Artist: Steve McNiven
Civil War was one of the first stories that I ever read, with it, and Batman: Hush helping persuade me to collect comics. The concept alone is intriguing, and the impact it would have in Marvel's future was also brilliant.
After the New Warriors, a group of inexperienced teen superhero's cause the death of hundreds of innocent people the Super-Human Registration Act is about to be put into place, which would mean that superhero's would need to reveal who they are, and work for the government, and when this doesn't go well with Captain America, and other hero's it starts the superhero Civil War, with Captain America's Secret Avengers going up against Iron Man, and the registered superhero's.
This was a truly phenomenal story, and one of my favourite stories of all time, being my favourite Marvel event to date. Mark Millar simply did an amazing job on this story, and although his other work such as, The Ultimates, Kick-Ass, and Old Man Logan were all brilliant, this has to be his best work to date, showing why he's my favourite writer. Although I never read this story when it was released in comics, it was however one of the first graphic novels I read, and was the first that I classed as phenomenal. When reading the story I did however question to myself why nothing like this had happened before then, and although I'm happy it didn't, as we may never have had this great story, I do have to say that I believe this shows the levels that comics have developed in stature over the years, and why modern comics are a much more deeper form of storytelling than they were in the 60's-80's. Besides all that Millar made something that wasn't just thought out, and deep, but epic, and exciting, and it almost feels like you're watching a film when you read this, as the drama, and action, as well as the depth are off the scales. Although I didn't expect this kind of level when first reading the story, having not known who Millar was, since then I have read many of his stories, and to be honest it's no surprise that this was epic, as nearly everything he's done has been amazing to a certain extent. I also loved how Millar build up the animosity between the two warring teams, as it produced a brilliant atmosphere, allowing these character's to not hold back. There is however only one minor hint of negativity in this story, and that is the ending, as although I won't spoil it, it did feel slightly anticlimactic. At the same time I also saw perfect reasoning for this ending, and although slightly disappointing it in no way spoiled the quality of the story.
The art from Steve McNiven was just as phenomenal as Millar's writing, and although I've seen him do tremendous work in other series including, The New Avengers, Millar & McNiven's Nemesis, Old Man Logan, and Guardians of the Galaxy to name a few, this has to be the best artwork I have ever seen from him. The art in this book was simply splendid, and McNiven deserves to get a lot of praise for it, as although I'm sure Millar's script would be brilliantly detailed, describing the sequences, it's still up to the artist to make it come alive, which McNiven more than done. The dramatic tone of the art was immense and it truly felt like watching a film, but in a book, as everything felt so exciting, and vibrant. The detail in McNiven's art was also outstanding, as everything was perfect, whether it was the small details, or the explosive action, and it really made the art much more sleek, and appealing. The way McNiven drew the character's was also amazing, as although there were so many different types of character's, with different looks, they all looked brilliant, and although there was obviously some that looked better than other's, they all looked spectacular. The character's facial emotions were also pretty good, as although probably the weakest part of McNiven's artwork (and that's saying something as it's also brilliant), when he does show emotion it's phenomenal, and I especially loved the anger that came from Hercules throughout certain battles. Talking about battles the action was also outstandingly brilliant, and truly epic, as it was the perfect mix of disaster, and brawling, as there were times were the fighting was very elegant, and other's were it was down right brutal, which gave more depth, and drama.
This story started with the New Warriors tangling with Nitro, causing a massive explosion which caused the death of hundreds of people, including children. Now what a better way to start this type of story off, as to be fair if it was someone like Captain America that fought Nitro at the time there wouldn't be as much done about it, but due to the fact that these are inexperienced hero's, it made perfect sense. Another thing I liked about this was that having these young hero's in the form of the New Warriors added a level of fun, and lightness to the story, which is perfect considering nearly everything since that point will be gritty, and suspenseful. The fact that the New Warriors only really seemed to care about TV ratings also wouldn't have helped, as it showed that these young hero's had little concern for the public, and although that's slightly morbid, it make the start that much more amazing.
The aftermath of this would obviously be the Super-Human Registration Act, which would make anyone with superpowers have to sign, and register with the government, and S.H.I.E.L.D., also revealing their identities. Now this was a thing that had been building up for some time, ever since Nick Fury's Secret War, and the Scarlet Witch causing the House of M, also being mentioned in The New Avengers prior to this. Now although this caused a controversial debate over who's right, and who's wrong, I felt that it was great, as it would have changed certain readers opinion on certain character's, as with them being on different sides of the fence, some people will most likely class one side as bad, and the others good, whereas before that they'd all be good. I personally didn't have much of a change in opinion over character's, but at the same time I did find some of the characteristic changes shocking, whilst also overall finding it perfect for Marvel, as it would lead to a very interesting time.
Now the main question in this book was, "Who's side... are you on?" as Cap, and Iron Man square of against each other, with Iron Man supporting the Registration Act, and Cap against it. The way that Iron Man was swayed into making his decision was brilliant, and it really added another level of emotion, and meaning to the story, as although most people, me included would have seen him as a jerk, his morales were good, and he did honestly believe that this was the right thing, which in a way it was. The fact that Cap went against the Registration Act however was a little bit of a shock at first, but I quickly came to realise that it made perfect sense, as although he's worked for the government all his life, with people knowing who he is, that doesn't mean that others should be deprived their freedom of choosing. The other character's that chose what side they were on were pretty predictable, as with Fantastic Four being open, and Mr. Fantastic working with Iron Man on ideas to help humanity it made perfect sense, as did government workers like Ms. Marvel, Hank Pym, and others. The same could be said for Cap's side, as people like Luke Cage, Daredevil, and Hercules, who are all open minded, as well as for the people would naturally follow Cap. There was however one exception to this, and that would be Spider-Man.
WARNING: SPOILER AHEAD!
This is a spoiler for the story, but most people should know about this anyway, unless you're completely new to comics, but I thought I'd give the spoiler warning anyway. Normally you'd think that Spidey would never go for the Registration Act, as he holds his secret identity as a close guarded secret, more so than nearly any superhero, but at the same time, as he's been pals with Iron Man over the recent times it's natural that he'd side with him, but all the same when I first read this, the fact that Peter revealed himself to be Spidey it was a shock. I did however love the fact J. Jonah Jameson fainted at this news though. Anyway besides the Registration Act this would probably be the biggest change to happen in this story, as now that everyone knows who Spidery is it'd change his life, but I won't go into details as that would be too big a spoiler. The fact that Peter had a dilemma after revealing himself was however more interesting, as you'd have thought the fact of revealing his identity in the first place would do that, but it was actually the question of whether he did the right thing that lingered over him, which was brilliant, and really interesting.
This story would also feature the Punisher, which is a strange thing, as he usually stays out of the main part of crossover events, and only really deals with superhero's occasionally, so to have him in this story said a lot. I won't go into details as to why he was involved, or some of what he did, as it would give too big a spoilers, but I will say on what I though of this, and more importantly the interaction he had with Cap. Now to be fair Cap, and Punisher are very similar character's, if you take away the fact that Punisher kills villains, as they are both soldier's, and to certain extent patriots. The way they'd react would however be interesting, as although I can see why Cap couldn't get over the fact that Punisher was a killer, I'd have thought that knowing his story, and background that he'd be slightly easier on him, and try to help him rather than class him a lost cause. Besides the interaction Punisher had with Cap, he'd also pull his weight during his time in the story, and he was used perfectly, and overall the decision to add him was good, even if mainly to launch a then new series (Punisher War Journal).
A character that I always find interesting is the Watcher, as although he's not the most developed character, he's still very interesting, and always makes things exciting. For anyone who doesn't know who the Watcher is (probably not many) he's a being who watches the changes in the universe, never interfering and mainly appearing during times of great change, and disaster. This is what makes him interesting, as it usually doesn't bode well for the superhero community if he shows up, which means that there's a good chance that the story will be exciting. This was also one of the more rarer occasions, as the Watcher actually interacts with a character, and although I won't name who, as to avoid spoiling, it did make things more interesting, and unique, and his overall appearance in this went to show why he's interesting, even though he himself isn't exciting.
WARNING: SPOILER AHEAD!
Again this spoiler only really relates to people who are completely new to comics, as most people will probably know this, and although I do try to avoid spoilers at all cost, this was an addition to the story that I personally found very interesting. This story would see the return of Thor, or so it would seem, as when Iron Man's group were in trouble a being who looked exactly like Thor would show up. It would be revealed that this was actually a cyborg clone of Thor, being created from a particle of hair that Iron Man kept. The cyborg would later be known as Ragnarok, and would also be very different than the real Thor. To be honest when I first got this story I wasn't keeping up with comic events, so I didn't even know that Thor disappeared, but to see this cyborg clone was brilliant, and would also add shock, drama, and suspense to the story. The aftermath this character would cause in later stories would also be very interesting, as although I won't go into details as to avoid unnecessary spoilers, this introduction would turn out more important than just his role in this story.
This story would also see S.H.I.E.L.D., and Iron Man go to drastic lengths, using it's newly acquired Thunderbolts team in the capturing of rogue superhuman's. Now I don't know a great deal about the Thunderbolts prior to them working for the government, and S.H.I.E.L.D., but I believe that this was the first time they would, having worked for Baron Zemo prior to that. Anyway, the use of them in this story was brilliant, as besides the fact it would be the start of a new era for the Thunderbolts, it also showed the lengths, and levels that S.H.I.E.L.D. were going to to make their Registration Act stick. At the same time I also found it slightly ironic that leashed criminals would be hunting down hero's in the name of the law, and overall this was a very interesting, and a brilliant addition to this story.
A brilliant story, and probably the best Marvel event of all time, this saw a dramatic change in the way the Marvel Universe would operate, as well as how it's character's would live. The action, and excitement in the story was outstanding, and the dramatic film like atmosphere that it gave was just phenomenal, making this a must read story. I would highly recommend this story as like I've said in my review, it was truly amazing, and well worth the read.