The latest Captain America movie is due soon and is based on a major comic book event. Here’s a look at the comic books and a few musings on what the film will offer in comparison to the source material. Spoilers ahead.
Civil War was a 7 issue comic book series published by Marvel Comics in 2006-2007. After a disaster in Stamford involving the young superhero team known as the New Warriors and the villain Nitro led to the deaths of over 600 people, a Superhuman Registration Act is passed by the U.S. government designed to have all characters with superhuman abilities act under official regulation, which as a by-product means providing the state with their true identities. The superhuman community was divided, with Captain America leading a team opposed to the act whilst Iron Man gave the government his full support. This led to a variety of scenarios including heroes fighting heroes, Spider-Man revealing his identity to the world, villains fighting for the government and a robotic clone of Thor losing control. The finale had a superhuman brawl that ended when Captain America, despite the fact he was winning the battle, gave up and allowed himself to be arrested after seeing the destruction they had caused and public reaction. Deaths included Dr Foster (Goliath) and, as a result of civil war but taking place within his own title, the assassination of Steve Rogers (Captain America).
Civil War was written by Mark Millar and pencilled by Steve McNiven and the series touched on issues of morality and liberty. The series is fantastic with realistic artwork presented in a widescreen format and writing that seemed to understand the characters and presented both sides of the story in a fair manner, although generally fans did support Captain America’s anti registration team. It’s a series that can be a great starting point for new readers whilst also providing nods to longer term fans as it builds on previous series and events such as the formation of the New Avengers, the modern Secret War, House of M, Hulk’s rampage in Las Vegas and Avengers Disassembled. The core series did experience delays due to the artist requiring more time to complete his work- although frustrating the art was worth waiting for and obviously won’t effect any new readers looking to pick up the long completed collection.
Civil War was a huge storyline that had ramifications across the Marvel Universe. Several regular series were closely tied to the main storyline and even the build up to the core series, such as Amazing Spider-Man and Fantastic Four, whilst other series dealt with the ramifications for their specific title characters. New and various limited series were launched while the consequences of war were felt in several comics dealing with the launch of the Initiative (a training scheme for powered heroes) and the death of Captain America.
A successful tie-in to a core series of any crossover should either build on the events of the main storyline or should give you an insight into specific characters and events whilst allowing the core story to stand alone. Civil War is a good example of how this should work.
One of the biggest talking points of Civil War was the unmasking of Spider-Man. Encouraged by Tony Stark and initially supporting the Registration Act, Peter Parker revealed his identity to the world at the end of issue 2. Whilst presented logically within the core series, Spider-Man’s own title builds on this by firstly showing the growing relationship between Stark and Parker in the build up to the event and then delving into Peter’s own thoughts and conversations with his Aunt and wife. After Spider-Man turns sides we get further information on his decision in his own title, yet the core series presented his flip-flop adequately. As stated above, a good tie-in should add to the story without being a necessity, which Amazing Spider-Man does superbly well.
Fantastic Four looks at the fracturing of Marvel’s first family as a difference of opinion and the morality of Mr Fantastic is brought to the fore while Wolverine looks at the origins of the war as Logan questions the true cause of the war in his hunt for Nitro, the villain behind the Stamford disaster.
Other tie-ins focused on character motivations, such as New Avengers and Captain America, elaborating on their choices within the core story and their thoughts and opinions. We even get a wonderfully written everyman story presented in the Civil War: Frontline limited series which features the character of Ben Ulrich, a reporter for the Daily Bugle who has already featured in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, albeit in the Netflix series Daredevil.
There are a few stories that are a let down and were not needed, notably the Civil War: X-Men limited series which spent 3 of its 4 issues wasting time until the X-Men officially declare neutrality in the war, with the exception of Bishop- this does start setting Bishop apart from the rest of his peers which could be seen as a lead to his betrayal of the team in Messiah Complex but overall the story is weak and not needed. However most of the tie-ins add to the story and are generally of a good standard.
What happened after?
Any good event story that crosses over with other titles should have a wider impact on its universe and Civil War certainly led to some changes which, in some cases, we are still feeling today. Spider-Man unmasked and, after wearing his black costume and Aunt May getting shot, led to the events of One More Day and Brand New Day which saw history change as Spider-Man’s secret identity was restored at the cost of his marriage. This in turn led to the Dan Slott era of Amazing Spider-Man which has even included having Doc Ock take over Spider-Man’s body for over a year.
Captain America died and was replaced by Bucky in a well received move by writer Ed Brubaker. Although he was eventually restored to life and resumed the mantle of Captain America, the stories without Steve Rogers are a great read and cemented Bucky’s modern day status and his interesting relationship with Black Widow. Iron Man rose to become director of Shield which consequently led to Secret Invasion, where his tech, adopted by Shield, was compromised and almost led to his ruin while Spider-Man villain Norman Osborne (aka The Green Goblin) rose to power and almost wiped out the Avengers.
As many of you may know the next Captain America film will be based on Civil War. There are going to be some major differences, not least of which is the size of the cast. The comic books presented a huge amount of heroes and villains from the history of Marvel all taking part in the war in one way or another, however the MCU simply doesn’t have the same amount of characters at their disposal. This is probably a good thing as the story will be more personal when focusing on a smaller (but still large for the screen) collection of characters.
Spider-Man will be making his Marvel Cinematic Universe debut as a fresh, young hero before the launch of his own movie, so don’t expect him to be unmasking to the public any time soon. As well as Spider-Man, we will see the debut of Black Panther, also due to have his own movie- in the comics his character was somewhat neutral but did lend support to Captain America. Images and trailers for the film seem to show him aligned with Iron Man. While these characters are making their debut others will be completely absent such as the Fantastic Four, whose screen rights are still held by Fox and The Punisher, who made his debut in the recent Daredevil series (who is also absent). Fans should note that Thor and Hulk were absent in the comic books at the time of this story (death and exile respectively) and Marvel have kept them away from the film adaptation to.
The start of the war in the original series is a combination of events with a group of young heroes and their botched attempt at taking down a group of villains resulting in multiple civilian casualties being the final catalyst . The film may have a similar moment, perhaps with established characters, however marketing currently shows that the events of previous films such as the disaster in Sokovia (Avengers: Age of Ultron) have built up to the Registration Act (or Sokovia Accords, as heard in the trailers) being introduced. It does seem as though identity may not be a big discussion point on the big screen , as most heroes have revealed their identities or don’t really have one to begin with.
One much-talked about aspect of the comic is the death of Captain America himself. There is much discussion online by fans as to how closely the film will follow this specific turn of events and many fans are also looking at the contracts of actors for clues as to who may perish, particularly since rumours are circulating that there will be at least one major death in the motion picture. Whether this will be Captain America, Iron Man or someone completely different remains to be seen however the consequences of the film are sure to have ramifications of the future of the interconnected film series.
The comic book is a landmark event for Marvel and the adaptation is highly anticipated. Recently a few reviewers were given early access and, despite not being allowed to write full reviews yet, they were allowed to present their overall thoughts on twitter which have been overwhelmingly positive. It’s not long until the film lands and we get to experience it ourselves but until then you can keep yourself occupied with the source material available in collected volumes in print or digitally. After the critically poor reaction to Batman V Superman but a huge box-office, it will be interesting to see how the latest instalment from Marvel fares. If the film can match Captain America: Winter Soldier for quality and maintain a balance on the huge cast, we could be in for a treat. Expect a review in due course. Until then, here’s a few trailers and tv spots for the movie;