At this point it seems that The Avengers movie can do no wrong. Fans are ravenous to get a taste of what’s in store for Marvel movies, even wishing beyond reason that somehow Spider-Man and the X-Men show up in some way. Last time I left off with my current Marvel continuity retrospective, the massive Civil War had happened and the Superhero Registration Act went into effect. There’s a bit of a slowdown before the next event, so let’s take the time to look at the aftermath of Civil War. I mean hey, we’ve got a year until The Avengers hits theaters, so why not?
For a brief recap, the Civil War plotline came to a head when the anti-registration heroes and the pro-registration heroes met up at last in New York City and had a huge throw-down where Captain America turned himself in at the last second, having realized he wasn’t doing any good anymore.
This is where things get tricky as about four important things happen from here in the Marvel Universe. First, the New Avengers, comprised mostly of anti-registration members such as Spider-Man and Luke Cage, continue on as underground vigilantes. The dynamic adds some pretty interesting concepts since we get a full superhero team comprised of individuals who are entirely on the lam from the other superheroes of the world, primarily Iron Man. I was incredibly glad to see that the New Avengers comic would still keep going with the amazing back-and-forth from Bendis’ writing, allowing Spider-Man to continue sounding fun rather than the annoying squirt he’s turned into. Plus, Tony Stark shines on and on ad probably the best villain character ever to come out of Marvel’s world, somehow.
Next we see the Avengers proper form under the guidance of Tony Stark and Hank Pym, though they call themselves the Mighty Avengers now. This team is lead by Ms. Marvel and has such members as Wonder Man, Ares, and even Sentry (who has yet to unleash by the way). While nowhere near as great as the New Avengers comics, Mighty Avengers isn’t all bad. It’s just interesting to see the team going out in the open right after the big event just went down, as well as a bit of character building for Hank Pym where we learn how he’s been dealing with his continued divorce from fellow Avenger’s member The Wasp.
Also spawning right around this time is Avengers: The Initiative. Invented as a way for superheroes to have a positive venue when registering, Tony Stark and a handful of other heroes begin training programs in all fifty states to assemble government-sanctioned teams region-locked to that area, basically forming teams that will function as local law enforcement. The Initiative is as close as we get to the “superhero high school” gag, though it may more-accurately be called superhero boot camp as it’s like training for a super-powered army.
To be honest, I was entertained while reading The Initiative storylines, but I can’t really say that the characters were memorable enough to remember. A lot of the problem here comes with a glut of new characters to the point that you can’t be sure who to focus on next. There is one kid who’s essentially a new Steve Rogers made through a strict training regiment rather than a Super Solider Serum, and another who’s a walking cartoon character, but I can’t remember a single one of their names or remember why I cared in the first place. That’s just the difficulty of trying to follow too many people at once. I did really enjoy one plot where an entirely indestructible kid is rejected after going through training once we discover that he’s incapable of doing anything at all other than being indestructible.
Oh, but I said that four things happened after the Civil War, right? Well I wasn’t lying, and it all falls on Captain America. It’s a common misconception that the Civil War ends with the death of Steve Rogers since the seven-issue run ends instead with Steve Rogers going to jail. While heading to trial in the 25th issue of his own series, Cap is shot at by a villain named Crossbones (unsuccessfully if we want to get really technical here as it doesn’t kill him). Thing is, the only reason Steve takes that shot is because he thought the officer guarding him was about to be shot and dove in the way of the bullet. Then Sharon Carter, a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent and Steve’s lover, comes up close and shoots him three times in the stomach, an act that “kills” him (this is comics so you know there’s an asterisk there).
Even though you know this is coming- what with having the world spoil this plot twist a whole long time before you’ll probably ever get a chance to read it- Captain America’s death still hits pretty hard. He goes down a hero, as is expected. The entire Marvel Universe mourns, though things are further strained by the fact that none of the New Avengers can attend his funeral without being attacked and arrested by the Mighty Avengers. It’s this strange conflict between the heroes that really makes everything feel that much more interesting as no matter which comic you’re reading, there’s the threat of anyone fighting anyone, and that’s just fun.
However, further complications arise as Bucky Barnes reappears to the continuity, having previously been “killed” in the same incident that caused Steve Rogers to be frozen in a glacier for a few decades. Obviously Bucky wasn’t really killed, so much of the Captain America issues leading up to the Civil War deal with Steve learning of Bucky’s living status as Winter Solider, a brainwashed Soviet assassin, and sequentially freeing Bucky of his altered state using the Cosmic Cube (the “wish anything” macguffin).
With those details worked out, Tony Stark calls Bucky to him with a letter from Steve explaining that, in the very likely event of his death, he wishes for Bucky to take up the shield and the outfit and go on as Captain America (letting Captain America technically rejoin the New Avengers for a while).
Man, is that a lot to take in? Well that doesn’t even go into Spider-Man’s return to emo form with Back in Black or his messed up retcon in Brand New Day (we’ll cover that later, if ever). For now, this sets up the world pretty well for the next installment as the Marvel Universe is ready for the next big event. But even before the biggest of the big occurs, we’ve got one loose fact to deal with: Where is Hulk? We explain that next time!
While we’re waiting, who wants to talk about the Civil War’s aftermath? Were you pleased with the changes made to the Marvel Universe? Or did they just push you away? Leave a comment and let me know. Meanwhile, I’ve got to go into hiding until the Mighty Avengers stop chasing me.