Posted - May 22, 2013 | Updated : August 20, 2015
Civil War: Front Line
One caveat about Civil War : Front Line, you've got to read Civil War first in order to appreciate this series. If you have read Civil War, you'll love Front Line. It will provide additional details about Civil War, like the events right after Captain America's arrest. That's right, the ending of Civil War is actually here in Civil War : Front Line.
Front Line presents us with a number of stories. The main storyline is called "Embedded", the other arcs are "The Accused" and "Sleeper Cells". The initial stories also end with a few pages of material that attempt to juxtapose actual military history with events in Civil War; these little snippets are not always successful in merging real history with the Marvel U.
First, let's take a look at "Embedded".
Embedded gives us the point-of-view of two reporters. The first is Ben Urich.
Ben works for J. Jonah Jameson's Daily Bugle. Long time readers of the Marvel U should be very familiar with Ben; he's particularly close to Marvel's street heroes, guys like Spider-Man and Daredevil. In particular, if you've read Daredevil Born Again, seeing Ben is like seeing an old friend. How do I describe this guy? He's low profile, very competent and level headed, and when it comes to a story, Ben is extremely tenacious. I love his unpretentious ways and his uncompromising integrity - and in the apartment he shares with his wife, he has the entire golden-age run of More Fun Comics (who's to say he doesn't?).
Enough about Ben. Let's get to reporter number 2 : Sally Floyd.
I have a feeling Sally has a back history prior to Civil War, but alas, I am massively unfamiliar with it. Sally isn't only beautiful and sexy, she's also fiery and emotional. She's the fire to Ben's ice. In a perfect world Sally will be optioned from Marvel by Dynamite Entertainment and included in their Warlord of Mars Dejah Thoris series (sigh).
For more information on both, look at these two side-by-side panels.
Ben has his wife Doris and Sally has a nice comfortable queen sized bed.
The series begins with a funeral for Johnny Fernandez. Johnny Fernandez was the camera man during the New Warriors' ill-fated adventure in Stamford, Connecticut (told you you had to read Civil War).
After a few pages I saw this panel :
There is something about the clutter of a busy news office, in this case the Daily Bugle press room, that punches all the right buttons for me. It's the sense of productivity and camaraderie in the pursuit of an enterprise. This panel is symbolic of what embedded is all about. It's a cross between that wonderful Ron Howard movie about reporters, The Paper, and the great comic about real people working real jobs, Gotham Central. Those are two of my favorite things. With that I'm ready to settle down and enjoy Front Line.
Anybody familiar with Ben Urich, would be even more familiar with Robby Robertson, J. Jonah Jameson's second. Here Robby gives Ben a lecture on the practical side of being a newsman - I find it succinct and finely delivered.
Not to mention, extremely practical.
The first hero to make his appearance in these pages is Spider-Man. Nothing really noteworthy except for the panel when Sally hits on him.
Remember the unmasking of Spider-Man in Civil War? Here we have the unmasking of Iron Man.
"... and I am an alcoholic", sounds really awkward. I'd go with the movie "My name is Tony Stark. And I am Iron Man".
Remember Firestar from "Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends" on tv? Or from the New Warriors comic? Firestar chooses the third option available to heroes faced with the Superhero Registration Act. First option : signup. Second option: go rogue. Third option: quit.
Just take the mask off and throw it on the street.
Sally meets up with some obscure heroes who've gone underground.
The guy on the bottom left is Type Face. As far as I can tell he throws razor sharp blades shaped like letters. He's my pet peeve in all of Front Line. He's just so wrong in so many levels. Wrong look, wrong power, wrong name - he's the lamest Marvel creation since Squirrel Girl (and yes I do know SquirrelG Girl has become something of a star - egg on face but opinion unchanged).
If you recall the events in Civil War: Fantastic Four, there was a scene there when Reed Richards presents Sue with a complicated series of calculations in his lab. Reed claims that he has actually computed that everything goes wrong unless the Registration act is implemented. It's a scene that brings home Reed's total reliance on science as a forecasting tool. I think Reed is too dependent on his math that's why I love this panel when Ben Urich explains to Reed, in very simple terms, why his science could not be all that rock solid.
So Ben and Sally are in a coffee shop and they're talking about the past. As in, Marvel history past. It's the event that transpired near or around the first time Galactus and the Silver Surfer arrived on Earth.
This panel just brings home how powerful that Lee-Kirby tale really was. Just amazing.
Here's another newsroom panel shot, this time of Sally Floyd's paper - the Alternative.
Just look at the detail on this panel. I really appreciate how Ramon Bachs took the time to do draw the cubicles in with such care. This is great art.
Remember the death of Goliath from Civil War? Here's another shot of that, this time from Civil War : Front Line.
It's different isnt' it? In Civil War an energy burst from Thor's hammer went through Bill Foster's chest. Here its more of an electrocution. I think this was intentional. The Civil War panel was superior to this one; Marvel must have wanted that exclusively for the core series.
Next is a great panel shot of Urick interviewing a remorseful Stark with Goliath in the background.
Listen to Tony saying he's all cutup inside.
Tony is a hero, I really like to see this 'miscalculation' impact him (and Reed) well into the future. Not so much because I want to see them suffer but its a mark of heroism that things like these are not so easily forgotten. Bill Foster wasn't a rich man, maybe his dependents need help. Uber-millionaires Stark and Richards should be shown doing something for Bill's family. Maybe they have already in some comic I haven't read yet.
I have to break off from my writeup about "Embedded" because its starting to converge with the second story arc "The Accused" and I haven't written about "The Accused" yet. So here goes, presenting : "The Accused".
Surprise, surprise. Speedball, who was in the middle of that explosion in Stamford, is still alive! Apparently his kinetic abilities saved him. It's the worst thing that could have happened to him since he gets to live with the knowledge that he's directly responsible for the death of hundreds of people. And its not over, see these two guys who found him?
They're going to die too. A victim of Speedball's uncontrollable power. A power that will leave him at a time when nearly everybody wants a piece of his hide because of the Stamford incident. Even the jail guards don't like him
Nor his fellow prisoners.
All this while, Robbie is in denial of his role in Stamford. I comes out later that he can't admit it because admitting it would cause him to acknowledge that his friends, the New Warriors, are dead, and he can't face that. Look at the anguish in this panel.
"The Accused" is a very raw, emotional, and thus, powerful arc. I come out of it admiring Speedball. When a man gets everything stripped away from him you find out what he's made off - and Robbie is made of pretty stern stuff.
Robbie's attorney is none other than the She-Hulk.
She gives Robbie a very direct wake-up call regarding the Stamford incident.
Robbie gets threatened
But he doesn't back down.
I like that. Soon enough challenges are issued and Robbie gets into a fight with a prison tough in which Speedball proves that even powerless heroes have so much fight experience that prison bullies simply can't take them.
Robbie's mother visits him and says something that most, if not all, mother's will say to their kid.
The scene between Robbie and his mother (and his absent father) is so very real, very grounded. "The Accused" continues to impress.
On a short trip from the prison to to the negative zone facility known as '42', Robbie finds out just how unpopular he is.
Look at this lineup.
Typeface we've already met in "Embedded", behind him, with the metal face mask, is another familiar figure - Coldblood. Coldblood had his own story arc in Marvel Presents. I remember reading those, he was very tough in those stories, so I'm surprised that being in '42' pretty much breaks him down.
One thing that makes "The Accused" heartbreaking is the fact the Speedball was always one of the more lighthearted happy-go-lucky characters - sort of like a Spider-Man junior in his attitude. It's nice to know that Robbie still retains this fundamental character trait in spite of his circumstances as this panel shows.
The guy in the cage is Battlestar.
Bush league hero, to be sure. He was part of the group with Type Face that was busted by Iron Man's forces. Look at what they did to him; did to his back. I know what its like to have a back injury, this Battlestar panel really brings it home. How terrible.
Considering his role in all of this I am so glad that somebody finally manages to tell off Reed Richards. Sue Storm was too gentle with him in Civil War.
Come to think of it, Civil War made me hate Reed Richards. Well, not really hate, more of dislike, you know, for a few moments. I've never disliked Reed until Civil War. That just shows how effective this story arc is. So here's the scene when Robby gets shot - it seems to be inspired by Jack Ruby shooting Lee Harvey Oswald (JFK's alleged assassin) while in police custody.
At this point, "The Accused" dovetails with "Embedded". So let's go back to "Embedded".
"Embedded" replays the scene were Robby gets shot, effectively tying the story with the goings on in "The Accused".
Sally had an unplanned meeting with Captain America's underground. A clandestine event that gets her into the interrogation room with a Congressman named Sykes who manages to do the impossible - get the better of Sally in an argument.
What follows is a meeting between Norman Osborn and somebody in shadows. It is revealed that this shadowy person is a traitor to Iron Man's cause. The whole incident is so vaguely presented that its so easy to dismiss it as the storyline progresses. But when you finished reading Civil War : Front Line and you go back to this scene, you're going to know the identity of this shadowy figure and its going to be mindblowing!
Now back to "The Accused". Speedball has been shot by the father of one of the schoolgirls who died in Stamford.
We get this great farewell shot of the New Warriors.
And Robbie finally says why he wouldn't admit responsibility for his role in Stamford.
At this point the dormant kinetic energy inside Robbie explodes.
Sally meets up with a mutant, the nature of whose mutation makes me wince - I mean, life must be really hard for this guy. Here's the guy sitting in a chair.
And behind him, another guy is growing out of his back!
Sally finally meets with Captain America
Two things impress me. First, Captain America went in disguise and, in order to be utterly convincing, prim and proper Steve Rogers ate like this.
Second, Captain America's traditional patriotic stand gets 'the attitude' from Sally.
It won't be the first time that Sally punches holes in the Captain's personal creed and motivations, but more on that later.
Meanwhile, in "The Accused", Robbie - who exploded in that ambulance remember? - is being treated by Reed Richards. In another villainous turn we get a demonstration of how callous Maria Hill can be.
Having experienced physical pain myself, I have to shake my head at people who nonchalantly tolerate putting others in painful situations. Maria Hill needs to spend some time in those situations to learn about empathy.
Back in "Embedded", Peter Parker manages to hack into Stark Industries' server using a home computer
I'm not questioning plausibility, if Peter can invent those web shooters of his, he can do anything.
A while back, the story of "Embedded" began to reference "The Accused", now it incorporates another Front Line story arc called "Sleeper Cells". This story arc began a while back, let's revisit it.
"Sleeper Cells" begins with Joe - an aquarium shop proprietor.
I Like Joe's peaceful life. The shop is downstairs and he lives upstairs. Here he is enjoying some tv time with his wife.
Look at that, they each have individual popcorn bowls. That's pretty lavish.
Unfortunately Joe isn't Joe the Aquarium Guy. He's really Joe the Atlantean.
With the New Warrior Namorita's death in Stamford, Prince Namor has taken an interest in the events of the superhero Civil Warn and has activated his sleeper agents. Agents like Joe. Here they are, arming themselves in a secret warehouse.
Not as secret as they wished, the whole troop, including Joe, is attacked and killed by the murderous Green Goblin.
To withstand the rigors of their ocean home, Atlanteans are both stronger and tougher than humans, plus they have their own advanced technology. A whole group of them can be very formidable, so I'm really impressed that the Goblin is able to take out an entire armed troop.
No surprise Namor is not happy with this turn of events, but the imperious Submariner, surprisingly, still maintains a level head and sends an embassy to work things out in peace. We are talking about Namor here. A guy who has tried to invade 'surface dwellers' several times in Marvel history. I'm surprised. In return, the U.S. heroes prepare a diplomatic welcome of their own by asking the heroes of Europe to meet with the Atlantean delegation. I don't know why this is, it must be some kind of standard protocol. So here are the European heroes:
Not a single one is familiar to me. Where's Captain Britain and, you know, some of the other European heroes like, uh - I'm drawing a blank. Anyway . . .
Things are going well with the diplomats until a half-crazed Norman Osborn fires a shot, wounding the head of the Atlantean delegation. Everybody knows what will happen next : Atlantis will try to invade -yet again. It is at this moment that "Sleeper Cells" dovetails into "Embedded". So let's go and rejoin the "Embedded" storyline.
As we go back to "Embedded", the Atlantean invasion seems "imminent" as huge underwater massings are detected along the U.S. East Coast. At the same time Cloak has just teleported both factions of the civil war from '42' to New York City, an event detailed in the latter issues of Civil War. Here's a shot of this wild incident from Front Line
What Front Line brings to the table is what this incredible superhero fight looks like to the people in the ground. Just look at this damage!
It seems to be over as soon as it began as Captain America surrenders - again an event from the main Civil War series. While all this is going on, both our intrepid reporters are putting together the pieces of the puzzle. Now here is where Civil War : Front Line goes beyond Civil War as it takes us to events after Captain America's surrender. And it does so by having us tag along with Ben and Sally as they interview both Captain America and Iron Man.
First, Captain America. Remember I told you that the Captain would get his head handed to him by Sally - again. Here goes.
Sally's right isn't she? Wow.
Now for the big one : Iron Man.
I love it. It is just so Tony Stark. It is so real.