Here’s one you won’t find on many best of lists: the Marvel Comics Civil War series
I haven’t read a lot of fiction in the past year. I’ve been too swept up in making sense of what’s really going on around us that I keep putting off novels and literature. Even some of the fiction this year
that looked more interesting, like Absurdistan and The Emperor’s Children, didn’t grab me quite enough (though I’m looking forward to reading The Road and Suite Française sometime soon).
The biggest exception to my non-fiction binge was
the Civil War series from Marvel. Yes, these are comic books, and
they’re some of the best literature I’ve come across, replete with
political allusions, personal moral crises, tragedy, comedy, romance,
family drama, and all the great Shakespearean plots.
I’ve never been much of a comic book reader,
though I’ve enjoyed the movie versions and, as a kid, the cartoons. Yet
from the characterizations to the artwork, I’ve been hooked on this
series. The gist is that during filming of a reality show, some young
superheroes get into a fight and trigger a massive explosion in a
Connecticut suburb, killing 600 people and dozens of children. This
leads to Congress passing a Superhero Registration Act, where all
heroes must register and put their identities on file. Thanks to the
goading of Tony Stark/Iron Man, Spider-Man registers and unmasks
himself as Peter Parker. Meanwhile, Captain America leads a band of
heroes that go underground to escape registration and risk arrest. Yet
it soon surfaces that some proponents of the Act might be acting in
their self-interests, securing lucrative Halliburton-style contracts
(allusions to Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld are easily recognizable),
and as the death toll rises, some of the major players switch sides.
There’s the main seven issue Civil War series if
you just want an overview. Then each character or group of characters
are chronicled in breakout stories, leading to scores of comics (I’ve
read probably about 30% to 40% of the whole series). My personal
favorite: Punisher’s War Journal, which is even better after reading
his appearance in the Spider-Man breakouts.
You can find some of the comics in this Amazon
link; for the rest, I’d find a local comic book store (in Manhattan,
I’ve been frequenting the one on 23rd between Madison and 5th) or check eBay.