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Civil War vs Annihilation II by Reviews Weekly

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Civil War #6
Writer: Mark Millar
Artist: Steve McNiven
Publisher: Marvel

The end approaches at last. With one more issue to go the pieces are in place on the board and we’re all set for a major letdown. Unless this ends in copious bloodshed and tears (this being Marvel and all their major characters it would seem HIGHLY unlikely) then Civil War will have been a disappointment. Jumping the gun? Probably, but from all the signs in the penultimate issue Civil War has lost it’s way.

From the intelligent and hopeful beginnings, where a genuinely challenging moral scenario appeared to be on the cards, Civil War has degraded into another of those ‘super-fight’ comics where the writer collects all the heroes and villains together in the last issue, via a series of unlikely character actions and serious plot holes, for a big fight where no-one dies and the ending is some combination of deus ex machina/third party pulling the strings. Sad but true.

In issue six the only enjoyable moments are provided by the Punisher. After saving Spiderman in the last issue, Punisher’s all too brief appearance in Civil War ends this issue but not before he goes out with a bang. Although rounded out with much more verve by the two Punisher War Journal issues to-date, his telling contribution in Civil War is to shoot two third-rate bad guys trying to make a deal with Cap. After all the dancing around evinced by the pathetic death of Goliath as the sum total of violence in Civil War, to see Punisher put a couple in some evil brain pans is a relief. Not because of it’s shock value but because the action is in character and highlights just how badly written Captain America has been in this series. Deals with Kingpin, possibly shaking hands on an alliance with bad guys, heck even taking Punisher on board all cry foul of the character so many, many fans know and love. Thus the juxtaposition of Castle and Cap shows just how bad Civil War has become. Follow this with Cap’s line writing off Castle as ‘insane’ and I’m all ready for this event to finish, except for one more paragraph of grumbling.

The most infuriating thing about Civil War besides its waste of potential is the absolute lack of information and consistency offered to the reader. In this issue alone there are three or four plot points where you just wonder what the hell is going on, did the writer forget the word continuity or go away for a few days and come back to the plot. As an example half way through this issue Sue Storm goes to Namor to ask for help in finding a solution to the War, he turns her down flat and tells her he has no interest in events. But hang on this is the same Namor who in the last few Black Panther tie-in issues has been practically begging the Panther and Storm to get involved so the Americans don’t try to force registration on the rest of the world. The same Panther who one minute is gallivanting across the globe, the next appears in the final splash page of this very issue which is setting up ‘the big fight’ for the final issue. Huh? Also in the same issue (and high on the scale of dumb) the Punisher, using some serious high-tech gadgetry, infiltrates the uber-secure Baxter Building – the home of the Fantastic Four for crying out loud – when Cap has one of it’s owners in his ranks. Is this the tactical genius with a shield we all know so well, in a word: NO.

Many of the tie-in titles have been enjoyable and far superior to Civil War, Frontline and the recent Punisher War Journal stand out in the huge list of tie-ins, but the central story is a mess of inconsistencies and just plain bad storytelling. It’s time Civil War finished and whatever cheap conclusion which will drive the Marvel 616 universe afterwards, be hastened into being.

2 out of 5

Annihilation #5
Writer: Keith Giffen
Art: Andrea Devito
Publisher: Marvel

It’s almost over now! Galactus is loose! Everything is drawing nicely to a head with the best Marvel series in recent times, as the cosmic powers are about to collide in one ungodly fight. This series gets better and better but to be honest I thought the last issue’s ending was going to be difficult to follow, I was wrong. Giffen’s narrative has been expertly poised to this point, gathering momentum like a runaway train that very shortly is going to have to stop at a station – it’s going to get messy. One of the key elements at the rapidly approaching conclusion is answered in this penultimate issue when Drax, with assists from his daughter and Silver Surfer, releases Galactus. With only an issue to go and many threads to be tied off, death by Galactus seems like a good solution to some of the problems. Although it’s taken a while, the return of Ronan and Super Skrull is also well worth the wait as they fight to the heart of the Kree empire and a final meeting with Ravenous. All this and Nova’s special attack team setting up for an assassination attempt on Annihilus himself, means the final issue is going to be Galactic (sorry) A month will be a long time.

4 out of 5

Desolation Jones #8
Writer: Warren Ellis
Art: Danijel Zezelj
Publisher: Wildstorm

There aren’t many writers out there who do it better than Warren Ellis at the moment and Desolation Jones is further proof of his, warped, powers. The main character Michael Jones was experimented on by the British government for a full year and is the only survivor of the titular Desolation test. The test leaves Jones with some serious health problems and a staggeringly high threshold for pain. Forced to leave England and join the ‘retired club’ in Los Angeles (in this title the city is a sanctuary where all the world’s special operations and forces agents go to retire but can’t leave once they’re there) Jones sets himself up as a private detective for the Community. In this second issue of the second run (the tpb of the first six issues is out now – do yourself a favour and buy it) Jones is in the process of tracking down an old friend, John Asher, whose body was supposedly found cut to pieces. But this is the Community and to use a cliché nothing is ever what it seems. Desolation Jones has some of the most intelligent, madly coloured artwork around in the industry at the moment, perfectly illustrating Ellis’ hallucinogenic narrative from Jones’ point of view. Ellis’ usual mature rating applies, with sex, swearing and some freaky going’s on the order of the day but it’s the snippets of Jones’ past that are often more interesting than the main storyline, as we slowly find out what exactly the tests did to him. Compulsive reading.

4 out of 5

Justice #9
Writers: Jim Krueger and Alex Ross
Art: Alex Ross and Doug Braithwaite
Published by: DC

Alex Ross always seems to grasp the epic nature of superheroes powers with each title he writes, Justice is no different. Following the DC Heroes major line-up, mostly the Justice League of America with Captain Marvel, as they fight The Legion of Doom (not the face-painted, shoulder-pad wearing wrestlers for the record) Justice is Ross at his best. The title, despite it’s fanboy wet-dream potential, is entirely narrative driven, each character, irrelevant of status or popularity, is subservient to the story being told and Justice is all the better for it. This issue sees the heroes fight back against the Legion, grouping into strike teams to take on their enemies and expose the fallacy Luthor and co are promising to the world. Tied into this plot is the fact that the Legion have captured the heroes loved ones to hold against them in the wider scheme. This provides the central plot point for the titular scenario as Captain Marvel is forced by Black Adam to make a dreadful choice and end up as a weapon against his team-mates. There are many reasons to buy this issue but the artwork on the penultimate page, which riffs the much-used TV/Movie scene of all the heroes in a line strutting their stuff, is absolutely the most stunning piece I’ve seen in years and worth the cost of the comic alone.

4.5 out of 5

© Owen Jones 2007


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