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Civil War (Marvel Comics, 2006; #1-7)

Today, I clear the trade that has been on my backlog the longest.

I picked up Civil War sometime around the first Iron Man movie. It was one of my first attempts to get into reading comics. That was a poor decision on my part; I did not know most of the characters in the book. It wound up being a confusing experience, and I put the book down after a couple of issues.

After a fight between out-of-their-league heroes and a group of villains leads to hundreds of civilian deaths, the U.S. government calls for the regulation of superheroes. Tony Stark, Hank Pym, and Reed Richards push their peers to sign on. Captain America and others see registration as a violation of their rights and a danger to friends and family.  So they go underground. Then they all start punching each other.

Civil War has spawned video game and movie adaptations, as well as a recent sequel in comics. Millar’s original mini-series is the only of these to succeed in making both sides seem valid. That makes a difference when it comes to enjoying the book. It means that the idea of Steve vs. Tony does not drive the narrative, but that individual heroes’ reactions and changes of heart propel the plot forward. That gives the book enough to keep it interesting. A little too much explanation of how character came to certain conclusions may happen off panel (or in other titles’ tie-ins), but that keeps Civil War from feeling like a lot of hand-wringing and self-repetition.

Civil War’s art is nothing if not cinematic. Wide angles on action, tight focus on faces, intentional pacing—all these are present. And by and large, McNiven’s pencils for the title are chock full of detail. There are occasional panels later in the series, when Civil War started to fall behind schedule, that lack the detail of earlier issues, but these are the exception. Despite the number of inkers involved, the book looks pretty consistent. Having a single colorist in Morry Hollowell provides a lot of stability; and Hollowell’s colors are solid, with a strong sense of light and shadow.

If you’re curious about Civil War, or if you want to go through the exercise of reading through Marvel’s major events, then go for it. There’s not a lot of reason not to check it out. Beyond that, the publisher’s current stories are pretty far-removed from the book’s immediate consequences. So if you’re curious, read it; if not, there are plenty of titles more relevant to current continuity. Just don’t try to make it your first foray into reading comics.

Collected in

  • Civil War (#1-7)


Writer: Mark Millar | Penciller: Steve McNiven | Inkers: Dexter Vines with Mark Morales, Steve McNiven, John Dell, and Tim Townsend | Colorist: Morry Hollowell | Letterer: VC’s Chris Eliopoulos | Assistant Editors: Molly Lazer & Aubrey Sitterson | Associate Editor: Andy Schmidt | Editor: Tom Brevoort

The Manhattan Projects: “The Cold War” (Image Comics, 2012; #21-25)

Monstress: “Awakening” (Image Comics, 2015; #1-6)