As I said when I wrote about Civil War, the spin-off book Civil War Frontline is a better comic.

What do I mean by that?

I mean it has better stories, it develops characters, it introduces new ideas, it’s got suspense and action, great art, great dialog…Civil War had some of these, but certainly not all.

Frontline told several stories each week, about various characters.  The main one was, of course, about reporters–mostly Ben Urich–who break the case of the Civil War conspiracy.  By now, it’s too late to “spoil” it….

frontline tony stark traitor

It explains a lot, without being an “essential” book.  Although, after reading Civil War: Frontline, you’ll probably find it essential reading.  But I have to be honest, I didn’t read it until years after I read Civil War–so it really isn’t essential.

But the most interesting story is Speedball’s story–and the origin of Penance.  I’m a sucker for prison dramas, and much of his tale takes place in Ryker’s where he’s awaiting trial for failing to register as a superhero and his part in the Stamford tragedy, but there’s more to it than that.

Frontline incorporates history, and uses the Civil War framework to connect the Marvel Universe to “real” history.  Hence, the attempted assassination of Speedball being illustrated in a clear reference to Jack Ruby…

speedball assassinated jack ruby

Speedball is the only character in Civil War who truly atones for his sins.  All superheroes cause destruction in the name of justice, and the Civil War itself ends when Captain America feels guilty for destroying the homes of “regular people.”  But Cap’s guilt is more about his own failure to win decisively than it is about what he’s really done.  He doesn’t try to make anything right (arguably, he gets killed before he has a chance–but still).  Speedball, on the other hand, undergoes prison torture before designing a costume that will stick pins into his body all the time and becoming Penance.

first appearance of penance

The book also incorporates poetry and historical writings, using them as a narrative tool at the end of each issue.  It’s very ambitious.

And, we get to see Wonder Man using his acting skills in a PSA in favor of registration, the return of Typeface (a Paul Jenkins creation), and Sub Mariner as a fireman!

typeface marvel sub mariner in disguise

Even  if you’ve already read Civil War, and know everything that’s going to happen, this series is worth a read (or reread).  It’s the best thing to come out of the Civil War event.