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"I Don't Need Your Civil War!"

by: Protoclown

Marvel's huge Civil War event just wrapped up (more or less) last week, and it was quite a wild ride. Unfortunately this particular ride went off the rails quite a few times due in large part to its hasty, poorly conceived planning. Many of the ideas introduced in Civil War were fantastic, but much of the execution was severely lacking, often shoehorning characters into mismatched roles and forcing events that simply did not fit. Still, it was an entertaining event on the whole, Steve McNiven's artwork was gorgeous, and it looks like this may in fact hold true to its promise to shake up the Marvel Universe for some time (unlike DC's Infinite Crisis and its aftermath, which, though very enjoyable, didn't exactly shake the DCU to its foundations—"one year later" many things seem to be pretty close to the old status quo). Also, it was a damn sight more epic and impressive in scope than Marvel's last big House of M event, which was ultimately a huge disappointment.

Like most big comic "events", Civil War had a metric ton of tie-in books, some needed to flesh out the greater story, while most of them were completely unnecessary. I'll briefly touch on some of the more notable sideline stories later, but I'm mostly going to focus on the core Civil War title.

The story opens in Stamford, Connecticut with the New Warriors, an incredibly lame team of youngsters who have their own reality television show, staking out and getting ready to take down a safehouse inhabited by equally lame washed-up villains.

It was a damn good thing that skimpy little bush was there to conceal our brightly colored heroes.
And their camera crew. And their van.

One of the villains happens to spot the entire team and camera crew stealthily "hiding" in the backyard while taking out the trash and rushes in to alert her cohorts that they're under attack, so the New Warriors lose the element of surprise they were hoping for. A chaotic battle ensues, during which the most dangerous villain in the group, Nitro (whose power is basically to blow himself up) makes a break for it and rushes into the street. He is cornered by Namorita (that's Namor the Sub-Mariner's cousin) against a school bus parked right in front of Stamford Elementary School.

Ooh, looks like someone's gonna wish he wore his shoes once all that broken glass hits the ground.

Nitro rightly fears going back to super-villain prison, where he'll be cornered in the showers and have to take it up the poop chute daily by the likes of Dr. Octopus, so he uses his power to explode, only it's much greater in magnitude than it's ever been before, and he nukes over 600 people, many of whom are only schoolchildren. Only Speedball (the leader of the New Warriors and one of Marvel's most sucktastic characters ever) and Nitro himself manage to survive.

Stamford became like an annoying cheese bubble on a slice of pizza—
no one wanted to go anywhere near it.

In the aftermath, the country calls out not only for Speedball's blood (his path was followed in the Civil War: Frontline book, which I'll touch on later), but the blood of all other super heroes who aren't held accountable for their actions as well. Public opinion on super heroes becomes so negative that the Human Torch is attacked by a bunch of civilians while waiting to get into a club, which probably happens weekly anyway because he's kind of a cocky asshole.

Johnny Storm enjoys a bottle of his favorite drink outside a Manhattan club.

A Superhero Registration Act (which Marvel had been building towards for some time) is soon passed, proclaiming that all super heroes must register their identity with the government and effectively become employees of the worldwide peacekeeping taskforce S.H.I.E.L.D. Naturally, this presents a problem for certain heroes who want their identities to remain a secret, who don't like the idea of being forced to work for a large bureaucratic organization, or who simply hate acronyms.

Acting S.H.I.E.L.D director Maria Hill (erstwhile director Nick Fury has been in hiding for some time after the events of the latest Secret War series) approaches Captain America, asking him to make sure the Avengers are prepared to hunt down and capture all the rogue heroes who are refusing to register in accordance with the Act. Captain America says "Oh HELL no!" and fights his way through a large number of S.H.I.E.L.D agents and off the Helicarrier, getting away to set up the underground resistance movement.

Cap takes a bow after a stunning encore performance of beating
the shit out of every man, woman, gerbil and child in the room.

Now a lot of people who aren't that familiar with the character balk at this and say "Wait a minute, isn't Captain America supposed to be super patriotic and always fight for the government?" Well, that's not exactly true, and this turn of behavior isn't as out-of-character as you might think. Cap has stood against the U.S. government before when he believes its actions contradict the ideals of America. And you've got to remember, Captain America is from a different era, so his values may be seen by some as a bit old-fashioned, but they are also extremely uncompromising. He believes in the rights of the individual heroes, and he fears what kind of precedent is set when the government starts telling heroes who the "villains" are. So he's well within character in giving Uncle Sam the middle finger and going underground to lead the resistance.

Thousands of angry protesters flock to the White House
in response to how lame Yellowjacket's costume is.

Meanwhile, Iron Man (Tony Stark) heads up the pro-registration side of the battle, deciding that heroes need to be carefully trained and monitored by the government so that disasters like Stamford never happen again. Working closely with him in this endeavor are Mr. Fantastic (Reed Richards) and Yellowjacket (Hank Pym). And thus, the battle lines are drawn.

Twenty-four hours after the Registration Act becomes law, the Young Avengers are some of the first heroes captured and hauled away by S.H.I.E.L.D agents for failing to register with the government.

With their heavy iron hand restraints, the Young Avengers
quickly became lords of the prison boxing ring.

But Captain America and Falcon are masquerading as S.H.I.E.L.D agents among the group transporting the Young Avengers to Reed Richards's new super hero detention center, and they quickly subdue the real S.H.I.E.L.D agents and get Wiccan to use a teleportation spell to get to their underground hideout.

Those "teleport" and "tesla coil" spells really are awfully similar...

This is the reader's first introduction to the resistance, which now includes Cloak, Dagger, Hercules, Cable, Luke Cage, and Danny Rand (who is wearing Daredevil's costume instead of using his normal Iron Fist persona, as the real Daredevil was already in prison at the time for reasons not related to the Registration Act).

Meanwhile, in a mind-numbingly stupid move that makes no sense whatsoever, Spider-Man, in a press conference organized by Tony Stark, unmasks himself on live television revealing his secret identity to the whole world. Heroes who register aren't required to reveal their identity publicly, but Tony talks Peter into doing it as a symbolic gesture of good faith, in hopes that it will motivate other heroes to come out of hiding and register.

"Enough questions about the war in Iraq—hey look! It's Spider-Man!!"

Now I have to hand it to Marvel for having the balls to do this—Spider-Man's identity has remained a secret for over 40 years, so for them to do something like this is pretty major, and as it's a rather hard genie to put back in the bottle, it looks like this change is here to stay. However, the way it was done was completely and insanely ludicrous, as well as being extremely out-of-character. To his credit, J. Michael Straczynski did as well a job as could be expected justifying this totally implausible action on Peter Parker's part in Amazing Spider-Man, but the whole thing just doesn't feel right. Over and over, Peter had expressed doubt about the Registration Act, because in signing up for it and releasing his identity to the government, he could inadvertently put Mary Jane and Aunt May in danger. So in a relatively short time, Tony Stark convinces Peter not only to sign up for the act, but to go one step further and reveal his identity to the ENTIRE FUCKING WORLD? I don't think so. If Marvel really wanted Peter Parker to be "outed" as Spider-Man, they should have had the information get leaked accidentally, not force the character to go against everything he stands for, recklessly putting his loved ones in danger, simply because they thought it would be a "cool" thing to have in the story.

"Oh man, this old nightmare again! The one where I take my
mask off in front of the whole—fuck. This isn't a dream, is it?"

Tony Stark then goes to the X-Men, asking them to pick a side, but they declare their adamant neutrality in this whole matter. They largely remain out of the main conflict, and there was a spin-off series dealing with their part in the Civil War, but it was mostly uneventful, involved a whole bunch of C-list characters nobody gives two shits about being trapped in a cave with a nuclear weapon, and not worth getting into here.

Captain America, Hercules, Daredevil, and Goliath are all eating lunch in their new civilian identity disguises when they hear about a petrochemical plant on fire by the Hudson River. They quickly hop into an alley, change costumes, and rush to the scene...

Captain America's Secret Avengers had to take up male stripping jobs on the side to pay the bills.

...only to discover that it's a trap set up by Iron Man and his pro-registration group. Cap and his fellow freedom fighters quickly find themselves surrounded by government tools!

"Hey, we only partially lied to get you to come here! The plant really is on fire, see!??
Oh fuck, this is my plant! Get a hose, someone! Quick!"

Cap and Iron Man play nice for a few minutes until things inevitably progress to fisticuffs, and a full blown fight ensues.

Tony foolishly lifted his protective face-plate, incorrectly assuming that Cap was going
for the old-fashioned glove-slap-challenge-you-to-a-duel approach, rather than the
bash-your-skull-in-with-his-shield strategy.

Our heroes pummel each other for a while until the surprising sudden arrival of Thor, who was presumed dead, and who appears to be fighting for the registration side.

"The rumors of my death have been greatly exaggerated...wait, who the fuck actually says that??"

Thor turns out to be a real asshole and proceeds to absolutely beat the living shit out of all his former allies, which culminates in the brutal killing of Goliath, a character who hasn't really done anything noteworthy in years and most people had forgotten about anyway. So it's not exactly the shocking moment of gravitas that Marvel probably imagined it would be.

"Damn you, Thor! You killed—wait, who was that guy again?"

While Captain America's Secret Avengers are freaking out over the death of their fallen comrade, Invisible Woman (Sue Richards, who had been fighting for Iron Man's side) surrounds Cap's group in a force field and gives them a chance to escape.

"This giant hamster ball should protect you! Go! Roll to safety!"

It's then revealed that Thor is just a clone created and controlled by Reed Richards, who assures Sue that he didn't realize his creation would go batshit crazy and start killing their old friends. At this point Sue and her brother Johnny leave the registration side and jump over to Captain America's camp, on account of the pro-registration guys being a bunch of fascist assholes.

"Uhh... I'm pretty sure he needs more holes drilled in his brain. Yes, I do believe that's it."

Back at Avengers Tower, Reed Richards tries to work out the kinks on his psychorobo Thor, while Spider-Man expresses doubt that he's picked the right side in this war. Peter's been waffling so much during the war that at this point he may as well burn a grid pattern into his face, cover it with warm syrupy goodness, and then eat his entire head.

In another moment of stunning insanity, Tony Stark and Reed Richards further assert their status as biggest jerks in the Marvel universe by revealing their plan to recruit super-villains (kept in line by nanobot technology) to help them hunt down the defiant protestors of the Registration Act. Yes, Captain America is now a menace to be hunted down because he won't sign a piece of paper, while mass murderers like Bullseye and Venom are now an accepted part of the home team! Yes, grab on to something solid, true believers, because up is down, and down is up in the wacky new Marvel Universe!

Why are they even smiling? It's not like there's a camera in there. They're looking at a door.

Later, Peter Parker tells Aunt May and MJ that he's made a mistake, he wants them to leave town, and that he's realized he fucked up and chose the wrong side. No sooner does he utter these words than the paranoid, so-insane-I-wouldn't-be-comfortable-in-the-same-room-with-him Iron Man comes crashing through the wall and starts feeding Peter knuckle sandwiches with a high concentration of iron.

"Is this how you repay me, Peter? After I knitted you that new costume for Christmas?"

Spidey and Iron Man fight for a while, making a tremendous mess of Peter's apartment in Avengers Tower, before Peter makes his daring escape by being shot through a window by S.H.I.E.L.D agents who have rushed to the scene. Peter runs into the sewers, where he encounters third-rate villains Jester and Jack O'Lantern, who are now part of Tony Stark's new Thunderbolts team of villains conscripted into the employ of S.H.I.E.L.D.

"We're moving on up! They gave us each several panels in the story! I even have dialogue!"

They both clobber the shit out of Peter for a bit, before their S.H.I.E.L.D handlers radio in and tell them if they don't stop they'll get hit with a jolt of electricity. A minute later they have their brains teleported outside their heads by the Punisher's bullets!

"Dude! Smashing Pumpkins is totally my favorite band too!!"

Cap and his team are discussing plans when the Punisher (Frank Castle) shows up at their secret headquarters carrying a very wounded Spider-Man. Punisher tells them that their side can use all the help they can get, and Cap accepts this known killer on their team, which is more than a little out of character for our red white and blue hero who doesn't even believe in carrying a gun.

Frank Castle's wives usually last until after he carries them across the threshold.
Also, most of them are female.

Later, the Punisher infiltrates the Baxter Building in order to steal their plans for the secret prison they've built in the Negative Zone to contain all the heroes. A review I read on IGN pointed out how ludicrous this is, when the rebel faction has people like Vision, who can phase through solids, and the Invisible Woman, who can turn invisible and actually lived in the Baxter Building, so she might actually know something about its layout.

"Watch it, Punisher! If you pop so much as a single one of those soap suds,
you'll have the scrubbing bubble security system all over your ass!"

But the Punisher needs face time in the book, and Susan was sent on a different mission, to beseech speedo-wearing Namor the Sub-Mariner for aid in the inevitable "final battle" that looms on the horizon. Namor is obligated to refuse his aid, because he is a dick, and he points out that his cousin's death has already been avenged with the help of Wolverine (Wolvie had been tracking down Nitro and brought him to Atlantis in his own title, which is why he had been conspicuously absent from most of the main Civil War book).

"You may come forward, and fellate me now."

Back at Secret Avengers headquarters, Punisher has returned with the stolen prison blueprints and they group is busy formulating plans for a raid, when a couple of D-list villains, Goldbug and Plunderer, who sound like they got those names in prison, show up and say that they want to help, because Tony Stark's agenda is hurting the super-criminal community as well. In a fit of archetypal behavior befitting only the most juvenile interpretation of the character, Punisher goes "Oooh, villains!" and in a ridiculous knee-jerk response, blows them to bits without so much as a thought to his surroundings.

"Two uzis means I'm fucking hardcore, right?"

Captain America then goes "ZOMG! What was I thinking!? Frank Castle is a crazy!" and beats the tar out of him before kicking him off their Super Secret Team. Punisher doesn't fight back because he has too much respect for Cap, so he just sits there and takes it.

It's time for another fun-filled episode of Whose Traumatic War Flashback is it Anyway!

MEANWHILE! Dr. Strange prays in a MYSTIC CIRCLE in the NORTH POLE!

Dr. Strange would only shell out for the cheapest sanctuary
available, the one with no doors, windows, or even walls.

THEN—the Secret Avengers show up at the Negative Zone prison only to be met by Iron Man and his forces, who inform Captain America that they've just walked into another trap! Iron Man proudly announces that they've had a mole in their team for over a week! And Cap says, yes, they knew all about Tigra being a mole, but they didn't care! And then Cap says that they've had a spy on their team as well! And Iron Man says, that's impossible! And then Hank Pym takes off his mask and reveals that he's actually been the Young Avengers shapechanger Hulkling... SINCE THIS MORNING! And since he's been able to mimic Hank's face and voice, he's been able to release ALL of the prisoners, and boy are they pissed!

Hulkling possesses the superpower to change his appearance into that of any number of ugly people.

For some reason, Tony and Reed seem shocked by this shapeshifting spy, as if they've never dealt with such a concept before, despite having a great deal of experience with Skrulls and other shapechangers. It's as if it never occurred to them that someone might try this kind of tactic.

Can you find Waldo in this picture?

Then the royal rumble begins. A few minutes into the fight, S.H.I.E.L.D begins to close the portal into the Negative Zone, in an attempt to trap all of the heroes there. Black Panther and Dagger try to stop them, but they arrive too late, so they need Cloak to pull a last-second massive teleport to get every last one of them out of there. Cloak transports them all outside the Baxter Building, but his aim is just a little off...

One tragic balloon accident was all it took to ruin Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade for everyone.

Captain America advises all of the flyers to grab a friend, but there's no way that all of them could have been caught in time. This doesn't seem to matter though, as no one seems hurt by this massive fall. The fight continues on the streets of New York City, and Captain America soon finds himself assaulted by new Thunderbolts and Iron Man buddies Venom, Taskmaster, Bullseye, and Lady Deathstrike.

"Dear Red Skull, bet you wish you were here right now. Love, the Thunderbolts".

At this moment, Namor, the big teddy-bear who must've had a change of heart, and a horde of Atlanteans swoop in to save Cap from getting his ass kicked any further.

Sometimes, for special occasions, Namor will even deign to wear clothes.

This drastically turns the tide in Captain America's favor, but Iron Man advises his team not to lose hope, because the evil killer Thor clone is back, along with the previously dead Captain Marvel, and a bunch of other random heroes no one recognizes!

Thor's head-wings are bigger than Captain America's.
Nay, they are the BIGGEST HEAD-WINGS OF ALL!

Vision zaps Iron Man's armor so that Captain America doesn't have to worry about him pulling any tricks out of his ass, while evil robot clone killer Darth Vader Thor tries to assist his iron boss, but Hercules stops him, bashing his face in with his own hammer.

It was at this moment that Hercules began to suspect that they were
all of them robots, all of his friends and allies, that he must expose
them all for the frauds they were, and that it was in fact, hammer time.

Captain America is repeatedly bashing Iron Man's face in with his shield when he is attacked by a mob of "real life" heroes, every single one of them a firefighter, a police officer, an EMT, or some other civil servant. They tell Cap to leave Iron Man alone, and then when Cap says he doesn't want to hurt them, they retort by dropping an "it's too late for that, buster" bomb on him.

"NO! A heavy-handed message about real heroes! My one true weakness! Aaaargh!"

Captain America has a teary-eyed "Oh god what have I done" moment as he looks around the destruction of the city, and he realizes they're not even fighting for a real reason anymore so much as they're just fighting. Cap then takes off his mask and surrenders, allowing the police to arrest him and haul him away.

"It'll be ten years in the electric chair for you, Captain America!"

Wait—you mean to tell me that Tony Stark, newly crowned biggest asshole and number one villain in the Marvel Universe just won? Just like that? Yep. I'm afraid so, and in the lamest way possible. Not only that, but he also became newly appointed Director of S.H.I.E.L.D as a reward for acting like a giant dick. This giant dick is also indirectly responsible for Peter Parker's Aunt May being shot by an assassin hired by the Kingpin, after Parker revealed his identity to the world.

"Oh god... Peter! I got ketchup all over my old lady dress!"

I don't know if Marvel will have the balls to kill Aunt May or not, as her fate has yet to be revealed, but I do know that Spidey is putting on his black costume again (just in time for the third movie) to reflect the way he feels after Civil War. Now, I could be wrong, but isn't Spider-Man's black costume currently calling itself Venom and running around killing people? I mean, obviously what Peter is wearing is a fabric facsimile of the original symbiote, but is that something Peter should really want to associate himself with? Whether Aunt May buys the farm or not, it's a safe bet that he wants to throttle every last ounce of life out of Tony Stark at this point.

One prominent Marvel character you may have noticed the absence of in Civil War is the Hulk. That's because his "friends" Reed Richards, Tony Stark, and others tricked him into getting on a rocket and launched him into space to some faraway planet, because they didn't want a "wild card" like the Hulk running around during their Civil War. He's about to come back home now, and he's going to be pissed, which is going to lead into this summer's big event, "World War Hulk". After that, Marvel better take it easy with the "events" for a while.

Oh, and remember our boy Speedball from way back at the beginning of all this who people hold responsible for the whole Stamford incident? Well, he went to prison and refused to sign the Registration Act because he felt that would be an admission of guilt. He was shot because he's pretty much the most hated man in America (on top of being the lamest hero ever). Eventually though, he was released from prison and decided to adopt a new superhero identity and join the new Thunderbolts team. So he had a special costume designer construct a new costume for him, covered in 612 spikes (one for each of the victims who died at Stamford) that jab INTO the costume as well as out, so that he can feel a prick of pain for each of the people who died in Stamford that day.

"Must... remember feelings... so I can... write... poem... later."

Oh, how deliciously goth! How delightfully emo! How fucking cheesy. And the best part? He calls his new superhero identity Penance. That's right folks, somehow Speedball just got lamer. I really didn't think it was possible. Six months ago, I would have bet money that it was impossible, and yet, here we are.

"You know, I think I may have forgotten the eye holes in this helmet, but
it's okay, because the spikes finished gouging my eyes out just a moment ago!"

So that's Civil War, in a nutshell. On the whole, a pretty entertaining event, despite some pretty stupid ideas like Spider-Man unmasking, Iron Man and Reed Richards going insane and hunting down and imprisoning their friends, Iron Man recruiting known killers to work for him, Captain America working alongside the Punisher, and more. Despite all this, it was still far better than any events Marvel has done in the last decade, and I believe it was their biggest event to date as well.

I also want to point out that Mark Millar is one of the better writers in the industry, and I feel that some of the sketchy elements of Civil War were probably mandated by Marvel. For example, I read that Millar had no intention or desire to unmask Spider-Man, but he was forced to work it into the story. So I must wonder how many of the other annoying conceits of Civil War were foisted upon him from on high.

In any event, if you want to keep up with the Marvel Universe, there's no way you can skip out on Civil War. I'll be curious to see how long-lasting these effects turn out to be. Will things remain as they are a year from now, or will we be right back to the status quo? Only time will tell.

Found any weird, bizarre, stupid or funny comics that
should appear in a future "Tales From the Longbox" column?

Email Protoclown and let him know!



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