I have a confession to make… I love event books.
So many folks are so tired of Marvel and DC crafting these annual (now maybe even twice-annual) superhero events that they have a name for it: event fatigue. Look, obviously it sucks when an enjoyable title suddenly becomes a tie-in to an otherwise unrelated series, especially when it doesn’t make sense. But no matter how often the Big Two does it, the idea of bringing their heaviest-hitting characters, writers, and artists together for a series that, for a time, changes the trajectory of their shared universe is flat out exciting to me.
The upcoming Captain America: Civil War takes its title and part of its concept from the event that changed the way Marvel publishes comic books. More than any event before or after, the universe was changed not by some cosmic event, but by the choices of its characters. Civil War was such a success that it acted as a catalyst for Marvel to begin using events as annual pay off for storylines that spun out of previous events and were hyped with long-term plotting and character arcs in flagship titles like Avengers, Captain America, and Thor. After Civil War, Marvel gave us the terrifying Secret Invasion, Siege (my favorite), Fear Itself, Avengers vs. X-Men, Infinity, Original Sin, AXIS, Secret Wars, and now… Civil War II.
So, as the Marvel Cinematic Universe prepares to launch its own Civil War, and as Marvel Comics attempts to recapture lightning with their sequel series, it felt right to go back to the beginning and revisit the original story.
Civil War is written by Mark Millar, penciled by Steve McNiven, colored by Morry Hollowell, lettered by Chris Eliopoulos, and inked by Dexter Vines, Mark Morales, John Dell, Tim Townsend, and McNiven himself. It ran from July 2006 through January 2007, basically dominating a good part of the comics industry while it came out. It’s simultaneously one of the most loved and hated event books out there, and while it does have its issues, it remains a favorite of mine.
The core of Civil War, of course, is the conflict between Captain America and Iron Man. After a reality television show starring the New Warriors leads to a cataclysmic event with hundreds of casualties, Tony Stark takes it upon himself to spearhead the Superhuman Registration Act. The plan is for all of the super-powered community within the Marvel Universe to register their powers and names with the government, which many heroes with secret identities refuse to do. Stark believes that it is their responsibility to create a safer world, while Captain America stands behind the heroes who feel that they would be putting their families in danger if they registered with the government. Besides much of the readership feeling strongly that Tony is the villain here, to me, Millar did a great job of positioning two heroes and friends who are both right against each other. Things quickly spiral out of control when each of these opposing forces build their ranks, and dark choices are made on both sides (especially Tony’s, but again – he doesn’t feel completely out of line to me until toward the end of the conflict, considering the catalyst for this whole thing). Civil War has a lot of superheroes fighting superheroes, which has become a huge part of the modern landscape of events, but here it feels very emotionally driven, rather than wouldn’t it be cool if…?
While Civil War works on its own, and at times feels like it’s delivering iconic scene after iconic scene, the way it works best for me, even years later, is the impact it had on the Marvel Universe at large: Tony’s hard-fought redemption that culminated in Matt Fraction’s masterful Invincible Iron Man run, Steve’s death in Ed Brubaker’s landmark Captain America story that happened as a result of Civil War and led to Bucky’s run as Cap, the rift in the Avengers that defined much of Brian Michael Bendis’s long, multi-year storylines on New/Dark/Mighty Avengers, and countless other titles that felt the ripple effect of Civil War.
And now, Marvel Studios is about to have their own Civil War and, if we can judge it by the trailers, this one is going to have a similar impact on the Marvel Cinematic Universe as a whole. I don’t know about you, but I’m ready.
PAT SHAND writes comics (Van Helsing, Robyn Hood, Hellchild), novels (Charmed for HarperCollins), and pop culture journalism (Sad Girls Guide, Blastoff Comics). When not writing, he spends most of his time re-watching trailers to Captain America: Civil War. So was he, Steve… so was he.