WARNING: The following article contains major spoilers for “Civil War II” #7, on sale now
The cliffhanger ending of “Civil War II” #7, by Brian Michael Bendis and David Marquez, is one that few saw coming — namely, Tony Stark’s seeming death at the hands of Carol Danvers in front of the U.S. Capitol, a full issue ahead of the series’ conclusion next month. Marvel Comics’ latest wave of new titles stemming from the event’s outcome shows that Tony is noticeably absent, and the pointblank, armor-shattering blast that Carol delivers gives a strong indication he’s taken a blow that can be nothing short of fatal.
The unexpected development leads to several questions as to the possible story content of Issue 8, but perhaps the most obvious one centers around the series’ catalyst character, Ulysses: For an Inhuman whose power of precognition is so revered by some, how is it he didn’t foresee Tony’s death?
Ironically, Tony’s death goes a long way toward proving his point regarding Ulysses’ powers; if they’re probability-based, as Tony had surmised, the odds of Carol killing Tony outright were undoubtedly and woefully low. Despite Carol and Tony’s escalating war, neither had likely or seriously considered killing each other; they are supposed to be heroes, after all. Likewise, Carol’s faith in Ulysses certainly should be shaken at this point; he has foreseen the death of Steve Rogers, which has yet to come to pass, but apparently missed Tony’s demise, which occurred with no warning.
It’s not the first time Ulysses has been proved wrong, though, and Carol has been shown to be strangely forgiving regarding his mistakes. When Ulysses’ prediction of a Hydra attack against the world’s financial institutions turned out to be false – a plan that Captain America, himself an agent of Hydra, confirmed didn’t exist – Carol’s conviction nevertheless remained strong. Her unwavering, and misguided, devotion to her beliefs are strangely uncharacteristic, and her surprising actions against Tony push that dedication from uncharacteristic to suspicious; the reasons for her blind faith in Ulysses’ abilities could be a mere story contrivance by Bendis, or perhaps it’s driven by something more deliberate, but as-yet unexplained. Carol and Ulysses do have common Kree DNA that has so far gone unmentioned.
Of course, it can’t necessarily be said that Ulysses didn’t foresee that this tragedy would occur; he may very well have, but let it go unmentioned for any number of reasons. It’s safe to say it wasn’t a prediction similar to the horrific one he experienced regarding Miles and Cap – a vision that was projected into the minds of those at the scene – but it may very well have been an internal vision that was too horrifying for him to share, even with his fellow Inhumans. If he foresaw Tony’s death after incorrectly envisioning a Hydra attack, he may have elected to keep that vision to himself, believing it to also be erroneous.
There are other, less-intriguing reasons why Tony’s death might not have been foreseen. Perhaps through some unexpected means yet to be revealed, Tony somehow survives his battle with Carol, and therefore the occurrence wouldn’t “qualify” as the kind of catastrophic event sufficient to trigger Ulysses’ powers. Or, it’s possible that an unexplored randomness exists with his powers that, plain and simple, results in him foreseeing some events and not others. Maybe the death of a single hero, as opposed to the large numbers seen in his vision about The Hulk, or one that’s not a national symbol like Cap, would likewise be insufficient to activate a premonition. Ultimately, these would be comparably unsatisfactory explanations, though, that wouldn’t align well with the broader scope of Bendis’ story.
Carol’s unseemly behavior arguably could have a connection to Ulysses’ evolving powers. If his powers are probability-based like Tony theorized, then part of that evolution could be an ability to manipulate that probability, increasing the odds of an unlikely occurrence to the point where he effectively causes it; something Tony would have missed having analyzed Ulysses’ powers before they matured. If his abilities have evolved to the point where his visions actually cause the events they predict, then the unlikelihood of Miles killing Cap – and Carol killing Tony, if in fact Ulysses had such a premonition that is unrevealed as of yet – becomes a far more likely scenario.
The growth of Ulysses’ abilities holds the potential to change the way his abilities are utilized by those trying to exploit him. Carol’s well-meaning intent has been to use the knowledge of future events in his predictions to stop those very same events, but a less altruistic opportunist could be all too eager to use Ulysses’ talents to foreshadow catastrophic happenings, and then simply allow them to happen for more nefarious reasons. In fact, it’s been shown that such events can be manipulated into occurring when they wouldn’t have otherwise; Cap has successfully done this by initiating the events that ultimately led to Bruce Banner’s death, with the intent of deflecting Ulysses from discovering Cap’s covert actions with Hydra.
Cap might be smart, but no one ever knows what they don’t know, resulting in his inability to stop Ulysses’ premonition of his own death; he’s undoubtedly worried, as well, as anyone rightly would be after witnessing a shocking vision of their own demise. Of all the heroes who observed that image, Cap himself would be the only one among them who would have a clue as to its relevance. While other members of Team Tony, who doubt the definitive nature of Ulysses’ predictions, could readily dismiss it, Cap would ironically find himself rethinking his position, knowing the outing of his secret would potentially increase the likelihood of this scenario. Even more ironically, Tony’s death gives Cap a plausible explanation to go after Carol; by taking her down to avenge his friend, he also conveniently keeps Ulysses out of her hands.
While largely serving as a catalyst for “Civil War II,” Ulysses stands to become a prominent and powerful character in the series’ aftermath, and an ongoing source of division in the new “Divided We Stand” landscape. “Civil War II” #8 is scheduled to hit stores on Dec. 28.
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