Civil War – The Storyarc Summary

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Captain America: Civil War is quickly becoming one of the most anticipated Marvel movies in the near future. We are hearing more about it than Ant-Man or Deadpool, both of which are being released before it. As I have consistently sought to bring comic background to Marvel movies, I thought I would write about the Civil War story arc, summarizing the comics.

Most people know that the Civil War is headed up by the rivalry between Cap and Iron Man. Many know that the war itself is over registration. A storyarc like Civil War, Secret Invasion, or House of M is never just one story. Reading orders are published, often at the beginning of the event. Each comic line running at the time will take part in the event, but there will also be overall issues that tell the core story. Although reading the core issues does provide a cohesive story, the meat to these stories rest in the individual issues.

1. The New Warriors

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Although the issues of Superheroes without accountability existed before the war, the event that triggered it was the Stamford bombing. The New Warriors was a group of superheroes that were starring in a reality TV show. As they attempted to stop a group of superheroes, they botched the attempt and the villain Nitro set off an explosion, leveling several blocks and killing 600 people, many of them children.

2. Registration

After Stamford, a bill was quickly passed that required heroes to register with the Government within a certain number of days. Iron Man warned SHIELD that Captain America would not be cooperative with this, so SHIELD approached him first. He felt threatened and fought his way out (think escape from the Triskelion in Cap 2). As the day approached for registration, many heroes (Jessica Jones, and later The Thing) left the country.

3. Choosing Sides

Captain America and Iron man each had something of inner circles. Virtually every character in the Marvel Universe chose a side. Iron Man’s inner circle was basically Mr. Fantastic, Hank Pym, and Ms. Marvel. Captain America’s inner circle was Daredevil, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist. Spider-Man, after assurances from Iron Man that he and his family would be protected, unmasked to the public and registered.

4. Project 42

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Reed Richards built a prison in the Negative Zone to contain the heroes captured by the government. It was dubbed Project 42 and was a controversial issue that split the Fantastic Four in two. The Negative Zone was not a pleasant place to be, but Reed thought it a necessary evil to contain the captured heroes.

5. Speedball Trial

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Speedball was a major figure within the story. As one of the New Warriors, Robert Baldwin was the one survivor of Stamford’s bombing (aside from Nitro, who caused it). He was put on trial for his actions, leading to a multi-part legal epic. Eventually, he agreed to register and charges were dropped. His guilt led him to have a suit made with inward facing spikes, one for every person who died in Stamford. He called himself Penance.

6. Thunderbolts, X-men, and other groups

The Thunderbolts, a team of reformed supervillains, were tasked by the US Government for the pro-registration side. The X-men declared neutral, but had run-ins with the Government anyways. The Young Avengers were anti-registration. The Runaways declared neutral and basically fought to stay apart from everyone.

7. Wolverine

 

Wolverine believed that the people in the war had lost sight of what had caused it. He set off to find Nitro, who he eventually found was hyped up on Mutant Growth Hormone, which enhanced his powers. He tracked down the company that created it and diced some people up.

8. Thor Clone

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Thor was dead by the time the war began, due to the events of Ragnarok. Iron Man cloned Thor, using DNA he acquired the very first Avengers meeting, in order to fight on the registration side. The cloning process wasn’t perfect and somehow Thor ended up with less of a sense of morality. He killed Goliath, one of Cap’s heroes, much to the shock of everyone around. Eventually, Thor Ragnarok (as the clone was called) was killed by Hercules.

9. Spider-Man’s Change of Heart

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Spider-Man eventually felt that he had been doing wrong to side with registration. Iron Man tried to contain him when he ran, hurting him badly. Punisher saved his life and took him to Cap. While Spider-Man healed, Kingpin put out a hit on Spider-Man’s life. Instead of Spider-Man getting hurt, it was Aunt May who took the bullet. Spider-Man would later have to make a deal with Mephisto to save her life, at the sacrifice of his marriage.

10. Front Line

One of the acclaimed stories of Civil War follows Sally Floyd and Ben Urich, both reporters. They investigate the causes of the war and often end up in the thick of conflict. I would say that any reading of Civil War is incomplete without reading Front Line as well.

11. Armies

Throughout the war, numerous different armies found polarizing sides. Namor and Black Panther both supplied armies to Captain America (there are stories behind both). Iron Man had a group of neurologically controlled supervillains. All of these fought in the final battle in Times Square.

12. The Final Battle

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After a betrayal on both side and the arrival of the aforementioned armies, the final battle spilled out onto the streets of New York. Naturally, the focus of the battle ended up on Iron Man vs. Captain America. Captain America looked around at the devastation on the city and realized his crusade was not in the best interest of the people anymore. He surrendered and registered.

13. Aftermath

The most notable aftermath of the War was the assassination of Captain America. As he was brought to the courthouse for his trial, Crossbones shot Cap and he died on the steps. After the war, the 50-State Initiative was put into effect, which placed a team of superheroes in each state. Iron Man became director of SHIELD. There was still a team of rebels, however, that didn’t sign on to the registration, and went on fighting for years.


This is a summary of the events of the Civil War. Cap 3 is one of the most anticipated adaptations in recent memory. As I seek to bring comic background to Marvel movies, I thought this was overdue. Please comment if you have any questions or any ideas for articles. Of course, there’s no guarantee that any of this will end up in the film, but for now, only time will tell.

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2 responses to “Civil War – The Storyarc Summary

  1. Can you explain more about the ‘neutral’ groups? I don’t really see how neutrality could have been possible – you either register or you don’t.

    • The X-Men were already under the protection of the U.S. Government. They were “registered” in this way. They were also not considered superheroes, because they did not put themselves in the light, but we’re just born as such. They elected to simply “stay out of it” and not claim an opinion.
      Others (such as the Runaways) refused to register, but also didn’t fight with Cap.

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