Posted - December 27, 2011 | Updated : May 10, 2013 | August 10, 2015
The panel above shows the event that sparks the superhero Civil War. The location is Stamford, Connecticut. Inside the blast area are more than six hundred souls including sixty or so school children - all of them casualties of a skirmish between the superhero group known as the New Warriors and some super-villains turned figutive, one of whom directly caused this explosion - Nitro.
Nitro is a human bomb who can explode his body and then reintegrate himself.
Here we have a shot of the heroes helping with the the cleanup.
Steve McNiven does the art on this series and it is absolutely gorgeous. Initially I had a bit of a critique with the layout of this shot because Iron Man and Captain America seem to be just standing there while the other heroes are doing the work but it occurred to me that this is a symbolic shot foreshadowing what will come next - the great division of heroes symbolized by both Cap and Shellhead. Just look at the great details of this shot. I can really appreciate Goliath's massive size as he bends over on the left. The Falcon is flying around obviously distributing the first aid kits he has around his neck. Ice man in the distance ferrying a casualty via his ice slide. Off to the lower right, two of Marvel's midlevel powerhouses (Cage has class 60 strength while Grimm has class 90 strength - ok, the Thing might be more than mid-level) are using their wondrous strength to move aside debris.
Because of the heavy death toll, and because the accident was caused while the New Warriors where out making a reality tv show, the Stamford incident leads to a nationwide call for some kind of superhuman registration. The effort is led by Iron Man with some help from a little spit.
One of the first so-called casualties of the Stamford aftermath is Johnny Storm who gets beaten up by a crowd outside a nightclub.
I'm saying 'so-called casualty' because I don't think Johnny got beaten up because he was a superhero he got beaten up because he was being a jackass about his celebrity status.
Soon enough, Spider-Man makes an appearance wearing the red armor given him by Tony Stark.
It's my least favorite Spidey outfit. The nearest archetype Spider-Man has to this armor was the black armor (not Venom), the bulletproof one he wore against Massacre in the pages of Amazing Spider-Man. I wasn't too crazy about that armor either. I don't know, Spider-Man is about agility not toughness, this armor runs counter to that concept. Plus those eye slits - Ugh!
Next up is the big scene with Captain America in the S.H.I.E.L.D. Helicarrier. The old school Cap isn't too keen about the Superhero Registration Act. Bringing him in direct and physical conflict with S.H.I.E.L.D. The action is fantastic! Just check out this panel.
Not to nitpick but - okay, I'm nitpicking - I notice that all this 'capture Captain Anerica' fracas is happening a full week before the Registration Act becomes law. If that is the case, then S.H.I.E.L.D. is going up against Captain America for breaking a law that is not yet in effect. Oh well.
I also love this amazing panel that shows the appearance of Uatu among a gathering of heroes.
Maria Hill really comes across as villainous (bitchy?) in this series.
Subsequent appearances (not in Civil War) of Maria Hill has made her a very endearing character to me.
In this panel the Daily Bugle takes its place among the top newspapers of the country.
This is one of my favorite panels in all of Civil War, so sue me.
The Thing is my favorite Marvel character save the Beast. I really like how this McNiven panel highlights what I think is best about him.
Namely, his size, his strength, and his protective attitude about his family - specially the younger members as shown here.
This panel set in Tony Stark's pad is worth showing because of McNiven's excellent choice of view angle. Just look at it.
I'm not a Young Avengers reader (not yet), so I'm not very familiar with Patriot's abilities. This panel shows how far he can jump.
No aspect of Civil War has gotten more press (in the real world) than this one.
The unmasking of Spider-Man.
Here's Reed Richards talking to T'Challa.
What I like about this panel is the masterful way McNiven handles the rain, both as it is coming down and as it hits both men.
Here T'Challa is talking to Reed.
Look at T'Challa's face and read his words. This is a harbinger of one of the most well-handled subplots of Civil War : the fraying relationship between Reed and Sue - but more on that later.
Another extremely beautiful McNiven panel here, inside Dr. Strange's sanctum sanctorum.
With this kind of panel the colorist just has to be mentioned - its Morry Hollowell. Perfect layout by McNiven but Hollowell's colors are magic; everywhere you look its great. Look at how the matching colors of Wasp's and Yellojacket's costumes are set off nicely by the deep honey tone of the yellows. To the left, Wong's intricate garb shows up well against the equally intricate staircase - the entire set piece done in subtle green hues. Best of all is the fire to the right; I love the scarlet smoke that weaves towards the center of the panel.
Here's another neat piece of imagery. While Tony Stark and Emma Frost are talking, the topic comes around to the mutant genocide in Genosha at which point smoke, skulls and the blighted landscape of Genosha gradually take over the panels, highlighting the mood perfectly.
In order to avoid the government operatives informally known as 'Capekillers', Cap's team decides to adopt disguises. This is quite an amusing one.
Hercules as an I.T. Consultant. This immortal class 100 powerhouse isn't exactly known for his brains - he's a bit dense actually. This disguise just made me smile.
He's a great panel of Cap going up against Shellhead with a fantastic shot of Goliath in the background.
Goliath will increasingly get coverage in subsequent panels because they want the reader to think about him. They want the reader to think about him because something big will happen to Goliath. Here he is again in a great panel showing Goliath wrestling with the equally gigantic Yellowjacket.
Here's Spider-Man wearing that dinky armor while catching Cap's shield.
Given this pose I would rather this be any other super-heroine - any other. Look at this, Peter Parker hits Captain America.
This seems wrong, very wrong. Spider-Man has always been the hero to go at it alone rather than join a team. He had the first early invites to join the fledgling Fantastic Four and X-Men teams and he declined both. Individual freedom, thats always been Spider-Man. So why is he on the side of Tony Stark who typifies the corporation, the sort of structured order that has historically NOT attracted Peter Parker? His temperament is more of the outsider variety symbolized by Captain America. Yet here, he's hitting him. When I first saw this panel I thought, 'Peter will regret this'; I would be right.
Cap and Iron Man started a skirmish a while back, now they're at it in earnest.
Captain America is up against the second most powerful Avenger after Thor. My thought in seeing this panel is 'Cap is going to get killed'.
The fight is broken up by the arrival of a monster, an abomination - a clone of the absent Thor.
Civil War happens right after the Asgardian epic known as 'The Last Ragnarok'. After that amazing story arc, Thor goes into haitus and the Marvel Universe is missing its most powerful hero. The one you see here is a non-living ghoul.
Before the appearance of the Thor clone, Cap's forces were not doing very well, but with the arrival of this lightning-tossing crazy, a hard fight turns into a route as Cap's forces goes into retreat/survival mode. During the fight, Captain America gets beaten into a bloody freaking pulp. At which point, we have a wonderful one page sequence showing the incredible speed of the Falcon.
I particularly like the last panel where, with Captain America down, Falcon switches into leader mode. He knows exactly what they should do - this guy deserves his turn at spearheading the Avengers.
The fight scenes are incredible and worth the hype surrounding Civil War. Then right before the end, a terrible thing happens.
The Thor clone murders Bill Foster, the hero known as Goliath. For new readers I doubt if the three panels devoted to Goliath since the start of the series would be enough to build a strong enough rapport with the character for this death to create much impact. But long time readers like me remember Goliath or Black Goliath from way back. I first saw him in the pages of Spectacular Spider-Man. Then he had a stint in the pages of Marvel Two-In-One with the Thing. When I went back to some early issues of Spider-Woman, I saw a non-powered Bill Foster still working, ironically, for Tony Stark, and showing Jessica Drew around Los Angeles. Never a mainline character, Goliath was nontheless a big part of the Marvel U. That ends here.
Iron Man's forces are so overwhelmingly powerful that Civil War would have been finished at this juncture were it not for the timely intervention of Invisible Woman.
The all out fight between Steve Rogers and Tony Stark coupled with the death of Bill Foster, and the constant backdrop of a superhero rumble all create an emotional roller coaster for comics fans. But Millar isn't through weaving his magic - now its the turn of the Fantastic Four to take center stage. You see, the murderous Thor clone was the creation of three of the Marvel U's most brilliant minds: Tony Stark, Reed Richards and Henry Pym but it was Richard's who was the spearhead - and Sue knows it. And as this panel shows, Reed knows it too.
This murder will drive a wedge between Marvel's first family. Just look at how mad Sue is.
Spider-Man finally defects to the other side and almost gets killed. He gets rescued by the Punisher who brings him to Cap's hidden lair.
McNiven's Punisher rendition is excellent. Frank Castle looks both huge and formidable -as he should. Look at the blood on the floor and on Punisher's white boots- Spider-Man blood. Or, since this is the Punisher, it could be anybody's blood really.
Tony Stark and company build a prison facility they call '42' which is situated in the Negative Zone. Wonderful panel of it here from McNiven.
While all this is going on, Dr. Strange retreats to the North Pole. Here he is talking to the Watcher (actually a Watcher - Uatu).
Dr.Strange is fasting and meditating. More importantly, he is not actively participating in Civil War, although he was present in the early heroic gatherings. This is because Dr. Strange presents a unique 'situation' for Marvel : He's grown too powerful to play with the other children. Introduced as the 'Master of the Black Arts', then the 'Master of the Mystic Arts', finally growing into the role of 'Earth's Sorcerer Supreme' with a power set that allowed him to do nearly anything. Just imagine the problem this would cause for writers - thus this self-imposed North Pole exile.
Here's a one page pinup of Iron Man's forces.
Look at this. Right before the fight.
The second big fight covers several pages, McNiven provides lots of eye candy but nothing along the level of the first fight with the Thor clone. Oh wait, there are a couple of notable panels. First, the incredible effort put forth by Cloak to transport everyone - and by everyone, I mean every single superhero from both sides - from the 42 facility to the heart of New York.
I also like the layout of this panel showing all the damage the heroes are causing.
Spider-Man out of that garish armor and in the classic costume!
The Thing turned neutral in the middle of all this and the Beast is nowhere to be seen so my two favorite Marvel characters are missing in this event. Happily, Hercules provides much needed joy by disposing of the Thor clone.
Civil War ends with neither side victorious and with a cliffhanger of sorts as Captain America surrenders after seeing all the damage being dealt to the city.
Millar's writing hits all sorts of emotional chords and McNiven presents panel after panel of pinup worthy art. I wish all Marvel events were this good.