In terms of obligatory Spider-Man tie-ins to larger Marvel events, the Civil War II: Amazing Spider-Man miniseries by Christos Gage and Travel Foreman, has been a pleasant surprise, in large part because the creators have decided to relegate the “big” status quo shifting events of the main Civil War II series to the background and instead tell a very focused and intimate story about Peter Parker/Spider-Man and his relationships at his Fortune 500 company, Parker Industries. In fact it could be argued that through CWII: ASM’s first three issues, the series has focused more on well-developed character moments and introspection — a bread and butter staple for any well-told Spider-Man story — than the current “core” Spider-Man book Amazing Spider-Man.
CWII: ASM #4 certainly continues the streak of being mostly character-centric, providing readers with ample insights into the well-intentioned, but sometimes flawed mindset of Peter. Additionally, Foreman’s art remains a revelation. His redesign of Clayton Cole, aka, Clash’s sonic costume is visually dynamic and adds a real fluidity to the characters powers. When he emits soundwaves that knock Peter back off his feet, the reader can almost feel the whoosh of the corresponding sonic boom. And nobody draws dozens of zombie-like robots quite like Foreman.
However, the book suffers, ever-so-slightly when compared to its predecessors by having to revisit the melodramatic mechanics of the main Civil War II storyline. As a result, readers are left with a mostly satisfying Spider-Man story, but I personally can’t help but feel a little disappointed by some tacked-on scenes that reek of higher powers forcing Gage and Foreman to bang their audience over the head with the premise: THE HEROES ARE FIGHTING! THE HEROES ARE FIGHTING! WILL SOMEBODY THINK OF THE CHILDREN?!
Pardon my glitchy caps lock button there.
In all seriousness, it was clear that something was up with CWII: ASM #4 when the book’s central narrative of Spider-Man/Peter trying to reign his rogue Parker Industries employee, Clayton, was seemingly resolved with nearly half of the issue left to go. Granted, the resolution did come across as being inconclusive — by design, since Clash’s ultimate turn in this comic leaves the door open for more stories to be told down the road (hopefully by Gage, as his grasp on the character and his ability to elicit reader sympathy for Cole is unparalleled). But people’s Spidey Senses should have been tingling the second Spider-Man slinged away from the Robot Master (again, how refreshing was it to have this guy in a comic in 2016? God bless you, continuity/D-list villain-obsessed, Christos Gage) and showed up in front of Carol Danvers, who if you haven’t been paying attention, is one of the main catalysts of the big civil war in the Marvel Universe at the moment.
I understand that it’s 2016 and this is just how comics are these days: it’s an event driven medium and without big, Earth-shattering conflicts that affect everyone in this shared universe, there’s a fair chance (founded or not) that readers will inevitably grow bored and leave a book or series of books without the screw constantly being turned.
But as I’ve mentioned in other reviews, there’s just something inherently flawed behind Marvel’s overall premise that drives the rift between heroes in CWII. The precognitive powers exhibited by the Inhuman Ulysses are unquestionably unnerving, but not necessarily for the reasons CWII and this Spider-Man-centric miniseries continue to exposit about. At one point in this issue, Spider-Man tells Ulysses that it would be wrong to leverage his future-seeing abilities for the financial benefit of Parker Industries, or to look at tomorrow’s lotto numbers. But none of the heroes who are fighting over this guy are truly suggesting that Ulysses’s powers should be used for somebody’s personal benefit.
After his showdown with Clash, Peter concludes that it’s best to learn from any mistakes in judgement that might have been otherwise avoided by knowing the outcome ahead of time. Yet, Peter also still believes that heroes should lean on Ulysses’s visions if it could help people — so much so that when Danvers asks him if he’s willing to go to “war” over it with Team Tony Stark, Peter unflinchingly says yes.
This is where the two competing narratives driving Spider-Man and CWII collide and create dissidence. Peter’s idea of letting certain situations play out without interference for fear of causing a larger mess by not learning from trial and error reads as being true to the character, as well as his desire to help someone in trouble at any cost. And yet the conflict of CWII appears to suggests that these two ideas cannot coexist without the threat of “war.”
Or perhaps I’m just missing the larger point here. Either way, even with some of the big name deaths that have transpired in CWII, I am still yet to read a compelling reason as to why Team Danvers working with Ulysses is such an ethical conundrum. I certainly have my issues with how story was served over character in the original Civil War, but at least the drama there was streamlined and easy to understand. And the fact that the last third of this otherwise enjoyable Spider-Man comic book dragged this narratively muddied debate back into the comic, only serves to expose CWII’s premise as flim-flam even more.
Civil War II: The Amazing Spider-Man #4 tells another worthwhile Spider-Man story … until the narrative unfortunately gets sucked into the mechanics of the larger, and inherently flawed, Civil War II storyline.