Civil Words – Civil War #1

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Hey there, and welcome to Civil Words: a new weekly series where we’ll be prepping ourselves for next Summer’s Captain America: Civil War by reading through the Marvel comics event that inspired it: Mark Millar’s 2006 series Civil War.

I’m Cian, of Game of Thrones recap fame, and with me is my co-host/lil’ brother Colm, who you may remember from his many, many pieces on The Flash.

So, the basic logline for the series: some crappy D-list superheroes accidentally blow up a primary school in the middle of a fight, which leads to the passing of a new law requiring superheroes to register with the government and receive official training. Some of Marvel’s big name superheroes are cool with this, others are not: a schism that (because this is superhero comics, where every problem is solved with punching) leads to the titular Civil War.

Excited to begin, Colm?

Colm: Of course! who doesn’t love the chance to say ‘all’s fair in love and comics’?

Cian: I don’t. I don’t love that.

Anyway, in Issue 1, we start with the literal inciting incident of the plot: the big fight in the suburbs between a superhero team with their own reality TV show (The New Warriors) and a group of bad guys, most prominently Nitro: a guy who’s power is to explode.

One of the Warriors slams Nitro into a schoolbus and says something to the effect of “Pfft, whatcha gonna do, explode?”. Which he promptly does. And blows up the nearby school (“Civil War: the coolest, most epic superhero story kicked off by mass child-death!”)

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We see a few scenes of the general public/media turning against the superheroes, but many people are surprisingly reasonable in their demands: the comparison is drawn between superheroes and police officers, who have to be trained and integrated into the justice system before they can go out and have their monopoly on the legal use of violence.

Most of the superheroes gather in their super-club house to discuss the new Registration Act, and it’s clear opinions are mixed.

Meanwhile, in one of the floating Helicarriers from the Avengers films (it’s a mix between a helicopter and an aircraft carrier, c’mon this is basic stuff), Maria Hill/Robin from How I Met Your Mother asks Captain America to help her track down and arrest superheroes who don’t register with the government.

(My word processor recognises “Helicarrier” as a real word now. What a time to be alive.)

Cap refuses and escapes out a window, before surfing to safety on top of a jet(!), becoming the figurehead of the Anti-Registration crowd. At the same time, Iron Man visits the White House to dramatically declare himself…Pro-Registration!

Did I miss anything?

Colm: Spoil sport!
Yeah those little children playing at superheroics learn the hard way! Lets not forget Johnny Storm displaying a blazing *wink* lack of tact when out clubbing and pisses off some Humble Joes sick of his superiority!

Daredevil contributes so much to the conversation, standing in a corner flipping a coin and talking in proverbs.

And you’ve got good ole Hank Pym and Reed Richards (Model husbands) both with Tony on the Pro-registration side, 3 super-scientists, one a recovering alcoholic, one who’s mood changes quicker then his costume and the other… well his name alliterates!

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Cian: Man, feckin’ Johnny Storm is the absolute worst: he just rolls up to a club making jokes about rescuing children from burning orphanages… days after his colleagues accidentally blew up a school. He’s also friendly with Lindsay Lohan and Paris Hilton, because lest we forget: this story came out in 2006. I wonder if they’ll cameo in the Civil War movie?

(I’ve never liked Johnny/The Human Torch much as a character, but I do think it’s cool that Vince from Friday Night Lights is playing him in the upcoming Fantastic Four movie. Maybe I’ll just pretend he’s still playing his FNL character in that film, just after an improbable career change from football to high-concept super-science)

Colm: Ah, thems were simpler times, Thor was dead, Scarlet Witch nearly obliterated mutant-kind and we had no MCU! If those two were popular in 2006, when the hell was Britney Spears relevant? Ah, me and my youthful ignorance…

Well not all of us can pull off sporting careers or end up being transformed by cosmic radiation!

Cian: 99-2001 were prime Britney time, Colm. A time when a man could truly with pride, and a song in his heart say “It’s Britney, bitch.” Truly,those were better days…

Colm: “Those dear dead days beyond recall.”

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Cian: I absolutely loved how Daredevil just refuses to contribute anything to the conversation besides cool-guy leaning against a wall and nay-saying. Also, I have no idea why he’s flipping that coin between his knuckles as he talks, other than to further look like a hardass. (For a blind man, DD sure is image-conscious)

That’d be my favourite bit of the comic, if not for the bit where Cap shoves his way through a crowd of guys, jumps out a window and surfs to safety on top of a plane.

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Listen, let’s not kid ourselves here: all this stuff is goofy as hell, and running on pure action movie logic. I’ll be honest: I may talk a good game about the themes and ideas and storytelling – but I’m really reading this thing for big, dumb moments like Captain America jumping out a window in his fabulous pirate boots and plane-surfing off into the sunset. It’s like I’m communing with my inner 13 year old.

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Colm: Well there’s one thing that 13 year old fecker wont get! Bad language! Ahhh that’s Cap for you, be it in the films or the comics, he doesn’t like profanity!

Cian: The nearest thing he knows to a curse-word is “France”

Colm: That is my new favorite Cap America moment…Still its good that he clearly DOESN’T nurse a 70 year grudge against an entire nation!

Cian: Yet he has no problem taking the jet pilot he kidnaps out for a burger and french fries. Hypocrite!

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So besides the guys we mentioned, they also check in with some other big name Marvel characters to see how they feel about the Registration Act:

Captain Marvel (technically Ms. Marvel at this point, but that’s a whole thing), feels really uncomfortable here and is starting to think maybe registration is a good idea to prevent another catastrophe. She’s really the character I identify with in the big debate scene. All the others seem like various different flavours of unpleasant.

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Doctor Strange(soon to be played by Benedict Cumberbatch) wants to know if he’s gotta choose between being arrested or becoming (ugh) a federal employee.

Wasp is insulted that they might get pension plans and holiday time: “What are they trying to do? Turn us into civil servants?”

(These guys are so sympathetic.)

Patriot wants a superhero strike, Falcon thinks “the masks are a tradition”, The Fantastic Four thinks it’s all good and nobody needs a secret identity anyway, and Wolverine would rather as few people as possible know his name and home address because “the world ain’t so nice outside your ivory tower, bub.”

(Why is he always calling people “bub”, I never got that. Was that cool in the seventies? Is it a reference to something? Is he just a big Forrest Gump fan?)

Did you find everyone in the debate scene as unlikeable as I did? (Captain Marvel and trying-too-hard-to-be-cool-Daredevil excluded, of course.)

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Colm: Unless the french fries were a metaphorical punishment for cussin’!
Hey if you want to tell Wolverine how to speak then it was nice knowing you!

Well its not fantastic (Eh, EH) but you kinda need to have something to this effect:

“Oh what to we do?”

“Well here’s my very loud opinion!”

“Maybe we should be cautious…”
“Who let Spider-Man in?”

Y’know the stuff that has to be said.

A lot of these characters who are voicing their grievances wont be in the film, Luke Cage and Daredevil have to stick with Netflix and Coldheart was one of the bad guys in Iron man 3!

We don’t have She-Hulk (yet) or the FF in this movie and we’re getting compensation with Scott-Lang, Winter Solider and Hawkeye.

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Cian: “Buying him a Burger and French Fries” is Cap’s metaphor for cold-blooded killing a man.

Sure, the cast in the Marvel films is a lot smaller than in the comics series. (Though considering the Netflix series, the end of the season of Agents of SHIELD, and last month’s Age of Ultron, they can probably rustle up maybe 12 or 15 superheroes by the time Captain America 3 comes out, to split between the two sides.)

Which begs the question: how closely do you think the film version will follow the comic’s storyline?

Colm: That ruthless son of a gun…
I think it will have the same Premise: ‘Inexperienced hero messes up, bystanders die which calls for registration’ Then you have Tony-pro and Cap-anti.

Then I think its going to take a radical turn, Baron Zemo (Daniel Bruhl) leads a new super-cool-evil conspiracy to get the Avengers under his government/possible-Hydra control.

Cian: An inexperienced hero like… Scarlet Witch?

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Colm: Whaaaaat? Not a chance! Wanda always acts with resolute objectivity and crystal clear judgment. (Destruction of mutant-kind, death/ rebirth/ re-death /RE-REbirth of Hawkeye aside.)

Cian: Imma stop you there, cos Scarlet Witch’s comics history is a weird, goofy rabbit-hole.

Okay, lets wrap this up. So, the big question: based on the cases presented in this issue, which side are you on – pro or anti Reg?

Colm: Today I’m feeling pretty Pro-registration! It may change come the morrow. but the cynic I am wants some degree of restraint on superhumans/geniuses/ sorcerer supremes! And yourself?

Cian: Oh, I’m pro-reg all the way. As a random SHIELD guy asks Cap “How can anyone argue with superheroes being properly trained and paid for a living?”

Huh. I was kinda hoping we’d both pick different sides. It could have been brother against brother, almost like…some kind of…civil…..discussion?

Oh well, maybe next week I guess. See ya next week bro!


About the Authors:

The lovable slacker type, Colm Sheppard is into all things comic book. He enjoys good food, good stories and lengthy anecdotes.

A lifelong TV addict since his first episode of Sesame Street, Cian Sheppard works as an English teacher in Germany and thinks you look very nice today.


About English Den

Experienced, qualified and professional English teacher working in Warsaw, Poland. Interested in pop culture, and using pop culture to teach languages. Available for private or in-business classes. International classes also available on Skype. Contact for further information.
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