Off The Page: Civil War II
One of the most prominent comic book arcs of the 2000s was Civil War . Written by Mark Millar, Civil War focused on the issue of superhero accountability in the wake of a tragedy that left many children dead. It was a politically charged story that saw the superhero community split down the middle, with Iron-Man leading the cause for the Superhero Registration Act and Captain America arguing against it on the grounds of curtailed freedom and civil liberties. Ultimately, the story saw Iron-Man "win" the war and the Act placed into law (the Superhero Registration Act would later be abolished in 2010’s Siege ). Fast forward to 2016 and a new "Civil War" was on the horizon, written by industry alumnus Brian Michael Bendis. As opposed to the original Civil War , which focused on the political ramifications on a hero’s role in the modern world; Civil War II would explore the themes of free will and determinism when a precognitive Inhuman is discovered. Once again, dividing lines are drawn as the future itself is drawn into question.
When a young Inhuman named Ulysses is discovered, his precognitive abilities bring him to the attention of the Avengers and the Ultimates. Ulysses’ powers help the heroes stop crimes before they happen. However, tensions rise when Iron-Man and Captain Marvel disagree on how the power should be used, as Ulysses’ visions become more disturbing.
The idea for Civil War II was composed during one of Marvel's editorial retreats and was designed to capitalise on the success of Captain America: Civil War , leaving only several months to plan out the story. After the original writer/artist team of Mark Millar and Steven McNiven turned it down, Brian Michael Bendis was hired to write the sequel, with David Marquez and Justin Ponsor on art duties. In addition, Civil War II comprised of an eight issue core series, along with a number of tie-in books to flesh out the storyline and other characters beyond the main series.
After being exposed to the Terrigen Mist and undergoing Terrigenesis, Ulysses Cain, a university student, becomes an Inhuman, gaining the ability to see the future. He comes into contact with the Inhuman Royal Family, who take him in and help Ulysses understand his powers. A number of weeks later, the Avengers, led by Iron-Man and the Ultimates, led by Captain Marvel see off an invading Celestial Destroyer and celebrate the victory at Stark Tower. The heroes thank the Inhumans, who were able to predict the time and place the Destroyer would appear and everyone catches up with each other. Tony Stark and Carol Danvers approach the Inhumans, enquiring about how they knew when the attack would happen. Medusa takes a number of the heroes to a private setting, revealing Ulysses and his powers. Ulysses explains that he doesn't know where his visions come from, but they have all turned out to be true. Stark is wary about using these visions to stop crimes, however, Danvers adopts a more casual attitude, stating that if they can use these powers for good, they should. Sometime later, a battle with Thanos leaves War Machine dead and She-Hulk in critical condition. A furious Iron-Man learns that Captain Marvel and her team used Ulysses’ precognitive abilities to launch an ambush on the mad titan, vowing that no one will use Ulysses’ powers again. Stark kidnaps Ulysses, taking him to a secret facility to run tests on the young man (almost causing a war between the Inhumans and the Avengers). During a confrontation between Stark and the rest of the heroes, Ulysses has a vision of the Hulk killing the Avengers. Captain Marvel and Iron-Man visit Bruce Banner at his laboratory, asking the scientists to step outside. When Banner exits the lab, he is met with both the Avengers and the Inhumans, who place him under arrest, however, Banner is shockingly killed by Hawkeye, who is immediately taken into custody.
During Hawkeye's trial, the archer states that Banner approached him a while ago, asking Hawkeye to kill him if he should ever lose control and turn into the Hulk. Captain Marvel argues that thanks to Ulysses, her team has stopped threats all over the world, whilst Stark counters that they should be defending the Earth, not dispensing predictive justice. Hawkeye is eventually acquitted and Stark informs the others of his test results regarding Ulysses: his powers are based on probability predictions on what could happen, not the actual future. This information causes divisions among the superheroes, second-guessing their actions and causing some of them to join Iron-Man’s side, while Captain Marvel remains steadfast in her approach. While interrogating a suspected Hydra agent, Captain Marvel is confronted by Iron-Man, who says that this experiment has gone on long enough and must end. When Captain Marvel refuses, the two sides prepare for battle, but Ulysses has another version of Miles Morales killing Captain America. Captain Marvel places Spider-Man under arrest, while Captain America advocates for the young hero, who doesn't believe that Miles would do such a thing. Maria Hill attempts to arrest Iron-Man’s team, but they are teleported away by Dr Strange to a safe house. Hill later receives word that Morales is at the US Capitol Building, the site of Ulysses’ vision. Captain Marvel arrives to take Spider-Man into custody, while Iron-Man intercepts and attacks her. Medusa warns the others about Ulysses’ vision, however, her pleas fall on deaf ears as the fight escalates. Ulysses has multiple visions of possible futures and is approached by the cosmic entity, Eternity, who offers Ulysses a place at his side as a new galactic being. Ulysses accepts and transcends to a new plane of existence, while Captain Marvel lands a seemingly fatal blow on Iron-Man (due to a system malfunction). With Ulysses gone, Stark is placed into stasis and the war ends. Carol Danvers meets with the president, who offers her unlimited resources to lead the superhero community into the future.
Civil War II offers up an intriguing premise about the nature of free will versus determinism and a philosophical debate about the nature of the future itself. However, due to a severely curtailed planning phase, the end result was fairly rushed. Civil War II was fast tracked to build on the success of Captain America: Civil War , with Axel Alonso, editor-in-chief of Marvel Comics stating that the team only had several months of planning to provide a tie-in to the movie. Normally, Marvel plan out their comic events several years in advance, however, in the instance, the rushed schedule led to a sacrifice in quality to meet commercial concerns. The premise for Civil War II was promising enough: a precognitive Inhuman once again splits the superhero community in two, with opposing ideological differences. In the first Civil War , an argument could be made for both sides, given the politically charged nature of the story, although in the sequel, Tony Stark takes a much more (uncharacteristic) reasonable attitude of caution towards Ulysses and his abilities, while Carol Danvers is written as one-dimensional and unlikeable (something that is touched upon in the final pages of the comic). It seems as though Bendis didn't have a handling on either of the main characters, with events spiralling out of creative control. Captain Marvel landing the decisive blow against Iron-Man due to armour malfunctions comes across as a lame ending and Ulysses’ evolution into a cosmic being comes out of nowhere . If the editorial team wasn't so concerned about trying to rush the comic out to create an (unnecessary) movie tie-in, story elements could have been improved upon. It rests on the tie-in titles to provide greater context for Civil War II , particularly the Captain America: Steve Rogers comic, which actually recontextualises the whole event. Civil War II is a decent read, with a poor ending. While not as impactful as the original Civil War , it does introduce some interesting philosophical ideas on the mechanics of the future and the nature of heroism.