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Event Name: Civil War
Tagline: "Whose Side Are You On?"


Synopsis

Event Locations: United States of America, Earth-616
First Appearance: Civil War #1
Cast of Characters: Major Players: New Avengers, X-Men, New Warriors, Secondaries: Entire Marvel Universe
Synopsis: In a battle between Nitro and the New Warriors, Nitro explodes, seemingly killing the entire team and a huge number of civilians (including 60 school children). This leads the US Government to introduce a "Living Weapon of Mass Destruction" registry for all super-powered beings. Marvel heroes are divided on the issue, and "Civil War" ensues.


History

The Superhuman Registration Act had been a long time in the making. The logical extension of the often-proposed, never-passed Mutant Registration Act, the Superhuman Registration Act arose following the devastating attack on Manhatten in reprisal for Nick Fury's "Secret War" and the Hulk's destructive Rampage in Las Vegas, which killed 26 adults, 2 kids, and a dog. (Unbeknown to the general public, SHIELD subsequently deceived the Hulk and jetisoned him into space following this incident -- see Planet Hulk.)

Following M-Day, 90% of the Earth's mutant population found itself spontaneously depowered. With the mutant population suddenly far less visible and extremist groups claiming the event marked a turn in the tide of growing mutantdom (if not divine punishment against all mutants), sympathy for the group was at a low. The majority of the remaining mutants -- estimated at 198 -- were gathered up and forced to relocate to the Xavier Institute for their own protection. These events put public support for the registration bill at around 50%.

Tony Stark (Iron Man) was among those working to prevent passage of the act. He even hired a new Titanium Man to attack him immediately after his testimony to the Committee on Superhuman Affairs, hoping it would hammer home that the act would make the nation less capable of dealing with rogue or foreign superhuman threats. The anti-registration camp seemed to be making headway, and may have even defeated the bill by the narrowest of margins, if not for the events that took place in Stamford, Connecticut.

Villains Nitro, Cobalt Man, Speedfreak, and Coldheart, had been holed up in a house in Stamford when the New Warriors located them. The Warriors were at the time the focus of a reality TV show, and although a number of them felt the villains were out of their league, the network and others in the group thought it would be great for ratings. When Namorita attempted to capture Nitro, he used his explosive powers and destroyed several city blocks, including the elementary school at ground zero. All of the New Warriors, the three villains accompanying Nitro, and over 600 civilians, among them 60 children, were killed. Numerous members of the superhero community arrived on the scene to search for survivors.

Public sentiment towards superheroes plummeted. Surviving, inactive members of the New Warriors were widely regarded as "baby killers" by association. Hindsight Lad, desperate to distance himself from them, began releasing their secret identities, and almost as many were lynched to death as died in Stamford. The Human Torch (Johnny Storm) was beaten into a coma outside a manhatten night club. Public opinion had been lukewarm for the Superhuman Registration Act before; now it demanded it. Although nominally a U.N. agency, SHIELD seems to have assumed the brunt of enforcing the act under acting director Maria Hill.

Captain America (Steve Rogers) balked at leading a force to apprehend violators of the act. His feeling was that superheroes needed to be above direct government control, because as soon as they control the heroes, they get to decide who the villains are. He escaped the SHIELD Heli-Carrier and began organizing other anti-registration heroes into a group the press dubbed the "Secret Avengers". The core group -- Captain America, Hercules, Bill Foster, Luke Cage, Daredevil (Daniel Rand), Falcon (Sam Wilson), and Cable (Nathan Summers) -- mostly took on new, constantly changing identities to avoid capture. The Secret Avengers apprehended a number of criminals while evading the opposing heroes and the new SHIELD "capekiller" units. Eventually other heroes would come to their cause, or else be liberated after their arrest. The Young Avengers and Cloak and Dagger were some of the later heroes to join the group.

Iron Man, on the other hand, felt that it was reasonable that heroes have proper training and oversight, that the casual self-policing the superhero community had enjoyed until now was insufficient, and (most importantly) that it was now impossible to resist this change in the political landscape. He has since gathered his own heroes from the pro-registration camp to bring in Captain America's group and other non-registered combatants. Mister Fantastic, with the help of Henry Pym, and Tony Stark, began focusing on designing a prison to detain superpowered violators nicknamed 42.

Most of the pro-registration heroes already had highly public identities: Reed Richards, Doc Samson, She-Hulk (Jennifer Walters), Ms Marvel (Carol Danvers), Wonder Man (Simon Williams). Even Tony Stark unmasked himself as Iron Man (for the second time in his career), and admitted to previous attempts to hide his identity. One supporter, however, was not yet public. The Amazing Spider-Man (Peter Parker) was set against revealing his identity, although he did not fully reveal that to his new mentor and boss Tony Stark. He was prepared to liquidate his assets and flee the country with his wife and aunt to avoid revealing his identity and putting them in jeopardy. They, on the other hand, were supportive of the idea, and felt it was time for Peter to finally get some much-deserved recognition for all of his good work. During a live, nationally televised broadcast, he pulled off his mask and announced "my name is Peter Parker, and I've been Spider-Man since I was fifteen years old." (See Spider-Man Unmasked for more information.)

The X-Men, on behalf of the mutant community, declared neutrality in the growing conflict. Acting leader Cyclops (Scott Summers) felt that the mutants had already been through too much during the Decimation to take a stand either way and survive. Individuals within the X-Men have their own opinions on the matter, however. Wolverine feels that the act is every bit as racist and oppressive as the Mutant Registration Act, while Bishop feels it's necessary to embrace the act and make sure mutants can continue to self-police, lest the truly oppressive regime of his home timeline should come to pass. As the last known mutants, all members of the 198 and X-Men are already in government databases, and were registered by default when the act passed.

The 198 have since chafed at the constant O*N*E surveillance, as well as their inability to leave the school grounds without being tracked by monitoring chips. When it was discovered the chips could also deliver a powerful electric discharge to assure the 198 could be subdued, they rioted. Mister M used his powers to remove the chips and they left the mansion. Bishop, Sabra, and Micromax were given permission to apprehend them, threatening to shatter Cyclops' neutrality. During the incident, General Lazer's thinly veiled anti-mutant sentiments and his covert attempts to destroy them were uncovered. His neck was snapped by Johnny Dee (via his duplicate of the general) and the mutants and heroes rallied together to prevent disaster. The more sympathetic director of O*N*E, Val Cooper, now seems to have a free hand with regards to the mutant refugees.

The X-Men and the 198 were not the only voices of the mutant community, however. The now mostly-depowered Morlocks and the residents of New York's once entirely mutant ghetto Mutant Town remained easy targets for hate groups now that they had reverted to more-or-less normal humans. X-Factor Investigations, an independent group of private investigators made up in part by members of the old superteam X-Factor, have recently set up shop in Mutant Town, and at times have been the only ones protecting the former mutants and putting down hate-induced riots. When the Registration Act passed, the group seemed uncertain how to react, and ultimately decided to go along with whatever their leader, Jamie Madrox, decided. Jamie, being one of the least decisive on the issue, was not happy to hear this. Initially conflicted, he happened to meet a fleeing Aegis (Trey Rollins), who was being pursued by capekillers after stopping a purse-snatcher. After helping Aegis escape, Madrox made up his mind and called a press conference to inform everyone that Mutant Town was now officially off-limits. From now on they would protect its residents, and the capekillers' presence would not be tolerated.

Into this chaotic scene comes Pietro Maximoff. The man once known as Quicksilver had lost his speed powers during the decimation, but had gained new powers by inhaling the Inhumans' Terrigen Mists. He now has the ability to restore lost powers to former mutants, though doing so usually ended badly for the recipient of his "gift". He has also set up shop in Mutant Town, though the full extent of his activities has not yet been revealed.

Meanwhile, Wolverine had begun tracking down Nitro the moment recue efforts ceased. He was able to track Nitro's scent and determine he had skipped town hidden on a pick-up. Interrogating the driver, Wolverine then found Nitro hiding in a cabin in the woods. By this time SHIELD had also intervened, and a team including Wolverine was sent to capture him. Predictably, he incinerated everything within a wide radius of the cabin. The agents died, and Wolverine was reduced to (seemingly) nothing more than an adamantium-plated skeleton. It was while he was regenerating that he heard Nitro talking to a contact over the phone, informing him of the latest kill. The coversation went sour: Nitro's use of Mutant Growth Hormone to enhance his power was mentioned, as was the fact that he was now officially too hot to be useful. Finally regenerated, Wolverine went toe-to-toe with Nitro, taking advantage of the small radius of safety around his body that prevents Nitro from incinerating himself or anything on his person.

The fight was interrupted by a trio of Atlanteans before Wolverine could kill Nitro. The Atlanteans sought to bring Nitro back to Atlantis, where he was wanted by Prince Namor for the murder of his cousin, Namorita. Wolverine fought with them, then joined them to go to Atlantis to confront Namor personally. During the course of debate over what to do with Nitro, the villain freed himself and tried to take an Atlantean woman hostage. Wolverine subdued him, cutting off his hand in the process. He then decided to leave Nitro to Atlantean justice, and focus instead on the ones who supplied him with MGH. He eventually determined the distributor was the corrupt head of Damage Control, a firm that took clean-up and rebuilding contracts following superhuman fights. It didn't take much detective work to determine that more powerful villains meant bigger fights, and bigger contracts.

Meanwhile the government recognized that a war between superheroes left the country defenseless against the remaining supervillains. Their fears are well-placed: villains such as Red Skull, Arnim Zola, the Mad Thinker, and the Puppet Master have all been shown to have insidious plans in the works. The Thunderbolts were asked to spearhead Operation: Justice Like Lightning, in which they would confront, capture, and if possible reform supervillains. Little did anyone outside the Thunderbolts suspect that Helmut Zemo had already been collecting supervillains for an army to confront the mounting threat of the Grandmaster and his new Squadron Sinister! The captured villains willing to play along quickly swelled the team into three large squads. Still more are being trained every day in a secret mountain camp. Numerous other villains have been released since then under more direct (or less legitimate) government supervision, including the Green Goblin, the Vulture, the Jester, and Jack O'Lantern. The villains are supposedly kept in check by nanites in their blood stream which can monitor and disable them at any time. Norman Osborn, however, has learned the secret to deactivating them from a mysterious benefactor.

Most villains sought to bypass the act. Crime mistress Ricadonna allowed some supervillains to escape the act by grafting Skrull tissue into their bodies in exchange for freeing her from prison. The survivors of the experiment -- Ferocia, Kingsize, Flame, and a new Blue Streak -- gained shapeshifting abilities, making registration easy to avoid. She later underwent the same process herself. Former Maggia-member Hammerhead, on the other hand, saw the act as an opportunity to usurp Wilson Fisk as the Kingpin of Crime by rallying criminals in opposition of the act. His reasoning was that it was only a matter of time before every super-being was treated as a walking WMD, and then the criminals among them were as good as dead. A number of super-criminals did in fact rally under him, but the Kingpin managed to orchestrate the capture and death of his rival from his jail cell. He deceived Tony Stark and SHIELD into believing they were raiding Captain America's secret headquarters, while his double agent under Hammerhead, Underworld, made sure the usurper did not survive.

Conflict among the heroes was constant, with the government-backed heroes tracking down unregistered superhumans (and subsequently arresting or registering them) and trying to find Captain America's Secret Avengers. The Secret Avengers operated out of a series of secret safehouses set up by Nick Fury, kept secret from everyone within SHIELD. Cap's team continued to apprehend supervillains (usually leaving them bound for the authorities), and launched a series of well-coordinated attacks on prison transports carrying unregistered superhumans. During one such raid, the convoy was diverted when Iron Man became aware of Cap's plan, and ended up going directly down Yancy Street, a hotbed of civilian opposition to the Act. The Thing, who was only visiting his old neighborhood, got roped into crowd control. When a young member of the Yancy Street Gang died in the riot, Grimm became so disgusted with both sides that he left the country for France. (As a patriotic American he could not act against the law, but as he felt the law was wrong, he could not support it either.) Incidentally, the US government made it very difficult for Grimm to get out of the country. His assets were frozen (too much money to risk going untaxed), his baggage was held up (even shampoo could be a potential bomb), and he was lucky to board before he was added to the national "no-fly" list. He has currently taken up with the Heroes of Paris.

Recently, the Secret Avengers were lured by a false emergency call into an ambush by the pro-registration forces. They first attempted to disable Cap and his team with sonics, but as the battle began to turn decided to unleash the secretive Project: Lightning: Thor. After the fight, it was soon revealed that this was not the true Thor, but a clone created from a few strands of Thor's hair and empowered by the recently-returned [Mjolnir]]. The return of the long-missing god among them gave everyone pause, but the battle soon raged on. When confronted by Bill Foster, Thor sent a bolt of lightning through the hero's chest, killing him. With both sides in shock, Cap ordered a retreat. Bill Foster's tragic death dramatically changed the way both sides looked at the conflict, and turned it into a true civil war. The event shook up both sides in the war, with Stature and Nighthawk finally surrendering and registering, while the Human Torch and Invisible Woman decided to oppose the act's enforcement with Captain America.

The pro-registration side suffered another blow when Spider-Man became curious about many of the details of enforcement. He came to realize that Stark was using the "Iron Spidey" suit to monitor his actions and reactions, including his spider-sense. He found and added override codes for a number of Stark commands designed to subdue the wall-crawler if necessary. At one point, he accompanied Stark on a visit to 42 after Sue and Johnny left to join the Avengers. He learned that many of the most powerful captured superhumans were being held without trial and without access to counsel in an enormous super-prison within the life-draining Negative Zone. Spider-Man rebelled against the act, and was attacked by Iron Man when he tried to sneak away with Aunt May and Mary Jane. During the fight the three escaped, and several "ex" villains were sent to capture him. Already weak, he was found, drugged, and blasted half to death by Jack O'Lantern and the Jester. He was saved at the last minute by the Punisher, who brought him to Captain America. Castle revealed he hadn't cared much about the superhero's little war until the government started using killers like Bullseye and Venom. Now he was determined to take down the scum, anyone supporting them, and anyone in his way. The Avengers knew the Punisher's skills were exactly what they needed to wage their guerilla war, but also that accepting the convicted killer into their ranks destroyed almost all of their legitimacy and moral high-ground. Later, Spider-Man would interrupt a news cast to make a public statement about the horrors of the act's enforcement, and pledged to fight it.

Following the incident, the US government tried to discredit Cable, who was seen as a risk even before he allied himself with the anti-registration camp. Cable opposes the registration act because he sees it as the first step towards government-sponsored superteams, then towards a super-powered police force that will ultimately lead to a global police state. Like Bishop, his concern for the future is driven by a knowledge of his timeline's past. For the past few years, Cable had been promoting his island-nation of Providence as an intellectuall Utopia of peace, cooperation, and advance technology. When Cable recently over-threw the Flag-Smasher as president of the troubled nation of Rumekistan (with the help of the popular resistance), many in the greater world became convinced the would-be mutant messiah was a threat to international stability. The mercenary group Six Pack (which paradoxically included the very anti-registration Solo and Cable's pro-registration, sometimes-friend Deadpool) was sent to disrupt the Rumekistan power grid as part of a larger plan to discredit Cable. The plot was thwarted, and exposed before the international community.

Most recently an ambassador from the kingdom of Atlantis, on a mission of peace backed by the European Community (represented at the event by the Super Heroes of Europe), was the target of an unsuccessful assassination attempt. Norman Osborn, bearing an obviously fake press pass and handgun (and none of his Green Goblin paraphenalia), fired once at the statesman, hitting him the shoulder. The ambassador was escorted back to the ocean by his people, and Osborn immediately collapsed to the ground claiming he was framed. Police later recognized that an accomplished menace like Osborn could have easily killed the ambassador, and that the events leading up to the shooting just didn't make sense. Osborn attempted to tell police that his actions were being controlled by a third party through the nanites, but was unable. He was turned over to the federal government before NYPD could learn much. Following the attack, Atlantis has massed their troops and vessels along the US' east coast, as if preparing to attack (though they have not yet done so).

The US is also still in the midst of a cold war with the Inhumans of Attilan over it's refusal to return stolen Terrigen Crystals. Since the now-deceased General Lazer was the first and last word on the matter, it's still not clear if the US government even knew Lazer had taken possession of the crystals originally stolen by Pietro Maximoff. Unaware of the war footing, the Sentry recently travelled to Atillan, where he was at first attacked, then brought before the royal family. Informing the Inhuman royal court of his hidden past, the Secret War, House of M, Decimation, and Civil War, many of the Inhumans were moved to tears at the tragedy of it all. When Iron Man came to retrieve Reynolds, he was informed that this war would not be allowed to come to their land again, or else the cold war between their peoples would heat up very quickly.

It should also be noted that the visit by the Super Heroes of Europe underscored the fact that no one has really decided how the act applies to foreign superheroes, though several supervillains of foreign origin are already being held based on previous convictions. Though not involved in the Civil War directly, relations with Wakanda and its superpowered monarchs, the Black Panther (T'Challa) and Storm (Ororo Monroe), have also been strained lately. It now seems inevitible that the Civil War will spill out of the US' borders.

Public interest peaked when Speedball (Robbie Baldwin) was found alive, hurled a state away by the force of the Stamford blast. Robbie seemed to have lost his powers in the blast (the explanation being that his powers protected him from the sudden force, but burned out their biological mechanisms in the process). He was held without trial in a foreign country for a time, but was eventually relocated and given counsel in the form of Jennifer Walters (She-Hulk), who attempted to argue he was unconscious when the act was passed, and thus never had the chance to register. Instead of following her advice, he refused to register. Having no more powers, he was put in the prison's general populace, where he was regarded by the rest of the prisoners as a "baby killer" and beaten regularly. Hoping to set an example for those who would attack him, he challenged the meanest detractor to a boxing match. He was in the middle of getting pummeled in the ring when his powers kicked in, destroying the ring and knocking out everyone in the near vicinity. He was again put in solitary, where he learned his parents never wanted to see him again. He jumped at the chance to testify before Congress on the Stamford incident, but was shot as he was being escort to chambers. As he was bleeding to death in the ambulance, his powers again activated with enough force to hurt even She-Hulk. He was mended through Reed Richards quick action, but returned to prison once better. This time imprisoned at the Raft super-prison, he was used as the focus of an escape opportunity by a group of supervillains (Razorfist, Crimson Cowl, and Diamondhead in particular). They distracted the gaurds long enough to take Baldwin hostage, then killed the guards while Justine Hammer opened the gates. With Baldwin being used as a human shield, he was again able to activate his powers, this time intentionally, burning many of the escapees beyond recognition. Having seemingly undergone a major and spontaneous and violent personality change, he is now anxious to register and get back out into the world.

Trying to navigate this entire sordid affair are reporters Sally Floyd and Ben Urich. Sally started out as one of the most vocal opponents of the act in the press, immediately decrying it as violation of civil liberties. Her opinion was not altered much by SHIELD's constant surveillance, nor her recent arrest after she attended a meeting of unregistered heroes. However, after she was bailed out by Senator Sykes, one of the authors of the registration act and a frequent target of her opinion pieces, she began to realize that he too was concerned with American civil liberties, and that she hadn't given the issue the full consideration expected of a good reporter. After a dissappointing interview with Captain America, Sally now finds her self more conflicted than ever. Ben Urich, on the other hand, has been mostly quiet on the act itself, but has slowly been cataloging inconsistencies as he researches fires, murders, and attacks on himself. If Normal Osborn is really being monitored, who attacked him dress as the Green Goblin? Why would the Goblin attack a group of Atlanteans? What were the Atlanteans doing hiding in a New York warehouse? From the shooting of Robbie Baldwin to the shooting of the Atlantean ambassador, the more evidence he gathers, the more the missing pieces speak of a conspiracy.

The civil war is about to escalate even further as the government prepares to launch the Fifty States Initiative. The initiative calls for nothing less than a government-sponsored, government-controlled super team in each of the fifty united states. What that will mean in the long run has yet to be determined.

Notable Participants

Confirmed proponents of registration

Registered heroes
SHIELD forces
Enforcers
Detainees and recruits
Major government supporters
Major civilian supporters

Opponents of registration

The Secret Avengers


Miscellaneous heroes


Unregistered heroes


Registered opponents
Major civilian opponents
Foreign opponents

Neutral parties

Casualties

Notes


Trivia

  • As an interdimensionl being, Howard the Duck was compelled to register by his girlfriend Beverly Switzler. After finally cutting through all the red tape necessary to register, Howard was surprised to learn that he was the infamous "Duckman of New Jersey". The Duckman had been spotted and reported to at first incredulous, then annoyed authorities so many times that eventually SHIELD's official policy on the matter became that the Duckman does not exist. Since Howard interprets this as meaning that he not only can't register, but also can't pay parking tickets, he feels he got the better end of the deal.


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