Off the top, a few basics: Civil War (the comic) is a seven issue series, originally seeing publication from May, 2006 until February, 2007. It’s written by Mark Millar and features the respective art, ink and color work of Steve McNiven, Dexter Vines and Morry Hollowell. The “big Marvel event” wherein that story plays the centerpiece blows out into well over 100 tie-in issues, incorporating a remarkable near-linewide lockstep with contributions from a litany of creators.
In fact, it’s this high level of interconnectivity that is Civil War (the event)’s most enduring quality. Sure, Millar and company are squarely in the center ring but it is clearly an ensemble affair all the way, as many of the more personal yet no-less-high-impact moments occur in the peripheral titles. Who knew Marvel’d get such sustained lightning-in-a-bottle from a fundamental desire to return their heroes to uneasy rock ’em, sock ’em robots?
Certainly none of it happened overnight, though. The following is a progressive list of occurrences affirming that the road to Marvel’s Civil War has building precedent…
Avengers #500 – 503 (2004): Writer of the upcoming Civil War II main event, Brian Michael Bendis decidedly rides more in the “shotgun” position during the Millar original but he’s arguably the Ultimate Universe alum responsible for initiating the Civil War landscape. His opening salvo? Utilizing a milestone anniversary issue to blow up Earth’s Mightiest but good!
Coming off an extended period seeing Geoff Johns’ better-fit-for-DC re-imagining of the Avengers as a Supefriends-style literal global superpower/sovereign nation-state and a thankfully fast-tracked and better-forgotten stint from Chuck Austen, the franchise was a bit… off-track. Compounding the situation, Millar’s own Ultimate adaptation of the original(ish) Lee/Kirby team (the eponymous Ultimates) kinda made all of fandom, creators and editorial collectively re-examine the “classic” book. Yeah, things needed to get back to formula.
More than that, the formula needed something… “New”. Getting there, though, would take some maneuvering…
Enter, Bendis: acclaimed for his work on Ultimate Spider-Man, the solo vigilante exploits of Daredevil and his mature-title MAX imprint creation Alias (aka Marvel’s Jessica Jones). A self-identifying fan from back in the heady Bronze/Copper Ages, this story is his first big nod into “mainstream/traditional” super-team books.
Indeed, Bendis wields a vast appreciation for the voluminous material the “grand Avengers story tapestry” commands. However, just as quickly from the word “go”, he demonstrates that he’s not the least bit precious about any of it- certainly not in the name of servicing Plot 101 (ie, chasing your protagonist up a tree and throwing rocks at ’em).
In this case, the “rocks” just happen to be a devastating one-two in the form of the zombified corpse of a (then-) recently deceased member suddenly energy-splodin’ in the backyard of Avengers Mansion and one of their Quinjet planes being crash-landed onto the house itself!
…And from there, the hits just keep on coming- threats unimaginably escalating. By day’s end, the body count and devastation are horrific, crippling both the Avengers’ operations and morale.
The “grand architect” of this worst day ever scenario? None other than one of their own long-standing members: Wanda Maximoff, the improbable hex-wielding Scarlet Witch. Apparently she becomes mentally unhitched by unfolding realizations about her own screwy continuity and seeks to exact revenge against those who should’ve been looking out for her best interests (ie, her teammates).
Years later, it’ll be explained away that Wanda is being manipulated by some Doctor Doom-orchestrated black magic (2010’s Avengers: The Children’s Crusade) but in the moment, Dr. Strange luckily shows up and does his best to put a pin in the situation before it goes truly nuclear.
Then, for some reason, the Avengers hand the comatose body of the Scarlet Witch over to the also-arriving career-supervillain Magneto without really questioning it all that much. (Let’s remember, this is also during a long-standing point in continuity wherein the Mutant Master of Magnetism believes that Wanda and her twin brother, the speedster Quicksilver, are his long-lost children.) The ensuing awkward silence pretty much implies that the team just wants the nightmare to end. That, and are there really words after all that??
Anyhoo, turns out Mags is trying another turn at righting his reputation and currently in the process of building a sanctuary with Professor Xavier out of the destroyed remains of the island of Gensoha when Charles becomes aware of Wanda’s sitch. Sending the Scarlet Witch to sleep it off in such a place seems like a nice option at face value that will at no point come back to bite the heroes in the collective ass. Not at all unlike that whole Carol Danvers/Marcus Immortus debacle from back in the day. Nope. No come-uppance (or irony), here…
Unspoken, the Avengers all disperse the ruined Mansion grounds- a network of independently withdrawn shadows silhouetted against the darkest night sky. Some time later, a select gathering reconvenes. It is within this meeting that Tony Stark announces that he doesn’t have the wherewithal to foot the rebuilding of the Avengers. Amid a mass candlelight vigil, they end their final get-together with an official press conference that the team is disbanding.
What this means in terms of the bigger Civil War picture is that a team of self-appointed world-savers didn’t see that they had a ticking time bomb under their nose. For years. And never thought twice about it. (And evidently didn’t learn all that much from this lack of accountability…) [MORE→]