The Superhuman Registration Act has been passed as a result of the Stamford, CT tragedy. Frontline's "Embedded" story arc follows intrepid reporters Ben Urich and Sally Floyd as they report on the split of the superhero community created by registration.
Frontline #5 contained several important plot developments. Urich has gotten into a threatening confrontation with long-time Spider-Man nemesis, the Green Goblin. Urich's boss, J. Jonah Jameson, doubts the validity of Urich's encounter and fires him. Meanwhile Sally Floyd has been arrested by the Pro-Registration forces for associating with known elements of the Anti-Registration faction.
Frontline #6 examines the fallout of these events and the implications of the big battle between heroes that took place in Civil War #'s 3-4.
Our issue begins with Urich moving out of his office. A passing associate remarks that he would register his "secret identity" due to the amount of perks registered superheroes receive from the federal government.
Urich's sourness at being fired is interrupted by Robbie Robertson, editor-in-chief at the Daily Bugle. Robertson tries to convince Urich that Jameson has always been "firing" him. Robertson states to the unconvinced Urich that he shouldn't leave the Bugle over Jameson's latest blow-up. Urich changes his mind only after Robertson agrees to back his claims about the Green Goblin.
Sally Floyd is now in an undisclosed location. A NSA agent is interrogating her in a holding cell. Floyd refuses to identify the associate she met in issue #5. Her cool defiance outrages the interrogator. Reed Richards intercedes by offering her a deal.
The scene shifts to Urich again before we know the details of Reed's proposal. He is embedded (complete with a ridiculous helmet) at Green-Meyer Chemical Plant, the site of the first major battle between Pro- and Anti- Registration forces. Urich ignores the obliviousness of his colleague in between dodging debris and explosions. Their exchange is interrupted by the startling appearance of a seemingly resurrected Thor. Urich and his partner are mortified, as Thor strikes down the anti-registration Goliath in cold blood.
At the conclusion of the battle, Urich interviews Iron Man while Goliath is being wrapped in an oversized body bag. Iron Man refuses to discuss the motives of Thor while expressing extreme remorse for Goliath's death. Urich then strikes a nerve with Iron Man. He asks about the Green Goblin's assertion that super-villains are being recruited in order to hunt down anti- registration heroes. Iron Man feigns no knowledge of the Goblin's claims and leaves before Urich can press him any further. Urich is clearly mad at being played for a fool. As emergency units and police continue to descend on the battle site, Urich declares "I got you, Tony Stark...Hook, line, and sinker."
Some may question the real-world analogs that Civil War has staked its appeal on. One of the main obstacles that Civil War has encountered is that it is an event meant to attract new readers. Long-time comic-book fans have historically been put off by change. The negative reception that the changes brought by Civil War hasn't been any different. Whether it has been Secret Wars or House of M, everyone has had an opinion on how their favorite characters should be portrayed. That being said, Paul Jenkins is an extremely talented writer. The whole reasons behind Civil War make sense when you read Jenkins's Frontline mini-series.
Frontline #6's "Embedded" arc packs action, intrigue, and suspense all in a short storytelling format. Jenkins is a master of guiding the reader along without being overbearing. One legitimate complaint of Mark Millar's main Civil War comic book is that it has force-fed character moments and plot without any real substance or sense of long-term direction. Without debating the merits of that argument, Civil War: Frontline contains none of the criticisms leveled upon Civil War proper. Urich is portrayed perfectly, as well as providing hilarious nods to the embedded reporters that followed American troops in Iraq.
Jenkins seems less interested in the character of Sally Floyd. We know little of her personality except that she is a spunkier version of Arianna Huffington. Her meeting with the mysterious figure in issue #5 could have been touched on a little more. Also, Jenkins runs into a problem that has increasingly occurred in the vast amount of Civil War tie-ins. Iron Man is just simply an insensitive jerk. His tenuous position (This particular reviewer sides with Captain America) is not bolstered by his refusal to give Urich an honest interview.
Penciler Ramon Bachs and colorist Laura Martin deserve special praise. There are some great reaction shots of Urich and his colleague dodging the mayhem of the battle at the chemical plant. The scene where a quick-tempered NSA agent interrogates Floyd is also well portrayed. Floyd's facial expressions are deliciously non- committal in these panels. Finally, Martin's choice of colors in the re- enactment of Goliath's death scene is particularly creepy and well worthy of praise.
The story moves along quickly and logically. The reader is given action and some interesting points to debate about the merits of registration. Several mysteries are left unresolved - including the identity of the masked figure and the Green Goblin's involvement. Jenkins is on his A-game here, as there is very little not to like here.
Our favorite superhero, Spider-Man, shows up in a few panels. One has him swinging into action against the anti-registration heroes. Another panel shows him staring into the distance in the aftermath of the chemical plant battle. Both cameo appearances are very minor and only used for fleshing out the scenes.