Marvel pushes along at a snail’s pace with it’s epic crossover storyline “Civil War”. Choosing a bi-monthly schedule, the seven-part story going in the main Civil War mini-series has taken almost half the year to get to its fifth issue. Many of the tie-in storylines in regular books, as well as several of the mini-series launched to coincide have since ended their runs, yet the main storyline still has two issues to go. That aside…
The story starts as the teenage team of the New Warriors attacks a house occupied by four villains in Stamford, Connecticut. One of the villains, Nitro, tires of the beating and triggers an explosion that kills all but one of the heroes, most of the villains as well as a sizable chunk of the town – most notably children attending an elementary school across the street from the explosion. To make matters worse, the New Warriors were shooting a reality show based on their heroics, so the entire incident – along with Speedball saying the attack was for ratings – was seen by millions of viewers. The public cries out for action against thoughtless heroics, so backed by the likes of Iron Man and Mr. Fantastic, Congress passes a Super-hero Registration Act. Any and all costumed heroes must register with SHIELD, including their true identities. Any who refuse must either retire their hero identity or risk arrest by the national government. All registered heroes become paid officers as SHIELD and work arm-and-arm with the government.
The ranks immediately split. Captain America sees this as the opposite of the very freedom he fights for, so when he immediately goes underground, forming a team of Secret Avengers including Hercules, Goliath, Luke Cage, Cloak, Dagger, Falcon and a number of the Young Avengers. Iron Man, the Act’s figurehead, heads up a team of registered heroes, including the Fantastic Four, Yellowjacket, Wasp, She-Hulk, Sentry and Spider-Man, who actually unmasked to the public in a press conference to show his support.
This is an example of the classic Hero vs. Hero storyline, as two sides split over a controversial issue. Each side has its arguments, and neither is really wrong. It reflects the morales and beliefs of each individual who takes a side. While an intriguing idea, in most examples the story ends when one side is revealed to be definitely in the wrong, and the heroes rally together to defeat it. A classic example would be in X-Men/Alpha Flight when the two teams find a “Fire Fountain” that grants humans wondrous and beneficial abilities, but cause magical creatures to wither and die. While Alphans Shaman and Snowbird wither and near death, the teams divide between the needs of the many or the lives of the few. Soon after, though, it’s revealed that the fountain was a “gift” from Loki which gives its gift at the price of a human’s creativity and ability to come up with new ideas. They reject the gift, defeat Loki, end of story.
Civil War quickly fell into this formula as well. Teamed with the universally unlikable SHIELD (since Nick Fury’s departure after Secret War), Iron Man’s team not only hunts heroes who come out without registration, but even heroes who choose to stay at home (as seen with Luke Cage in the pages of New Avengers). Arrested heroes are taken to 42, a prison system devised by Reed Richards and built in the Negative Zone, where they are horribly mistreated and many held without trial or even having been charged (as seen in Civil War: Frontline). The main hit came when Iron Man produced a clone of Thor, which ended up savagely killing Goliath in combat. To combat the negativity of the incident, he reveals that he’ll be using villains (don’t think they’re reformed) with chips in their heads to help combat Captain America’s forces. Yeah, that always works well.
And thus, the “Whose Side Are You On?” catchphrase fails and we have our choice clearly made for us. Cap’s the good one, Iron Man’s the bad one, and we get to sit and watch it all work out. At the end of the day, it will no doubt turn into a “Our actions were wrong, but our ideals were right” argument on the side of the Pro-Registration as the system slowly shifts back to normal after about a six month span of post-War ramifications. Actually, this will likely only have an impact on one of my books (New Avengers), since the X-Men have been kept out of this storyline, safely shielded behind the walls of the Institute. Cable & Deadpool had a tie-in, but the end results achieved little that recent events in the book had not already achieved.
So in the end, we have Marvel’s major event to tie together nicely in a number of trade paperback collections and fit onto the comic shelves until the next big storyline comes around. Hopefully they wait a little while so the majority of Marvel books don’t remain tied in crossovers from a third of the year for a third straight year.