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Civil War: Road To Civil War
Brian Michael Bendis and J. Michael Straczynski
Marvel graphic novel $14.95

review by J.C. Hartley

While the comics buying world awaits the release in graphic novel format of Mark Millar's Civil War series, Marvel has cleverly cashed in with a little taster purporting to identify the events and premonitions that will lead to the bust-up.

Civil War posits the introduction of a Superhuman Registration Act, similar to the Mutant Registration Act that has bounced around Marvel's X-titles for many a year; such an Act requires those individuals with super-abilities to reveal their secret identities to the Government in order that they may be drafted into S.H.I.E.L.D.'s world police force, and by consequence have a mandate for their bad guy ass-kicking activities. Not surprisingly, some heroes take exception to the legislation and the Marvel Universe splits down the middle and lines up on opposite sides of the law.

Road To Civil War collects storylines appearing in three titles, which presage the inevitable carnage. New Avengers: Illuminati, reveals that Marvel big hitters Charles Xavier of the X-Men, Dr Strange, Master of the Mystic Arts, Reed Richards of the Fantastic Four, Tony Stark in his Iron Man persona, Prince Namor, The Sub-Mariner, and Black Bolt of the Inhumans have been meeting since the 1970s to discuss how they might co-operate to avoid Earth-threatening situations like the recent Kree-Skrull War. The meeting in Wakanda gets off to a bad start as T'Challa, The Black Panther, sovereign of that country, instantly refuses to be part of the deliberations, and subsequent meetings are tainted by bickering and full-on fisticuffs. The rather unconvincing aspect of these meetings is the presentation of Tony Stark as the progenitor of the clique; it is surely only latterly that Stark has emerged as this kind of figure in the Marvel Universe, perhaps that is the point and why the alliance is doomed to failure.

In Fantastic Four, The Hammer Falls, the team come up against an old foe in the battle for possession of a heavenly artefact, and the reappearance of an iconic figure from the Marvel Universe is heavily hinted at. In Amazing Spider-Man, Mr Parker Goes To Washington, we follow Peter Parker, and his new employer Tony Stark, attending a Senate Committee with regard to the impending Superhuman Registration Act, and get a hint that Stark may have his own ruthless agenda, when the latest version of an old enemy makes an appearance.

In Comics International #200, Civil War writer Mark Millar revealed that the creative response to the title from within Marvel itself had been very positive, given that his storylines screwed around with every major character and required continuity work of the most exacting kind. Although popular with retailers, cross-over mini-series get a mixed reaction from fans; there is nothing more annoying for a reader to be told than that the story he has just read in his monthly title of choice will be continued in 'Marvel Cash Cow #7', and then completed in 'Colonel Cnut's Magic Trousers #23', before he can return next month to discover what happened to Sparky and Nips. Reviews and reactions seem to indicate that this series is popular however, and the quality and wit of the writing, and the creative thrust, is serving to push Marvel into new and relevant areas of storytelling; whether the whole thing will be retconned out of existence next year is of course another matter.
Civil War: Road to Civil War

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