Date finished: January 21st 2016
I’m by no means an expert when it comes to the comic book world and most of my experience when it comes to superheroes is gleaned from Marvel films and the nigh-incomprehensible discussions of my best mates. Nonetheless, sometimes you have to bite the bullet and just dive in. So, in anticipation of Captain America: Civil War being released later this year, I decided to read the original source material. Expect the review of an outsider.
The premise of Civil War is simple: after a particularly horrific incident, both the government and public are sick of the collateral damage caused by superheroes and supervillains alike. The proposed solution is for all superheroes to register with the government and to become a sort of federal super-police in its employ. The most disturbing ramifications of this idea are that secret identities would have to be abandoned, and that the government would have the last say on everything: including on what constitutes a super-villain.
The super-world splits into two factions: one led by Iron Man, Hank Pym and Mr Fantastic is in agreement with the government proposals and are fully-prepared to register in order to renew the public’s faith in heroes. The second faction, led by Captain America, is against the infraction upon the freedom and liberty of superheroes, and fights the proposals. The superhero community, being about as incestuous as Game of Thrones (albeit, more metaphorically), becomes a place of in-fighting, betrayals and hatred, with former allies at each other’s throats in order to see one of the options come out on top. Before long, the entire superhero community is at war with each other. That’s when things become brutal, repressive and downright morally dubious…
Civil War straddles the fine line between the multi-faceted exploration of a concept and its ramifications, and uninhibited asskickery. A lot of the personal and political motivations behind the actions of each side are well thought through, and its the disagreements between those on the same side that prove most intriguing. Civil War isn’t afraid to break down the simple concept from its two extremes into its shades of grey. There is no ‘good’ or ‘bad’ side – this is an ethical, social and political debate that just happens to feature a wealth of punching, kicking and witty ripostes between a bunch of terrifyingly dangerous beings who transcend the limits of normal humanness.
Far from being a dumb superhero tale, Civil War is a gripping but unabashedly political graphic novel which is unafraid to explore a tricky subject in an intellectual and unbiased manner. There are plenty of twists and turns in the tale, almost every character gets their time to shine, and, of course, there are a lot of ridiculous fight scenes too.