Now I know this is a topic that’s been beaten to death, but fuck it I wanna talk about it too, especially since we’re on a journey with a bad event right now.
And no, I am not stalling on reviewing Dark Nights: Metal…
Ok maybe I’m stalling a little, but I swear talking about Civil War 2 is relevant!
Honestly, my problems with Civil War 2 share many similarities with Dark Nights: Metal, such as characters speaking with the same voice (and out of character), plot points that makes no sense when you consider the characters’ established continuity, and creating a problem so big that you need something drastic (and silly) to ‘resolve’ the issues.
Both of these events are written by guys who I know can produce good writing, both have great and well-established artists on the project, and both were meant to be big draws for old and new readers alike.
Both also completely fail, in my opinion, and – with Civil War 2, at least – failed in the eyes of many readers out there.
So, my question is, why is Civil War 2 so reviled and Dark Nights: Metal so loved?
If I’m going to be bluntly honest, Dark Nights: Metal angers me more than Civil War 2 does. Don’t get me wrong, Civil War 2 had me pulling out my hair and shouting obscenities as well, but in hindsight I don’t feel the same level of vitriol and disgust as I do when I think about Metal.
I’m hoping, by taking a deeper look at both of these stories, I can kind of work through exactly why they both failed to me, and why one, while being objectively worse in some respects, is not subjectively worse to me.
USE OF CHARACTER
So this is a big issue with both stories, as well as an issue any writer creating an event has to deal with, and that’s a MASSIVE cast of characters.
Most events, being events, want to feel big and universe-changing, right? This means you, as a writer, needs to shove in every possible popular character you can. Unfortunately, most writers don’t know how to do this effectively. I mean, it’s a pretty gargantuan task and superheroes are extraordinarily colourful when it comes to personality and history. It can be hard to nail everyone down in a genuine way, especially if you’re not some continuity freak like Grant Morrison or Kurt Busiek.
So this, for an average writer, is a herculean task. Add on top of this two writers who are known to be anywhere between “loosey-goosey” and “fucking ignorant” when it comes to continuity, and it’s hardly surprising that these events ended up a little messy.
I think what shocked me about both of these events is just how much both Bendis and Snyder disregarded any kind of attempt at staying loyal to pre-established character.
Snyder, specifically, makes almost every hero he writes a complete and utter idiot. It’s practically a meme online that Snyder’s Batman is a moron, and I’ve seen more than one article covering his strange interpretation of “The World’s Greatest Detective”. Dark Nights: Metal he takes this a step further and applies the dumbass-beams to Superman as well.
Soops may not be a genius, but he’s a clever guy, and while I know there are instances where his emotions can leave him open to exploitation on occasion, he’s pretty level headed. One of my favourite storylines featuring the Man of Steel is Injustice. I realize this is an Elseworlds story, for all intents and purposes, but here’s a man who is both highly emotional and smart enough to take over the world. And yes, he doesn’t need to be a genius to take over, as for the most part he just finds like-minded heroes and politicians to help his crusade against injustice, but he’s clearly cunning enough to avoid Batman’s many attempts to get a hold of him as well as guilt and manipulate those like the Flash to taking his side. He’s a genuine threat to the heroes and the world. I just can’t see Snyder’s Superman being able to hold the same amount of clout.
Bendis comes across a similar issue as well with a few characters. The most notable change to a character would probably be Hawkeye, who in Civil War 2 famously kills Bruce Banner because he allegedly saw Banner begin to go Hulk, despite the fact that this was literally impossible as he’d been cured of the Hulk for months, and a completely different character had taken on the burden. The biggest problem with this entire development is the fact that Hawkeye, despite being an archer, famously doesn’t kill. Not only does he not kill, he is unflinching in his belief that heroes shouldn’t kill, period, end of story. There are many examples of him arguing this belief and enacting it through his adventures, but the most notable example of this, in my opinion, would be when Hawkeye let his marriage to a hero named Mockingbird just totally disintegrate over this moral.
For those of you who don’t know, I mentioned this little nugget back in my Bendis Moon Knight review. To elaborate, Mockingbird was a member of the West Coast Avengers and was, at some point, transported back in time to 1876 where she was abducted, drugged, brainwashed, and raped by a villain named Phantom Rider. She eventually breaks free of his control and gets revenge, refusing to help him up off a cliff from which he’s fallen, watching as he eventually plummets to his death. I would think most people would empathize with her decision there. I mean, (SPOILERS) Jessica Jones season 1 ends with Jessica snapping the neck of her rapist, and it was one of the most satisfying moments in Netflix history. However, Hawkeye, upon discovering this turn of events, was less than thrilled with Mockingbird’s actions. He essentially kicked her off the Avengers for this, and Moon Knight and Tigra leave with her in solidarity.
Now someone like this, who divorced his wife for the crime of letting her rapist die, is now totally okay with killing a good friend of his because some Inhuman kid, whose been proven to be so-so on his future-predicting skills, because he “saw his eyes turn green” (which the colourist didn’t even put into the comic, so Clint looks totally fucking insane when he uses this as his excuse for why he did it). Um…riiiiiiiiiiight.
There are probably more examples of characters behaving strangely in Civil War 2 than in Dark Nights: Metal, but I’d say the biggest problem with characterization in both works lies in the actual dialogue.
Personally, I find Metal’s use of dialogue more distracting than Civil War 2’s, but that might just be a personal preference.
I enjoy Bendis’ style (sometimes), and I think he can be very clever and funny. I also really like Snyder’s work on horror titles, and I think his strengths lie in his ability to build tension and suspense. Here is where the problems with Civil War 2 and Dark Nights: Metal deviates a bit: Bendis writes like Bendis in a story that needed more forethought and gravitas, and Snyder writes like Bendis in a story that should have been zany and spooky.
One writer played too heavily to his comfort zone, the other left his.
Civil War 2’s writing suffers from some serious overuse of Bendis writing tropes. Characters talking in a ‘teenagery’ way, repeating dialogue constantly, calling villains or situations “crazy”, all of these things happen a lot in Civil War 2, and with such a large and diverse cast of characters, making everyone use such similar speech patterns quickly becomes distracting. When you have both Carol Danvers and Tony Stark in a room, and both are snide and quippy, then it’s pretty obvious that something is off.
The same problem occurs in Dark Nights: Metal. I can’t believe how many times I’ve groaned at the usage of puns in one fucking book. They’re not even cleverpuns that I can appreciate, or particularly cringey-but-funny ones like any dad has in his arsenal. They’re honestly just lazy, annoying ones you’d get from drunk English students or an annoying younger sibling. Like, in the upcoming issue, where Aquaman and Deathstroke come across a, as Deathstroke puts it, “MER-der”.
Like, fucking Christ, STOP.
Again, I realize I haven’t read too many comics, but I know Slade Wilson. I know Deathstroke. I’ve never known him to be the punny, quippy, snarkytype. Whenever I’ve seen him in anything, be it the original Teen Titans show, Arrow, Injustice or the Judas Contract, he’s always been a serious, dangerous, and straight-forward individual. He’s blunt, he’s curt, he gets to the point. What I’ve neverseen him do, up until this point, is make constant jokes and annoying, mindless jibber-jabber like he’s trying to be Deadpool.
Fuck, the only reason Deadpool is a quippy goofball was to differentiate himself from Deathstroke, so now Snyder has just kind of made this weird incestuous creation where Deathstroke is ripping off Deadpool, a character initially designed to rip off Deathstroke! This is why comics shouldn’t interbreed.
Deathstroke isn’t the only one who has been relegated to churning out funnies. Batman and Wonder Woman in the same issue alsofeel the need to be ‘funny’, and it’s just painful. I can’t look at an old Bruce Wayne – who’s been tortured for thirty years – see him crack a one liner like, “Do you feel lucky, Farm Boys?” and think anything other than, FUCK OFF.
One point I will give to Civil War 2 over Dark Nights: Metal is the use of dialogue. Both writers misuse character dialogue, but Bendis actually writes dialogue. All Snyder’s characters ever seem to do is one of three things: exposit, argue, or make stupid jokes (in that order). At least when Bendis writes dialogue, it legitimately and organically moves the plot forward. It’s not good plot and it’s not good dialogue, but it’s easy to read. When Snyder writes anything in Metal, its purpose is to just explain explain EXPLAIN. Even the jokes are there to just explain shit, so when I’m met with several pages of just walls of text I want to scream.
No characters actually interact with one another, we don’t see any character progression or consequences, we just see more and more explanations, and it’s exactly this reason that I find it next to impossible to read without stopping every five minutes to nitpick details. If Snyder had just written a balls-to-the-wall story like he said he wanted to, then he should have DONE THAT, instead of wasting everyone’s time with needless and disparaging explanations. Again, the story Bendis gives us is objectively weaker – almost nothing happens – but it’s not as painful to read because he’s not stopping to explain every plot decision he ever makes.
I addressed this a little bit before with regards to Hawkeye, but yeah…continuity is not a thing in either of these stories.
The biggest flaw in Snyder’s story is the use of Barbatos.
Barbatos was something that Grant Morrison, a writer Snyder clearly takes inspiration from, used in his event Final Crisis. In that event, Barbatos was the name applied to this giant monster thing that turned out to be some weird time bomb that Darksied sent back in time with Batman to follow him and charge up energy to eventually detonate in the present and destroy all of existence. Or something to that effect. It took on many forms, like that of a giant bat and of a weird spiky octopus thing, but never was it a god or any kind of deity. It was worshipped like one by stupid humans, and if I remember correctly it got the name “Barbatos” from a human that worshipped it. Final Crisis was weird.
Snyder clearly misinterpreted Morrison’s work, or just disregarded it, and retconned Barbatos into some dark god thing.
I mean, from what Pinkie has told me, the whole time bomb thing was pretty weird and confusing, so I think a lot of people missed what all that was about, so I guess continuity-wise this isn’t as bad as some of the shit Bendis pulls in Civil War 2, but considering this was basically Snyder’s fanmail for Morrison, you’d think he would have done more research into what his idol was ACTUALLY doing. It’s not so unlike a certain other Snyder’s attempt at a love letter to Batman that completely ignored his many years of continuity and made him out to be some psycho murderer and rage beast. Clearly one Snyder is worse than the other, but the situation isn’t so dissimilar to me.
Bendis though…oof. I will give Metal credit that it, at least, didn’t ruin characters. The Marvel Universe is still trying to fix Carol after what Bendis did to her character…
Oh Bendis, the king of “I don’t give a shit about continuity”.
Civil War 2 is probably his worse instance of this kind of disregard for pre-established stories. I realize that it can be hard to keep track of Marvel’s continuity, since almost everything is canon, but the fact that he didn’t even know that the Hulk was no longer Bruce Banner when that story came out only MONTHS before Civil War 2 did? I mean, even if Bendis didn’t know that, surely an editor should have told him to fix that? Or maybe that’s why the colourist made the clear decision to not change Banner’s eye colour, like Hawkeye said? I don’t know.
Then, of course, there’s the whole Hawkeye and murder thing, and the opening of the story shows a bunch of heroes cast a giant spell except magic died around the same time the Hulk switched bodies, but one of the worse continuity blunders is stuff that Bendis should know. BECAUSE HE WROTE IT.
When Carol, at the beginning of the story, shows an interest in using Ulysses’ future-sight to help stop problems before they happen, Tony makes it clear he thinks it’s a bad idea. He does this by using an example: If he predicted the Hulk were to do something world-ending, would you go after a dear friend and persecute him before he’s even done anything?
Funny coming from one of the guys who, in Bendis’ Illuminati series, voted IN FAVOUR of shooting the Hulk off into space to keep him from destroying any more stuff. The only member of the Illuminati who foresaw this plan as a TERRIBLE idea was my boy Namor, who abstained from the decision, and Professor X just wasn’t there that day. They were the only ones the Hulk didn’t kick the shit out of when he returned from his Planet Hulk adventures, by the way.
This could have been an interesting moment, as if another character pointed out the hypocrisy and Tony took this as a chance to say, “Yes, I did do that, and I paid a horrible price for it. That’s why I know pre-emptive action can be dangerous,” then I would have respected the callback. However, it’s just left there and it honestly looks like Bendis just forgot a very prominent story of his.
He also seems to be unaware that Tony and Carol are both seriously self-destructive alcoholics, as at the beginning of the story, after defeating a major threat thanks to Ulysses’ visions, they joke with each other about buying drinks after. Again, if this was a cute nod to how they’re friends who sometimes go to AA together and the “drink” Tony promises Carol is actually a coffee, prepared her favourite way, or something like that, it would have been adorable and a good way to show how close they are before they start to fight. Again, instead it’s just left there hanging limp and awkward for anyone who knows the context of their addictions (especially Carol’s cos the reason she’s an alcoholic…man it’s fucked up. I will tell that story later).
I would also like to point out that Ulysses is not unique when it comes to his foresight. There are a couple of Marvel characters who have had the ability to predict the future in the past, so why a new Civil War has cropped up because they found some random kid who can do it too is confusing, to say the least.
At least if his future sight was unique, like he was 100% accurate, and so Carol and Tony started fighting about whether or not it was a good thing to look into the future and know what every outcome is, then there would be a little more organic conflict. Or at least there’d be more of a side to take: determinism vs. freedom. As is, though, it just kind of comes across as a dick measuring contest between the two characters over who is right and who is wrong as opposed to a genuine moral debate like the first Civil War.
You know, a smaller story where Tony and Carol fought over ideals could have been interesting, but probably wouldn’t have gotten all these different heroes dragged into some big firefight at the end…
I would certainly class Bendis’ disregard for continuity as more offensive to fans than Snyder’s, so Snyder gets a pass…this time.
TOO BIG, TOO BAD
The last point I wanted to address is the problems with the endings.
Without getting into any spoilers with Dark Nights: Metal, since I’m reviewing it to the best of my ability without any “foresight”, I will say that from what I’ve reviewed so far there is very little hope when it comes to its ‘epic’ conclusion.
Snyder firmly establishes Barbatos as an omnipotent opponent, meaning he can see your counter-attacks coming before you even properly think of them. This makes him incredibly difficult to defeat, and from what I’ve seen so far there is NOTHING the heroes can do to stop him. They have a plan to go after Nth metal, but the last time we saw a hero try to outthink this god he played right into the dark god’s hands. Poor Soops.
There’s just very little hope with regards to how the story could end. Snyder has basically set up a no-win scenario, and not a good one. It’s a no-win scenario for the readers.
In a proper no-win scenario, the protagonists would be forced to choose between two awful things. In Master and Commander, for instance, Jack Aubrey has a decision to make during an awful storm: wait for a crew member to come back after being thrown overboard, but risk killing everyone and sinking the ship because his only way back aboard is a fallen sail that is currently threatening to cause a capsize, OR cut the ropes, free the ship, and lose a good man. Both scenarios are awful, because if you do the right thing and wait for your crewmember to swim back, then everyone could die. If you cut the ropes, then at least one person, who you’re meant to protect as captain, will die. Someone dies in either scenario, but it’s one life versus the lives of every man and boy on the ship, and so he cuts the rope.
The no-win scenario Snyder gives us is: would you like the lynchpin of existence to become a post-apocalyptic nightmare as survivors try to heal after the devastation that Barbatos has wrought, OR would you like something that will restore the status quo?
I mean…come on. We all know what it’s going to be.
DC would never allow their main universe to go through such a dramatic change, so that means we get a Hail Mary ending that fixes everything, most likely resulting from some use of a MacGuffin or via a Deus Ex Machina.
Going in to the story, as soon as Barbatos is summoned in Issue #2, we get a sense that this is how the story will end. At the end of Issue #3 we know that this is how the story will end, as we see how only a few days of Barbatos’ reign was enough to basically destroy the Earth.
There is no shock, no surprise, no wonderment at what clever plan the heroes will come up with in order to save the day. The only surprise that will come is what form the Deus Ex Machina will take, but we as readers know that it’ll be lazy regardless.
To be fair, Deus Ex Machinas, while a cliché, is not necessarily a bad thing in stories, but I know most readers prefer when a little more craft is put into a story’s conflict and resolution. If you just write something with a beyond-powerful character and slap on a Deus Ex Machina to fix everything at the end, then the author fails in creating any legitimate sense of tension, and building tension is something that Snyder seems unwilling to do throughout the entire event.
While Metal’s Deus Ex Machina ending is foreshadowed early on, Civil War 2’s Deus Ex Machina ending was not.
Snyder’s major problem when it comes to the conflict in Metal is that he made a foe too formidable. Bendis’ problem is that he made two characters too unlikeable and stubborn.
Tony, while eventually proving himself to be right about Ulysses’ powers being unreliable, went about proving this in the worst way possible. He basically declared war on the Inhumans by assaulting their queen and kidnapping one of their people in order to do experiments on him. I realize he’s upset because of the death of his best friend, but Jesus Christ dude…simmer down.
Carol, on the other hand, while starting off as rather fair and balanced when it comes to her idea of how to use Ulysses’ powers, quickly goes off the deep end and treats every one of his visions like they’re gospel, even when they’re proven to be untrue, like when they arrest someone who didn’t have the stolen intel on her person like he said she would. Instead of admitting fault, or beginning to doubt her beliefs in the kid, or accepting that he might not be the best thing to stake peoples’ lives on (I mean, that would have given us character development, God forbid), she just doubles, triples, quadruples down. Bendis writes her like some insane zealot who will die before betraying her lord and savior. It makes her seem stupid, impulsive, manipulative and bitchy, four things I wouldn’t describe Carol Danvers as usually.
The way it’s written, Civil War 2 feels less like a war and more like, what I said earlier, a dick measuring contest. It’s less about ideals and morals, and comes across like it has more to do with two people with very large egos butting heads because they both have to be right.
So how can a conflict that seems like it should be forever locked in a stalemate that, in any other circumstance, would probably just end a friendship instead of start a war…how does that end, exactly?
Well, as Bendis writes it, it ends with Carol punching Tony into a coma and Ulysses, the cause of the entire fight to begin with, ascending to godhood and leaving Earth, never to be spoken of or alluded to ever again…
Like…are you fucking kidding me? That’s not a resolution. It’s an ending, I guess, but it’s not a resolution.
Civil War stories seem to have an issue with their endings, and the clearly wrong side has won two for two. Try to argue this all you want, but the first Civil War should have (and probably would have, if you know anything about Millar and how cynical he is) with either regular people outlawing superheroes altogether after the fight in New York OR with Cap and his side leaving the US for good to go on adventures in countries that actually want their help. However, and this is my theory, Marvel couldn’t allow that because it would change the status quo TOO much, so Tony had to win, even though everything in the event had been leading up to the threat of, “If the common people see us destroy things one more time, it’ll be concentration camps for us all”. That’s an entirely different issue that I could spend another several thousand words talking about, but not today.
My point is that, when Carol won when Tony – despite going about his attempts at proving his side right in an overly aggressive and careless way – was in fact correct, it reinforced the idea that Marvel is just okay with heroes being brutal and heartless and murderous.
Carol got her boyfriend and Tony’s best friend killed. She-Hulk was put into a coma, and her cousin was murdered and the man who murdered him was acquitted. And Carol lied to She-Hulk about it. She cut ties with T’Challa because he told her he no longer agreed with her, and scoffs at him like he’s a horrible human being. She solved her philosophical debate with someone she called a friend and ally by trying to kill him. And for what?
In the end, absolutely nothing.
Because Ulysses is gone.
If she had killed Tony, she would have killed him for nothing.
But, it’s not like they could have kept him around. His powers were getting too OP, and the idea of a character who can see into the future and help protect the Earth from any attack immediately destroys any possibility of tension in the future. He had to go.
I mean, he could have just killed himself because he felt so guilty that people were fighting over him, but in his suicide note he predicted some upcoming stories for Marvel to pursue, and then both Tony and Carol would actually have to deal with a fucking consequence, now bearing the guilt of contributing to a young man’s early demise…
But no. Yeah. Let’s just make him a god.
Working on this again did remind me why I hate Civil War 2, especially talking about the ending, and knowing that they can’t get away with just resetting Carol’s brain like they did with Tony after he became an irredeemable asshole following Civil War (yes…he was that much of a monster by the end of that storyline), but I can’t help but feel more insulted by Dark Nights: Metal.
I can’t fully express why Dark Nights: Metal is so insulting to me, but I think the best way I can explain it is this:
Civil War 2 was DOA.
Dark Nights: Metal actually had potential.
What do I mean? Well, Civil War 2’s existence only came about through editorial mandate. Captain America: Civil War was coming out soon, and Marvel loves releasing comics when the movies come out in order to try and entice fans of the movies to come check out the real deal. No one actually had an idea for it. All they wanted was another Civil War event, and Tony had to be in it because he’s the most popular character from the movies. Hell, if Cap wasn’t dealing with being Hydra Cap during this entire ordeal, Marvel may have even caused the fight to be between those two again. But, since he was taken, they had to go for the next best Cap for Tony to fight: Captain Marvel.
Civil War 2 was a quick cash grab, and nothing more.
Dark Nights: Metal was meant to be a story bringing back an old, acclaimed team for one last ride that Snyder had apparently been plotting for a VERY. LONG. TIME.
It should have knocked my socks off.
It should have amazed me.
It should have made me wonder why I didn’t get into comics sooner.
It should have impressed me instead of making me wonder if this guy just wrote a prompt on a napkin then spent a sleepless night writing the whole thing in one go with zero edits.
I asked at the beginning of this adventure why Civil War 2 is more reviled than Dark Nights: Metal. I think I know.
- I think it’s because Civil War 2 does actively ruin and shit on beloved characters, whereas Metal only shits on them.
- Civil War 2’s ending is incredibly cynical and mean spirited, and you’d think Marvel would have learned since last time.
- Everything I’ve given reasons for as to why Dark Nights: Metal gets under my skin is exactly why many comic fans love it.
I can’t blame someone for loving Metal, or wanting to love it, because Snyder has made it clear that it was from the heart. It was a story he wanted to tell, it wasn’t something that was mandated. Mandated stories, I’ve come to learn, are poison to the comics community, to the point that editors are frequently made out to be villains and are even parodied by famous writers in comics because of their dirty shenanigans. Hell, even I have an issue with editors (though I think Metal desperately needed one) because they can really ruin stories. I’ve already mentioned how I think it’s because of editors that the first Civil War ended the way it did, because I know Millar and I have a feeling, especially reading a lot of the excuses Tony’s side comes up with to pull some really shady shit, that he wanted to do something really fucked up, and instead Marvel panicked and told him to lighten up the ending and only made things even bleaker in the process.
My conspiracy theories aside, there are plenty of examples out there of editors ruining things for writers and artists all over the history of comics. I mean, just look at DC right now and what Didio (who I usually refer to not so lovingly as D’idiot) has done to some beloved characters just because he personally doesn’t like legacy shit. “Fuck what the fans want or like, I hate that Batman’s sidekick makes him look old and has a name that could also mean penis.”
Fucking asshole…I’d complain about him some more, but any time you even think his name he gets a massive erection, and I don’t want to give him the satisfaction.
Anyway, my point is that I understand that fans are more willing to accept something that a fellow fan of these heroes has created over something someone was forced to make for money and money alone. I really do.
However…personally…it’s because Snyder is a fan and because it reads like fan fiction instead of a legitimate story that I really can’t stand it.
At the end of the day, I think both events are horrible and horribly flawed. Both are painful to read. Both are frustrating. Both are lazy.
Civil War 2 is lazy because it’s a soulless corporate comic.
Dark Nights: Metal is lazy because someone let a writer and artist off their leash, let them do whatever came to the top of their head, and didn’t bother informing them that MAYBE they should rethink a few things, or try something else, or remove this, or add that.
Others hate Civil War 2 because it was a cheap, ill-thought-out cash grab.
I hate Dark Nights: Metal because it had potential. It had a passionate writer, a passionate artist, and a story to tell. It had the ingredients to make something amazing, then burnt it in the oven and served it to us anyway while telling us that it was still perfect and as intended. And while I appreciate that others can take that meal and still enjoy it, charcoal and all, I myself can’t stand wasted potential.
Also Civil War 2 just objectively has better art. At least David Marquez knows what expression every character ought to fucking have…
Anyway, that’s my spiel. I promise I’ll get to the next issue of Metal. It just hurts me.
I’m sorry I’ve been gone for a while. I’ve been sick and other things have popped up, keeping me away from the computer. I promise, though, Pinkie and I have been working very hard behind the scenes to bring new content your way, dear World. Pinkie and I checked out The LEGO Movie 2 a while back and Alita: Battle Angel on Valentine’s Day, and we’re also currently working on a reader-requested review of Resident Evil 7. We will also be seeing Prodigy soon. That’ll be fun. Everyone knows how great February horror movies are.
Plenty more is coming up soon, so stick around and check it out!
Until next time.