So, where did we last leave off on our Marvel Retrospective, detailing the current continuity of Marvel’s Universe? Ah yes, all mutants were depowered, save for a select 198 that happened to include the X-Men. Things were getting crazy, but at the very least it seemed that the Marvel Universe was ready to let things get back to normal. Well, until Mark Millar was given the reins and allowed to create what happens to be one of my favorite pieces of Marvel’s history. Let’s stop dawdling and get on with the Marvel Civil War.
In the aftermath of Nick Fury’s Secret War (which I sadly have not read), as well as the Hulk going crazy and accidentally killing a bunch of civilians in Vegas, the US government has been in the process of drafting the Superhuman Registration Act. What this act would demand is that everyone with super powers of some sort would make their identity public and work for the government. The goal here was to institute some definite accountability, sort of an answer to the question, “Who watches the Watchmen?” Well, apparently the American government.
Pretty much all superheroes are against this, though Tony Stark gets a big boost from them to take charge and try and convince the other heroes to listen to reason and help the act pass. Maria Hill, the new head of S.H.I.E.L.D. in Nick Fury’s absence, continues to be a real thorn in his side. In the public’s eyes, the Superhuman Registration Act is just sort of there; there’s no overwhelming support either way. And then something happens in Stamford, Connecticut.
The New Warriors, a group of teenage B-list heroes with a reality show, are trying to take down four super villains including Coldheart, Speedfreak, Cobalt Man, and Nitro. Being untrained and headstrong, they force a confrontation that results in Nitro living up to his name: He blows himself up. The explosion happens at a school, killing 600 people total, including most of the kids. Needless to say, public opinion shifts instantly and the Superhuman Registration Act passes.
Heroes all over begin to split into two factions with the Pro-Registration side being lead by Tony Stark, newly appointed as head of S.H.I.E.L.D., while the Anti-Registration side is still sort of getting a foothold. A lot of supporters of the act turn out to be heroes with identities already known to the public, such as Reed Richards (Mr. Fantastic), Ms. Marvel, and Tony Stark, but when Spider-Men steps forward and takes off his mask on national television, things get elevated a bit.
On the Anti-Registration side are who you’d expect, such as Luke Cage, Wolverine, Falcon, and Daredevil, though the man who would step forth and act as the symbol for the resistance force turns out to be Steve Rogers, better known as Captain America. When asked to lead a task force to hunt down unregistered superhumans, Cap did what he felt was right and politely declined. And by that I mean he beat the hell out of the best of the best in armor suits, then jumped out of a sky rise window and landed on a jet, which he forced to land (and then bought the pilot lunch and told him not to curse).
With these two sides up and running, what sort of wacky conflicts would we expect to see? Oh, well did we mention that Thor is currently dead? Sadly, Thor had previously ended Ragnarok, and in doing so he made all the Norse gods stop being, he included. This left Mjolnir just sitting on earth, unwielded by anyone. The only logical solution was for Tony Stark, Reed Richards, and Hank Pym (Giant Man, Ant Man, and a few other aliases I believe) to create a Thor clone that they aptly name the Thor Clone.
During one of the first big conflicts between the two sides, the Thor Clone is unleashed at the end of the fight and the first thing he really does is kill Goliath, a super hero whose power is to be insanely big. Everyone sort of goes, “Whoa, hold on, time out,” and then decide to end the fight for the time being.
Meanwhile, Pym, Richards, and Stark busily construct a massive prison for all these new super humans, which they place in another dimension and call “42.” The thought is that this prison will be impossible to escape from, mostly due to all the crazy security involved and that it turns off all super powers. It’s a magic prison, just go with it.
What I remember most from all of this isn’t actually the battles, but rather the other aspects. Johnny Storm, AKA the Human Torch, is beaten into a coma right after the Stamford incident as a result of public outcry against super heroes. When he wakes up, Reed is so busy supporting the Superhuman Registration Act that he doesn’t really notice that Sue, his wife, has left him and joined the Anti-Registration side. The Thing, not sure what to believe, refuses to pick a side and just wants to do what’s best for the people he’s always tried to help.
Elsewhere, the X-Men and the other 198 have been approached by S.H.I.E.L.D. about registering, to which they essentially say to kindly leave before they remind them why mutants were such a scary threat before the devastation. They decide to be neutral in this conflict, which the Pro-Registration side still views as being on the Anti side of things.
In total I read probably close to twenty trade paperbacks involved in Civil War business, with the best being the main story, Frontlines (most of the events as told from the perspective of human reporters), and Iron Man. Side note, I finished Wolverine’s Civil War volume while on my honeymoon and it was also pretty damned cool. Oddly enough what soon happened was that Tony Stark became my absolute favorite man to hate in all comics. He plays the role so well, and while you still understand his side and root for him at times, you still want to see him get his comeuppance.
Spider-Man finds fault with the Pro-Registration side and switches sides after nearly being beaten down. Cap, Daredevil, Luke Cage, and Hercules (the actual mythical Greek god, yes) shelter him and bring him into the fold of the Anti-Registration side. Everyone plans for one last conflict that involves getting a secret shutdown code for Tony’s armor.
By the time the final battle is drawing to a close, two amazing things happen. The first is a one-on-one battle between Thor Clone and Hercules in which Hercules takes Mjolnir, throws Thor Clone to the ground, screams “Thou art no Thor!”, then smashes Thor Clone’s head in. Very cool moment, though not by a longshot the point that hit me the absolute hardest.
While Captain America and Iron Man are squaring off, trading heavy blows with one another, Cap gains the advantage and beats the hell out of Tony, just as we had hoped. When he brings his shield up for a finishing attack, he looks around and notices what’s going on around him. The entire area of New York the two factions are fighting in has becomes totaled while firefighters rush around trying to stop the damage and get civilians out of buildings and stuff, police officers doing the same.. Cap stops and realizes that he’s fighting against these people, not Tony, then walks right up to an officer and demands to be arrested. In that moment I cried a little, yes I did.
The two sides disperse as the Anti-Registration members head back into hiding while the Pro-Registration members keep on keepin’ on. From there a multitude of things happen as the Marvel Universe is in complete shambles at this point, though of course they’ve got a lot more to go through before the end of this. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves too soon. Take a sit, go read the Marvel Civil War, and come back here in a few weeks as we continue our Marvel Retrospective!
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