A big issue released this week was “What If? Civil War,” if you are not familiar with the What If? series, then let me explain. Uatu is a watcher, he watches all timelines, but can not interfere. What If? comics give Uatu an outlet to explain how things may have turned out differently given different circumstances. This time, he tells us what would have happened if either Tony Stark had died prior to Civil War, or if Iron Man and Captain America had settled their differences.
What was Civil War
In case you’ve been hiding under a DC rock on the moon (of Endor), Marvel Civil War revolved around the Super Human Registration Act, something that has been frequented by Marvel before, even in X-Men: The Animated Series. This time though, the government won; because of the mass murder of civilians by a super villain Nitro, heroes nation wide are required to reveal their secret identities to the government and operate under their jurisdiction. Many superheroes, who had fought their whole lives to protect their secret identities, were less than thrilled by this idea. Two groups of super heroes formed, pro-registration, lead by Iron Man, and anti-registration resistance, lead by, of all people Captain America. It’s a fairly good story, that has annoyed a LOT of people, but to understand just about anything Marvel these days, you’re going to have to read it, and I suggest you do. If you do not want to know the ending, you probably shouldn’t read this or the comic. In the end however, Captain America admits defeat when he realizes how much damage the super hero civil war is causing, this leads to Cap’s assassination.
Plot Synopsis and Evaluation
We open with Tony Stark (Iron Man), mourning the death of his good friend, Steve Rogers (Captain America). Mourning and second guessing; he’s not sure if he did the right thing, because what he believed to be right at the time lead to death of his best friend. He is approached by a strange man with red eyes, offering him a glimpse at the other possibilities, the other potential time lines. This comic essentially comprises two separate stories, and I’m ok with that, because What If? comics are possibly my favorite. In the first story, Tony Stark dies from the extremis injection, and because of this, Captain America manages to convince all the superhumans to fight against the registration act. However, being super heroes, they fought with great restraint, and many of them ended up dying. The man called to lead the anti-registration movement clones Thor, and makes an army of Thor clones, using these, he murders Captain America and leads the country to believe that the ‘criminal’ Captain America is still on the loose and only he can save them. He runs for, and he becomes President of the United States. A rather sour tale for Tony to hear while he was already grieving the loss of his friend.
The second possible timeline, involves a much smaller change. Tony, while at the ambush of the resistance, asks for Rogers’s help. This simple action leads to a discussion, but also an amazing fight scene. Thor’s clone is released, and is about to kill Goliath, as had happened in the main timeline, but Tony Stark gets in the way, and takes the full force of mecha-Thor’s attack. While preparing to deliver the final blow, Captain America steps in and defends, and even fights off this abomination of Thor (to find out how the REAL Thor took it, read the newest series of Thor, especially issue #3). This timeline leads to peace for all humanity, both super and otherwise. Tony Stark realizes that while the Civil War could have gone better, and his friend could still be alive, it can always go much much worse.
The art is broken down into two sections, the same as the writing. This is essentially two different stories, with the current timeline story as well. The ‘present’ Marvel timeline story between Tony Stark and “The Stranger” (I think we know who this stranger is however), is written by Ed Brubaker, and illustrated by Marko Djurdjevic, and acknowledgement to the works of Frank Miller. This is drawn in a very artistic style, reminiscent of Marvels or Silver Surfer: Requiem. It is near colourless, which makes the stranger’s red eyes stand out even more, the washed out look fits the mood that is set by Brubaker. Marko is exceptionally proficient at this kind of art, and it shows.
The story entitled “What if Captain America led all Heroes against Registration” was written by Kevin Grevioux, and penciled by Gustavo. On the first page of Gustavo’s art, I noticed his rendition of Steve Rogers immediately, and I didn’t like it. I can’t point out exactly what it is about these faces that isn’t right, it must be the proportions. Regardless everyone seems to have a very sunken face which is too long for their body. They also look to be perpetually on the verge of tears. All of that wouldn’t be so bad if roughly 60% of the panels weren’t close up views of someone’s face. The patriotic Captain America Iron Man armor also looks cheesy when drawn by Gustavo. I did not enjoy the artwork at all.
“What if Iron Man Lost the Civil War?” is written by Christos Gage, and illustrated by Harvey Tolibao, and wow, it’s something. This is by far my favourite section of the issue, even though the title is a bit misleading. The only complaint I have, and I will get that out of the way first, is that at one or two points, Captain America has an effeminate face. Moving past that however, each character’s emotions is graphically depicted with great skill, including characters in the background. The fight between Cap + Iron Man with mecha-Thor is stunning. Stunning may be something of an understatement, although it is short, it’s exceptionally engaging and even thrilling. The page where the Cap gives the heroic (and very cliché) line “You’ll have to go through me” really hits home, and it probably wouldn’t have done so without the artwork provided. Lastly, in the last few pages of the issue, there is a two page spread of characters including Dr. Strange, Spiderman, Goliath (who’s alive in this timeline thanks to Iron Man), Spiderwoman, the Patriot, Hulkling, The Sentry, and even one or two I can’t name, although I imagine they might be young avengers, I never really took my time to make note of who they were. Tangents aside, this spread is amazing, and while not necessary for the comic, really ties together the storyline as it comes to a close.
Is it Worth Buying?
I would say an unequivocal “absolutely.” It’s well worth your hard earned money to go out and get this issue, even with the somewhat lackluster first story, the second more than makes up for it. Another aspect I like is that the cover, shown above, is the same as the civil war cover types, which I personally enjoyed. Your Comic Relief definitely recommends “What if? Civil War”.