Looking back on Marvel’s Civil War

I just read the hardcover book of Marvel’s Civil War event.

It’s a very large book, so I initially expected it to have some of the Civil War tie-in comics included. It doesn’t. It has the main Civil War comic series obviously, some interviews and an in-universe newspaper coverage, and then most of the non-comic length is taken up a full script of the comic.

Now I have to say that, even though as a writer I have a particular interest in how stories evolve, my interest in reading the near-final script of a comic that I just read is still pretty limited. The much earlier outline that’s included at the end is more interesting than the script because at least it shows a lot more of what changed in the process.

And a lot of quotes from the creators are also repeated between the interviews and the scripts. I know this was because both Spotlight: Civil War and the script book were published separately, but it still means there’s less in the book than you’d think from its page count.

Enough about the format; what about the story itself and the interviews? My opinion still hasn’t changed since it was new; Captain America is clearly right, Iron Man is backing something uncomfortably similar to what the X-Men have consistently portrayed as oppression of minorities, the X-Men staying out of something that they admit is similar to mutant registration doesn’t do them any favors, and the ending would be ludicrously anvilicious even if it didn’t have the side that was in the wrong winning.

Weirdly, Millar actually says that he thinks that in the Civil War comic itself Iron Man’s side is portrayed better, but that makes no sense. Iron Man’s side is the one with all the dog-kicking moments: they make a clone of Thor who murders Goliath, work with supervillains, lock heroes up in the Negative Zone without trial, and publicly unmask Spider-Man. The most questionable thing Captain America’s side does is work with the Punisher; which still shows Captain America to be the one who’s morally better, because unlike clone-Thor, the Punisher is, well, punished when he murders someone.

To be honest, all the comments from the people responsible for the bad ending masquerading as a happy ending give me the impression that they think heroes should care more about “the law” than about justice or morality, which I strongly disagree with; a hero is someone who always does the right thing no matter what anyone else tells him to. Captain America is the greatest hero in the Marvel universe and he’s just as heroic as usual in this story except at the very end when he surrenders because somehow he thinks that all the destruction (which is presumably being caused primarily by the supervillains and cloned god on Iron Man’s side) is his fault.

Captain America’s concern that requiring superheroes to be on government payroll would lead to the government telling them who to fight and who to leave alone isn’t merely a hypothetical that makes a lot of sense; it’s exactly what happens that makes him turn “rogue” in the first place; S.H.I.E.L.D. agents pointed guns at him for merely saying that he won’t hunt down those he considers heroes, and this is before the registration act has even become law! Cap’s concern and S.H.I.E.L.D. proving it right are literally on the same page, and yet that page was written by someone who thinks he was wrong? Despite the strawman expressed by pro-reg characters a couple of times, the anti-reg side wasn’t objecting to the idea that heroes should have to be trained; they were objecting to the idea that heroes should be under the authority of politicians.

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