Ten years after Captain America and Iron Man found themselves on opposite sides of a superhero registration act, Marvel has announced the current Captain America and Iron Man will be going toe-to-toe again in the comics in Civil War II. But can this crossover escape the shadow of the last one?
The forthcoming MCU film Captain America: Civil War, as you may have heard, draws from a somewhat similar event in Marvel’s comics. In the movie, the Sokovia Accords are written to hold heroes accountable for their actions, and the split comes when Cap, having been betrayed by SHIELD in The Winter Soldier, refuses to sign.
The original comic, written by Mark Millar and penciled by Steve McNiven, is slightly different. After a superhero team’s fight with a supervillain goes horribly wrong, leveling a school and killing several children, Iron Man spearheads an attempt to have all heroes register, while Captain America argues that secret identities are crucial to the safety of superheroes. That spirals out of control quickly; heroes die, moral and ethical lines are crossed, and things get morally complex quickly.
It sold well, but it was incredibly controversial in the comics community. Critics lambasted the story for putting Iron Man and Captain America in seemingly nonsensical roles; that Captain America, a man whose identity was public, was defending secret identities was somewhat strange. Similarly, Iron Man’s behavior, such as unleashing a homicidal clone of Thor who wound up killing the hero Black Goliath, was widely objected to. Combined with release delays that caused problems across Marvel’s entire publishing schedule, it felt to many that at best Civil War was a lost opportunity and at worst a chapter of Marvel history best forgotten.
Time has softened the reaction somewhat: Marvel revisited the crossover in the Secret Wars event, earning solid reviews and sales. The sequel is being written by one of Marvel’s main creative forces, Brian Michael Bendis, and drawn by David Marquez, who’s currently working with Bendis on Invincible Iron Man. And Bendis already has a situation that should allow for a more organic way to build conflict into the story: The current Captain America, Sam Wilson, is on the bad side of SHIELD and law enforcement, so it’s credible he and Iron Man would wind up on opposite sides of a major conflict. Still, it’s safe to say that when it comes to a second Civil War, Bendis and Marquez have their work cut out for them. Iron Man versus Captain America may be a tough fight to handicap, but Marvel has to figure out how to conquer the bad memories of their own fandom.