In Defense of Civil War #7

The previous two big time events from the big two (we’re not talking Amazons Attack or World War Hulk here) both ended in controversy. Both Civil War 7 and Infinite Crisis 7 had to deal with a lot of fan backlash over disappointing endings. I can’t help but agree as concerns Infinite Crisis, but I must say that I loved the ending to Civil War, and I’d like to tell you folks why.

Now, we all know that 99% of the problems that people had with the final issue of Civil War involved the surrender of Captain America. The battle that led to this moment is hard to argue against. It’s a bit by the numbers, with the standard pastiches of “Side X gains the upper hand, Side Y calls in their reserves and regains the upper hand, Side X fires back with their own reinforcements, etc,” but it’s well written and well drawn, featuring a particularly amazing full page splash of Hercules braining Robot Clone Thor with his own hammer. It’s a gorgeous sequence that leads into the climax that most consider an anticlimax. Cap’s beating Tony down with his shield; he’s got him exactly where he wants him. Tony, realizing that there’s nothing he can do, implores Steve to finish him off (at least that’s the way I always read that moment), at which point the local New Yorkers tackle him and he realizes that all this devastation and strife could be stopped by giving in, which is exactly what he does. He drops the mask, which is picked up by the Punisher, and the epilogue begins.

So what else could happen here? It seems like there’s nothing wrong with the lead in to that final scene. So what did everyone want to see? It’s not even a question that Tony would not relent and join Cap’s Anti-Registration forces in an attempt to repeal the law. Tony even practically says that he’s willing to die for his side. So what happens? We can’t exactly have Captain America kill Iron Man by bashing his head in with the shield. So what could they do? Kidnap him? That would paint them as renegade villains even more than they were at the time. He can’t exactly make some vague threats about leaving the secret avengers be to fight crime in their own way when the entire United States would be against them. And that’s what I find so interesting about the way Mark Millar wrote Civil War. Captain America never had a chance. He lost the war the second the Registration Act became a law.

I truly believe that that is the sole reason why Millar and the rest of the tie-in writers decided to make the story so blatantly on Cap’s side. There was no conceivable way for Cap’s side to win due to the internal logic of the story, and the continuing story potential coming out of Civil War would be expanded tenfold, whether that potential would be used or not. We as a society are so used to the underdog story. The Cinderella teams in the NCAA March Madness Tournament every year. All those sports movies. So many other examples. All of it is based on the victory of the underdog that rises up to vanquish the bigger better foe. Even a movie/comic/historical event like 300, where the underdog loses in the end, still follows the archetype in the way that those Spartans are so revered in culture. But you know what? Most of these stories are unrealistic. And I get that that’s the point of entertainment. It’s not always supposed to be realistic. But that’s what I always loved about the Marvel Universe. It’s not realistic in the sense of giant purple cosmic monsters devouring planets and Norse gods throwing hammers at said monsters and such, but overall, these characters are dealing with more real events.

So if you really look at Civil War, which is a story trying to be realistic from the perspective of motivations and the reactions of both the super powered community and the average Joes. Of course everyone would be up in arms if something like the Stamford incident happened. Of course they would call for the heads of the heroes. And of course they would rally behind the law trying to control the supers, and would equally rally behind someone like Iron Man becoming a spokesperson for the law. So all of these things begin happening. The law is passed and Cap and his group go on the run. We see skirmishes, and even with all the mistakes Tony makes throughout the proceedings (Clor was a bit of a misstep, and that new roster of Thunderbolts was just asking for trouble), all that does is serve to further rally the regular people of the world further to his side, because he never would have had to do all this crazy crap if the renegades simply obeyed the law.

And I do still think that the way it was pulled off was perfect. Steve Rogers keeps going until he truly sees that the people are against him. He spends the entire series talking about how Captain America is for the people and thus not automatically for the government, but when the people are with the government in this case, Cap must fall in line. He would not be Cap if he stuck to his beliefs while being against the people. And for the entire Civil War story, he was not acting like Captain America. We were all on his side because his side was truly the only one we as readers was given, and I really believe that this was purposeful. We as readers are unable to pull ourselves out from the perspective to see the way that Captain America is against the will of the people. And this is why he dropped the mask before he turned himself in.

Now, here’s the one thing to consider. I didn’t read Civil War as it came out. I read the trade after the fact. This means that my reading of the story was unaffected by the infamous Civil War delays. Now, I cannot speak to whether the massive delays had something to do with the backlash against Civil War 7, so if that’s the case I could see how people could consider the ending an anticlimax. It did come early in the book, but when you consider that the 22nd story page of the book consisted of Punisher picking up the mask, this means that if they had cut the epilogue, it would have been a normal sized comic. This event, to me, was Marvel’s way of shaking up the universe in a microcosmic way similar to Crisis on Infinite Earths. Everything has changed. The new Marvel Universe looks and feels almost nothing like the pre-Civil War Universe, and the surrender of Captain America was the beginning of that. And the story worked, completely and totally. Maybe Millar and McNiven and the rest of the team didn’t give the people what they wanted, but with the story they crafted, it couldn’t have ended any other way. I can see people hating the entire arc, but with everyone mostly saying that they really enjoyed 1-6 and hated 7, that just rings hollow to me.


8 thoughts on “In Defense of Civil War #7

  1. i totally agree with. i’m a huge cap fan, but even i saw the logic in cap’s decision at the end. just a couple of things i’d like to add to this great post. in the climax, when cap sees what he’s done and all the people he has hurt fighting registration, what i get from that is cap finally realizing what this great crusade of his will actually cost. up to that point, cap was tossing around his ideals like he was the only one who had any. in that moment, where he has tony dead to rights, cap finally sees that tony is as serious about his opinion as cap is, and the only way to stop him is to kill him. and cap just isn’t ready to kill for this cause. add to that the civilians turning against him and the devastation of New York, and yes, cap really has no choice but to surrender. like he says, they can win the battle, but lose the argument. so, they become just another reason in favor of registration by fighting against registration. it’s a brilliant third act revelation, and i’m sure a lot of people missed it because, like you said, millar chose to favor cap so heavily in the eyes of the fans.

    on the lateness issue, i read it as it was coming out, and i think the lateness was part of the backlash, but i think the real problem stemmed from so many of the tie-in writer sort of going their own way as far as characterizations of the main players went. tony was hugely villainized in most of the books to the point that, when cap did surrender, most readers felt like the bad guys won… when really, we should have realized that no, we had been rooting for the bad guys all along.

  2. My problems stem less from the surrender – as you said, it was the only acceptable way for the story to go at that point – and is actually everything leading up to it.

    The first: c’mon, Cap should know that physical rebellion was 100% the wrong way to go. Even without narrative knowledge, I know that, and I’m not exactly the brightest bulb around. The second he started a violent resistance, his movement was doomed to failure.

    The second complaint had to do with compression. Reading Civil War, I felt like it existed solely because Marvel wanted something to throw down and compete with Infinite Crisis. And so they had this really awesome idea, but they had it too late. So instead of sucking up some minimal losses then and beginning a new direction, they decided to cut all the parts out of it that would make it sensible, never bother to explain the SHRA, and just have guys in tights hitting things.

    And that’s what really got to me in the end. That they took this story that could’ve been this epic, overarching masterpiece of the Marvel Universe and reduced it to Politics Crisis. I could see the Stamford Incident being an inciting incident if it was given TIME to get blown out of proportion…but it wasn’t. One page, it happened, the next page, apparently a year or so had passed, because we had a nifty new law – one that suspended peoples right to a trial of their peers, forcibly drafted them into a UN – not US, but UN – organization for training AND military service, and could target anyone who was exceptional in any way, regardless if they actually had powers or if they were using them for super-heroics, and would put them in a prison that destroyed all positive emotion.

    I like the Civil War concept. No, I LOVE the Civil War concept. I think Marvel should have been building to it and used that as their competition for Final Crisis, though. I think Stamford should’ve happened, and things got tense, but didn’t immediately explode – let’s be honest, it would take far more than that relatively minor incident for people to get so blinded. Instead, things just got tough. Maybe some riots break out, maybe some marches or protests. A demand for unmasking, stuff like that. Then, slowly build UP to a Civil War. Have the SHRA written up and trashed once or twice before it gets to the current, brutal incarnation. Have the heroes try ANYTHING before they try all out war. Have them try EVERYTHING. Have them be FORCED underground, forced to fight for their survival. The same ending could even be had, but this time, there would be a coherent sequence of events leading up to it.

    Because, reading through CW…I just didn’t get it. I could see small groups getting up in arms about Stamford, but in the bigger scheme of the MU, it really wasn’t a big deal. At all. These people are used to worse. I couldn’t believe that laws that brutal were passed that quickly and unanimously.

    I guess I just expected more from it. I think that Mark Millar was the wrong person for the job, since it was so similar to just about everything he’s ever written: essentially, “Man, everyone would hate them and we would just be constantly screwed.” I think that maybe Brubaker could’ve done a believable job of it, or the Rucka/Brubaker team (I know Rucka was DCX). Hmmmm…not Robinson or Simone or Morrison…yeah. I think Rucka/Brubaker would’ve been the way to go for CW. Also, I’m rambling now.

    Sorry for how long-winded it is – just wanted to say that Cap’s surrender wasn’t the only problem people had with Civil War, and outline another PoV.

  3. i think Cap thought that “yes, rebellion is the way to go, just as it was for our founding fathers, because my cause is just and as long as i fight righteously, my side will prevail.” in having cap respond the way he did, Millar was also able to attack and expose his greatest weakness (and strength), his pride. if you really boil it down, pride is what fueled his initial reaction and it’s definitely what eventually put him over the edge after the death of Goliath, an edge he hadn’t even considered till that moment where he held Stark’s life in his hands. after getting his ass kicked by stark, cap was very bitter and humiliated. i think it really comes through on that one page where they got him all bandaged up… just how hard he took that loss. cap always relies on the righteousness of his ideals to win his battles and i think when he lost in that first fight with Tony, it kind of diminished him and he was no longer fighting for the greater good, but to avenge his wounded ego. and again, i think a lot of that was lost due to lack of communication between Millar and the tie-in writers. i think that only other writer to attempt to convey this bitterness and pride was Bendis in his Civil War epilogue where both Tony and Steve are shown to be sore winners and losers.

    as to the lack of buildup… it was there, it just wasn’t hyped enough. JMS laid the groundwork for the SHRA in the months preceding Civil War over in Amazing Spider-Man. I think if you read those issues, you get plenty of the reasoning behind it. But, maybe you’re right, the main mini should have had more dialogue about the Act instead of just being about dudes punching each other.

  4. You want my opinion? Well, either way, you’re getting it.

    I liked Civil War. When I read it, I liked the entire thing. I remember getting 7. My parents were out somewhere and I read it, and was just stunned. Then, as I thought about it, I started to dislike it. Now, I am not a huge Cap fan. I am not always a huge supporter of America in general, and a powerless (pretty much) superhero that wears the flag just didn’t appeal to me. I understand people liking him, but I just didn’t. I was, however, an X-Men fan, and something that pops up multiple times, and in the series, which I was also a fan of, was the Mutant Registration Act. All mutants would have to register with the government. Now, the X-Men were always against it, and thinking about it, I would be against it too. With the SHRA, I didn’t know whose side I was on, until I remembered the MRA, and then realized how bad an SHRA would be. When I think about it, and actually think about it, Civil War was going to end with Tony winning. It was going to happen. I didn’t support it, but it was going to happen. There was too much going on for Tony to lose. I still wanted him to lose, but whatever. I was disappointed with Civil War 7 because Cap just surrendered. If Cap had been taken down, I would have been okay, but Cap surrendered. So Tony would never give up his side? Big deal! So the people support him? Big deal! Look at the New Avengers. They still are against Registration and fight outside of the SHRA. Cap couldn’t have just decided to stop fighting Tony and just do what Cage and crew did? Why did he have to surrender? I felt it just made the fighting pointless. What was the point of Civil War if at the end, the main hero just gives up because other people think his cause isn’t the right cause? Civil War 7 wasn’t bad, but I didn’t like it because it made Civil War feel pointless to me. No matter what you may say, it still felt pointless to me.

  5. Cap surrendered because he finally realized that what he was doing was wrong. How he was fighting his battle was wrong. Hundreds of people were injured in that final battle (if not killed), Goliath was killed, not to mention the millions of dollars in property damage all because of the WAY Cap chose to fight his war. And the people did not want him fighting that battle anymore. The people, that Cap draws his strength and honor from, DID NOT WANT THE FIGHT. Cap didn’t just run off like Cage and crew because Cap is a better, more honorable hero then they are. He knew that he had to be held accountable for his decisions, as leader of the resistance. Cap surrendering is not OUT OF CHARACTER for him, it’s actually exactly what we should expect from him at that point in time. Isn’t that the example we want our heroes to set? to be accountable? to be honorable? We see Cap as this unconquerable righteous force, and this can bias out views. in this instance, Millar shows us that sometimes the “righteous force” is not the right force.

  6. Again, I don’t actually like Cap, so I never saw him as a righteous force, just a guy doing the right thing. I also never said it was out of character, because I don’t know Cap well enough to make that statement. How they fought? Wrong. They shouldn’t have even fought, I don’t think. I mean, they were going to, but they never should have. I think what Carol is doing with Cage right now is how things should have happened. Allow those heroes to be underground, even though the public still supports the Iron Mans, but not just try and take them down. I mean, I don’t like the “Register or else we take you out”, but I could accept a “People aren’t going to like you if you don’t do this, so you should.” Feh, I just don’t want to argue about something that is pointless. I think Iron Man was wrong, I was sad to see Cap lose, I realize it was how it was going to happen, I felt it was anti-climactic and I think it made Civil War pointless.

  7. have you read the what if civil war? it’s actually pretty cool and it has the whole alternate history “what if cooler heads had prevailed” story. i totally agree that, in hindsight, it was wrong to brawl in the streets about it, but i think we and the characters of the Marvel Universe only see that IN hindsight. and yeah, the way Carol treats Cage is how Tony should have treated Steve, and therein, we see that Carol at least has learned something from this debacle.

    and hey, arguing is fun. especially since this topic is now over a year old and we might have some reasonable discussions without things getting too personal. heh.

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