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Monday, April 8, 2013

Civil War (Marvel Comics) (audiobook) by Stuart Moore



Adapted from the graphic novel series by Mark Millar and Steve McNiven
Published by GraphicAudio in 2013
Multi-cast performance
Duration: Approximately 6 hours.

At the start of this review I want you to know that I am a fan of comics, but not a fanboy (and I use that term with affection since I am a fanboy of other things, just not superheroes). I watch most of the movies, read a few graphic novel collections from time to time that are several years old that I find in my local (and excellent) public library. I talk comics with a friend of mine who is a serious fan, but I am not. I have never been to a comic book store. I have no t-shirts with superhero logos. The only superhero movie I own is the Adam West Batman movie.

However, I am a huge fan of the work that GraphicAudio has done over the years with its adaptations of DC Comics graphic novels. They promise “A movie in your mind” and they have never failed to produce high quality audio dramas that sound like old-fashioned radio plays with better sound effects, special music and usually more than twenty actors plus a narrator. The fight scenes are amazing, the sound effects are always top notch.

Two or three years ago, I was asked on a message board if GraphicAudio ever performed anything by Marvel Comics. I confidently said that they did not and probably never would because DC and Marvel are like Pepsi and Coke – forever in conflict. I assumed Marvel would eventually decide to go with another publisher and that was that. Boy, am I glad that I was wrong. Marvel and GraphicAudio working together means that there will be twice the opportunities to let GraphicAudio do what they best with the very best superhero stories, especially if their first one, Civil War, is any indication of what is to come.

Marvel’s Civil War is a “reboot” of the Marvel universe. It is not a fundamental change like the Star Trek re-boot that came with the last movie. Spider-man is still Spider-man and Iron Man still flies around and tries to control everything through Stark Industries. But, some minor characters were literally killed. Groups like S.H.I.E.L.D. and The Avengers are forever changed as well.

Since I am not a fanboy (once again, said with affection) in my mind I placed this audiobook a year or two after the events in the movie The Avengers just to make the story work for me. There have been some developments, though. The Hulk has disappeared. Nick Fury and Thor are dead and no one knows for sure how or where they died. Spiderman has just been convinced by Tony Stark to join the Avengers. Spiderman is also getting an Iron Man type suit that works with his abilities free and clear from Tony Stark.

This audiobook is a dramatization of the 2012 novelization of the rather extensive comic book series that made up the Marvel Comics Civil War. There are some substantial differences between the two story lines.

The story begins with a group of young superheroes called the New Warriors tracking down a group of supervillains in Stamford, Connecticut. They attempt to apprehend the villains and during the fight one of the villains causes himself to explode rather than be captured (the bad guys appear to have been using illegal drugs just before the fight so this is a serious case of impaired judgment). The explosion is massive and kills more than 700 people and causes a massive public outcry against untrained, irresponsible masked vigilantes who cause more damage than the outlaws they apprehend.

Within days the federal government has responded with sweeping legislation (negotiated with the help of Tony Stark) that requires all “meta-humans” be registered, unmasked, trained and licensed by the federal government and become federal employees and serve in a federally regulated superhero team working through S.H.I.E.L.D. Each team will be assigned to a state. Meta-humans who fail to comply will be hunted down, arrested and incarcerated in a special prison without any sort of trial. They will be released only if they decided to comply.

This is not a new idea in superhero stories. D.C. Comic’s The Dark Knight deals with a government that has had enough of superhero vigilantes as does Disney/Pixar’s The Incredibles but Civil War creates its own distinct look at this concept.

Spider-man comes out of the shadows and becomes the symbol of this new movement when he unmasks himself during a Tony Stark press conference. Soon, his life is a disaster as old enemies and the press harass him at home and he loses his job once his newspaper figures out he was faking his Spiderman stories and pictures for all of those years.

Captain America decides that this new policy reminds him of the World War II era Japanese internment camps and there are some similarities. Imprisonment based on who you are, not what you have done. Young Japanese men could not leave the camps unless they agreed to fight for America in the army in Europe. Imprisoned superheroes cannot leave prison unless they agree to serve the federal government as meta-human police. Captain America becomes the leader of those that refuse to register, Tony Stark/Iron Man is the leader of the group that complies and a war of words quickly becomes a super-sized fight and not everyone survives.

Spider-man serves as the symbolic fulcrum of the argument, swinging back and forth between the two until he finally makes a decision.

One of the best things about science fiction is its ability to take a current event topic and turn it on its head and still be able to continue the discussion. In this case, this book discusses a number of issues, including:

-Group safety vs. individual freedom and another person’s rights;

-Negotiating away your rights in exchange for safety;

-Cloning;

-The coerced use of behavior-modification techniques;

-How far can corporate information gathering go?;

-Combined corporate/government power vs. the rights of the individual;

-Do you support America because it is your home or because it protects your rights?

The conflict between Tony Stark and Captain America continues until it gets to the requisite climactic fight scene (this is a superhero story, after all). Personally, I loved this story until the clunky ending where one side cedes to the other. It was all rather anti-climactic compared to the build-up and it just did not work very well when compared to the rhetoric and drama that filled the rest of the story.

If Marvel was looking to re-boot their universe this book does that in a way that seems rather natural. No time traveling enemies destroying worlds or killing a superhero’s parents. In this case, the politics of being a superhero gets in the way and changes everything.

I rate this audiobook 5 stars out of 5.

This audiobook can be found on Amazon.com here: Civil War Prose (audiobook)

Note: I was sent this audiobook by the publisher in exchange for an honest review as part of Audiobook Jukebox's Solid Gold Reviewer program. Yes, I truly did like this audiobook. I liked it a lot.

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