Mark Millar, Steve McNiven, Civil War (2006)


Civil War was – and is – one of the biggest events in Marvel Universe, and that says something after over half a century of modern Marvel history and many epic, all-encompassing story arcs.

Ola: Marvel Civil War spans over a hundred separate comics – from Spider-Man through Fantastic Four, Wolverine, Captain America and Iron Man or New Avengers to less-known titles, such as Deadpool and Cable or Thunderbolts.And of course, the big cross-over thing binding them all: 7-part Civil War. Mark Millar, asked to sum up the subject matter of his opus magnum, said:

Civil War is about what happens when the Marvel heroes are forced to grow up. It’s as simple as that. The public need and want the heroes. They couldn’t survive without them in a world filled with super-villains and alien invasions. However, the wild west fantasy these guys have been having, where they put on a mask and fight whoever they like just doesn’t cut it in the modern world.

And that’s a pretty good summary. Of the comic book, not the movie. To make a really great cinematic story out of Civil War you’d need at least three movies, not that stump about Bucky and Tony Stark’s parents :P.

Piotrek: Comics are more serious than the movie. The initial excuse for the Registration Act is way more bloody, and also the politics of i, and preparations started years before by main players, are explained in detail. But the difference is between mainstream movie, 2,5 hour long, and multi-thousand pages comic book mega-arch. Of course they had more space. We deal with two different mediums here and I think that both are great in their ways.

Some of the extra space comics have depict consequences, like powerful “Fallen Son: The Death of Captain America”. Well, I guess we should put spoiler alert. Spoilers aplenty ahead, again, it’s hard to discuss differences between comics and movie without delving into plot details.

Ola: I frankly admit I haven’t read them all – yet ;). Just the most important titles. And one that stands out among them (except for Spider-Man, of course – he always stands out, that one) is Civil War Frontline: a meta-commentary of a pair of journalists on the events in the Civil War. They come from different newspapers, they are required to pursue different angles, they have different opinions on many things, but they are professionals first and foremost. Their presence lends the whole event a grounded, gritty realism it wouldn’t have otherwise.

Piotrek: I liked how all the different series approached civil war in a manner befitting their respective heroes. From Cap, through Iron Man and (excellent!) Spider Man, to Punisher and various villains. And mundane protagonists, like S.H.I.E.L.D. agents. And let me say, Maria Hill did not get my respect here. But Fury kept it. If you read just the main volume, Civil War by Millar, you lose half the fun. At least add more Spidey to the mix, and any of your favorite heroes. Even Deadpool has a few cameos! And X-Men, let’s not forget that in the comic book universe Marvel keeps the right to all of their heroes.

Ola: Yeah, Maria Hill was one of the characters who made the main conflict seem a little skewed, and not in her side’s favor :P. As for Fury… Read the Secret War 😛 He’s at least in part responsible for the Civil War, the big shadowy absentee that he is here.

Piotrek: Yes, after “Original Sin” I have no illusions about Fury’s moral superiority, but I still admire him a lot.

Ola: On the other hand we get plenty of Spider-Man. He is, to some extent, the ultimate victim of the events of Civil War. A bit like Hans Castorp torn between Settembrini and Naphta in Mann’s masterpiece, The Magic Mountain, a bit like Chris Taylor torn between Sergeant Barnes and Sergeant Elias in Stone’s Platoon, Spider-Man is torn between two visions of the present and the future, to worldviews: idealistic and realistic. And he pays dearly for it. We could call it the process of growing up if it weren’t so bloody.

Piotrek: Peter Parker is, for me, one of three main protagonists. Two other – Tony Stark and Steve Rogers, of course. But Parker is a man with family, manipulated into very difficult situation, forced to make some very difficult choices. But still managing to keep his signature humor, even while berating American superheroes and politicians on live TV.


Ola: The editors of Civil War described Captain America as a living ideal.

Cap smells of 1776. He’s about the ideals of the nation, rather than the reality. And he’s seen firsthand what can happen when a society starts down this road

And Tony Stark is the realist here; the futurist trying to scry the upcoming events, to asses and mitigate their outcomes. And somewhere along the way he loses the sight of what is now and here, of what he sacrifices (especially in others) to get to his fabled future.

Piotrek: I don’t know that much about comic book Iron Man, but Robert Downey Jr. was, for me, more convincing than his drawn equivalent. There’s this scene between Stark and Daredevil, who got pretty judgmental…

Ola: It’s hard to blame Daredevil, he was going to 42 after all 😛

Piotrek: … Anyway. He says “Guess that’s thirty-one pieces of silver you’ve got now, huh? Sleep well, Judas.” And that’s the Iron Man in the comic version of Civil War.

Ola: I can’t agree with it. I believe that Iron Man in the comics represents a vision of the future – and he’s not alone, backed by two other biggest scientists in Marvel Universe: Hank Pym and Reed Richards. It’s a fight of ideas and ideals. The trio of scientists get swept away with the potential of what they can do and never stop, for a moment, to think about whether they should do it. And if you look at the comic book Iron Man like this, his perspective is rationally defensible. Except for the clone of Thor.

Piotrek: I had way less doubts here, I supported Cap all the way, the Registration Act and its enforcers, including the Iron Man, had much uglier faces here. Cap was the good guy here, maybe not the most practical, but… The Death of Captain America. That’s the most powerful part for me. Real consequences of hard choices. Painful for characters and readers.

Ola: That’s true. Except for the clone thing this comic book bravely tries to maintain its middle stance, showcasing the rationale and values of both sides in such a way that the readers can relate to it. I know, I know, still – there’s a whole lot of rationale behind Stark and co., whether it comes from fear or responsibility, guilt or something else.

And that’s why the ending is absolutely mind-blowing, when, after the happy rampage of fight, Cap realizes that the sole fact that his side physically won it means also that they also lost the ultimate argument.


It resonates so nicely with Cap’s earlier treatment of Punisher. Punisher is Cap, just from a different war, as Spidey says. And there is truth to it, however much Steve Rogers would like to deny it. We want to support Captain, because his version of the world we live in is simpler. There is right and wrong, good and bad, and there is a solid line between them.

Doesn’t matter what the politicians or the mobs say. Doesn’t matter if the whole country decides that something WRONG is something RIGHT.
This nation was founded on one principle above all else: the requirement that we stand up for what we believe, no matter the odds or the consequences.
When the mob and the press and the whole WORLD tell you to move, your job is to plant yourself like a tree beside the river of truth, and tell the whole world–
–“No, YOU move”.

Piotrek: Reading Civil War reminded me how overcrowded Marvel universe really is. There where too many heroes and author’s need to explain what happened to each of them took my attention from the main events more than once. MCU is not there yet, even with the Inhumans.

Ola: Ooh, the Inhumans are quickly getting to be the worst part of MCU for me [wait for the review of the S.H.I.E.L.D. season3!]. But I agree, the inside jokes and the multitude of characters was sometimes difficult to keep track of. I feel that it could have been told a bit simpler without detracting anything important from the story. But as the creators say, this is the continuity :P. Plus, probably even Namorita had fans. And Speedball (although Joe Quesada is decidedly not one of them! ;)) That said, I didn’t much appreciate the Thunderbolts subplot. I get why it’s there, but that’s the one I wouldn’t miss.

But I loved the multiple allusions to the post-Patriot Act USA, and to the WWII. Wolverine comparing the Registration Act and the situation of superheroes it created to the situation of German Jews in or before IIWW is priceless. As well as commentary of Ben Urich.

People could debate forever the reasons for this. But nobody questioned the enforcers. People never do until it’s too late.

All of sudden, journalism was going to take a backseat to jingoism, and the fight for a nation’s sentiment would be on. This was civil liberty versus civil comfort; wiretapping versus terrorism; Fox versus CNN.

Piotrek: Still, all the praises for comics does not change the fact that my love for the love the movie is even greater. I’m more satisfied with its ending (it’s hard to defend comics’ 50 states initiative, at least the beginning of it we see here), I’m attached to the cast, the story convinced and moved me.

Ola: Well, what can I say? In this conflict, I’m on the side of the comics ;).

And a parting quote from Millar:

 A good comic book, to me, perfectly encapsulates the time period it was created in.

Read and enjoy. This one is for keeps.

Score: Ola 9,5/10 (the minus half point is for the clone of Thor. Really, guys?! Cloning a god?!), Piotrek 9/10

5 thoughts on “Mark Millar, Steve McNiven, Civil War (2006)

  1. piotrek

    Hmm, 3d season of Agents of…? It… well… I watched it, I kind of liked it, and my least favourite character was killed twice, so there is that… but the Inhumans… they really aren’t necessary. Watchable, but not half as good as it could have been.


    1. Exactly. They ruined a pretty good idea when they made Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D a show about Inhumans. They were really not that interesting to start with, and now…? Bleh.


  2. Pingback: Mark Millar, Bryan Hitch, The Ultimates (2002) | Re-enchantment Of The World


  4. Pingback: Marvel’s The Punisher (2017-present) | Re-enchantment Of The World

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