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Civil War #1

Posted: Tuesday, June 13, 2006
By: Michael Bailey



"Civil War Part One of Seven"

Writer: Mark Millar
Artists: Steve McNiven (p), Dexter Vine (i), Morry Hollowell (c)

Publisher: Marvel Comics


Plot: After the New Warriors are involved in a tragedy that results in the deaths of hundreds of people, the United States Congress reacts by proposing legislation that would force people with special abilities to register with the government. The public's opinion of the so-called Marvels sours quickly, and Johnny Storm is beaten by an angry mob. The proposed legislation causes a rift in the heroic community with some wanting to go along with the government's plan, most notably Iron Man, and the other wanting to retain their anonymity. S.H.I.E.L.D. tries to recruit Captain America to lead the force that would track down rogue heroes with disastrous results. With Cap on the run, three prominent heroes volunteer to bring him in for the government while they proceed with their planned legislation.

Commentary: I think it is rather fitting that this book came out the same week that Infinite Crisis ended. One saga ends while another just begins. I like that.

What it also illustrates the differences between DC and Marvel, especially when it comes to their crossovers. DC's crossovers and events are usually on a cosmic scale while Marvel's better crossovers usually work on a more personal, human level. There are exceptions on both sides, and I'm not saying one company is superior at the mega event (though I am partial to DC in most cases), but even Marvel's most cosmic crossover, Infinity Gauntlet, had at its core a very human element in Thanos' inability to follow through on his grandiose plans.

(By the way, I'm not saying that DC's big events don't have any heart to them. I was just making a broad generalization on the differences between the two companies. DC has a larger number of incredibly powerful characters so you need to throw something big at them to pose a valid threat.)

The aspect of this story that makes this issue, and hopefully the series, work is the fact that it is so plausible. I'm a big believer in the concept that the best comics are those that are of their time, and Millar and the other creators of this series definitely tapped into the current socio-political climate. Replace the deaths of a bunch of school kids at the hands of a super-villain resulting in Congress talking about enacting legislation regarding super-heroes with two kids going to school and blowing away a bunch of their classmates resulting in Congress discussing what to do about violent video games, music, movies and even comic books, and it resonates the same. Then there is the Miriam Sharpe as Cindy Sheehan, and suddenly the story has added depth.

From the opening scene where the New Warriors blow it big time to the end where Iron Man and crew agree to go after Captain America, I was hooked. A lot happens in a short amount of time but nothing feels rushed. I get the sense from the pacing that a certain amount of time has passed, and there is enough going on to make everything go down smooth. The talking heads on television further the real world feel of the story and seeing She-Hulk on Larry King Live show was my personal favorite. The storytelling gives readers a sense that they are getting their money's worth with a full story but also allowing the titles that cross over into the story the room to tell their stories as well. This is a smart move on Marvel's part and makes the story more new reader accessible, which is important from what I hear.

It was interesting to watch the group of heroes debate amongst themselves at the Baxter Building. At first I was a little put off by the Thing's comment to Wolverine but after some thought I realized that he is probably just upset over what happened to Johnny and is lashing out at Logan. There's also something very amusing at Iron Man using an analogy regarding alcoholics to describe the current situation. I mean if anyone would know what a moment of clarity was, it would be him. Susan Storm's point drives home the point what a bunch of spoiled brats the Fantastic Four can be, and I thought Spider-Man's retort pretty much nails why secret identities are so important.

By far the best scene has to be S.H.I.E.L.D. versus Captain America. It is such an odd scene too because I wondered why Commander Hill went nuclear so quickly. Cap's dialogue is a little off in places but he ends up having the best line in the book in the form of, "Weapons down or I will not be responsible for what comes next." What a visceral moment. Captain America is one of my top five favorite characters of all time so to watch him just mow down a squad of S.H.I.E.L.D. agents is fantastic.

I also like the fact that he is apparently the leader of group that opposes the registration. This makes perfect sense considering that while he is a product of the military and by extension the government he really hasn't had too many good experiences with them when it comes time to their attempts to put any kind of regulatory committee on him. Look at the John Walker affair. In addition to being one of the best Captain America stories ever told and resulting in the creation of U.S. Agent (who was really cool until Force Works, hand to God) it also showed that Cap has a reason to mistrust the government, and that when things like this happen, there is usually a super-villain involved.

Oh, and I love the bit at the end where Cap apparently buys the pilot of the plane he used to escape burgers and fries. How did that conversation go? "Yeah, just put the plane down there. Gently now. There you go. Hey, sorry about that whole kicking the crap out of your comrades and stealing your plane back there. Man, that was some great piloting, and I've seen some great pilots in my time. I'll tell you what, you ditch the oxygen mask and I'll buy you a Double Quarter Pounder and a large fry over at the McDonald's. How does that sound, scout? You want that? You want a Double Quarter Pounder? Come on, it's like a half a pound of meat with cheese and bread? What's more American than that?"

I see it in my head as if it has already happened.

In The End: I am really psyched about this series. I'll admit that I was sucked into the hype, but Millar and company delivered the goods. The series/event has a thought provoking concept, and it looks like that as a reader I'm going to have a lot of fun. McNiven and Vines' art is very lush, and they infuse a lot of character and emotion into the story. While I am still a huge DC fan, it looks like I'll be camping out in the Marvel Universe for the next year or so.

There was a question attached to this book: whose side are you on? It was a great bit of advertising because it involves the potential reader in the story itself. Well, I have an answer.

I'm with Captain America.

Why?

Because he's Captain freaking America. Who else am I going to follow? The guy who takes people out for a bite to eat after skyjacking them or the guy who uses his friend and protégé in a futile attempt to convince the government that they shouldn't adopt this legislation and then goes along with it when he thinks that the wind is blowing in that direction.

Always go with Cap. It seems like a good rule to follow.



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