 600 civilians dead.  In response to this, Iron Man helped sponsor the Super Hero Registration Act, legislation that would require every super hero to register with the government, receive training, and give up their secret identity, and work for the government in the name of the greater good.  This doesn’t sit too well with Cap and his idealized version of America, so he goes rogue along with a number of other heroes including Falcon, The Young Avengers, and Black Goliath (if you’re at all like me, you’re probably asking yourself “Who the fuck is Black Goliath?”). Iron Man, on the other hand, gets Spider-Man, The Fantastic Four, and some others.  This impending war between the two sides makes up the bulk of the story (in theory) presented in a core, seven-issue series that ties into just about every other book Marvel publishes.

So, let’s break my feelings on this “event” down.  I’ll give the pros first, since I’m optimistic like that, then give the cons.

PROS

BIG NUMBERS – Civil War (the core series) is selling to some of the biggest numbers Marvel has seen in a long time.  It’s a boon to a publishing house that probably needs all the money it can scratch together.  Whether they can translate those sales into increased numbers for other books remains to be seen.

NEW READERS – At Christmas, my brother Matt ran up to me and nearly screamed, “Dude!  Have you been reading Civil War?”  Now, Matt hasn’t bought a comic since issue four of Marvel’s Transformers series back in the early 80’s.  I didn’t even know he could find a comics shop in town, but hearing (who knows from where) that the super heroes were having a war with each other motivated him to find a shop and buy a bunch some books.  Civil War isn’t a fan-dependent crossover like last year’s House of M, which didn’t make any sense unless you’d been reading the previous two years worth of Marvel comics.  Civil War has a readily available idea that can grab the attention of casual bystanders.  That can’t be bad, although I don’t know if Matt will continue to buy once the main series is over.  If Marvel’s smart, there will be a nice, bright ad in the back of Civil War’s last isse saying “Follow the ongoing adventures of these characters in these monthly books!” with a list of their regular titles following.

CONS

SPRAWL – Civil War, as stated, ties into a regular plethora of Marvel titles.  The intent is pretty clear: they want those new readers to try their other titles.  Unfortunately, comics aren’t a dime nowadays, and a new reader who is willing to spend $3 on, say, issue three of Civil War will probably balk at the idea of buying the other fifteen titles that came out that month that tie into the greater story.  On the other end, there are probably plenty of kids who received the Marvel Ultimate Alliance video game for Christmas who sought out their local shop hoping to read into more adventures of these heroes, only to learn the issue of Spider-Man they bought requires five other titles in order to be understood.

LATENESS – Civil War was supposed to (largely) be a summer event.  Instead, the final issue will be released early next month.  Is this the message Marvel wants to send to these new fans?  And the main series is only seven issues!  Is it that hard to plan ahead?  DC has released an issue of their 52 comic once a week this year without falling behind.  Sadly, Marvel’s policy in regard to this tardiness (as evidenced by Editor-in-Chief Joe Quesada’s Christmas song “This Song is Two Weeks Late,” which features lyrics such as “Maybe I should’a have listened to the internetters?/‘cause let’s face it, who on earth could possibly know any better?”) appears to be “Suck it.”

BORING – More of a subjective quality, I’m sure, but for a book about a war, there seems to be much more sitting around and talking about fighting than actual fighting.  C’mon!  I want to see super heroes beat the living piss out of each other, not Spider-Man argue with Iron Man over a prison!  It’s issue five, man!  Fuckin’ punch something!

OBSCURITY – Really, who the fuck is Black Goliath?  I’ve been reading comics for fifteen years, and I can’t answer that question.  How is a new reader supposed to know?  Why are all these characters who haven’t been seen in more than ten years hopping around in this book?  If they’re sticking around, that’s one thing.  Otherwise, shunt them to the background and keep them there.

So what do you think?  Do I just not “get” Civil War, or is there an actual problem here?