Marvel Studios has announced plans for a full sleight of movies that will make up “Phase 3” of their movie line-up (“Phase 1” ended with “Marvel’s Avengers” and “Phase 2” is currently being released). Among those movies revealed were plans for the third installment in the “Captain America” franchise. Following 2011’s “The First Avenger” and 2014’s “The Winter Soldier,” the third movie will be titled “Civil War” and much like its predecessor it will have strong ties to stories from the Marvel Comics Universe. The movie will put Captain America on opposing sides with fellow Avenger Iron Man leading to an epic battle that will bring the house down in 2016.
The confrontation between the two Avengers was originally presented in a seven-part series published in 2006 titled “Civil War” by writer Mark Millar and artist Steve McNiven. The story was an event and is still one of Marvel’s biggest sellers. The story featured nearly every hero in the Marvel Universe choosing sides with either Captain America or Iron Man forming two opposing teams of Avengers.
At the heart of the conflict is the Super Human Registration Act being enacted by the United States Government. The act will bring an end to vigilante heroism forcing all heroes to register their powers and receive training from the peace-keeping organization S.H.I.E.L.D. No longer will the public’s welfare be put at risk while young or inexperienced heroes try to enact some form of justice. All it takes is for these heroes to sacrifice their secret identities and strike the targets that S.H.I.E.L.D. has authorized them to take down.
The act is a challenge to personal freedom, something Captain America cannot stand for. His opposition to this law immediately puts him as an outlaw and places him as the figurehead for the anti-registration movement. In this role, Captain America shows the spirit of freedom as those Americans who fought off British tyranny to forge their own path. Cap’s view is that heroes are volunteers acting in the best interests of mankind, regulation robs their freedoms.
Iron Man is a more modern American who views heavy-handed compromise as the best means to bring about change and order. He’ll sacrifice personal freedoms in order to secure the country. The events that sparked the Civil War were the result of a team known as the New Warriors who attacked a group of super villains in the name of getting ratings for their reality television show; the result was the devastation an entire town, Stamford, Connecticut. This event spurred Iron Man to realize that what heroes do is dangerous and ill-trained heroes not only put the public they are trying to serve at risk but also their fellow heroes.
The two opposing sides are clearly defined by Millar. You can easily see the line drawn between both Captain America and Iron Man as both lead their teams. With Captain America as an outlaw it is up to the law abiding Iron Man to bring him in, friends torn apart by ideological differences. Brother versus brother in a devastating super-powered war.
Millar uses some overbearing plot contrivances to kick off the fight, beginning with S.H.I.E.L.D.’s quick attack on Captain America with hardly a discussion for a man who has defended America let alone the rest of the Universe hundreds of times. The attacks come quick in this story and the action is plenty, but the strength of the story amid all the explosions and fisticuffs is that Millar gives the characters true motivation for their actions. It is the characterization that breaks them out of cookie cutter molds and makes them seem more human motivated by personal beliefs.
The heroes take sides against each other breaking from their long established depictions, but this can be attributed to the stakes never being higher. The main seven-part story captured in “Civil War” covers the broad strokes of the fight against super human registration. It covers the key moments as Captain America and Iron Man play an elaborate game of chess with each one trying to outwit the other to get the upper hand. The checkmate will have you rethinking your whole view on the story.
There are strong character moments throughout most notably with the first family of the Marvel Universe, the Fantastic Four. With injuries to the Human Torch and a rift between two members coming out of differing opinions on who is right in the conflict. Their internal familial strife shows a strong love for the others even though they cannot stand for their choices in the conflict.
Millar makes the most of key moments in the story to create suspension and tension. From Spider-Man revealing his true identify to the world, to the return of the believed dead hero Thor. There is murder, betrayal, and sleazy government plans to deputize super villains to bring in the rogue heroes. These key moments are depicted with astonishing beauty by artist McNiven.
Over the entire seven issues McNiven is at the top of his craft with stunning visuals that make this story hit home. Whether it is the story’s main catalyst of an explosion to an errant lightning bolt ripping through the chest of a hero, McNiven’s style and attention to detail make each moment carry that extra emotion.
McNiven puts a lot of “oomph” into the depictions of the characters. It is a wide cast as virtually every corner of the Marvel Universe gets involved in this conflict. With such a diverse cast McNiven is able to give each their moment on the page and show each one taking part in the conflict giving fans of everyone from Spider-Man to Goliath to Cloak and Dagger something to feast their eyes on.
Millar and McNiven’s “Civil War” story covers the main spine of the conflict between Captain America and Iron Man. Marvel published numerous tie-in comics that expand upon the events in the prime mini-series. If you want a closer look at what went into Spider-Man making the choices he makes in the series those stories are told in “Civil War” spin-off issues of “The Amazing Spider-Man.” Likewise similar events are covered as to where are the X-Men and Wolverine during the conflict. These additional adventures only enhance the main story, but are not required reading to understand the true nature of the conflict.
Given the intense nature of the series and how Millar and McNiven were able to create and action fueled frenzy over these heroes coming to blows it is no wonder that Marvel has tapped this event to play a big part in their future plans. The movie will likely have differing takes and outcomes on the events but the heart of the conflict of Captain America against Iron Man will be there.
You can find the collected edition of “Civil War” at your local comic book retailer and your nearest book store. You can also pick up a copy digitally through comiXology.com and for your Kindle.