Want to read up on the Marvel Civil War comics that inspired the new Captain America? Here’s where to start!
On May 6, Marvel Studios’ Captain America: Civil War is bringing together its biggest lineup of heroes to date and setting them against each other. The marquee match up may be Captain America vs. Iron Man, but the undercard is pretty terrific too. Going from the trailers alone, we’ve got Vision vs. Scarlet Witch, the Winter Soldier vs. Black Panther, Hawkeye vs. Black Widow, and Spider-Man vs. Cap himself!
For the comic book movie fans who like to read comic books, there are also the Civil War comics that came out ten years ago. Although, a more accurate description is that there was a Civil War miniseries by writer Mark Millar and artist Steve McNiven that formed the core story of a line-wide crossover that reached into nearly every corner of the Marvel Universe… except the X-Men, who were barely in it at all.
One thing to keep in mind is the comic book Civil War is very different from the Civil War that we’re gonna see on the big screen. The words “loosely adapted” spring to mind. Both stories feature the schism between the superhero community, with Captain America on one side and Iron Man on the other. But the Civil War comics had the benefit of decades of stories to draw upon and a lot of Marvel heroes who aren’t in the MCU.
There were also quite a few Civil War tie-in comics that were published, and not all of them were essential to the story. At this point, it’s no longer practical to call out the Civil War tie-ins by their individual issues. Marvel has put most of the Civil War tie-ins in print as trade paperbacks for fairly reasonable prices.
To get you started, these are the key Civil War hardcovers and trade paperbacks that you may want to pick up before you see Captain America: Civil War this weekend!
Civil War Comics Guide: Civil War
We might as well start at the top of the list. Millar and McNiven’s Civil War isn’t a story without its flaws, but it’s really all you need if you want to read the comic that inspired the movie. McNiven’s artwork is a particular highlight of the miniseries, and Millar doesn’t always get credit for his ability to escalate the spectacle while still giving Iron Man a few moments where he doubts himself.
Admittedly, the ending to the Civil War miniseries was a little bit of a disappointment. The real emotional punch came a few weeks later in Captain America #25, but to even talk about that issue could be considered a potential spoiler for the movie. So, let’s table that for now.
Civil War Comics Guide: Captain America / Iron Man
In one of the more recent reprints, Marvel has put the Captain America and Iron Man Civil War tie-in issues in the same trade paperback. And it’s the Captain America stories written by Ed Brubaker that stand out here. Brubaker managed to advance his ongoing plotlines while putting Cap in the middle of Civil War, which was no small feat. The Iron Man issues featured stories by Charles Knauf, Daniel Knauf, and Christos Gage that basically spelled out Tony Stark’s reasons for backing Superhuman Registration.
Civil War Comics Guide: The Amazing Spider-Man
If you mind spoilers to comics that have been out for a decade, then you should probably skip down to the next item. Spider-Man had a huge role in the first Civil War miniseries, and one of the most important moments in the overall story. To demonstrate his support for the Superhero Registration Act, Spider-Man not only enlisted on Tony Stark’s side, he unmasked himself to the world at a press conference.
The Amazing Spider-Man: Civil War trade paperback explored the ramifications of Spidey’s friends and enemies learning his identity with stories written by J. Michael Straczynski and illustrated by Ron Garney. Straczynski also went deeper than the main Civil War miniseries, to flesh out Spider-Man’s conflicted position and justify his eventual change of heart. After Brubaker’s Captain America run, these are the best Civil War tie-in stories.
Civil War Comics Guide: Fantastic Four
Needless to say, the Fantastic Four won’t be making an appearance in Captain America: Civil War. But in the comic book universe, Mr. Fantastic a.k.a. Reed Richards was one of the key players behind the Superhuman Registration Act and Tony Stark’s right-hand man. Straczynski was also the primary writer of Fantastic Four at the time, and he split up the team over the issue. Invisible Woman (Sue Richards) and the Human Torch (Johnny Storm) sided with Cap, while the Thing (Ben Grimm) decided to abstain from the Civil War until the very last issue.
The late Dwayne McDuffie picked up on some of those plot threads in the other Fantastic Four issues that are included in this trade.
Civil War Comics Guide: Wolverine
Although the majority of the X-Men sat out of Civil War, Wolverine had a very interesting part in the story. The whole Civil War event was kicked off when the villain known as Nitro blew up civilians in a small town called Stamford. While the heroes were busy fighting each other, Wolverine took it upon himself to hunt down Nitro and uncover the larger conspiracy behind his actions.
Writer Marc Guggenheim (whom some of you may know from Arrow) and artist Humberto Ramos were behind Wolverine’s Civil War adventure, which included custom Iron Man style armor and that featured slots for Wolverine’s metal claws!
Civil War Comics Guide: Front Line
During Civil War, Marvel quickly figured out that it could basically invent tie-in books for the event. And out of that came Civil War: Front Line, a miniseries written by Paul Jenkins and illustrated by several artists. Front Line was basically an anthology that took place during the events of Civil War, as journalists Ben Urich and Sally Floyd shared their perspective on it.
Front Line also dealt with the fate of Speedball, the lone surviving member of the New Warriors, the young superhero team that confronted Nitro in Stamford. Speedball’s story has its moments, but his “Penance” is still widely mocked as “Dark Speedball.”
Civil War Comics Guide: New Avengers
Brian Michael Bendis is writing the upcoming Civil War II for Marvel. But in the original Civil War event, Bendis was writing New Avengers, the flagship Avengers title. And since most of the major players of Civil War were also members of Bendis’ New Avengers, this book dealt with the destruction of that team. Hence the name: New Avengers: Disassembled.
Civil War: New Avengers consists of five stand-alone chapters that each focus on a different hero as an all-star lineup of guest artists contributed to the story. Howard Chaykin illustrated the Captain America issue, Leinil Yu took on Luke Cage, Olivier Coipel tackled Spider-Woman, Pasqual Ferry examined the Sentry, and Jim Cheung closed out the volume with a spotlight on Iron Man.