By James Hancock October 6th, 2015
If you’re a certified Marvel Zombie like myself, waiting for the Captain America: Civil War trailer to be released is a little bit like being age 6 again and staring at the calendar in November, hoping that by the power of one’s willpower alone Christmas day will come a little bit sooner. When footage was released at D23 back in August, a few lucky journalists teased us about what they saw and hardcore fans assumed it was only a matter of time before we would see the first official trailer, one that nearly two months later remains stubbornly under wraps. Until the powers-that-be at Marvel have mercy on us, there is nothing to do but check Twitter every five minutes for any news on the trailer’s release date. For people who hate the Marvel Cinematic Universe, their response to our plight ranges from ‘Get a life’ to ‘Find a girlfriend.’ What these unconverted cynics fail to realize is that most Marvel fanatics would likely skip their own wedding or their own mother’s funeral if it meant getting a chance to see this trailer. While I’m the first to admit that I am bored to tears by the type of superhero movies more concerned with telling interchangeable origin stories over and over again (like The Amazing Spider-Man in 2012), but Captain America: Civil War is going to be something quite different. This movie is going to be a full-blown battle royal between nearly every major character in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (at least those still on Earth) from the same incredible writing and directing team that gave us Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014, The Russo Bros, Christopher Markus & Stephen McFreely). Personally I’ve been waiting to see Cap and Iron Man scrap ever since they first met way back in The Avengers (2012). We were treated to some more of their personal and ideological friction in Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015) and saw a brief moment of the showdown to come when Cap tried to prevent Iron Man from activating the Vision. But in Captain America: Civil War, we will watch as all of Cap and Iron Man’s friends and allies are forced to choose sides in the conflict to come, a war that I predict will be hands down the biggest geek orgasm to be experienced in 2016. Every moviegoer will be forced to answer the question every Marvel reader already faced ten years ago, ‘Whose side are you on?’
So the question remains, what to do with our time to scratch that unbearable itch, an itch that can’t be scratched until we finally see the trailer? For me the answer lies in going back to the comics that inspired the MCU in the first place. At twelve movies and counting, President of Marvel Studios Kevin Feige’s corner of the Marvel Universe now has its own continuity and history to contend with, therefore it is impossible to create direct adaptations of classic story lines that involve these characters. But I’m always thrilled when I see the movies taking their cues from some of the great scenes and classic moments Marvel readers know and love. When it comes to Mark Millar and Steve McNiven’s now classic Civil War and its various tie-ins(2006-2007), these scenes are legion in number. In the comics, the Civil War began after a tragedy involving a reality show featuring young, reckless superheroes as they recorded a battle with super villains, a battle that resulted in the deaths of hundreds of children in a nearby school. The official response to the event came in the form of the Superhero Registration Act, a law that required costumed vigilantes to take off their masks and go to work for the government or be hunted down as a criminal. In favor of the law were Iron Man and Reed Richards who put their minds to work trying to build a 21st century world where heroes could continue to do their work in a safer, more controlled fashion. Those opposed to the law rallied around Captain America who felt that being a masked vigilante was in keeping with the American tradition of freedom and being willing to make the ultimate sacrifice for one’s country. The resulting battles raging throughout the pages of Civil War tore former friends and allies apart and I hungrily consumed the story every step of the way. As with any major Marvel crossover there were countless prequels, tie-ins, and aftermath stories related to the conflict and as every comic fan knows, not every crossover event is created equal. But there were several arcs within the Civil War that I found to be riveting reading and I’m crossing my fingers that we’ll see echoes of these scenes on May 6th, 2016 when we finally get to see the movie. So until we are finally given a glimpse of things to come in the official teaser, consider the comics below an appetizer in what will hopefully be a cinematic feast next Spring.
The following comics are all available through comiXology.
Civil War (#1-7, written by Mark Millar, art by Steve McNiven)
Today Scottish scribe Mark Millar is best known for writing his own original comics that have been adapted into successful movies like Kick-Ass (2010) and Kingsman: The Secret Service (2014) but there was a long period where he was arguably the best writer at Marvel Comics. The influence of his series The Ultimates I & II (2002 – 2007) is still being felt to this day in particular how the Avengers are portrayed in the films. For the record, Mark Millar recast Nick Fury as Samuel L. Jackson in the comics long before Jackson ever agreed to appear in Marvel movies. It is incredible that the movie of Civil War will be released on almost exactly the ten year anniversary of the first issue of the series. Millar’s Civil War was an event in the best sense of the word upon its initial publication, one that brought seismic changes to nearly every book being published by Marvel at the time. Just about every issue offered either a classic scene or one that would go down in infamy. My favorite moments include ***spoiler alert*** Captain America breaking out of S.H.I.E.L.D. when Maria Hill tries to arrest him, Spider-Man taking off his mask and going to work for Tony Stark, Iron Man nearly beating Cap to death in issue #3 (see above), a clone of Thor going berserk and killing Black Goliath, the Punisher saving Spider-Man from certain death, and Hercules’s total destruction of Thor’s clone. Without question this is one of the most influential and memorable stories published at Marvel in the 21st century, one that Marvel fans remember fondly to this day.
The Amazing Spider-Man (#531-538, written by J. Michael Straczynski, art by Ron Garney)
No single hero’s life was more directly impacted by the Civil War than our friendly neighborhood Spider-Man. Ole webhead was convinced by Tony Stark to go public with his identity and as a reward Peter Parker got a great job working for Stark along with a state-of-the-art new suit that gave Spider-Man a variety of new tricks and powers to use in combat. The suit and its design became quite the source of controversy among those angry comic fans who resist change in all forms but wiser readers knew it was not meant to last. ***spoiler alert*** The Civil War repeatedly brought Spider-Man into conflict with his hero Captain America and eventually Spidey decided to switch sides and join Cap in his fight for freedom, but not before Spider-Man was forced to take on Iron Man himself in single combat. After stumbling away from his encounter with Iron Man, Spider-Man was nearly murdered by several of his old villains, those who had decided to sign up with the Superhero Registration Act in exchange for their freedom from prison. With great writing by J. Michael Straczynski and brilliant art by Ron Garney, The Amazing Spider-Man was one of the most consistently enjoyable tie-ins to Marvel’s Civil War.
Captain America (#22-25, written by Ed Brubaker, art by Steve Epting)
Ed Brubaker’s run on Captain America is one of the greatest arcs by any creative team in the history of the business, in particular issues #1-50 of Captain America vol. 5 (2004-2009). Not only did Brubaker invent the concept of the Winter Soldier which was later used in the 2014 movie, he also wrote the infamous ***spoiler alert*** death of Captain America in the aftermath of the Civil War, an assassination that ultimately led to Bucky aka the Winter Soldier taking on the mantle of the new Captain America. It pains me that Brubaker and Epting now work only on original titles over at Image Comics. They make far more money creating their own material at Image and they remain two of the best voices in the entire comic book industry. But for a geeky fan boys like myself, I miss the days when they were at Marvel producing magic on a monthly basis with my favorite superhero character of all time.
New Avengers (#27-37, written by Brian Michael Bendis, art by Leinil Francis Yu)
The aftermath of the Civil War was almost as interesting as the war itself. The war effectively tore the Avengers in two with Iron Man taking leadership over the establishment wing (seen in The Mighty Avengers also by Bendis) while a rebel faction consisting of Luke Cage, Spider-Man, Wolverine, Iron Fist, Ronin (Hawkeye in disguise), Spider-Woman and Doctor Strange went on the run as outlaws always trying to stay one step ahead of their former allies. Periodically they would encounter Iron Man’s far more powerful lineup but would quickly escape in order to continue in their struggle to honor the memory of Captain America. For about a year this rebel team was one of my favorite monthly stories to follow until the events of the Secret Invasion forced every hero on the side of planet Earth to set aside their differences and join forces to save the planet (but that is a topic for another day).
Thunderbolts (#110-121, written by Warren Ellis, art by Mike Deodato, Jr.)
In the aftermath of the Civil War, many of Marvel’s worst criminals, serial killers and psychopaths remained on the government payroll exploiting the new Superhuman Registration Act to their advantage. The result was one of the greatest story arcs of all time, Warren Ellis’s all-too-brief 12-issue run on Thunderbolts. With gorgeous art by Mike Deodato, Jr., Warren Ellis built a team around the leadership of Norman Osborn aka the Green Goblin whose sole function was to hunt down any remaining superheroes refusing to comply with the new laws. If Netflix ever gets their hands on this material, the show would change the superhero genre forever. These characters are practically crippled with their personality flaws but that does not stop them from wreaking all kinds of havoc on the outside world and on each other before this brilliant story draws to a close. Required reading.
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So I hope you enjoyed this little rant and found some reading suggestions that interest you. If you read this post, I can safely assume you are enduring the daily agony of waiting for the Captain America: Civil War trailer as well. My only consolation is that I feel your pain. The good news for us is now that the President of Marvel Studios, Kevin Feige, will no longer reporting to Marvel CEO Ike Perlmutter but rather to Disney Chairman Alan Horn, many suspect that the floodgates of cash will be opened allowing Kevin Feige to finally unleash the full potential of the Marvel Cinematic Universe over the next few years. It is an incredibly exciting time to be a fan of Marvel. So try and be patient and remember that May is getting closer everyday and before long we’ll be sinking our teeth into what will hopefully be the best Marvel movie to date. Make mine Marvel.
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