The oft-delayed Marvel Comics cross-title story arc Civil War came to a close with the 7th and final issue released yesterday...sort of.
Let me recap for you non-believers: A young team of reality-show superheroes take on villains who are out of their league in an effort to boost ratings. The proverbial sh*t hits the fan when one of the villains causes an explosion that just about takes out an entire town. Public opinion turns against the superpowered community (hero and villain alike) who are seen as uncontrolled WMDs. With the help of some heroes, the U.S. government introduces the Registration Act, which requires all superhumans to register their names/identities/powers with the authorities. Those who refuse to register are to be hunted down and imprisoned indefinitely. This splits superhumans into two camps: the pro-registration side is led by Iron Man (Tony Stark) and includes Mister Fantastic, Hank Pym, and Spider-Man (who had previously sworn allegiance to Stark); the anti-registration side is led by Captain America (who believes the heavy-handed Act infringes upon the freedoms of citizens) and includes Daredevil, Wolverine and The Human Torch. As the battles rage and the casualties mount, allegiances shift. Spider-Man (who is one of the focal points of the story) switches sides after he senses Iron Man's plan goes too far (including imprisoning heroes in the Negative Zone, cloning Thor - leading to the death of Goliath - and enlisting an army of villains). In the final confrontation, the rebels appear to be winning when Captain America realizes the collateral damage being caused to the surrounding neighbourhood. He surrenders to the authorities and orders his side to stand down.
So what does it all mean?
I gotta say I was pretty disappointed with the outcome of this story, but I sense this was just the beginning of a year-long story arc for Marvel. It seems pretty clear that, despite the lame ending, the rebels were "right". I mean, how can a side that has Captain America, Daredevil, Spider-Man and The Thing on it be wrong? Meanwhile, the pro-registration side has a couple of over-thinking scientists (no passion) and Venom. (did anyone else sense this story had something to do with G.W. Bush's privacy/terrorism policies?)
The pamphlet that came with the issue reveals that things may not be as they appear with Iron Man (the last frame of the issue hinted at a bit of malevolence) and that the pro-registration She-Hulk, among others, will be coming for him (because of the Illuminati's role in the Hulk's banishment). There was also an allusion to the events having an impact on the Marvel Universe "for the next year" - indicating that it may not last.
But the biggest impact has been on the Spider-Man title. Tony Stark convinced Spider-Man to reveal his true identity on national television. Can that ever be "taken back"? We've already seen the effect it's had on the Spider-Man storylines (villains coming out of the woodwork to attack Peter Parker and his relatives) and I'm not sure I'm a fan. Spider-Man's identity was one of the most guarded secrets in the Marvel U (forget what you see on the big screen where you'd think Peter was a character on Cheers). The whole reason he'd kept his secret for this long was so that villains wouldn't come after his family. He'd had this fear confirmed with the Gwen Stacy affair. The reasons for unmasking now just didn't seem convincing - and now he's screwed. And unless they make the whole thing a dream a la Dallas, this kinda sucks. Of course, the comic world is famous for having these massive events that eventually mean nothing (see Death of Superman etc etc). My original suspicion was that Sentry would somehow wipe the slate clean (he mentioned that he had the power to do so) and that may still happen. Otherwise, this does not bode well for the Spider-Man titles (he's still underground, by the way, along with Doctor Strange, Wolverine and others).
Look for the rebel Avengers to turn the tables and set things right, which should coincide with the return of the Hulk.
Like Death of Superman, Onslaught, Zero Hour, etc, this storyline is meant to increase sales and coordinate any significant changes within a given comic universe. And while I invested in this series, thinking it would deliver interesting stories and prove to be a pivotal moment for the Marvel U, I gotta say that I'm back to not buying comics for the next while. I won't be investing in any of the "Initiative" titles.
Guess I'll see what things are like a year from now.