It was friend vs. friend,
Brother vs. brother,
Families were torn apart,
Loyalties were tested
& nothing would ever be the same
On today’s episode on Retro Vision, we take a look at Marvel’s universe splitting event: Civil War
The landscape of the Marvel Universe is changing, and it’s time to choose: Whose side are you on? A conflict has been brewing from more than a year, threatening to pit friend against friend, brother against brother – and all it will take is a single misstep to cost thousands their lives and ignite the fuse! As the war claims its first victims, no one is safe as teams, friendships and families begin to fall apart. The crossover that rewrites the rules, Civil War stars Spider-Man, the New Avengers, the Fantastic Four, the X-Men and the entirety of the Marvel pantheon!
The New Warriors (essentially Marvel’s version of the Teen Titans) are shooting a reality show in Stanford, Connecticut. The team (led by Speedball) attacks a group of low level criminals outside of a suburban home. The team seems to be doing well (despite some property damage) at taking down the villains, that is until Nitro (who has the ability to explode his body, and he also killed the original Captain Marvel) detonates himself in the middle of the street, killing all of the New Warriors (except Speedball) and 600 civilians (60 of which were children). What results is public outcry against superheroes and the creation of the S.H.R.A. (Superhuman Registration Act) which requires all superheroes to register with the government in order to continue their duties. This means that superheroes whose identities were previously unknown would now be outed. This causes a rift in the superhero committee, with each hero choosing a side, either Anti-Registration (Led by Captain America) or Pro-Registration (Led by Iron Man). This in turn caused friends and comrades in arms to be pitted against each other in violent combat. The first shot for Pro-Registration was fired when Spider-Man (Who was the most protective of his identity) unmasked himself on live T.V. and revealed his identity as Peter Parker shocking both friend and foe alike. The turning point for the war came when Bill Foster (An Anti-Registration Superher0 & the 2nd incarnation of Giant Man also going by Goliath) was killed in battle by Ragnarok (A clone of Thor created by Reed Richards & Hank Pym), this caused a re-evaluation of sides, some heroes choosing to register (Nighthawk & Scott Lang’s daughter, and Young Avenger Stature being among the numbers), while others chose to defect to Anti-Registration (Invisible Woman, Human Torch, & eventually Spider-Man). The story reaches a climax during a battle in the middle of New York City, with the outcome having a bearing on Marvel for years after it’s conclusion.
Mark Millar writes this epic tale, and what results from it is a story that’s more political than anything. With heroes debating the legitimacy of the law and whether it is right to follow it. While a few characters are focused on, most of the emphasis is put on Iron Man, Captain America, and Spider-Man. Iron Man trying to save the superheroes from themselves by wanting them to register, but some of his decisions come off a bit 3rd reich-ish by the second act because of the decisions he makes. Captain America is fighting for the freedoms of others like him, but he is also portrayed a bit out of character by making rash decisions and not thinking alot of things through like he usually does. Spider-Man has the most to deal with in the story, unmasking himself at the urging of Iron Man, only to defect to Captain America’s side when he no longer believes in the law. Unbeknownst to him though, the damage has already been done and it almost costs him a loved one (But that’s a story for another time.). Millar’s pace in the story comes off a bit confusing as you think you know what side was going to win, but then it make’s a sudden right turn near the end (and not in a good way), and while the story itself is seven issues there were loads of tie-ins that explain what went on in the rest of the Marvel U during the event (most of them better than the actual event).
One good thing about the book is the Steve McNiven’s artwork. He shows why he is one of the best artists in the industry in this story. Everything felt BIG, from the battles to just the heroes talking, his subtle lines and excellent detail gave the story a real feel to it. This is one of those case where the art overshadows the writing. Everything is well defined and organized, nothing drawn seems out of place art wise.
Civil War was one of those tales that had a lot of good ideas and concepts going for it but fell flat. The bad outweighs the good, but not by much. It was definitely one of the most controversial stories Marvel has produced, and you can still see some of the lingering effects today. The best things to come out of Civil War were the stories created after it’s conclusion, focusing on different characters and creating newer ones. And while it’s not a perfect story, it’s not a horrible one, and I find it as more of guilty pleasure that I still find myself reading from time to time. I recommend it, if only for the fight scenes and the art.