Civil War #1


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Civil War #1


  • Words: Mark Millar
  • Art: Steve McNiven
  • Inks: Dexter Vines
  • Colors: Morry Hollowell
  • Story Title: N/A
  • Publisher: Marvel Comics
  • Price: $3.99
  • Release Date: May 3, 2006

The tension has been building. Something horrible has been on the horizon for Marvel Comics, and it is finally here—Civil War.

In this beautifully rendered story, the heroes react to a tragic incident in the picture book small town of Stamford, Connecticut, a tragic incident caused by a group of young, brash heroes whose exploits have been cult favorites since the early nineties. If you have been reading Amazing Spider-Man or Fantastic Four lately, then you know about the law being tossed around by the politicos in the Marvel US. After the events in the first few pages of Civil War, it is clear that the law will pass. Immediately, the heroes are split. Iron Man and many nameable others side with the government while Captain America "goes underground" in a dramatic action sequence involving SHIELD, Cap, and a fighter pilot. The battle lines have been drawn; the first shot has been fired. Marvel Comics, Millar, McNiven, and company make sure that if you pick up this issue, despite any resemblance to past stories, you will pick up the next and the next and the next…

The shocking beginning of this story, showing the commercialization, trivialization, and modernization of super heroics is a statement that should have been made long ago. The plain reflection of the aftermath of Stamford and the aftermath of 9-11 is impossible to ignore, as is the helplessness, anger, and frustration our favorite heroes feel as they dig through the wreckage.

I read somewhere that Millar once wrote speeches for politicians. If that was a lie, perhaps Millar should look into it. In Civil War, after the spurring tragedy, he uses the heroes to grasp issues with real world poignancy. He gives voice to various characters to extrapolate the differences of opinion many Americans have nowadays concerning politics, war, and peace. Using simple language, he makes all these varying viewpoints plausible, even the disagreeable ones. When many of the heroes gather at the Baxter Building to discuss the new law, the reader sees clearly just how divided these people are and how, though we don’t know the reasons behind some of their opinions just yet, the fact that there are disagreements makes it realistic. These people are on the same side, the good side. But what, exactly, are the politics of good? Falcon and Yellowjacket sum it up concisely, arguing the issue:

Falcon: I can’t believe I’m hearing this. The masks are a tradition. We can’t just let them turn us into super-cops.

Yellowjacket: Are you kidding? We’re lucky people have tolerated this for as long as they have, Sam. Why should we be allowed to hide behind these things?

Furthermore, it is clear to the reader what is going on when SHIELD asks Captain America who he thinks will fight the new law, the symbol of America responds by saying heroes who mostly work the streets—specifically mentioning the minorities, Daredevil and Luke Cage. With hot-button issues such as the debacle following Hurricane Katrina and the genocide in Darfur, Millar is placing a mirror in front of our society. And though, in true comic book form, he leaves us on the edge of our collective seat wondering what will happen next, the big question you might be asking after finishing this issue is: "If the Age of Heroes can come to this tragic of an ending, what can happen in the real world?"

McNiven’s pencils only add to the eerie realism of this book. His smooth lines and attention to detail are in a class alone. It is the small things in some instances, like the symmetrical tread on the bottom of a hero’s shoes, the weeds speckling a yard, and the ridges of a wooden fence that are painstakingly drawn. If Millar is going to tell a story where the heroes are thrown into a real world-esque debate/war, this world better damn well look real, and with McNiven, it does.

Not only is the environment real, right down to the many structures seen outside the windows of the Baxter Building, but the characters are real as well. Every emotion is shown, the shock, the sadness, the confusion, the anger, all jump off of the page. Mr. Fantastic’s fatherly concern and determination are clear in every line of his face. Tony Stark’s honest sorrow over the death of innocents is etched in his brow and the downcast shadows under his eyes. Captain America’s righteous indignation over the turn of events during his discussion with SHIELD is shown with seeming ease using little more than his eyes for expression. While I only chose to focus on those three, every character and every emotion is grasped by McNiven’s deft pencils and placed on the paper as though they are alive.

It doesn’t hurt that he is inked by the steady hand of Dexter Vines, who takes inking to a new level of gracefulness by capturing and adding to McNiven’s nuanced lines. Where McNiven pays attention to detail, Vines never falters. Adding Hollowell’s colors only creates a book that jumps at you screaming, "Buy me or be forever sorry!"

This comic is a summer blockbuster with a conscience that will last half a year and have repercussions stretching far and wide within the Marvel Main. And if it doesn’t, it should; otherwise, it just trivializes everything it’s supposed to be.

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