In the first issue of “Civil War,” Marvel Comics’ big event comic of the summer, the New Warriors, a group of superteens who star in a Reality TV show, accidentally blow up half of a town and kill hundreds.
This event sends shockwaves through America, and shortly thereafter there’s talk of making it illegal to operate as a masked vigilante to which I ask — Why isn’t it already illegal? Anyway, issue No. 2 opens up with the law in place and SHIELD, the Marvel Universe’s version of the CIA and FBI, working to round up heroes who aren’t signing up.
As a paramilitary squad hunts down and captures the Young Avengers, we see a few heroes pushing Iron Man on his support for the registration act. At the same time, we see Mr. Fantastic, the world’s greatest scientist hard at work on a top-secret project labeled “Number 42.” We don’t find out what it is, but he’s absolutely giddy about it.
Seemingly effected by his friends’ questioning, Iron Man confides in a friend “Oh, God. Please let us be doing the right thing here.”
With the act in place, a resistance group is already forming. They move against the transport holding the Young Avengers, free the teens, and show off the facilities offered to them by none other than SHIELD’s top soldier, Nick Fury.
As the resistance plots, Tony Stark, Iron Man’s alter ego, holds a press conference with Spider-Man. Spidey comes forward, and in a bold move by Marvel that opens up a huge can of worms for the character, reveals his secret identity to the world.
With his head hung low, he peels off his mask and announces: “My name is Peter Parker, and I’ve been Spider-Man since I was fifteen years old.”
That’s the way you write a comic book.
That’s the way to keep me coming back for more.
That and Steve McNiven’s amazing pencils and Morry Hollowell’s brilliant coloring work.
Mark Millar has tapped into an incredible idea here. Unlike the past, heroes can’t exactly be chummy any more. Now they’re divided by this ethical dilemma: I can register and be a paid government contractor, or I can keep my privacy and be hunted everytime I put my costume on.
Going further, registered heroes will likely soon be pushed to hunt down their friends. Unregistered heroes might soon find themselves with strange bedfellows as they do what they have to do while dodging the claws of Big Brother.
To tell the truth, I really hope that the Registration Act doesn’t go away at the end of this seven-issue series. I want it to stick around for years to come. Like DC’s Identity Crisis series, this book could have lasting impact if it’s done right.
In fact, the Registration Act actually gives a compelling reason for one of the staples of comic-book stories — two heroes to fighting one another.
And beyond the base-level questions of who can beat up who, “Civil War” puts tension back in the Marvel Universe. Tension that hasn’t been seen in a long time, and that’s what’s going to bring me back for the next issue.
Civil War No. 2 (Aug 06)
Written by: Mark Millar
Art by: Steve McNiven
Four Stars out of Four