While Marvel is making big waves regarding upheaving its status quo in its main Civil War II event book, Christos Gage and Travel Foreman are taking a quieter, more localized approach within the pages of the Spidey-centric tie-in, Civil War II: The Amazing Spider-Man. Two issues in, Gage and Foreman’s approach has led to a book that is unlikely to make any headlines in the mainstream press (or even comic book industry media for that matter), but is still a compelling read that is visually appealing and hits all the right notes in terms of characterization and its tightly-plotted conflict.
Civil War II: TASM #2 course corrects on some minor flaws found in the first issue regarding the moral dilemmas presented by Spider-Man teaming up with the guy who is at the center of Marvel’s latest Civil War, Ulysses, an Inhuman with precognitive powers. In this latest offering, Gage’s script raises a very interesting ethical dilemma for Spider-Man/Peter Parker: does acting on one of Ulysses’s visions of the future without any context for what he actually saw in actuality produce a self-fulfilling prophecy that could potentially spell doom for Peter and Parker Industries?
It’s a fascinating garden of forking paths that Peter has been set out to walk among that leaves him questioning and over-analyzing every decision he makes in typical Parker fashion. And when you consider the character that is serving as the lighting rod for this book’s drama, it makes Gage’s satisfying script all the more of an accomplishment.
Clayton “Clash” Cole was one of the key new characters introduced by Dan Slott and Ramon Perez in 2014’s highly anticipated, but ultimately disappointing, Learning to Crawl miniseries. Since then, Cole was reintroduced by Slott during his run in Amazing Spider-Man to primarily serve as a background player at Parker Industries. Outside of a few moments where Cole “violated his parole” to lend Peter a hand during a dangerous situation, the character has maintained his spot as a mostly forgettable irritant on the level of Alpha (who was regrettably introduced by Slott in 2012 as Spidey’s immature “sidekick” during Spider-Man’s 50th anniversary celebration).
However, Gage and Foreman flip the script on Clayton throughout this comic, so much so that I felt myself sincerely sympathizing for the character’s plight. The creators shine a light on the idea that the path to redemption is often paved with potholes and other pratfalls. It’s not that Cole doesn’t want to be a better person, but he is too overwhelmed by his past and personal demons for such a transition to be believably seamless. Peter and Parker Industries might have given Clayton a chance, but he’s still having to overcome great challenges in his life all dating back to mistakes he made when was much younger.
Because Gage so expertly gets inside Cole’s head throughout this issue, the eventual “turn” for the character that was first teased at the end of Civil War II: TASM #1 last month and seems to be a foregone conclusion by the time this second issue concludes, is quite palatable. Foreman’s art also does a spectacular job visually conveying Cole’s downward spiral, whether it be the furrow of his eyebrow, his slumped over posture while being berated by his parents for not being his own man, or his bearded, wild-man rage that’s on full display once he starts to crack up from all the pressure he’s experiencing.
As I mentioned in my review of this book’s first issue, Foreman reads as a natural for the Spider-Man universe. He has an outstanding grasp on the look and feel of this world as it relates to its characters both in and out of costume. There’s a breezy elegance to how his web-slinging Spider-Man looks battling a giant robot in the issue’s opening sequence that goes on to complement all of the scenes of characters that are just talking intimately in an office space or R&D lab.
The comic also really pushes Peter to a point of neurotic paranoid, as he constantly wonders what he could be doing differently to prevent Ulysses’s vision from coming to fruition. In yet another example of why he’s been the best (re)addition to Spider-Man’s supporting cast, Harry (don’t call me Osborn) Lyman delivers another great scene where the character frankly and sincerely acknowledges his dark past and what he’s learned from those mistakes. It’s gotten to the point where I actually find myself disappointed when a new issue of Spider-Man comics is lacking a Peter/Harry exchange because they’ve become a reliable source of entertainment via their introspection and candor.
When you add in that this book contains a surprise appearance of another deep cut character from Amazing Spider-Man past, it all leads to what is currently the most well-rounded book that features a character by the name of “Spider-Man” (that includes you too, Miles Morales). Civil War II: TASM #2 is chock full of elegantly-written character moments and the trademark superhero fun that needs to be the norm for a Spider-Man book, not the exception.
Civil War II: The Amazing Spider-Man #2 improves upon the opening issue with a dynamic look at a number of characters both in and out of costume. Christos Gage and Travel Foreman are establishing themselves as a creative pairing that needs an extended opportunity to tell Spider-Man stories.