Thursday, November 20, 2014

Reader's Diary #1091: Mark Millar (writer), Steve McNiven (penciler): Civil War

I keep stumbling upon comics artists that I had no idea were Canadian. Recently I discovered that Fiona Staples, the illustrator behind Saga is from Alberta. Now I find that Steve McNiven, the illustrator behind Marvel's 2006-2007 Civil War series is from Halifax, Nova Scotia. Great!... If only I liked his work more.

I had two main issues with his art, both of which either got better over the series or else I got used to them. The first was with characters who were left speaking (or yelling) with their mouths agape. It's a pet peeve of mine and I think it makes characters look slightly ridiculous, like when you pause someone mid-blink on TV. Why do this? The entire sentence can't be captured by one expression, so why settle on a moment when the mouth is open? Just look at this one:
(And if you look at the panel just below, she's still catching flies.)

In the large panel, she's yelling, "you filthy piece of crap!" Try saying that aloud (make sure there are no loved ones around) and I guarantee your mouth won't look like this for any syllable.

Secondly was the sexist portrayals of the female superheroes. I get that they're scantily clad and that's an issue above McNiven. But look at this scene:

Here's the dialogue Millar has written for these two panels:

Iron Man: No, we're super heroes, Jennifer. We tackle super-crime and we save people's lives. The only thing changing is that the kids, the amateurs, and the sociopaths are getting weeded out. 

Tigris: What category does Captain America fall into, Iron Man?

Can someone please tell me how that conversation warranted an ass shot of She-Hulk?

Illustrations aside, I felt a little better about the writing itself. Millar, who some might remember for Kick-Ass, once again ponders the ethics of vigilantism. Only this time he has the entire world pondering the same thing and it's tearing the Marvel superheroes apart. On one end of the spectrum is Tony Stark (i.e., Iron Man) who wants the superheroes to register and basically make superheroism a legitimate job. On the other end is Captain America who opposes registration as an attack on their personal freedoms. (Captain America is an interesting choice to represent that side. On the one hand it opposes government intervention, which sounds like a republican sort of idea. On the other, it approaches anarchism.) The other Marvels must choose sides. It certainly had potential for some higher level thought than stereotypical superhero fare.

That said, it didn't work as well as all that. The aforementioned problem with McNiven's illustrations not withstanding, the story also suffered under the weight of too many characters. Nobody's story was told in sufficient depth, though there was an attempt at Spider-Man's. Tony Stark, I gathered, was supposed to be a more dynamic character, but in the end just came across as a jerk rather than fraught with conflict. I know the collected 7 volumes of this edition had ramifications that spilled into other comics and books, where individual characters possibly got more attention, but it's a bit of mess at the end of issue #7.

Apparently the Avengers movies will eventually adapt the Civil War story line, and I'm optimistic they'll make it work despite my lack of enthusiasm for the source material. Even if they bring in the Guardians of the Galaxy guys (who are not in the book, by the way) and should they get Sony Pictures to allow a Spider-Man crossover (yes, please!), I still think they'll have less characters to deal with than the comic tried. Maybe we'll finally and adequately be dealing with those philosophical issues after all... with ample doses of explosions and wisecracking wit, of course.


Eric P said...

The reason I don't think it makes sense is that basically Tony Stark has always has a bit of libertarian streak in him (if he isn't indeed a full-blown Ayn Rand devotee), whereas I always consider Captain America to stand for patriotism over adherence to some abstract love of freedom. He's literally a super soldier, so he would be far more likely to register for such a registration program. Indeed, unless the government lost his files, they know everything about him, since he is one of the few superheroes literally created by the U.S. government (at least intentionally that is).

Barbara Bruederlin said...

Now of course, I will be saying "you filthy piece of crap" every time I pass a mirror to see if I can get my mouth to look that way. I already know I cannot duplicate the ass-shot.

John Mutford said...

Eric: Yes, when you put it that way, it may have made more sense to have these roles reversed.

Barbara: Never has an image of such self-loathing sounded so hysterical.