Marvel has two big events coming up later this year: a sequel to the 2006 Civil War crossover and a Spidey-centric happening called Dead No More. Two free comics released for this year's Free Comic Book Day gave readers some insight as to what's coming up in those storylines. Comic shops all over handed out gratis copies of dozens of titles from different publishers last Saturday. Marvel did something similar to what both they and DC did last year, which is to use these free books to entice readers with glimpses of big changes. Right now, these stories are only available in print form so brick-and-mortar establishments were the only place you could grab them. Here's what's of note in Free Comic Book Day: Civil War and Free Comic Book Day: Captain America.
Spoilers follow for Free Comic Book Day: Civil War, Free Comic Book Day: Captain America and Captain America: Civil War.
The Civil War book starts out with James Rhodes and Carol Danvers having sweet romantic moment.
Rhodey's at the headquarters of The Ultimates to rendezvous with the Inhumans, who are bringing a powerful clairvoyant to the Triskelion for testing. Once there, the man named Ulysses foresees an imminent attack by Thanos. The heroes use the advance intel to prepare for the Mad Titan's assault but it's still a difficult battle. The chaos sends one of War Machine's missiles right at She-Hulk and Rhodey's shock sets him up for a near-fatal attack.
Between this comic and the Captain America: Civil War movie, this just ain't Rhodey's week. Meanwhile, the biggest doings in the Free Comic Book Day: Captain America book are in the back-up story starring Spider-Man. It opens with Peter Parker having lunch in San Francisco with a mentor of his. He suits up and swings off in the direction of nearby gunfire, where he encounters a skirmish between the Rhino and Wilson Fisk.
Rhino, who's supposed to be dead, shouts out some blather about an unseen master he's working for. Spidey manages to de-escalate the situation and goes to a crime scene built around the body of the Kingpin's wife…
...the scene then shifts to Rhino grovelling for mercy at the feet of the mysterious schemer behind all the commotion. A woman working with the villain-in-charge grants him mercy and it turns out that she is none other than Gwen Stacy, the girlfriend of Peter Parker who died in a classic storyline from the 1970s.
This appears to be the Gwen Stacy from the mainline Earth-616 universe and not the one starring in Spider-Gwen as the Spider-Woman of an alternate reality. While he isn't referred to in name, the visuals of the big bad in question point strongly at some kind of connection to The Jackal, an old Spidey nemesis who previously cloned Gwen Stacy and Peter Parker. The Jackal was really university tutor Miles Warren and was last seen in the Scarlet Spider series that chronicled the adventures of a Peter clone named Kaine Parker. All that Egyptian imagery surrounding the might-be-Jackal seems to hint at either a new mystical twist or thematic upgrade to his modus operandi. Of course, this might not even be the old Jackal; this is an appetiser designed to get readers to buy an upcoming multi-part series after all.
Like many of the editorial decisions Marvel has made of late, the plot points in these two titles feel like they're designed to either buttress Hollywood adaptations or double down on recent successes. The Civil War story includes the Inhumans, who are being pushed hard by Marvel because the company owns their multimedia rights. Rhodey gets seriously hurt in the Captain America: Civil War movie, just like in today's comic, and the Spider-Gwen version of Gwen Stacy has been a fan favourite ever since her debut a while back. The Dead No More teaser at the end of this book features a bunch of Spidey-related characters who've shuffled of the mortal coil in dramatic fashion, like Doctor Octopus and someone who looks a lot like Uncle Ben. Hopefully, the actual event will have something clever or biting to say about the fact that death is a revolving door for superhero characters. We'll see when Dead No More starts in June.