So, Civil War II is now three issues in and the consequences that Marvel originally touted for the event have started to come into play. War Machine- Rhodey Rhodes- perished in the first issue, She Hulk has been left in critical condition and now Bruce Banner has been killed; by his friend Clint Barton, aka Hawkeye, no less.
Many people thought that Civil War II was no more than an attempt to cash in on interest in the latest Captain America film, but despite the name there are a lot more things at play with this event. Yes, everyone knows that characters have a tendency to come back from the dead, but if we look at Wolverine- who died in 2014- he has yet to actually make his return. He’s been replaced by X-23 and Old Man Logan (a character with his own alternate universe storyline that, if you haven’t read it yet, you really should). So we might say that perhaps Marvel is learning that death means death.
It’s also worth saying that if we’re going to talk about them making death permanent there’s no safer option than Bruce Banner, who’s stock in the comics world has fallen sharply. He hasn’t had his own starring comic for quite some time, saw falling sales figures as people grew bored of the Hulk concept and spent years as a periphery figure in Avengers events. He’s been replaced as the “flagship” Hulk by Amadeus Cho, a supporting figure in both his cast and Hercules’, and the new line Totally Awesome Hulk has actually seen improved figures and good critical response. Killing Bruce Banner doesn’t really cost Marvel a lot but it gives them the basis to start the permadeath of characters when it is necessary for emotional impact.
We’re also likely to see new comics spring out of this event. Marvel made a big deal of revealing all of the younger members of their lineups, be they Avengers or otherwise, “quitting” their respective positions due to the wider conflict that’s going on between the older heroes. What does this mean? Well, it’s all but certain we’re going to get another Young Avengers run; there hasn’t been one since Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie finished theirs in 2014. We might be looking at a new team featuring Ms Marvel, Nova, maybe even Cyclops; he was the only member of the All-New X-Men (the time-displaced younger versions of the original X-Men, because comic books) who was featured in these “I Quit” reveals and could be seen in a Young Avengers line.
Beyond this, I couldn’t speculate as to the wider consequences of this storyline seeing as how we’re only three issues in. I look forward to seeing more and I hope Marvel actually do stick to the deaths of characters from now on- it kind of seems hard to think how they can bring Bruce Banner back after he took a gamma-tipped arrow to the head, after all. The one thing I don’t want to see is Marvel over-stretching themselves. Are they going to split the Avengers teams in two after this event? We already have Secret Avengers, Uncanny Avengers, and A-Force as spin-offs from the Avengers storyline, do we really need any more? Look what happened with the Inhumans; countless relaunches, two- or maybe three, I honestly lose track- concurrent Inhumans books, innumerable attempts to shoehorn them into other storylines and the Inhumans still haven’t come close to taking the X-Men’s place in Marvel’s lineup. I think we can chalk that one up to a failed experiment, and just hope that whatever plans Marvel have beyond Civil War II don’t fall into the same category.