"Civil War" is a 2006–07 Marvel Comics crossover storyline consisting of a seven-issue limited series of the same name written by Mark Millar and penciled by Steve McNiven, and various other tie-in books published by Marvel at the time. The storyline builds upon the events that developed in previous Marvel storylines, particularly "Avengers Disassembled", "House of M", and "Decimation". The tagline for the series is, "Whose Side Are You On?"
The plot of the series follows a framework story line in which the U.S. government passes a Superhero Registration Act, ostensibly designed to have super powered individuals act under official regulation, somewhat akin to law enforcement. However, superheroes opposed to the act, led by Captain America, find themselves in conflict with those supporting the act, led by Iron Man, with Spider-Man caught in the middle; the X-Men take a neutral stance. The superheroes in support of the law, such as Iron Man, Mister Fantastic and Ms. Marvel, become increasingly authoritarian. In the aftermath of the war, Captain America surrenders and is imprisoned. The conflict between freedom and security is an underlying theme in the story line, with real-life events and discussions, such as the U.S. government's increased surveillance of its citizens, serving as a backdrop for the events in Civil War. A sequel, Civil War II, debuted in June 2016.
The series received polarized reviews by critics but lauded by audiences and was a commercial success. The series is the basis for the Marvel Studios film Captain America: Civil War, which likewise features Captain America and Iron Man in opposition to each other.
Cover of Civil War 7 (Jan 2007). Art by Steven McNiven.
|Publication date||July 2006 – January 2007|
|Main character(s)||Iron Man
|Civil War||ISBN 0-7851-2179-X|
The premise of Civil War involves the introduction of a Superhuman Registration Act in the United States. Mark Millar, writer for the story, has said:
|“||I opted instead for making the superhero dilemma something a little different. People thought they were dangerous, but they did not want a ban. What they wanted was superheroes paid by the federal government like cops and open to the same kind of scrutiny. It was the perfect solution and nobody, as far as I'm aware, has done this before.||”|
The act requires any person in the United States with superhuman abilities to register with the federal government as a "human weapon of mass destruction," reveal their true identity to the authorities and then undergo proper training. Those who sign also have the option of working for S.H.I.E.L.D., earning a salary and benefits such as those earned by other American civil servants. Characters within the superhero community in the Marvel Universe split into two groups: one advocating the registration as a responsible obligation, and the other opposing the law on the grounds that it violates civil liberties and the protection that secret identities provide. While arguing directly with Iron Man about the law, Luke Cage (previously the second Power Man), an African American, compared the mandatory registration to slavery. A number of villains have also chosen to take sides, some choosing to side with the registration, others against it.
Marvel announced in August 2006 that some issues of the main Civil War series would be pushed back several months to accommodate artist Steve McNiven. The schedule had issue #4 being released one month late, in September, while issue #5 was released two months later, in November. Furthermore, various tie-in books including the Civil War: Front Line miniseries and tie-in issues of other comics were delayed several months so as not to reveal any plot developments.
In late November 2006, Marvel announced another delay. Civil War #6, originally scheduled for release on December 20, was pushed back two weeks and released on January 4. Unlike the previous instance, only The Punisher War Journal #2 was delayed. In a final act of rescheduling, Civil War #7 was pushed back two weeks (from January 17 to January 31), and then pushed back again until February 21.
In summary, an explosion in Stamford, Connecticut by the villain Nitro causes the U.S. government to introduce the Superhero Registration Act. Those not adhering to it are deemed unregistered and rogue superheroes. Tony Stark and Reed Richards lead the side of the pro-registration superheroes. Captain America leads the anti-registration side. Spider-Man, initially with Tony Stark, eventually joins the team of Captain America. Goliath is killed by the pro-registration superheroes. Many supervillains join the government in hunting down superheroes.
When the Super-Human Registration Act was proposed, Professor X and the Avengers proposed an alternative method with self-policing of mutantkind and super-powered communities, preventing Civil War from ever happening. Cyclops thought it was preposterous for Professor X to make himself the self-appointed representative of mutantkind, and his opposition to Xavier's proposal led Jean Grey to break up with him and marry Wolverine.
When Mister Fantastic was researching realities where the Civil War ended differently, he found one reality in which their version of Anthony Stark was a woman named Natasha Stark. The Civil War was avoided entirely in this reality due to her marriage to Steve Rogers.
During an attempt by the reality-displaced Superior Spider-Man (Doctor Octopus' mind in Peter Parker's body) to reach back to his dimension as seen in the Spider-Verse storyline, he discovered an alternate dimension where a Civil War Iron Spider-Man lies dead (killed by Karn) prompting him to continue investigating the murders of Spider-Men throughout the Multiverse.
In What If Civil War Ended Differently?, a stranger appears in front of Iron Man, who is visiting Captain America’s grave at Arlington National Cemetery. Tony Stark is told of two alternate ways the Civil War could have concluded:
Faced with this vision, Tony believes that this proves that he was right to pursue his pro-registration course of action, but the stranger then reveals another possibility;
The stranger is revealed to be Uatu, Earth 616's Watcher. Upon learning of the possibility of this alternate reality, Tony is devastated and weeps for the bright future he helped prevent.
In What If: Annihilation by David Hine and Mico Suayan, the cosmic Annihilation War reaches Earth during the War. The heroes unite to neutralize it, and many die in the first clashes. Captain America and Iron Man, after a final reconciliation, sacrifice themselves alongside Nova to deflect the full Annihilation Wave.
The 2015 Contest of Champions series featured an alternate version of Civil War that had everything go in Tony Stark's favor. Five years after the war, Tony becomes the President of the United States and leads the Mighty Avengers as the Iron Patriot. His team consists of Penance (Robbie Baldwin), Iron Spider (Natasha Romanov), Captain Marvel (Carol Danvers), and the Thor clone known as Thunderstrike. Steve Rogers (no longer called Captain America) and his teammates have been arrested and buy time off their sentence by performing suicide missions as the Thunderbolts. Steve's team consists of Spider-Man (Peter Parker), Invisible Woman, the Punisher, and Bill Foster's Goliath (who survived the Civil War in this reality). President Stark and his Mighty Avengers are taken to Battleworld by Maestro and have their memories altered to think that they are on Earth and that the Renegade Champions already there are unregistered vigilantes. The Thunderbolts are sent to rescue them, but misunderstandings result in the deaths of Penance and Thunderstrike and all three teams start fighting each other. Tony kills Steve when Steve lets his guard down, and reveals that he is in the possession of the Reality Gem from the Infinity Gauntlet. Tony and the members of the Illuminati divided the six Infinity Stones after hunting them down and vowed never to use them. But when Tony let the events of Civil War happen in their natural course, he couldn't resist using the Reality Gem to alter events in his favor. He used the gem to prevent the death of Goliath, the assassination of Captain America, alter the war in his favor, and rig the presidential election. He attempts to use it again to undo his killing of Steve, but as they are in another dimension the Reality Gem does not work. Maestro kills Tony and the Punisher, but is stopped by the intervention of Stick, the Sentry, and Nigel Higgins using the Iso-Sphere. The remaining five heroes from the Mighty Avengers and Thunderbolts stay behind on Battleworld with the Sentry and fight villains attempting to gather the Iso-Sphere as the Civil Warriors.
In this story, the Stamford incident leads to a polarising political debate that culminates with the two sides clashing in the Negative Zone Prison. During the fight, Black Panther hacks into the prison's computers and sees that the portal will explode, killing most of the combatants and stranding the rest. Black Panther assumes that Stark will teleport his combatants out at the last minute, but meanwhile, S.H.I.E.L.D. director Maria Hill tells Stark that Black Panther activated the explosives on the orders of Steve Rogers. Deactivating the teleportation device, Black Panther tries to shut down the bomb. Everyone in the prison rushes to escape through the power of the hero Cloak, who drops them all in midair over St. Louis. Unfortunately, Cloak can not shut off his powers fast enough to block out the explosion. The resulting beam of explosive energy creates a vast chasm called the Divide, destroying St. Louis and leaving millions dead.
The two sides regroup, with the Pro-Registration group taking control of the land to the east of St Louis, while the Anti-Registration group takes control of the land to the west. Each side blames the other for the deaths. The East became "the Iron", run by Tony Stark, and The West became "The Blue", run by Captain America. Differences in politics have caused people to pick one side over the other, with the split ossifying every year. The only place in the country that embraces both is a community in the ruins of St. Louis, built on a bridge over a chasm between the two sides. One of its inhabitants is Miriam Sharpe, a woman who lost her child at Stamford but who wants to bring peace.
Six years after the start of the conflict, Sharpe brings the two leaders together to discuss peace. At the meeting, Miriam is able to get the two men to open up. Stark explains that the Iron has wealth and resources from trade with the outside world where the Blue is regarded as a rogue state. However, his citizens are running out of space while the Blue has twice the space but half the population. He proposes that the Blue shrink, giving his people more space in exchange for which Stark will make trade concessions. General Rogers dismisses the offer, which leads to the start of an old debate between the two men. As Miriam Sharpe tries to intervene, she is shot in the back by a sniper. Reacting first, General Rogers calls Peter Parker to catch the shooter. Parker finds a remote-controlled sniper rifle. As Miriam dies, General Rogers realizes that from the angle of the shot that the shooter was most likely aiming at him. President Stark denies the shooter is one of his, but renewed civil war seemed inevitable.
President Stark sends a drone to track the killers, but it is shot down and its datacore claimed by the Blue. President Stark discovers certain anomalies regarding past events, leading him to believe that events like Sharpe's murder were caused by a third party. Meanwhile, Hank McCoy shows Rogers the results of "Project Bellcurve", a procedure capable of depowering superhumans. Numerous resources from the Iron are needed to continue the project, for which Rogers sends a team composed of Parker, Elektra, Azari, and Venom/Clint Barton to infiltrate Stark's territory. At the same time, Stark sends Jennifer Walters to infiltrate the Blue and continue investigating Sharpe's murder.
Spider-Man's team suffers the first casualty when a Stark Sentinel kills Elektra. The team manages to overcome the rest of the defenses (including the reanimated corpse of the Kingpin controlled by Doctor Octopus' tentacles) thanks to Venom, and return to the Blue with the components needed for "Project Bellcurve." At the same time, She-Hulk had been able to infiltrate Steeltown. However, Agent Robbie Baldwin of the Punishers recognizes her and follows She-Hulk. She discovers the assassin was Bullseye. Baldwin attacks Jen as she is spying on Bullseye, and is forced to flee. Before she can leave Steeltown, she is knocked out by an unidentified attacker. She-Hulk awakes in an undisclosed location having been captured by Bullseye's client Black Panther.
As the Blue prepare to invade the Iron in a last-ditch attempt at ending the war, Iron Man tracks down Jen's position and flies to rescue her. He finds her, but his armor is neutralized and stripped from him. Tony is brought to Black Panther who reveals himself as the Skrull Queen Veranke. Veranke tells him that she is the cause of every single failed attempt at reaching peace in a part of a plan to benefit from the never-ending war. Iron Man uses additional weaponry that was not in his armor to free himself, fend off the Skrull guards, and break She-Hulk free from her cage. Meanwhile, the Blue invade the Iron while General America prepares to detonate a bomb derived from Project Bellcurve.
As the conflict escalates, Iron Man is able to reach General America and reveal that Bucky is a Skrull, prompting General America to accept a telepathic 'update' from Emma Frost that confirms that the Skrulls have manipulated the conflict for years. Accepting their mutual responsibility for the situation, Rogers and Stark sacrifice themselves to detonate the Bellcurve bomb. The blast depowers the superhumans and reverts the Skrulls to their true state. A few months later, a powerless Peter and Jennifer are shown discussing the tentative truce that has been formed between the two sides, and wonder whether Stark and Rogers knew that peace would be the result of their sacrifice.
A direct sequel to the original series debuted in June 2016, written by Brian Michael Bendis and drawn by David Marquez. Unlike the previous story and the film, the conflict in this storyline is not about issues of government registration; a new Inhuman, Ulysses, has emerged with the ability to make extremely accurate predictions of the future, resulting in conflict emerging between heroes led by Iron Man and Captain Marvel respectively, Stark favouring self-determination and concerned about the prospects of coming to depend on the visions while Danvers feels that his visions represent a potentially valuable asset.
At the time of its release, Civil War received polarised reviews. Comic Book Round Up gave the series an average rating of 6.5. According to a scholarly analysis presented at the 2007 Comic-Con International, this story's conflict is a natural outgrowth of what psychologist Erich Fromm called "the basic human dilemma", the conflicting desires for both security and freedom, and "character motivations on both sides arise from positive human qualities because Fromm’s image of human nature is ultimately optimistic, holding that people on either side are struggling to find what is best for all". However, over time, Civil War have become more well received. IGN ranked it as one of the greatest Comic Book Events, and WatchMojo ranked it as #6 on their Top 10 Marvel Graphic Novels list and #1 on their Top 10 Avengers Comics You Should Read list.
Marvel adapted Civil War into a prose hardcover novel in July 2012 as the first of a series of four novels adapting some of Marvel's most significant fictional events. It was written by Stuart Moore, the writer of Namor: The First Mutant. The book expanded on the story and set the events during Barack Obama's first term in office, rather than George W. Bush's last term; Tony Stark makes reference to the Affordable Care Act when speaking to Spider-Man in the first chapter of the novel. The novel is set in the alternate timeline created by the controversial storyline "One More Day" and detailed in "One Moment in Time", as Spider-Man is depicted as never having married Mary Jane Watson, having never arrived on the day of their wedding. In the original comics version, Civil War was a lead-in to "One More Day", depicting May Parker's assassination on the orders of Wilson Fisk near the end of the main Civil War storyline.
Captain America: Civil War was a cinematic treatment of the story, albeit focusing more on the issue of government control rather than public knowledge of secret identities, matters also being escalated by the interference and manipulation of Helmut Zemo as his plan for revenge for the Avengers' role in Ultron's assault and the deaths of Zemo's family. The movie version of Civil War also differs from the comic substantially, with the fate of Bucky Barnes being a key element of the war after he is framed for an assassination. As in the comics, Captain America and Iron Man are the leaders of the anti-registration and pro-registration sides of the conflicts, with Cap's side including the Falcon, Bucky, Ant-Man, Hawkeye, and the Scarlet Witch, and Iron Man's side being Black Widow, War Machine, the Black Panther, Spider-Man and the Vision. In the end Stark and Rogers reconcile after realizing the truth, only for it to be short lived as Zemo reveals Barnes' role in Stark's parents' deaths, causing him to angrily attack both Rogers and Barnes, the fight culminates with Rogers abandoning his shield and identity. The film concludes with Cap's side seeking asylum in Wakanda after the Black Panther recognizes that he was wrong to target Bucky, the latter is then put in a cryogenetic sleep, Black Widow goes on the run, and War Machine is left crippled after injuries sustained in the final battle.
A different variation of the Civil War storyline was adapted in the four-part Season 3 finale of Avengers Assemble. In this version of the storyline, the Registration Act targets new Inhumans, and teams of Avengers come into conflict over the issue, as in other adaptations. It is revealed in Part 3, however, that the Inhuman Registration Act is actually part of a plan by Truman Marsh (actually Ultron in disguise) to begin the Ultron Revolution by manipulating humans and Inhumans into destroying each other, which is foiled by the combined efforts of the Avengers.