Having losing best friend James Rhodes (War Machine) last issue, Stark kidnaps Ulysses from his new home to learn more about the young man’s supposed ability to see visions of the future.
While he studies and interrogates the boy, the Inhumans respond by following an enraged Karnak to Stark Tower. Captain Marvel and the Ultimates arrive with Maria Hill to defuse the situation. Together, they find Tony and Ulysses after the former has finished downloading a copy of latter’s brain for study.
Though you could chalk up Tony’s response to his best friend dying as something in between impulsive and insane, the issue never really gives the normally rational man a really good reason for infiltrating a sovereign country and kidnapping one of its citizens. While it’s clear that Tony wants to study Ulysses’ brain and precog abilities, it’s not like the Inhumans were against any sort of rational measure. It’s actually pretty clear that Medusa — having caught Tony in the kidnapping act — seems like she’s willing to help. When Tony refuses to go home, things escalate, turning a shaky situation into full-blown war.
And that’s sort of where the story starts to lose some of its steam. It’s hypocritical for Tony to blame Captain Marvel for acting on a notion when he’s not above imposing his will on another country and its citizens. His attack — be it justified as self defense — on both Medusa and Karnak is hard to defend, even if it’s a decoy that does the damage. The loss of trust will be hard to square away when all is said and done, which is unfortunate. Last issue, it seemed clear that Tony was the winner in the should-we-shouldn’t-we debate with Carol Danvers.
And if you were thinking about changing your mind and joining Team Danvers, we’re brought back to the heart of the matter at the end of the issue when Ulysses’ newest vision imprints itself on everyone in the vicinity. Danvers heads to Utah, ready to subdue Bruce Banner before he kills everyone, bringing up the question of whether it’s right to hold someone guilty for a crime they haven’t committed yet. At this point, I’m beginning to wonder if Ulysses’ power is more of the self-fulfilling type of prophecy — the sort of thing Stark was worried about last issue.
Brian Michael Bendis’ scripting is solid — ignoring the whole do-as-Stark-says-not-as-he-does type of deal going on. In terms of voicing, comic-book Tony reads a lot like Robert Downey Jr.’s Iron Man, and the issue sounds better in your brain if you imagine the actor’s voice whenever you read the character’s dialogue. While the ever-escalating tension seems a bit forced this issue, the dialogue overall is snappy, and the pacing is sharp.
The best thing about the issue is the artwork. David Marquez’s panels are attractive, looking a bit like Olivier Coipel mixed with some Art Adams and a bit of Leinil Yu. The communicative facial expressions, bright eyes, and pursed lips give the characters a little bit of youth, but the visual storytelling doesn’t need a whole lot of explication because Marquez captures movement so well within panels that really up the drama. Between the scripting and words, both work in tandem for maximum effect.
Justin Ponsor’s colors have a lot to do with how well the panels lift from the page. The colors add a lot of dimension and character to the panels with an emphasis on lighting and shadows. When Captain Marvel and her Ultimates appear before the Inhumans, the epic double-page spread makes for one glorious entrance, and the polish is fitting for Marvel’s premier event for this year.
Given that things have shifted so much, it’s hard to be on anyone’s team at the moment, even if Marvel wants readers to choose a specific side. This is a complicated argument that’s made even more difficult when characters go rogue and make a mess of things. While it could be taken as a look at how murky things can get when superpowers are added into the mix, I’m not sure it makes for the most compelling story when neither side has clear justification for anything they’re doing besides the whole: we need two superheroes to have extremely polar opinions of a certain subject.
Right now, both Danvers and Stark have stances that are a bit hard to support. While that might sound compelling if you’re into complexities and reconciling human nature with human rights, the makeup of the conflict is starting to get convoluted with character development working contrary to the story’s main themes. Last issue was a great kickstarter, but issue #2 is stuck in second gear, waiting for a ramp up in speed. We were told this would be a civil war, but this war is way too civil.
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