When a superhero dives into the job of saving the world, it is never without cost. Mary Jane was always being kidnapped by some adversary of Peter’s. Betty Ross was forever mending torn purple slacks. And I’m sure Matt Murdock’s must have constantly damaged furniture as he pretended to be blind, leaving him with few friends (“That was a very expensive Chippendale, Matt!”) Seldom are the true consequences of a hero’s actions examined. We read comics for the actual boom-bang-bop, right? The 14 year-old me was all about the fighting and conflict, and would have hated an issue devoted to the emotional ramifications of a battle, but not the 43 year-old that writes this post. Michael Brian Bendis takes his time in Civil War II: Invincible Iron Man #13, and the resulting story about the cost of heroism pays off.
Tony has been a good hero, but a bad friend. Having just returned from a successful anti-terrorist operation that required him to fake his own death, he now goes about the more difficult job of coming back to life. (If you haven’t been following the comic from 1-12, don’t fret; a daily briefing with JARVIS will bring readers up to speed in issue 13). To summarize: his business has tanked after his “death” as has his relationship with Amara. Worst of all, James Rhodey is dead. We are told that Tony and Dr. Doom are friends (Tony and Victor are friends?) As friends are known to do, Doom teleports Tony across the globe for a mysterious European besties road trip (Dr. Doom can teleport? I’m waaay behind on my Marvel Universe…)
Fortunately for Doom, Tony is distracted by the trip’s purpose: to approach Amara and apologize for his unexplained disappearance and death. Nothing Tony can say will change Amara’s anger and feelings of betrayal. This was refreshing. Tony threw all the typical emotional/apology/drama trope at Amara which usually results in someone saying, “Oh, if only I’d known!” followed by forgiveness and a warm embrace. Not so here. Tony is going to have to sweat this one out. Never before has he been as vulnerable. For all the armor and weaponry, his heart seems to be his least protected part. Corny, but true.
Tony’s downward spiral accelerates once we realize how deeply Rhodey’s death is hurting him. He relives memories of friendship, and we come to understand that it has been Rhodey that has always pulled Stark back from the abyss. Without him, how can Tony ever overcome his present troubles? In a beautiful juxtaposition of memories, we are shown that Tony may even blame himself for Rhodey’s death.
Brian Michael Bendis handles the heavy subject of loss and mourning with unique qualifications. He’s written for Marvel for a very long time and understands these characters. Anyone can pull off an action-filled issue (do you hear that, 14 year-old me?) but it takes a 5 time Eisner Award winner to deliver an emotionally driven story that is just as compelling and page-turning as a battle for world domination. Mike Deodatos’ artwork brings an added depth to the tale, with his muted colors and shadows communicating a world without joy.
Adding to the overall Civil War II plot is a very long news story featuring Captain Marvel. Her news piece is used to inform the reader that the Ultimates will be utilizing Ulysses’ powers of prediction on a larger scale. Remember, these are the same power’s that led to Bruce Banner’s death, and Tony is very much against using Ulysses again.
I, for one, am getting a bit fatigued about the use of time travel plot lines. “But this is upcoming arc is about seeing the future,” you say? Go into the past, go into the future, see the future, it is all the same to me. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy a good time travel story. Loved “Back to the Future”, all of them. I even wrote a book series that involved time travel. But of late, it seems that every fictional property is relying too heavily on the premise. I firmly believe that it can be a vehicle to tell a story, but shouldn’t be the entire reason for telling it. The idea that we will now be traveling to the future, all be it through the power of seeing the future, well, I would just rather not. Maybe with the right treatment, it might be worth our future dollars and time.
Go check out Civil War II: Invincible Iron Man #13, available in comic book stores and on Marvel.com.