Comic Book History: Marvel’s Civil War

Civil War was the event comic that changed the modern comic landscape, for better or worse. While the story was certainly good, with an enthralling premise, everything that happened from a publishing point of view was just as influential. The book was written by Mark Millar (of Kick-Ass and Wanted fame), and gorgeously drawn by Steve McNiven (Old Man Logan, Nemesis), with amazing colors from Morry Hollowell.

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Due to many events around the Marvel universe (retribution attack on Manhattan because of Nick Fury’s actions, Hulk rampaging in Vegas, mutant hysteria, etc.), stock in superheroes was low. A group of young heroes called the New Warriors tried to capture some villains hiding out in the suburbs of Stamford, CT, to bolster the ratings of their reality show. A villain, Nitro, used his powers to explode and escape, taking out several blocks, including an elementary school and killing over 600 civilians. In response, the government implemented the Superhuman Registration Act, a bill mandating the registration of any super powered human in the United States. From their they could retire, or work with S.H.I.E.L.D., receiving benefits and pay.

Captain America was ordered to execute this directive, but instead rebelled, saying it was unconstitutional. He believed his job was to defend the ideals of America, even if that meant going against those in charge. Iron Man stepped in to enforcer the act. The story primarily became Cap vs. Iron Man. Sides were drawn and characters chose. Some had obvious allegiances, while others were a little surprising, with friends completely divided.

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Spider-Man was hit the hardest by the act. At the time, Parker was Tony Stark’s BFF. Peter public revealed his identity, in support of the act. Eventually he regretted this, and switched sides to join Cap. From here he needed to hide his wife, Mary-Jane, and Aunt May from those who wanted vengeance. Don’t worry, years later Marvel, in a very clumsy manner, undid this. Don’t ask me how.

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The story was good, with a few exciting twists, but ultimately petered out in the finale. Both sides met and battled, with the fight spilling out onto the streets of New York (where everything happens in the Marvel U.). Cap saw the havoc he was reeking and surrendered. The story ultimately became about ushering in the new status quo, with the Fifty State Initiative (every state having their own team), Iron Man becoming director of S.H.I.E.L.D., the New Avengers (Spidey, Luke Cage, Wolverine, Dr. Strange) going under ground, the Mighty Avengers (Iron Man, Ms. Marvel, Wasp, Black Widow) becoming the officially sanctioned team, and Cap’s assassination.

While the idea is sound, the execution fumbled a little. Iron Man was completely vilified towards the end, and was so for many years. Which is funny because he had the most rational argument.

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The other thing people remember Civil War for is the tie-in comic. Every comic published by Marvel was listed as a tie-in. It became a little annoying to have your favorite titles derailed. This was expounded because of delays with the main title. McNiven fell ill and was hospitalized. EIC Joe Quesada wisely decided to stick with him, wanting a quality product that would stand the test of time, avoiding fill-in art. Issue 4 was delayed a month and issue 5 came two months after that. This caused many other books in Marvel line to be delayed to avoid spoiling the main title. Annoying at the time, but a wise move ultimately.

Marvel and the comic industry as a whole learned a lot about how to do modern event comics. Before this, event books simply existed in their own pocket with the outcome rippling through the publishing line after. That obviously changed here. Marvel learned (after a few more tries), how to get it right. Rarely is your monthly book bothered by obnoxious tie-ins now. They exist, but only if want to go out of your way to read them. The biggest shake up was the idea of introducing a new status quo. Every event Marvel’s done since (Secret Invasion, Siege, Fear Itself), was more about the change to the everyday, rather than the story itself sadly.

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In my opinion, Civil War broke comics in a way. Now Marvel and DC are about trying to recreate that blockbuster comic event (Civil War sold amazingly well). To that end, the idea of heroes fighting heroes still plagues both companies today. Why can’t we give it a rest for a little bit? But looking at the story on it’s own, and not in the larger lens of it’s at the moment lightning in a bolt, it’s an excellent story and definitely worth reading, especially for it’s real world parallels.

Which side were you on? Think they got the idea right? Comment below! If you enjoyed this post, please share!

Civil War: The Confession – best single issue ever.

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30 responses to “Comic Book History: Marvel’s Civil War

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