First things first: I liked Civil War. I thought it was a good event, and was handled pretty well. You really didn’t have to read any of the tie-ins, but the tie-ins allowed us to see how various characters developed during this major change in the Marvel Universe. And, frankly, it started a real change in the way Marvels’ Avengers existed. After this, there were multiple Avengers’ titles and it became very hard to keep up with the Avengers’ Universe. The chaos continues today. That’s why Civil War is the perfect break point for my reading of The Avengers.
But now, Civil War: As a comic, it had its good and bad sides.
And I can sum it up in 5 panels.
I like the way it started, above, with a few minor characters whose exploits up to then had been largely comical. The New Warriors’ various comics were pretty fun, but in the first few pages of Civil War we see that super-powered “fun” has real-life consequences. Certainly, Marvel had flirted with this idea in the past–but they’d never blown up a busload of schoolkids to make the point. Right away, we knew this was a serious change in direction for Marvel.
This was the first “big move” in Civil War that got lots of people angry. JMS, the regular writer of Amazing Spider-Man, had actually planned this unmasking independent of Civil War–but he did quit Marvel soon after. It was how Marvel handled the unmasking (One More Day) that drove him to quit, along with the fact that he had kept his other title separate from Civil War (Thor), and they forced him to bring the character back into the main Marvel Universe.
I’m actually a “One More Day” fan, and Spidey’s actions in Civil War make sense to me. This is a guy who has been desperately in search of a father figure ever since his first appearance. A guy whose need for daddy-guidance led him to forgive his greatest enemy, Norman Osborn. A guy whose other greatest enemy, Doc Ock, married his own Aunt. So I get that he’d follow Iron Man at first, until he saw how bad things were going.
And now, Iron Man: Civil War was in s0ome ways the comic book adoption of the movie personality. Movie Iron Man is a bigger, brasher, more confident wise-ass than the comic book one is (was). But in Civil War, he becomes the brash braggart of the movies. It’s a natural transformation, and a good one, but it’s also fairly radical.
But who was Batman? Spidey? They both lost their parents. Captain America? They both are the essential “masthead” characters. But Civil War made it clear: It’s Iron Man. More specifically, Grant Morrison’s “I plan for everything” Batman is Marvel’s Tony Stark.
Civil War also planted the seeds for Dark Avengers, with nanite-controlled villains working for Iron Man’s team (there’s actually a neat little sequence where Iron Man talks about renaming Wonder Man as Hercules–but it wasn’t until Norman Osborn that villains get the full makeover). But my favorite page of the series, the one that I think of whenever I think of Civil War, is this one:
It shows Captain America hitting his boiling point–it may be the only time in comics that he completely loses his cool–and reveals Punisher as a character with a stronger ethical code than either Captain America or Iron Man. We may not agree with Frank Castle’s morality, but it’s clear, consistent and strong.
This page also sums up what’s wrong with Civil War: Captain America’s character doesn’t make a lot of sense. It’s hard to understand why he’s doing what he does throughout, and that’s what makes Civil War a mediocre comic–not a great one. It’s a great EVENT, but it’s not a great comic book story.
Civil War: Frontline, is actually a better book than Civil War. We all knew all along that Civil War would cop out, and it did. Cap surrenders.
It makes very little sense in the context of the book–either it happened too quickly, or Mark Millar just didn’t have a good grasp on the character. It’s the only weak point of Civil War as a comic–but it’s a major weak point. They could just as easily had Cap captured, and then assassinated. (Ed Brubaker had planned to kill Cap way back in Captain America #1–and if you read that first issue carefully, it’s obvious.)
Civil War told a “big” story with “big” characters, but Frontline actually told a suspenseful tale. And Frontline allowed characters to change and grow. I’ll be looking at that series soon.