About eight years ago I decided it would be fun to get back into reading comics. I hadn’t read any since I was a kid, so I wandered into the comic book shop and picked up the first thing that caught my eye – the trade for Ultimate X-Men Vol. 1 by Mark Miller. The Ultimate line was a non-canonical reboot of some of Marvel’s most popular books. It was a great idea, as it meant new readers could jump in without needing to know everything that had been happening for the last forty years. The books were big hits, and Ultimate Spider-Man is even still running today (now Ultimate Comics: Spider-Man).
Unfortunately, Ultimate X-Men was an atrocity, a convoluted mess. Instead of invigorating my interest in comics again, it put me off them for a few years. I wouldn’t say I’ve been avoiding his work since, but I certainly haven’t been seeking it out.
A few weekends ago I was visiting some friends in Vancouver, partly to hang out and partly to finally see their cute wee new(ish)born (but mainly to read their comics for free! Mwahaha!). While there I read Civil War and Old Man Logan, both by Miller, and I was somewhat surprised with both.
Civil War was the big Marvel summer event of 2006. At the beginning of the book there’s a reality show following the New Warriors, a group of superheroes in search of villains. They find a group lying low in a house and, under pressure from the reality show’s producers, attack them. During the fight, the villain Nitro lets loose an explosion that levels a couple of city blocks, taking with it an elementary school. There were over six hundred casualties, among them a large group of children. The tragedy prompts a bill to be passed that calls for all superheroes to be registered and their identities revealed as part of a Superhuman Registration Act. The Avengers are of two minds when it comes to this, and it splits the team apart – Tony Stark taking the side of pro-registration and Captain America taking the anti-registration side. Other superheroes choose their sides as well, and a war between the two start.
The Superhuman Registration Act alludes to the way the American government pushed freedom-crushing bills through after 9/11, and the pro-registration side of the team seem to be shown as the baddies. The comparison falls short in my mind, though, as we’re dealing with crime-fighting vigilantes. I’d be calling for them all to be registered if they wanted to fight crime. I wouldn’t want some super-powered dude running around my town attacking people he felt were criminals, not having to be accountable for any mistakes he makes. We already have cops doing that here.
I did like this overall, and it’s made me come around a little on Miller’s writing. The ending wasn’t great, though, and I’m curious if anything in the Marvel universe really changed from this. Spider-Man reveals his identity to the world in this book, which I thought was a pretty cool twist, as that’s something I remember being a big deal with him. I looked up what happened after this event, to him and his family, and he apparently found someone to use magic to erase his identity from the minds of everyone on earth. So…..yeah, that’s a little lame.