PopMatters is moving to WordPress. We will publish a few essays daily while we develop the new site. We hope the beta will be up sometime late next week.

Infighting With Underdogs in 'Civil War II: X-men #4'

The X-men battle each other, but leave a minimal impact.

Andrea Broccardo

Civil War II: X-men

Publisher: Marvel
Price: $3.99
Writer: Cullen Bunn
Publication date: 2016-09-21

A balanced conflict goes a long ways towards crafting a compelling narrative. While it's possible for an arm-wrestling context between the Hulk and Howard the Duck to be entertaining, it's not a struggle that's going to be all that interesting. Civil War II goes to great lengths to create a conflict in which the divisions between characters are genuine, understandable, and intriguing. It's as balanced as any conflict can be and it doesn't even need time travel, magic, or deals with Mephisto.

Creating a balanced conflict in Civil War II: X-men is already a challenge. Before Civil War II even begins, the X-men and the entire mutant race are stuck playing a rigged game while handicapped. They're on the brink of extinction yet again. They're despised, sterilized, and a good chunk of their top characters are either dead, time displaced, or holdovers from an apocalyptic universe. Even by underdog standards, the X-men are depleted in terms of what they can bring to a conflict.

This makes the tone of Civil War II: X-men so distinct compared to other tie-ins. The X-men already lost one war against the Inhumans. Now, they have Ulysses, whose precognition powers may as well be cheat codes. Cullen Bunn goes to great lengths drawing the lines between the X-men, crafting some level of balance between those who want to work with the Inhumans and those who feel they have one too many advantages at this point. Civil War II: X-men #4 maintains that balance for the most part, but doesn't take it far enough.

There's nothing elaborate or subtle about the narrative. This final clash between Magneto's team and Storm's team is effectively streamlined into a single, simple clash. It's light on drama, but solid on details. Andrea Broccardo's art makes this clash visually engaging and well-organized. Mutant battles tend to get chaotic, but since this one doesn't involve time travelers, it's a lot easier to follow.

While the infighting makes up the bulk of the story, it's Magneto who gives the narrative some personal dimensions. More than any other character in this tie-in, he establishes himself as a hardened realist. He now operates on a level that's several steps beyond the debate between his vision and Charles Xavier's dream. He sees the mutant issue as a struggle for survival now and the Inhumans are actively undermining that survival. Giving them an advantage at this point would be tantamount to running up the score.

This emphasis on survival and fighting those who undermine it isn't knew for Magneto. What Civil War II: X-men #4 does is frame it in a new context, one that makes the infighting among the X-men feel somewhat misguided. In this context, Magneto's approach is actually more understandable than Storm's in a backwards sort of way.

Storm wants to work with the Inhumans just like Charles Xavier wanted to work with the human race. However, the conflict with the Inhumans is a bit more specific. A cloud that they unleashed is killing an entire race and they refuse to do anything about it. Working with them has produced little to no tangible results. This makes Storm's efforts to coordinate with them seem misguided. Her heart is in the right place, as it often is, but it disrupts the fragile balance of the conflict that makes the Civil War II narrative work.

This balance is somewhat restored once Magneto gets a chance to interact with Ulysses. This ends up being far more meaningful than any interaction he could have with Storm. The discussion they share is significant in that it forces Magneto to re-evaluate his tactics. However, this meaningful interaction ends up leading to a bland and inconsequential conclusion.

There aren't any meaningful changes that emerge from this clash between Magneto's team and Storm's team. Once Magneto meets Ulysses, the battle just ends. There are no major scars. There are no serious injuries that can't be treated with off-panel magic and bed rest. There aren't even any major consequences to lies, betrayals, and deception. The characters just shrug it off, as though it happens every other week.

What makes this outcome somewhat palatable is the context behind it. Magneto, being a cold and callous pragmatist at heart, sees how this conflict will play out and quite literally. The only way to make sure that he's in a position to protect his people and take on the Inhumans again down the line is to just swallow his pride and leave. It's an inglorious way to end a conflict, but it's perfectly in line with who Magneto is and why he does what he does.

That's not to say there isn't some kind of meaningful impact in Civil War II: X-men #4. It does add more bricks to the foundation on which the X-men and Inhumans will clash down the line. It also supplements some of the ongoing tensions within the teams, such as Magneto and Psylocke. These bits and pieces of progress aren't enough to give the overall story enough weight. It still feels like an overblown round of infighting that doesn't amount to much.

In the ongoing debate between aiding the Inhumans and fighting them, the balance may very well be too fragile to function. Civil War II: X-men #4 only reinforces the inevitability of another clash between these two teams. It also further proves that such a clash may not be a balanced one. At the end of the day, one side still has its movie rights. The other is tied up with another studio. Even with X-men being the ultimate underdogs, it doesn't feel like a fight that'll benefit them in any way.


Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology and hosting provider that we have less than a month, until November 6, to move PopMatters off their service or we will be shut down. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to save the site.





Laura Veirs Talks to Herself on 'My Echo'

The thematic connections between these 10 Laura Veirs songs and our current situation are somewhat coincidental, or maybe just the result of kismet or karmic or something in the zeitgeist.


15 Classic Horror Films That Just Won't Die

Those lucky enough to be warped by these 15 classic horror films, now available on Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection and Kino Lorber, never got over them.


Sixteen Years Later Wayne Payne Follows Up His Debut

Waylon Payne details a journey from addiction to redemption on Blue Eyes, The Harlot, The Queer, The Pusher & Me, his first album since his 2004 debut.


Every Song on the Phoenix Foundation's 'Friend Ship' Is a Stand-Out

Friend Ship is the Phoenix Foundation's most personal work and also their most engaging since their 2010 classic, Buffalo.


Kevin Morby Gets Back to Basics on 'Sundowner'

On Sundowner, Kevin Morby sings of valleys, broken stars, pale nights, and the midwestern American sun. Most of the time, he's alone with his guitar and a haunting mellotron.


Lydia Loveless Creates Her Most Personal Album with 'Daughter'

Given the turmoil of the era, you might expect Lydia Loveless to lean into the anger, amplifying the electric guitar side of her cowpunk. Instead, she created a personal record with a full range of moods, still full of her typical wit.


Flowers for Hermes: An Interview with Performing Activist André De Shields

From creating the title role in The Wiz to winning an Emmy for Ain't Misbehavin', André De Shields reflects on his roles in more than four decades of iconic musicals, including the GRAMMY and Tony Award-winning Hadestown.


The 13 Greatest Horror Directors of All Time

In honor of Halloween, here are 13 fascinating fright mavens who've made scary movies that much more meaningful.


British Jazz and Soul Artists Interpret the Classics on '​Blue Note Re:imagined'

Blue Note Re:imagined provides an entrance for new audiences to hear what's going on in British jazz today as well as to go back to the past and enjoy old glories.


Bill Murray and Rashida Jones Add Another Shot to 'On the Rocks'

Sofia Coppola's domestic malaise comedy On the Rocks doesn't drown in its sorrows -- it simply pours another round, to which we raise our glass.


​Patrick Cowley Remade Funk and Disco on 'Some Funkettes'

Patrick Cowley's Some Funkettes sports instrumental renditions from between 1975-1977 of songs previously made popular by Donna Summer, Herbie Hancock, the Temptations, and others.


The Top 10 Definitive Breakup Albums

When you feel bombarded with overpriced consumerism disguised as love, here are ten albums that look at love's hangover.


Dustin Laurenzi's Natural Language Digs Deep Into the Jazz Quartet Format with 'A Time and a Place'

Restless tenor saxophonist Dustin Laurenzi runs his four-piece combo through some thrilling jazz excursions on a fascinating new album, A Time and a Place.


How 'Watchmen' and 'The Boys' Deconstruct American Fascism

Superhero media has a history of critiquing the dark side of power, hero worship, and vigilantism, but none have done so as radically as Watchmen and The Boys.


Floodlights' 'From a View' Is Classicist Antipodal Indie Guitar Pop

Aussie indie rockers, Floodlights' debut From a View is a very cleanly, crisply-produced and mixed collection of shambolic, do-it-yourself indie guitar music.


CF Watkins Embraces a Cool, Sophisticated Twang on 'Babygirl'

CF Watkins has pulled off the unique trick of creating an album that is imbued with the warmth of the American South as well as the urban sophistication of New York.


Helena Deland Suggests Imagination Is More Rewarding Than Reality on 'Something New'

Canadian singer-songwriter Helena Deland's first full-length release Someone New reveals her considerable creative talents.


While the Sun Shines: An Interview with Composer Joe Wong

Joe Wong, the composer behind Netflix's Russian Doll and Master of None, articulates personal grief and grappling with artistic fulfillment into a sweeping debut album.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.