Charles Soule and Leinil Francis Yu’s “Civil War” #2 is more a war of wits than fists, as this issue has both Steve Rogers and Tony Stark returning to their respective halves of a fractured nation and planning their next moves with some help from their superpowered allies. Like many of the “Secret Wars” tie-in miniseries, Soule’s story is a natural extension of the original event of the same name set in a relatively standalone environment, allowing him to explore what might have happened had that previous story not ended. It largely ignores the larger scope of Battleworld, which is preferable for this comic, as this issue delivers a low key but emotionally tense chapter.
Soule’s primary focus is on the maturation of Steve and Tony’s respective characters in the years since the Superhero Registration Act literally divided the country. Tony’s arrogance remains dialed up to eleven, but it’s now tempered with a genuine desire for some kind of peace, as Soule seems to stress that Tony is not behind last issue’s assassination attempt. Steve, meanwhile, runs a nation founded on a very stripped down set of basic rights while also exhibiting a much darker persona and more willingness to go to extremes within the course of the war. Both are believable extrapolations of their baseline personalities, rooted in genuine growth of their characters rather than any kind of sensationalized or sweeping changes that are common in alternate reality storylines.
There’s a definitively darker mood on both sides of this conflict, and artists Leinil Francis Yu and Gerry Alanguilan capture this with a coarse, raw finish to their lines that exemplifies a difficult and hardened setting. The Spider-Man formerly from a friendly neighborhood is a more driven, soldier-like superhero now that the war has impacted him personally, and even this incarnation of the classic X-Men has an edgier air to them. Colorist Sunny Gho takes just about the only approach he can, using darker and gloomier tones that are anything but sunny.
There’s a bit of a mystery afoot, as well, regarding who’s behind the aforementioned assassination attempt on Steve Rogers, as well as the identity of the actual shooter. All of the players in this issue are suspects to some degree, but Soule is careful to ensure that no one is a clear frontrunner. Both sides of the conflict also make a move that nicely sets up the next issue.
“Civil War” #2 is one of the better “Secret Wars” byproducts, and Soule, Yu and Alanguilan all ensure that it’s a worthwhile effort, one that’s easily followed by those more interested in this story as a sequel-of-sorts to Marvel’s nearly decade old event than as part of their current one.