I wrote a few weeks back on Civil War 2 and where I thought it went wrong, but after reading DC’s Injustice story, I’ve become convinced that these large scale heroes divided stories need to go away and never come back. In each case you can read comments and reviews that say the story started off fine enough before going off the rails. I think that’s true and to be honest I don’t see how you do these stories without that happening.
Now that doesn’t mean I don’t want any heroes fighting heroes stories. When done right they make for great story arcs and some wonderful wish fulfillment. But they need to be contained to regular arcs in existing books and not these large scale, universe engulfing events. No matter how good the initial premise is, I’ve seen enough evidence that you just can’t do these without taking left turns that are just too much. My problems with them are the following:
These stories all seem to go down the following path:
- Big incident happens
- Major hero overracts
- Disagreement between major hero and one of his/her main foils within the hero community turns into full blown rift
- Everyone else starts picking a side, highlighted by some picking the opposite side from what you think they would
- The fights start, people start acting way out of character, crazy stuff happens all around, some gratuitous deaths happen, some people switch sides
- The build towards the big showdown happens, at which point all the escalation looks more and more ridiculous and nonsensical
- The big final confrontation leads to an ultimately unsatisfying conclusion
The big problem here, besides the repetition, is that the fun ends with number 4. After that we end up with good guys who have supposedly made a choice on heroic principle having steel cage matches with their best friends who they don’t really want to hurt, but will if they must. And by stories’ end the fight has taken a life of its own beyond the initial premise.
Tony Stark throwing people into the Negative Zone for not complying with the Superhero Registration Act. Superman going full on murder bot against every superhero who got in his way, and Wonder Woman (along with others just go along easily). Carol Danvers not backing off her stance to use Ulyssess to tell the future even after he’d been proven to be less than certain. All of those acts were out of character for each one and were cranked up to 11. This is what we get with these stories. Why?
Because the disputes in all of these could be settled without bloodshed if the heroes were being themselves. Carol coming at Magneto, who was in a concentration camp, like this is absurd:
So is Superman literally putting his hand through the Joker’s chest or Stark building a robot clone of Thor. These kind of ridiculous turns only make sense if the hero has been mind controlled or is being impersonated. Steve Rogers going HYDRA is working as a story now because his mind has been altered. Were he in his right mind then the story would be stupid.
Superman has a no killing code that is as rigid as they come. Even if he was triggered by Lois Lane’s death, going full totalitarian dictator and killing not just the Joker but some of his fellow heroes in cold blood just isn’t feasible. There’s just too much time for Diana or Bruce or someone else to talk him down before he went all the way. And for Diana (who knows she’s the last line of defense should Clark go rogue) and some of the others in his crew to fall in line so easy was just bizarre.
Lastly, as these stories go on the need to up the ante hinders everything. The triggering event has to be something huge. And then the fights have to come with some consequences worthy of such a big event, which of course means somebody’s got to die. And somebody else has to go to jail. Without that, they’re just playing Marvel vs Capcom or Injustice, the video game.
But that means taking someone who matters off the board. In Civil War we got Goliath, then Rogers in the aftermath. Avengers vs X-Men took out Prof. Xavier, Civil War 2 got rid of War Machine and Bruce Banner. Injustice cranks it up to 11 taking out (after just three of the five years it spans) Green Arrow, Martian Manhunter, Dick Grayson, Huntress, and a slew of Green Lanterns. Thank God it’s an elseworlds story or else they’d be minus half their roster.
So after promising starts and messy middles, they have to wrap these things up. And then things really get frustrating. Civil War ends with Cap just deciding they’ve fought enough and surrendering. The sequel goes out in an issue long commercial for what comes next. Injustice is the backstory for the video game, so it ends where the game begins. And by the time you reach that point you just want the whole thing to end.
All the tie-ins, crossovers, etc turn into a sprawling monstrosity of a story. Injustice escapes this by being an elseworlds story, and thus going without all the add-on stuff but still engendering the same feelings at its conclusion. They could literally end these things after the first big fight between the two factions and call it a day, because what usually comes after is an exercise in frustrating your readers. To escape that sinking feeling of having flushed a ton of time and money down the drain, I opted for the public library for Injustice instead of paying for it all like I did with the Civil War stories. I recommend that option should you choose to explore any of those events.