What I read instead of “Civil War” Part 1


I skipped Civil War. I’m not usually into the big crossovers to begin with (though, sign me up for Grant Morrison and J.G. Jones on Final Crisis) and Mark Millar does nothing for me, so that was an easy decision. However, it was impossible to be on the internet and into comics and miss the Civil War developments, so I was fairly familiar with the broad strokes, and a few of the books that I read while it was coming out struck me as similar to what I was hearing. So, here’s the first of two re-presentations of reviews from March, 2007.

Legends: The Collection
By John Ostrander, Len Wein & John Byrne
DC Comics – softcover, $9.95

First, the cover: I now have a better sense in my head of when Byrne the artist went wrong; apparently it was between 1987 and 1993 (though I do remember really enjoying the first Generations series in 1999), as the interior artwork is well-rendered and dynamic, while the cover, copyrighted 1993, lacks that dynamism and appears to feature monkey-people.

As to the insides: I liked it. It’s the first crossover of the Post-Crisis universe and leads into the Giffen Justice League and the Ostrander Suicide Squad, as well as introducing the new Wonder Woman to most of the other characters. As an exercise in world-building, it establishes a lot in 6 issues. The story itself is fun. I don’t know if it’s the first instance of Darkseid as entire-DCU-villain, but it’s the oldest I’ve read. Basically, Darkseid is happy, but not entirely. The subjugation of Apokalips continues swimmingly, but Earth has been a thorn in his side long enough, and he decides it’s time to do something about it. Since the real problem is Earth’s heroes, the solution is to neutralize them and then take power.

To this end, he sends Glorious Godfrey, who has strong powers of influence, to Earth as G. Gordon Godfrey to stir up anti-metahuman sentiment. The inciting act is Captain Marvel, newly integrated into the DCU, destroying the “goliath” Macro Man. Sure, he’s a bad guy and he was smashing stuff left and right, but the sight of a giant person bursting into flames and falling to earth understandably makes people nervous. Combined with Godfrey’s rhetoric, the incident leads to Reagan issuing an executive order outlawing superheroes. Given the explicit inclusion of Darkseid as the secret manipulator and Godfrey’s powers, this is all logical and easy to follow. Reagan’s likeness, by the way, turns out to be both a strength and weakness of Byrne’s. His first few drawings are spot on, but he’s apparently satisfied having captured the Gipper once, because each subsequent drawing looks less like him – it doesn’t help that the colorist can’t decide what color his hair is.

This setup, which makes no attempt to be grounded in reality, signifies the major difference between Civil War and Legends, which is essentially one of realism versus metaphor. Naturally, in the real world, there are a lot of reasons why super powered beings might present problems, but in the DCU (of the 80s, at least) it’s a given that there are threats that only the superheroes can handle and that they are necessary. In the real world, yeah, I’d be for the registration (assuming the sane version of the bill that apparently appeared in some of the Civil War spin-offs), but if Darkseid is plotting to take over the earth, I want Superman doing his thing. Interestingly enough, Superman is the only one to obey Reagan’s order and basically stays out of the fight until it’s lifted.

Anyway, the whole thing makes a great superhero yarn, and your view of humanity will color your opinion of scenes in which cops attempt to arrest heroes while letting the villains they were fighting run away. Plus, there are some amusing scenes, such as when a riled-up mob turns on Captain Boomerang. It all culminates in a final brawl against Godfrey’s Warhounds and Darkseid’s Parademons on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, and I think I can say that one side wins without giving two much away. The conclusion, in which the children of America stand up for the heroes, is a bit corny, but works both as a shout-out to the reader demographic DC hopes to have and in-plot based on some justification with Captain Marvel’s alter ego, Billy Batson, and then-Robin, Jason Todd (it’s also likely a reference to Mr. Smith Goes to Washington).

It’s not the best universe-wide crossover I’ve ever read, but it stands as an appropriate Post-Crisis affirmation of what DC wanted to be about at the time and a nice big superhero fight. Worth reading.


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