An Animated Explanation Of Marvel’s Deeply Confusing Civil War Story Arc

An Animated Explanation Of Marvel’s Deeply Confusing Civil War Story Arc

Video: Marvel’s Civil War arc is both legendary and insanely convoluted, involving just about every hero you’ve ever heard of (and a ton you haven’t) over 50 issues published across over a dozen titles. Even though there’s a collected edition now, nothing beats the brevity of a four minute animated explainer to catch you up on what any of this confusing saga is about.

Fair warning: This contains many, many spoilers for the comic, and some (but probably not all) of these events might be recreated in the new Captain America movie.

The main thrust of Civil War starts when a group of superheroes accidentally contribute to a tragic massacre of innocent life. The government enacts a law that forces superheroes to register with the government or be considered a criminal for continued acts of vigilantism. Iron Man sides with the government and becomes obsessed with imprisoning every hero who doesn’t submit to the law; Captain America thinks the law impugns his civil liberty to punch bad guys in the face whenever he wants, and goes on the run.

The two Avengers and old friends adamantly refuse to talk our their differences and instead bring about a superhero war which needlessly costs several superheroes their lives. Basically, everyone involved acts like a total arsehole.

It’s complicated, and Noah Sterling does a far better (and funnier) job explaining it, but if you think this is messy, just wait until the Avengers movies get to the Infinity War arc.


  • Tony gave Spider-Man his new outfit in the lead up to Civil War when debating the council about the introduction of the bill. It is the New Warriors event that tips public opinion against super powered favor.

    Personally, I do not find it confusing at all, and the video misses some key stuff and gets things out of order.

  • Ah, Civil War… Or ‘How every facet of this story is insanely stupid’.

    I’m morbidly curious to see how the movie will try to salvage this… But I lived through Civil War and One More Day (In fact, they stopped me from reading Marvel for seven years), I don’t think anyone can fix what is inherently broken.

    Props if they manage though.

    • Looks like they’re skipping all of the bullshit from Civil War and just going with the basic premise of “Hey you, let’s fight!” “Them’s fighting words!”

      So no “everyone but Wolverine ignoring how Nitro suddenly got poweful enough to level half a town”, no SHIELD forgetting they don’t work for the U.S government, and no plot points changing from book to book because of piss-poor communication between the various writers.

      • Didn’t Civil War actually lead into the Skrull Invasion event? Where it was claimed certain key skrulls disguised as heroes/villains were manipulating the situation behind the scenes that led to Civil War?

        • The Skrulls were such a convenient device. “Oh, that writer did a thing with a character that I fundamentally disagree with? Skrull.”

          • To be fair compared to last the previous Avengers arc of “hey earths are smashing into each other so we can reset the MU” I’ll happily go with it was the green alien’s fault!

          • That’s called profiling and it’s wrong. Just because you’re green (with filthy chin wrinkles) doesn’t mean you’re an intergalactic criminal.

        • If I remember right, they had sleeper agents on Earth, but they didn’t decide on the Secret Invasion plans until most of their empire got wiped out in Annihilation – which happened the same time as Civil War. They just took advantage of the tensions.

  • This has got me so pumped for civil war!

    Can’t wait to see satan! Probably just a small cameo to set him up for his own movie…

    • …that’s not going to be in the film. Seriously though, the film has barely anything to do with the comic event.

  • The Spidey deal with the devil is widely regarded as the dumbest moment in that *whole* story arc…

    • Technically the deal wasn’t to get back his secret identity, although that’s what ended up happening. It was to save Aunt May’s life after she was shot in the events of the Civil War.

      Mephisto came a long, offered to save her life in return for Peter’s marriage to Mary Jane. They agreed but only if Peter got his secret identity back. Then MJ added another offer which turned it into a big magic reset button that also somehow resurrected Harry Osborne.

      This story ended J Michael Strazcynski’s run on the series, largely because he didn’t agree with the direction. He almost took his name off the last two issues.

      • It should be noted that while in hospital… Reed Richards, Tony Stark, Stephen Strange, Doctor Doom, the High Evolutionary, and Doc Ock couldn’t do anything to help a woman slowly dying from a normal gunshot wound.

        Let’s skip over the fact that Stark had used Extremis to survive a more grievous wound two years prior… And assume the rest (Yes, even Doom) were having an off day. Aunt May declared she was fine with the turn of events, she’s lived a good life, seen Peter become a hero and get married… And she’ll see her husband again.

        Sadly, Parker was infected with the dumbass virus epidemic that infected the Marvel Universe (The one that allowed Civil war to happen in the first place) and, like his allies, hadn’t fully overcome the effects of the horrific disease… And thus forgot the ‘responsibility’ part of his pathos and made a deal with the devil.

        I stop reading for seven years because of this. No court would convict me.

        I eventually picked up the sequel ‘one moment in time’ last year because I’m stupid and wanted to know exactly how Satan changed the world… Peter was late for his wedding day because of a crook, causing Mary Jane to reconsider. Stark and Richards mind-wiped humanity’s memory of Spidey’s identity with Extremis and despite the fact he said he couldn’t… Stephen Strange saves Aunt May’s life when she’s shot.

  • No one’s going to mention that Captain America was completely correct about everything? Immediate consequences of the registration act:

    -Aunt May gets shot
    -Captain America gets shot
    -Norman Osborn is put in charge of the Thunderbolts, which he uses to kill and maim superheroes.
    -Iron Man starts the Initiative, a military program that conscripts young super powered people. They have an actual Nazi mad scientist on the payroll, force the conscripts to kill, and accidentally kill a recruit on the very first day.

    So not a great idea there Iron Man.

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