For Marvel, 2006 was all about Civil War. Nearly every comic Marvel put out set in the 616 universe at the very least mentioned Civil War. Caught at the center of the struggle was Spider-Man, who revealed his identity to the world at Iron Man’s behest. While many series devoted entire arcs to the crossover, many of the best series of the year steered clear of the crossover as much as possible. The X-Men line of comics in particular prospered in 2006, due in no small part to completely avoiding Civil War. Also in 2006, Marvel reinvigorated its once popular cosmic characters by launching Annihilation and sending the Hulk into outer space, and revisited several properties from its past in mini-series and specials.
When Marvel launched Civil War in May, I was pretty pessimistic about the whole thing. After the crap that was House of M, I was uncertain of the current administration’s ability to pull off a major crossover. And how would anything at Marvel be able to compete with the sheer awesomeness of DC’s Infinite Crisis?
After the first three issues, I thought Marvel really had a chance to pull off what we’ve all been waiting for: a crossover that not only impacts the Marvel Universe in a meaningful, long-lasting way, but is a damn good story in and of itself. The mini-series itself was well thought out and well paced. Amazing Spider-Man was telling a great story featuring Peter Parker making the worst decision of his life. Fantastic Four told a nice story about how such a divisive issue would affect a close-knit group like the FF. She-Hulk, Thunderbolts and Civil War: Frontline were doing a good job of showing how the heroes that (ironically, in one case) weren’t on the frontline were choosing to deal with the Superhuman Registration Act. I even enjoyed the few issues of New Avengers I read.
Then came the delay, and the internet broke in half (and only a year too late!).
In a case of life imitating art (if you can consider Civil War “art” and comic blogging a “life”), we here at the Legion of Doom were divided on the issue. Jim Doom was able to convince me that this may have actually been a good thing. Maybe this would be moment we would all look back on in ten years and say “that’s the moment the quality of the story became more important than the size of the profits.” Although judging by the dozen or so quickie Civil War tie-ins Marvel rushed out to “make up” for the delay, that doesn’t seem to be the case even five months later.
The delay itself wasn’t enough to kill the series, although it played a large part. The writing began to unravel when issue #4 hit, which featured Iron Man and Mr. Fantastic murdering their friend and colleague Goliath with the uncontrollable, homicidal clone of Thor they made, and then trying to justify it. Then Captain America started going a little crazy. Like completely-out-of-character crazy. Oh, and the pro-registration side is now employing homicidal supervillains to do their dirty work. And Human Torch and the Invisible Woman mayor may not be doing it.
The strange thing is that just like with House of M, the ancillary Civil War titles are still pretty good while the mini-series is flat-lining. So aside from the irreparable damage that has been done to Iron Man, Captain America, Spider-Man and the marriage of Mr. Fantastic and Invisible Woman, Civil War didn’t end up causing too much havoc after all.
So for the second year in a row, Marvel promised a groundbreaking, universe-altering mega-crossover and delivered a pretty unimportant mini-series with serious scheduling issues. But that wasn’t the really annoying part of Civil War.
The fate of the, Marvel Universe in 2006 was decided by a select group of powerful men: the Marvel Illuminati. No, I’m not talking about Iron Man, Mr. Fantastic, Professor X, Namor and Black Bolt. I’m talking about Joe Quesada, Mark Millar, Brian Michael Bendis, J. Michael Stracynski and a few others who were given free reign over the fates of characters they didn’t have to write on a monthly basis. As a result of the Illuminati-led Civil War, characters like Iron Man, Spider-Man, Captain America, She-Hulk, Cable and the Thunderbolts had drastic changes made to their status quo that writers of their monthly series were forced to deal with. What’s a really good example…oh, I don’t know…
Here’s what I thought about it right when it happened. Here’s what I think about it now:
Unmasking Spider-Man was a bad idea. There’s no story that can be told with an unmasked Spider-Man that can’t be told with a Spider-Man who has a bad guy learn his identity, yet have it still be kept secret from the general populace. Villains have learned Spider-Man’s secret identity many times in the past and threatened his loved ones, but that happened so rarely that each time it happened was special. If they do it more often, it makes each instance less extraordinary. Old villains and street thugs that Spider-Man has put behind bars showing up to get revenge has already happened (right after he unmasked, in fact), and doing it repeatedly would be pointless.
“Spider-Man & Family on the run” might make for an interesting arc or two, but it appears as though the whole gang’s staying put in New York. Peter’s even got a job teaching at the school he taught at before he unmasked. The status quo has changed from “only a select few know Spider-Man’s secret identity” to “only a select few know Spider-Man’s new secret identity, but they still know his old one.” What was the point in doing this if they were just going to give him a new secret identity in five months?
The only good that can come out of this whole thing is perhaps the supporting cast Spider-Man was so famous for back in the day could see a resurgence. We’ve already seen how Flash Thompson, Betty Brant and Deb Whitman reacted to the news in Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man. I’m sure J. Jonah Jameson’s reaction was shown at some point, although I don’t recall when. It’d be great to see a few more old faces reappear. I don’t think Peter’s talked to Robbie Robertson since he revealed his identity.
Tune in tomorrow(ish) for Part 2 of my look back at Marvel Comics in 2006, featuring topics like Not Civil War, Yet Another X-Men Relaunch, Being Cosmic, and Nostalgia Acts.