Whose Side Are You On?

Posted: January 18, 2013 in On Comics

Brother fighting against brother, uneasy alliances being forged, families being ripped apart, and bodies piling up by the battle.

What I’m taking about has nothing to do with Abraham Lincoln nor Union v. Confederacy. No, I speak of a Civil War the likes of which we have never seen! I’m talking about Team Cap vs. Team Iron Man! The First Avenger vs. The Genius Billionaire Playboy Philanthropist in a fight that will determine the fate not just of super powered folks (hero and villain alike), but the very fate of the Constitution as we know it.


Are you still with me? Good. Marvel’s Civil War is actually the storyline that convinced me to actually begin picking up comic books in the first place. I’m sure I’m not alone when I say that it was a really intimidating hobby to get interested in. When you miss a few episodes (or a season) of your favorite TV series, no big deal; you get on Hulu or Netflix or even YouTube and watch all the episodes, and you’re caught up. Comic books are a whole ‘nother ballgame. Some comic books have been running since the 1940’s, and the characters we know and love from the big screen have most likely gone some seriously dramatic changes from the source material the film was based on (EXAMPLE: As I type this, in the mainstream Marvel continuity, Doc Ock, the villain from the 2nd movie, and Peter Parker have switched bodies. Spidey is slowly dying while Doc Ock has assumed his identity).

Despite all of that, I decided I should give it a try anyway. I mean what sounds cooler than a bunch of superheroes fighting, right? I’m sure I can overlook any holes in the continuity for the sake of seeing Captain America and Spider-Man go toe-to-toe. What I expected going in was the typical kid fantasy acted out with action figures, what I got was some serious social commentary and some heart-wrenching moments. This is not my first go-’round with the Civil War, I’ve read it numerous times, including the hundreds of issues tying the storylines all together. There’s a lot going on outside of just the 7-issue “Civil War” series.


It’s like this:

a team of two-bit superhero younglings called the New Warriors have a reality show with plummeting ratings. In an attempt to boost them, they decide to raid a house where they know some big-time supervillains live. One of the villains, Nitro, has a unique power: he can freakin’ explode. Like, literally explode. SO, when the battle leads one of the New Warriors and Nitro next to an elementary school, things get out of hand. Very, very fast.

600 people, including 60 children, are wiped out in the blink of an eye. Heroes from every walk assemble to help with cleanup – X-Men, Avengers, the Fantastic Four – but the damage has been done. People are dead, and this time it’s not going to be taken in stride.

As a result of the incident involving the New Warriors, the U.S. government passes the Superhuman Registration Act, an act that requires any and all superpowered beings in the U.S. to register their identity with the government. Some, like Tony Stark (Iron Man) believe that it is best to accept the act and cooperate, lest the government take more draconian methods against the superpowered folk. Others, like Captain America, view the act as a travesty to the Constitution and a trampling of (super)human rights. When S.H.I.E.LD makes the mistake of trying to bring Cap in against his will, the powder-keg is ignited. Cap assembles a resistance to fight the act and continue operating as superheroes underground while Iron Man is enlisted by the U.S. government to bring Cap and his resistance in.


The issues (comic pun):

So, now our favorite heroes are at each other’s throats. But this is Marvel, dammit. Things get really crazy, really quickly.

  • constiutional rights: Iron Man puts together a task force headed up by War Machine that hunts down superpowered beings, they are then given a choice: register or be imprisoned. Imprisoned as in “thrown in an inter-dimensional prison that nullifies your powers where we will keep you forever without due process”
  • loyalty to friends / family: At the start of the Civil War, Spidey is Iron Man’s go-to guy. Tony Stark fills the missing void of a father that Peter Parker never had, but if Peter reveals his identity to the public, will his family be safe? And what about his loyalty to his country? What would Cap do in a time like this..?
  • conspiracy: Some readers will notice a lack of The Hulk in the Civil War.. that’s because shortly before he was jettisoned into space by Mr. Fantastic, Iron Man, Professor Xavier, and a tribunal of superheroes called… wait for it… THE ILLUMINATI. Not only this, but everyone’s favorite Aryan thundergod, Thor, shows up, but he doesn’t seem quite himself.. he’s much more violent. Psychopathic, even..
  • betrayal:  Daredevil refers to Tony Stark as a “Judas” to his people. Several heroes (and villains, even) have to grapple with whose side are they on? Have they made the right decisions? That being said, there are spies everywhere, and telling where one’s loyalty lies isn’t as easy as it used to be.
  • pushing the limits: Desperate times call for desperate measures. For both sides, that means making deals with the devil and enlisting the help of supervillains who have just as much at stake as the heroes do. That being said, the villains have motives of their own..
  • neutrality: By this time, the mutant population of the world has been wittled down to dangerously low numbers – when called on by both sides, the X-Men choose to stay out of the conflict. But how long can one sit back while the world falls apart around them?
  • death: Surely legions of people with godlike poweres can’t go toe-to-toe without someone getting hurt, but what happens when it goes too far? What happens when one brother spills the blood of another? What kind of effect does that have on the people around them?


The Verdict:

If you enjoyed any of the movies (Thor, Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, etc.), the Civil War is definitely a good starting place for you.

For all of you fans of The Avengers, that teased Cap VS. Iron Man fist fight that seems to be building throughout the movie does indeed come to fruition here. In fact, it’s practically a battle royal for half of the series. All of your favorites are here: Thor, Daredevil, Spidey, Wolverine, the Fantastic Four, Avengers past and present. Superhero fights are cool on general principle, but there’s much more going on here. The costumes might be gaudy and flashy, but the people underneath them are real. Well, not real, but you get what I mean. They have personalities, they have regrets, they have families, and they bleed the same as normal people do.

Boy, do they bleed.

I’ll understand if some of you still scoff at the idea of picking up one of these books. Or if you pick it up, thumb through it, and remain confused throughout the duration of the reading. But that’s the nature of the beast.. you have to start somewhere. Just like someone who reads The Hunger Games will want to read Catching Fire and Mockingjay (except for maybe Jacob since it was spoiled for him), someone who picks up and gets into a comic book story arc will want to know more. Why did the Hulk get launched into space? Where is he now? And will he ever be back? Luckily for the comic book medium, it has made its transition into the digital age, so you no longer have to fret about the fact that we probably live a good 100 miles in every direction from any place that sells comics. For those of you who may be interested, a quick trip over to Marvel Digital Comics will yield unlimited results. Thousands of free-to-read issues, issues with every possible character you could want, and issues from nearly every time period. For those of you uninterested in reading, well, the next Avengers movie is slated for 2015. See you then!



  1. nikkijh24 says:

    I laughed out loud numerous times. This made me want to check out some graphic novels/comic books! Thanks Jeff!

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