MARVELS SNAPSHOTS: CIVIL WAR #1, available from Marvel Comics on December 2nd, presents the ethical dilemmas faced by a low-level SHIELD agent during the events of Civil War. Saladin Ahmed turns in a surprisingly thought-provoking story that forces the reader to ask one simple question – What would you do?
It’s an Alex Ross quality, so high-quality art is a de facto given at this point. That said, Maria Hill’s expression is notably lacking in any emotion, and nothing is really happening. It’s a beautiful cover, but it lacks punch.
This issue follows a low-level SHIELD agent (Clyde Dobronski) who’s eager to protect innocent lives after the Superhuman Registration Act is passed. He very quickly learns that “doing the right thing” is not so clear when he’s ordered to capture icons of heroism such as Captain America. Dobronski fills the role of average, every man trying to walk the line between protecting innocent, non-superpowered lives versus arresting and imprisoning superhuman citizens, minors in some cases, who represent little or no threat.
Ahmed’s story works well because of how nuanced each character was developed in such a short book. The narrative largely falls on the side of the superhumans who want to be free, but even then, the seeds of doubt are still present. The reader is forced to ask some serious questions about what we would do in Dobronski’s shoes, such as:
Would we do what felt wrong under the umbrella of following orders?
What price would we pay to keep civilians safe? What price is too high?
Are superpowered minors less jaded about the world and therefore able to better grasp the core of freedom, or are they simply too young to understand the threat they themselves pose?
The story wraps up with a mildly open-ended resolution, leaving those questions for each reader to answer on their own. I enjoyed the challenge of this issue because it was, at times, uncomfortable.
Ryan Kelly’s art is fairly strong throughout the entire issue. The focus of this story is Dobronski, who’s depicted as a less than exceptional physical specimen. He’s older, overweight, not athletically gifted in his movements, and completely average in every way.
Kelly makes Dobronski just mediocre enough for the reader to understand why he hasn’t climbed the SHIELD but not so pathetic as to make him seem unqualified to work for SHIELD. In gaming terms, Kelly created the comics equivalent of an npc, and it works perfectly for this story.
All the remaining visual elements work for this very confined story. It’s confined in the sense that everything happens within small moments and interactions between characters. It’s the little things like posture, body language, gestures, and facial expressions that make all the difference. And Kelly nails it.
Rachelle Rosenberg makes great use of mood-coloring, especially with the contrasting highlights to Kelly’s dramatically inked shadows. Nearly every panel uses old-school overhead lighting to mimic what you would see in government buildings and prisons. The lighting scheme throws a lot of shadow that Kelly plays up to add dramatic punch, and Rosenberg takes full advantage with gorgeous highlights and color gradients to make those shadows deeper. More ominous. This is great mood-setting from Rosenberg.
VC’s Joe Sabino turns in a solid performance with the lettering. The dialog is clean and easy to read. Word balloon placement follows the panel flow perfectly. And the pacing is excellent throughout.
MARVELS SNAPSHOTS: CIVIL WAR #1, available from Marvel Comics on December 2nd, is one of the strongest issues in the Snapshots series by taking a successful event and finding an interesting story within the story. The writing is excellent from front to back, and the art team is the icing on the cake. This is a highly recommended issue.