Marvel Comics debuted the first issue of Civil War II this week, a launch that had many fans nervous. For the heart of the story, writer Brian Michael Bendis — taking over for the original miniseries’ writer, Mark Millar — chose a fairly tough philosophical problem. An Inhuman named Ulysses can see potential futures, and Carol Danvers, Captain Marvel, thinks the Avengers should be proactive and shut these futures down. Iron Man, on the other hand, thinks that a potential future isn’t probable cause to go beat up a supervillain who might not have done anything wrong yet. Carol disagrees, follows a lead, and it goes badly. Fatally, for one Avenger. Spoilers below!
Yes, Jim Rhodes, War Machine, dies in the first issue. Worse, Rhodey had been mocking Tony for not upgrading his armor just a few pages before, during a party for a successful mission. He wasn’t even supposed to be on the team, either, but happened to be around and joined up to help. Rubbing salt in the wound, Carol and Rhodey had been dating, and Rhodey was being groomed to run for President. So both Tony and Carol are struggling with guilt, Tony for not supporting his friend, and Carol for making the call that ultimately got him killed.
This may sound a bit familiar to Marvel fans, with a prominent black superhero getting killed during a crossover, an unfortunate bit of symmetry that’s angered some critics and fans. But it’s also a curious contrast with Rhodey’s fate in Captain America: Civil War. In Marvel’s movie, Rhodey makes it out alive, if severely injured, and suffers a fate Tony Stark had to deal with for a while: He can’t walk without his armor.
Still, it raises the question of how the MCU will deal with the comics going forward. On one level, Marvel’s film division has been more concerned with the spirit of the comics than bringing the panels to life. Captain America: Civil War had little to do with the comic book it shares a title with aside from the basic idea. And, of course, Rhodey may still be in the line of fire. It seems unlikely everybody will be getting out of the next Avengers movie in one piece.
But Marvel has generally aligned their comics with their other media, to the point where the cast of Agents of SHIELD have been brought into the comics and given their own series. For the comics to diverge, this much, from the movies is an attention-getting move. Before now, you could guess how things would work out in the comics based on where a character went in the movies. Now, it seems, all bets are off.