Civil War: Thing

The Marvel event Civil War remains the quintessential summary of comics during the 2000s.  Lots of government politics, wildly blurred moral lines, and more superheroes hitting other superheroes than supervillains.  Hell, Iron Man became the Marvel universe’s main bad guy for two years.  But some amazing stories came out of Civil War and the aftermath (plus who doesn’t want an answer to who-can-beat-who arguments? Spoiler alert: Thor) and I’m always a supporter of writers trying to shake up the status quo a bit.  Though through ll the emotional torments and ruined friendships, no one came out of Civil War worse than the Fantastic Four — I mean, besides Goliath and Captain America because of their whole dying thing — and this week we’ll take a look at some of their moments during this crisis.  Let’s read some scenes from Fantastic Four #538-541, written by J. Michael Straczynski and drawn by Mike McKone.  Heads up, the Thing may have been the only level-headed superhero in the entire event.

Just in case you aren’t familiar, I’ll quickly summarize the issues up to this point.  The New Warriors, a brash group of young superheroes, ambushes supervillains Nitro & Friends in a populated suburban area.  They soon realize that Nitro’s basically a living bomb and he wrecks the whole town, killing hundreds of people, and causing the country to go into an uproar.  A bill gets passed in Congress that all superheroes must de-mask, register with the government, and quit all that vigilante stuff.  Iron Man becomes the leader for the pro-registration team while Captain America goes into hiding as the anti-registration leader.  Cue mass fighting in the streets for months.  We pick up here.

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Y’see, in the wave of anti-superhero actions, some jerks beat down the Human Torch outside a club. Using clubs.  As for Yancy Street, they’re like the drunk cousins you see every Thanksgiving: always causing trouble and the Thing’ll have to shove them into a cab ride home, because y’know, they’re family.

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I would say that the Thing lies between a rock and a hard place, but he’s already both of those.  Mr. Fantastic sits as Iron Man’s number two while the Invisible Woman seeks to sabotage and ruin the government’s plans.  With the Human Torch in a coma, the Thing’s torn between two (subjectively) awful sides.  And truthfully, both sides have faults the size of Fin Fang Foom — a practical lose/lose for poor Ben Grimm.

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No more shrugs and watching from the sidelines for the Thing.  Clobberin’ time has made way for decision time.  By midway through the event, the anti-registration side comes off as the good guys if mainly because the good guys are always whatever team Captain America fights on.  But let’s not forget that both teams engage in some morally ambiguous actions.  Iron Man imprisons captured superheroes in the Negative Zone.  Captain America openly boosts his manpower with known supervillains.  So as the Thing gets forced into a corner, it’s essentially picking the lesser of two spandex-wearing-laser-eyes-zapping evils.

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Luckily before he needs to choose a direction to throw his punch in, a more important situation arises. When superheroes are busy fighting superheroes, that leaves supervillains free to enact their own dastardly plans unhindered.

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Drunk cousin analogy or not, Grimm’s Yancy Street family just lost one of its own.  I’m sad too. You figure that the Thing would have enough frustration seeing the Fantastic Four break apart, watching his friends combat each other, being an orange rock monster, etc., so as the pot boils over, the Thing makes the only logical choice.  The decision that he should have made a long time ago.

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We forget that despite 99% of superheroes living in the United States (and 98% in New York City), other countries must have their own radiation accidents or chemical spills or mad scientist experiments creating their own superheroes as well.  So when the Thing flies to France to enjoy some baguettes and xenophobia far away from any internal punching conflicts, he soon finds himself obligingly helping out Paris’ version of the Avengers.  Because why not?  Still, at least for a few issues, the Thing has a happy ending:

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On Wednesday and Friday, we’ll look into how the Civil War Mr. Fantastic and the Invisible Woman fractured their marriage and the subsequent repairs.  Get ready for some heartbreak.

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11 Comments on “Civil War: Thing”

  1. furyoffirestorm78 says:

    Civil War was Marvel’s clumsy attempt at commentary on the Patriot Act. Good idea, poor execution. As if somehow being trained by the government would have prevented Nitro from taking MGH and blowing up the New Warriors and most of Connecticut.

    I’m not sure what the worst part was: That Tony Stark suddenly became a douche that loved bending over for the government (Which double hilarious when you consider how Tony acted during Armor Wars), or that Mr. Fantastic was now all “the SHRA is awesome!” even though there were several times in the past when he condemned the Mutant Registration Act (which was basically the same thing as SHRA), or that Cap gave up after all the constant struggle and deaths because of property damage (and considering that this whole mess was all started by a member of Damage Control giving Nitro some super-roids, it’s like an Ouroboros of suck)

    No, I think the funniest part is when Dr. Pym was kidnapped and imitated by Hulking so Cap’s team could infiltrate the Negative Zone Prison. When you take into the consideration with what happened during Secret Invasion shortly after, it means that the alien shapeshifter sent to replace Dr. Pym was replaced another alien shapeshifter. Maybe in Marvel’s next huge crossover, Tony and Cap will put a humidifier and a de-humidifier in a room to see what happens, or mix Ny-Quil with Day-Quil. Lord knows that Mark Millar must have been drinking that when he wrote that hot mess.

    • Jason Levine says:

      Once again, you’re always right. It was a weird time for comics.

      • furyoffirestorm78 says:

        Be honest with me, Jason: do you truly agree with me, or are you just kissing my ass? 8^)

        I can stand to hear an opposing viewpoint without going all nerdrage on those that don’t agree with me on something, I promise (pinky swear!)

      • Jason Levine says:

        I’m definitely kissing your ass a little bit, but you are right. I hated that Tony Stark became suddenly (misguidedly) evil. I hated that Mr. Fantastic would choose the law over his own wife (or vice versa). I hated that Captain America had to compromise his morals (hiring bad guys/killers) so he wouldn’t compromise his morals (not registering with the government). I hated that we had obvious good and evil sides (like Avengers vs. X-Men did) despite everyone being good guys. I don’t like to be negative — I usually leave that sort of stuff to your talent and wit — but I do admit I’ll always love superheroes punching each other and path-changing character development, no matter how strange or slanted it might be. Still, I promised myself that when I started this website that I would only write about stories I liked, and I do like Civil War far more than I dislike it.

  2. furyoffirestorm78 says:

    PS: Even after all that, everyone has pretty much forgotten that this whole square dance of fuckery ever happened. Tony and Cap are best buddies again and back to caressing each other’s buttocks lovingly in the Avengers locker room, despite the fact that they were THISCLOSE to beating each other to death.

    • thomas kelley says:

      “Tony and Cap are best buddies again and back to caressing each other’s buttocks lovingly in the Avengers locker room, despite the fact that they were THISCLOSE to beating each other to death.”

      hm sounds like the STATUS QUO struck again

  3. Reblogged this on Twilit Dreams Circle and commented:
    Probably one of the most sensible people in the entire event.

    • furyoffirestorm78 says:

      Agreed. The Thing was smart to stay out of it as long as possible. Even though Cap was in the right, he made some boneheaded moves (like allowing an unstable nutbag like The Punisher onto his team) that hurt his cause. Oh well, it’s effects have pretty much been forgotten or ignored now, like 90% of Marvel’s crossovers (“Bloodties”? “Maximum Security”? Anyone? Bueller? Bueller? *crickets*)

  4. thomas kelley says:

    man i didnt even know this story existed but to piggyback off what firestorm said it was a good idea and story but it did have some hiccups but the biggest one was peter parker i didnt mind him revealing his identity but the fact that they backtracked on that idea so fast is disappointing

    • furyoffirestorm78 says:

      I thought that was a bonehead move. I mean, the idea that Peter is going to make Mary Jane and Aunt May a target for all his enemies just because Tony Stark wanted a some good PR was just ridiculous. As horribly flawed as Identity Crisis was, it had a point on why heroes adopt alter egos and don a mask.

  5. Guess I’m in the minority here, because I actually liked the Civil War event. True, it had problems, the biggest of which was the same one ALL big events have: trying to keep the story tight while spreading it through an army of creators, some of which don’t communicate with the others. For example, the scene with Ben drawing the fighting to a close is pretty much the exact scene from the final chapter where Captain America surrenders. You’d thing some one in editorial would have caught that and said “hey now, there goes our grand finale”.

    I don’t remember Cap’s side using villains. I remember Osborn and his Thunderbolts being used by the Pro-Registration side, and I remember that when a couple of villains tried to join the resistance Frank Castle simply shot them dead.

    As for Tony suddenly turning into an evil d-bag, that is a yes and no as well. Tony has always been a tool. No really. A lot of his greatest stories are just about him cleaning up his own messes. The problem with him in Civil War was that he was right, but his methods and tactics for doing the right thing were so shockingly mindless that the rationality was washed away by the sheer stupidity. Heroes get put in what were analogues of Abu Ghraib, and convicted criminals get badges?

    No, Civil War was not perfect, but it was a great idea and had a lot of potential. It was vastly more exciting than Secret Invasion (my summery of that goes like this: Hey, let’s talk a lot about stuff that we should have figured out by now. Action? Who needs that? Oh look, big Skrull amalgams of heroes, how pointless. Wasp died? the end).

    The points I could or would like to make are too long for clear communication here, but I have enjoyed your article yet again, and even the comments are a good read. Good on ya and keep it up.


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