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Alternate Cover - 9th May 2006

Alternate Cover

Following a decidedly shaky set of lead-ins (The continuity patches of NA: Illuminati, the fanfare-less return of Doom in FF, and the wealth of contradictions by Stark in ASM) Civil War #1 finally ships, though let's face it, we've all probably seen the lead pages of the issue (featuring the New Warriors) plenty of times already, so it's just nice to get the rest of that story. There's also a double-dose of Spider-Man, though in many ways that's not quite as good as it sounds. Still, I'm duty bound to review, so...

Civil War #1

Civil War #1 (of 7)

Publisher Marvel • Writer Mark Millar • Pencils Steve McNiven • Inks Dexter Vines

So, first. Here's what you need to know: It's great! Say what you want about the mishandling of the lead-in, or the over-promotion of the book, it does live up to expectations. Whether that's because they were low is up to you. What we get here is Millar setting up the central plot of Civil War in no uncertain terms, and while we already know it from the stuff editorial has been saying for months, it needed to be shown in the comic itself. On those terms it succeeds brilliantly and belivably in drawing the lines.

The pacing of this story is especially forgiving. Any number of writers could've stretched out the opening pages into an entire issue, but in addition to making the point and moving on with merciful speed, Millar also provides a great moment when turning the page means that the reader cuts from the shot of Nitro's explosion hitting the playground to a double-page splash of the Avengers standing among the rubble. That's masterful comics writng right there, and NcNiven's art is perfect to go along with it. Colourist Morry Hollowell also deserves a mention. There's a trend that's developed in comics to start using incredibly dark and similar-hued palettes to indicate that something's gone horribly wrong. In this issue, Hollowell veers away from that and renders everything in glorious multi-hued technicolour, keeping things vivid and, given that we're talking about spandex-clad superhumans, realistic.

Millar also deserves heaps of credit for bringing the same bad-assery to 616 Captain America as he has done for Ultimate Cap, without making him the right-wing borderline sociopath that he is in the Ultimate Universe. Often criticised for being a boy-scout and uninteresting, this is a Captain America I'd want to read about. His opposition to the government makes total sense in-character, and the in-story ripples that causes make for some excellent set up.

The appearance of certain characters is quite strange (no-longer-Black Goliath, I'm looking at you) though from the press surrounding the book we can assume that there's a larger plan for them (and one hopes that it's a little more interesting than "Cannon Fodder" - Nighthawk, I'm looking at you.) The return of Hank Pym to the spotlight is another oddity, though he has been shown working for the government in recent issues of Thunderbolts, and seeing him on the final page, standing side by side with Tony Stark and Reed Richards, the two other great scientists in the MU, well, you can see there's a larger tapestry here.

It's not without its flaws - primarily, we're not actually seeing much of anything new here. Every plot point in this book has been telegraphed from well before day 1, and this issue amounts to little more than setting up the chessboard. We already know where the pieces end up, and there's not much likelihood of surprise. I'm looking forward, then, to next issue, when the game can truly begin. A

Ultimate Spider-Man #94. Cover by Mark Bagley

Ultimate Spider-Man #94

Publisher Marvel • Writer Brian Bendis • Pencils Mark Bagley • Inks Danny Miki

What can I say about this issue that I haven't said about the last three? This is truly terrible form for Bendis. If I wanted to read Ultimate X-Men, I would be buying an issue of Ultimate Fucking X-Men. Had this been a Kitty/Peter solo (duet?) issue it would've been almost forgivable, but between the rest of the X-Men, the horribly generic reavers, Mojo and his lackeys AND Deadpool, it's all over the place.

A pretty large problem I'm having with this issue is that I don't know jack about the current status of the Ultimate X-Men. For instance, it turns out that Professor X was missing and that's what made the "reveal" at the end of last issue such a shock. Except, I didn't pick that plot detail up from the story, so it could've done with a bit more visibility so that the twist actually had the correct effect.

Ther'es just nothing more to say. Even Bagley's art is weraing thin because it's just page after page of robots in a forest, and those tiny "TV" panels are an utterly dire way to tell the story. Thank fuck it's over. Nothing about this issue is interesting until the final few pages where Peter returns home, to discover the beginnings of... the Ultimate Clone Saga? Just, kill me. C-.

Friendly Neighbourhood Spider-Man #8

Friendly Neighbourhood Spider-Man #8

Publisher Marvel • Writer Peter David • Pencils Mike Wieringo

It's all going a bit wrong for this title. Eight issues in, I'm still not feeling the magic I was expecting. After Wieringo's inexplicable two-issue hiatus, and the mire of crossovers, this is where we should be expecting the title to finally start storming ahead, and instead we've got a surprisingly twee "Uncle Ben's alive!" plot. Well, okay then...

Ben's an odd character in that we don't actually know a lot about him, it's mainly all second-hand and filtered through the eyes of Peter, so it's interesting to see him actually operating alone. Part of the problem I'm having with this issue is that during a recent "What if?" event, Brubaker did a horrible issue where this exact same idea was explored - What if May died and Peter became a jerk as a result of Ben's inept parenting? Congratualtions Ben, you're officially more use to everyone dead. That issue led to Ben going to prison for a murder Peter commited, and then teaming up with him to fight crime when he got out. I'm not kidding.

My main interest in the story is definitely going to be May's reaction to meeting Ben again. It continues PAD's somewhat bizarre trend of writing a Spider-Book where all the best scenes don't have Peter/Spider-Man in at all. I'm not especially sold on the idea of a villain from the future, but there's nothing too upsetting about it, so I'll see where it goes. The highlight of this issue for me, somewhat bizarrely, was seeing Wieringo draw the classic costume again. I'd forgotten how much I miss it already, and this is when I can pick up any issue of USM and see it! Just goes to show you can't mess with perfection. B-

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