The new Captain America movie is doing really well, and I’ll most likely go to see it in a week or so, once the initial crush dies down a little. While I wait, I decided to check out Marvel’s new graphic novel Captain America – Civil War Prelude, collecting all four issues of the Civil War Prequel comics, plus the first issue of the 2006 Marvel Civil War storyline that inspired the movie.
If you’re a diehard fan of Captain America and Iron Man and/or you’re a completist who’s dedicated to having everything Marvel’s released for those two characters then this is a graphic novel for you. Everyone else? You’re better off just seeing the movies again.
I gotta say, I’m not really sure who the target audience is for these Marvel prelude comics. If you’re a fan of the movies then a two-issue comic book summary is going to be a pale imitation. If you’re not a fan of the movies then it’s hard to imagine you’d be so interested in seeing the next Captain America film that you’d need a summarized version of two preceding movies in order to get ready for it.
Will Pilgrim is the writer for most of the prelude, and Szymon Kudranski is the artist for the first two issues of the book, which recap the movie Iron Man 3. Two issues isn’t enough space to do a movie justice, so you basically get the most memorable bits of dialog and action scenes from the film, strung together with the smallest amount of explanation possible. Kudranski does his best, but the end result is a series of disjointed images and whiplash-inducing scene changes.
(And is Iron Man 3 all that relevant to the newest movie? Age of Ultron would be more topical, especially since the wholesale destruction of two cities in Ultron is supposed to be a driving factor in Civil War, and yet the Ultron movie doesn’t even get a mention in this prelude.)
The two issues summarizing Captain America: Winter Soldier are a little better. The artist for these is Lee Ferguson, and the retro feel to his art works surprisingly well for a Captain America film. The story is just as disjointed as the previous two issues, but there’s an occasional effort to make a stylized image for a panel, instead of just scraping an image off of the film and slapping some word bubbles on it.
Kudranski returns as the artist for the actual prelude part of this prelude. It’s a few scenes set just prior to the movie, showing Bucky dealing with being a former mindless assassin who’s even more out of his time than Steve Rogers is. You also see Steve prepping for his next mission (and hoping his next mission isn’t going to be the former Winter Soldier), and Brock Rumlow wondering where his loyalties fall post-Triskelion.
Probably the most interesting part of this graphic novel is the first issue of the original Civil War storyline from 2006. It’s a different premise from the movie (a group of wanna-be superheroes tackle a supervillain who’s way out of their league, and a few hundred children die because of it), but writer Mark Millar digs into some of the same questions. As a society, how comfortable are we with random people doling out vigilante justice, especially when they can do as much damage as the villains they’re fighting? To turn that around, how comfortable would these superheroes be with having the government dictate who and where they fight? And how exactly are the heroes supposed to keep their families safe if they can’t keep their secret identities a secret anymore?
The story would be enough to keep me interested, but Steve McNiven’s artwork is just glorious. Maybe his characters are drawn with a few too many angry grimaces, but the action scenes are stunning, particularly the one with Captain America plowing shield-first through a platoon of soldiers.
I’m still looking forward to the Civil War movie, and now I may have to check out the original Civil War comic book. I don’t know that I’ll be reading any more of these prelude books though. If Marvel really wants to cash in, they’d be better off doing something clever, like showing scenes from the movie from the point of view of a secondary character, or creating chapters that bridge two of the movies together. Even a series of alternate end-credit scenes in comic-book form would be fun. As is, the prequels mostly just rehash information we already have, and that we’d probably rather see on film again anyway.