The Marvel Universe has always had problems with masked identities. From the Sentinels and the Mutant Registration Act to Jonah Jameson and his tirades against Spider-Man, masked heroes and villains are usually the object of scorn. However, when a group of heroes inadvertently destroy a small town, the scales of tolerance are tipped and the civilians call for the cataloguing of the super-hero community. The mini-series, "Civil War", details with the inevitable factions that arise and the effects is has on some of the greatest heroes in the Marvel Universe. Caution: Possible spoilers ahead.
The first panel in the story features Tony Stark (Iron Man) and an unmasked Spider-Man, who looks pleasantly bemused at his new status. However, it quickly shifts to Wakanda where Reed Richards (Mister Fantastic) is talking to T'Challa (Black Panther) about that same event, and Reed artfully steers their conversation to something Tony Stark is cooking up called the Fifty State Initiative. T'Challa balks at the idea and rejects an offer to come to the United States to help out. He instead wants to know how Johnny Storm (The Human Torch, who is currently comatose) is doing. Reed does not know, but wants to know about the high-tech jungle surrounding Wakanda. T'Challa simply offers him the advice of calling Sue.
Elsewhere, Captain America and his rag-tag band of "Secret Avengers" are making headlines by taking down an incarnation of the Sinister Six. Yellowjacket (Hank Pym) and the Wasp (Janet Van Dyne) are told that Doctor Strange hopes the whole Civil War resolves itself and has retreated to the Arctic to fast. Tony Stark is making headlines of his own by promising to take down the Secret Avengers. To this end, he vists the X-Men who tell him that they are remaining out of this conflict. The X-Man Bishop, however, wants to talk to him.
Several of the Secret Avengers (Captain America, Hercules, Daredevil, and Goliath) go over new identites given to them by Nick Fury. Captain America is angry that he's missing an appointment with a child from the "Make-A-Wish Foundation" due to the fact that SHIELD-sanctioned "Cape-Killers" would probably use the meeting to capture him. They recieve a call to action, however, and are quickly out the door. At the hospital, Johnny Storm awakes from his coma and wonders where his sister is.
The Secret Avengers arrive at Giffen-Meyer Chemicals in order to avert some catastrophe, but Cable sees a sign proclaiming Giffen-Meyer to be a division of Stark Industries, and realizes that it's a trap. Cloak and Wiccan are then taken down by Iron Man's group who do not have a spiffy name like Secret Avengers. Iron Man simply wishes to talk to Captain America about the latter's surrender, and Spider-Man interjects to tell Cap that no one wins when superheroes fight but the villians. Spidey goes on to say that this goes against every principle Captain America ever believed in, but Cap retorts that Spider-Man should not talk about principles due to his unmasking stunt.
It seems like Iron Man and Captain America are going to have a civil talk, but then Iron Man is electrocuted by a device placed on him by Captian America. A battle ensues. Spider-Man fights Captain America, but Iron Man soon takes over and begins beating the living daylights out of Cap. Hercules tries to make his way over to help, but is stopped in his tracks by a lightning bolt. The battle pauses as all the combatants look up and see Thor, God of Thunder, hovering above them.
Things are moving along swimmingly, and we get a massive superhero-on-superhero fight to boot. The introduction of Thor to the mini-series will prove to have some consequences in the future, though we already know the after-effects of this battle (several Civil War tie-in books, including "Amazing Spider-Man" #534", show us that several heroes are captured). One of the more interesting things, at this point, is that both teams have time-displaced mutants working for them, each claiming to be trying to avoid their respective futures (or in Cable's case, future's past). The only lowpoint of the issue was Spider-Man's unmasking, but enough time has passed that the anger I once felt has simmered and I now grudgingly accept it. In any case, I am looking forward to the next issue.
Once again, fantastic art by Steve McNiven and a tightly-paced story by Mark Millar. Millar clearly knows how to plot a comic-book, as each issue of "Civil War" has moved the story along and given us a little bit of action, to boot. Such things make me eagerly await the next issue, no matter how long the wait.
What I want to know is, where's Howard the Duck in all of this?