Last time, I revisited Marvel Comics’ Civil War event, which put longtime Avengers Iron Man and Captain America at odds with each other. The conflict between these two heroes split the Marvel Universe in two, sending a ripple effect through their entire publishing line. As their on-screen counterparts prepare to duke it out in Captain America: Civil War, we can expect the course of the Marvel Cinematic Universe to be shaken to its core. Let’s take a look back at how Cap and Iron Man’s legacies were impacted by their choices in the Civil War comic.
The Death and Rebirth of Captain America
Even though it didn’t happen in the pages of Civil War, the event its perhaps best known for its harshest consequence rather than anything that actually happens within the series itself. That consequence is, of course, Captain America’s death.
It goes down in Ed Brubaker’s legendary run on Captain America. Cap has been arrested for his role in Civil War and, while he’s being taken into SHIELD custody, he is assassinated. What follows is an eighteen-issue story arc that began with the death of an icon and culminated with Bucky, now rehabilitated (or rehabilitating, more like) from his days as the Winter Soldier, picking up the shield and becoming the new Captain America.
Steve Rogers would eventually come back to life and don the stars and stripes again, but his death had a lasting impact and helped, in part, define Brubaker’s run. Interestingly, while Steve Rogers still lives in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it’s undeniable that Brubaker’s saga has been one of the definitive comics that helped set the tone of Cap’s cinematic adventures. Though Captian American: The Winter Soldier is very different from Brubaker’s comic of the same name, many of its plot points were straight-up pulled from the pages.
Right now, everyone is wondering Captain America: Civil War will end with Cap’s death and set up Bucky to pick up his best friend’s legacy. However, Sam Wilson is currently also Captain America in the Marvel comics, and if we’re talking about stability, his on-screen counterpart would be currently far more qualified to wield the shield than the tortured, still-kinda-insane Bucky.
Only time will tell if the movies will go the route of Steve Rogers’ death, but if they do, I hope they eventually follow through with a rebirth. He may be old-fashioned but, as a great man named Phil once said, people might just need a little old-fashioned.
Invincible Iron Man
After rallying his pro-registration forces in Civil War and winning against Captain America and his rebels, Iron Man is granted the position of Director of SHIELD. However, even with this elevated power, he is haunted by the cost he has paid for his victory… his friend Steve Rogers’ life.
Though Tony Stark himself, of course, had no hand in Captain America’s assassination, the loss hangs over his head. Other titles such as Bendis’ New Avengers and JMS’s Thor also show how Tony has lost friendships and powerful allies in the superhero community because of his actions, which are largely seen as betrayal. In the pages of the short-lived Iron Man: Director of SHIELD and Bendis’s Mighty Avengers spinoff, we see Tony move on with his life… that is, until he is publicly maligned in the next Marvel event, Secret Invasion, when his tenure as the head of SHIELD ends with an alien invasion.
Matt Fraction began his epic four-year run on Invincible Iron Man in the midst of Tony Stark’s public fall, which sees him deal with the crushing fallout of Civil War and Secret Invasion, and then eventually builds to his redemption and his return as one of the greatest heroes the pages of comics have ever seen.
Though it remains to be seen if we will see a similar rise and for Iron Man in the MCU, we already know that the on-screen version of Tony is very much the man who makes the hard (and, at times, crazy) calls and then deals with the consequences later. Or, as Avengers: Age of Ultron shows, sometimes his actions lead to others facing harsh consequences. I don’t know if we’ll ever get another Iron Man solo movie but, if we do, I think the post-Captain America: Civil War Tony Stark might be the most captivating version of the character we’ve seen yet.
PAT SHAND writes comics (Vampire Emmy, Equilibrium, Hellchild), novels (Charmed for HarperCollins), and pop culture journalism (Sad Girls Guide, Blastoff Comics). Though he understands that, sometimes, stories are meant to end… he dreams of a world where we have fourth, fifth, and sixth Iron Man movies. What a world it would be.