War Stories: The best Civil War comic book battles we won’t see on screen

[Editor's Note: March kicks off a season of big-time showdowns, grudge matches and maybe a few team-ups. Infamous as the month when Brutus betrayed Caesar, March will get even more epic because Batman will take on Superman on the big screen, Daredevil will get company in Hell's Kitchen in the form of The Punisher on Netflix, and The Flash shall race on over to CBS to meet Supergirl. And, of course, just a few weeks after this kickoff, we'll see a breakdown in the friendship between Captain America and Iron Man in Marvel's Civil War movie. Because we love seeing a good battle between titans, we've dedicated March to versus. Over the next four weeks, check this space for stories on title fights in superhero stories, horror, science and more!]

The latest international trailer for Captain America: Civil War has dropped, and the Internet is taking sides over what they found to be its most thrilling moment: Ant-Man riding Hawkeye’s arrow? Black Panther removing Winter Soldier from his motorcycle? Spider-Man squinting?

Those scenes are all sure to keep us glued to our seats come May, but what about the best Civil War moments that won’t be making it to the screen?

The original Marvel Comics event dropped 10 years ago and spanned over a hundred issues between the main series and the tie-ins. While the core Civil War book dealt with the main fronts of the conflict between Captain America and Iron Man, the tie-in books explored the smaller skirmishes that affected even the most obscure corners of the Marvel Universe. 

Civil War remains a polarizing story among hardcore comic-book fans, but as a newly converted 14-year-old comic-book fan who somehow managed to afford the majority of the books at the time, it was a reading experience unlike anything else. Going to the comic-book store from week to week, I had no idea which characters were going to join the fray next, and most of them won’t be choosing teams on the big screen. So join me in this Versus Month spotlight, looking back at some of the wildest fights from Marvel’s Civil War comic books!


(Civil War: Frontline #2, by Paul Jenkins and Ramon Bachs)

Every war needs a memorable first shot, and the opening salvo of the superhero Civil War was no exception. The very first outbreak of violence occurred at the stroke of midnight on the night the Superhuman Registration Act became law. Prodigy — a former member of the Slingers, a team of teen heroes who use superhero identities briefly assumed by Spider-Man — decided to take a stand against the SHRA by donning his costume and drunkenly protesting the act to the crowd that began to gather below.

Iron Man soon arrived and tried to talk to Prodigy and give him a chance to register, but Prodigy angrily refused, smashed his beer bottle against Tony’s armor, and leapt at the armored avenger. Prodigy smashed Iron Man through a billboard and they traded blows in midair before Stark electrocuted him and repulsor-blasted him into the roof, where he was subdued and detained by a S.H.I.E.L.D. Cape-Killer unit. Prodigy may not have been able to participate in the majority of the conflict, but he was broken out of the Negative Zone prison by Captain America’s forces to join in the final battle against Iron Man’s forces.


(Wolverine (2003) #43-45, by Marc Guggenheim and Humberto Ramos)

Like the rest of the X-Men, Wolverine didn’t pick a side in the war, but that didn’t stop him from being in the thick of it anyway. Logan begrudgingly joined up with a team of S.H.I.E.L.D. agents to go after Nitro, the explosive supervillain responsible for the deaths of an elementary school full of kids in Stamford, Connecticut, the incident that set off the whole conflict.

Wolverine and his squad found Nitro hiding out in a cabin the woods in California and dropped in on him from their Quinjet, but it quickly went wrong. Nitro created another massive explosion, killing most of the agents, and burning Wolverine down to nothing but his adamantium skeleton. But that wasn’t enough to keep the clawed Canadian down. He quickly regenerated enough to pummel Nitro into submission, but their battle was interrupted by Namor, the Submariner and a trio of Atlantean warriors who sought to enact justice upon the supervillain for the murder of Namor’s cousin in Stamford.

Wolverine then loses a brief fist fight to the far more powerful King of Atlantis, who knocks him out cold. Shortly after Logan regained consciousness, Iron Man arrived with a perfectly timed gift of a suit of underwater armor, which Logan uses to pursue Namor to New Pangea, where he fights the Atlanteans for control of Nitro, and after slicing one of the villain’s arms off, decides to leave him with the people whose princess he’d killed.


(Civil War #7, by Mark Millar and Steve McNiven)

Following the murder of their princess, Namorita, at Stamford, and the attempted assassination of an Atlantean ambassador by Norman Osborn, the American governments relationship with the undersea kingdom became strained, and numerous Atlantean sleeper agents began to activate in New York. They stayed relatively quiet for most of the conflict, only arousing the suspicion of a pair of Daily Bugle reporters and an easily-defeated Wonder Man. The group amassed a small arsenal and awaited orders from their king.

Those orders finally came during the final battle of the Civil War, when Namor led his warriors into battle alongside his longtime friend, Captain America, who he’d fought alongside in World War II. They arrived just in time to save Cap from the clutches of Lady Deathstrike, Venom, Taskmaster and Bullseye, who were all fighting for Stark as part of the new Thunderbolts program. But Iron Man was ready with a counterstrike of his own, responding with the cyborg clone of Thor, a seemingly-resurrected Captain Mar-Vell, and California’s new superteam, The Champions (later re-named The Order), who they fought to a standstill until the fight ended with Cap surrendering. Namor returned to Atlantis, his kingdom’s relationship with the surface world looking bleaker than ever.


(New Avengers (2004) #22, by Brian Michael Bendis and Leinil Yu)

When Iron Man and Ms. Marvel visited new parents Luke Cage and Jessica Jones at their home in Harlem, the conversation goes about how you’d expect it to when two natural rebels are told by the government to toe the line. Luke and Jessica tell Tony they don’t want to fight, but they don’t want to register, either, which Iron Man warns will lead to S.H.I.E.L.D. coming to their home when the act becomes law. “Oh. Is it Mississippi in the 1950s now?” Luke asks Tony before he leaves. “Getting pulled out your home in the middle of the night for being different is the same now as it was then.”

After they leave, Luke tells Jessica to head to Canada with their baby daughter, which she agrees to do, and kisses him goodbye. When a boy on the street outside his building asks Luke what he plans to do, he answers, “I’m going to go inside and sit in my home. And not bother no one. We’re supposed to be allowed to do that, right?”

So, he does just that, quietly sitting in his apartment until midnight, when the Superhuman Registration Act becomes law, and a battalion of S.H.I.E.L.D. Cape-Killers comes knocking at his door. Cage throws a couch through his wall and into the agents, taking on dozens of them and barely breaking a sweat. They unload on Cage until he’s finally slowed by a special “genetic paralyzer.” Help arrives soon after in the form of Captain America, Daredevil and the Falcon, who free Luke and escaped with him in an armored S.H.I.E.L.D. vehicle as the people in his neighborhood throw bottles out windows and fire shotguns at the Cape-Killers.


(Civil War #6, by Mark Millar and Steve McNiven, Punisher War Journal (2006) #3, by Matt Fraction and Ariel Olivetti)

Captain America was hesitant to accept help from the Punisher from the get-go, but he proved to be useful enough to keep around. That changed when he decided to put a couple of bullets through the skulls of supervillains Goldbug and the Plunderer, who had come to offer their help to the resistance.

Captain America savagely attacked him, but Frank just took every haymaker, roundhouse and shield-smash without responding. As he took the beating, he flashed back to his time training for the Marines when Cap — or at least someone dressed like him — came to base to teach them hand-to-hand combat, but Frank refused to hit him. Captain America’s rage eventually subsided and he walked away, leaving Frank bleeding on the floor. “I wonder why he wouldn’t hit Cap?” one of the Young Avengers who had watched it happened asked Spider-Man. “Are you kidding me? Cap’s probably the reason he went to Vietnam. Same guy, different war.”


(Civil War: Young Avengers & Runaways #1-2, by Zeb Wells and Stefano Casseli)

Far too many wars draw children into the violence, and this war was no different. The Young Avengers quickly joined up with Captain America’s resistance, but Marvel’s other teen team the Runaways, didn’t want pick a side. After seeing S.H.I.E.L.D. attack the teenage renegades on TV, the Young Avengers head to California to help and hopefully recruit them.

They run into Molly — who you may remember from her rather one-sided fight with the Punisher — who is wandering alone near the team’s hideout. She surprises them by flinging a jeep at Stature, and fends off Wiccan and Speed before tuckering out. They carry the young mutant inside and one simple misunderstanding with the Runaways later, the teams are leaping into battle. It was an interesting matchup with two children of Ultron (Vision and Victor Mancha), two Skrulls (Hulkling and Xavin), and two sorcerers all meeting for the first time in the clash. Speed dodged the teeth of Chase’s deinonychus Old Lace, Karolina blasted Billy with light, and Nico blinded Hawkeye before Nico stopped the whole fight in its tracks with a spell that froze the whole base. The Runaways were reluctant to trust the Young Avengers, but an attack by the Kree super-soldier Marvel Boy interrupted their debate and united them against a common foe.


(New Avengers (2004) #24, by Brian Michael Bendis and Pasqual Ferry)

Lending to the volatile political climate surrounding the Civil War were the strained relationship that most of the world was experiencing with multiple superpowered communities. The mutants were recently decimated and endangered and they remained neutral, and the already-mentioned Atlantis chose to join the fray, but no group was as much of a powder keg at the time as the Inhumans. Attilan, which was located on the moon at the time, had declared war on humanity following the events of Son of M, during which Quicksilver stole the Terrigen Mists.

The Sentry, unfortunately, knew none of this, and decided to take some time for himself on the moon, where he was attacked by the Inhumans. Gorgon was the first to strike, sending the Sentry soaring into a group of Inhuman grunts, who piled on the golden guardian of good. He dispatched all of them effortlessly, and grabbed Gorgon and Karnak’s hands and held on, stopping their assault in its tracks and finally communicating on the silent moon surface that he meant no harm. He met with Black Bolt and Medusa and they offered him a bed for the night, which he didn’t end up using. Risking inciting a war, Iron Man showed up in Attilan to convince Sentry to come home and register, which he eventually did.


(Civil War: War Crimes #1, by Frank Tieri and Staz Johnson)

War makes strange bedfellows, and both Steve and Tony made plenty in this war, none of them more dangerous than Wilson Fisk, the Kingpin of crime.

Tony Stark visited Fisk while he was in prison, and the two played a “friendly” game of chess, during which Fisk offered Stark the opportunity to win the war. Stark said he’d consider it and left the prison, not knowing that he’d been drawn into an entirely different civil war.

Earlier that day, the lesser crime lord Hammerhead came to Kingpin and informed him it was his final day of incarceration, and threatened to take Fisk’s territory upon leaving. When Stark returned, Fisk passed along intel he claimed was the location of Cap’s base. But when Iron Man and his S.H.I.E.L.D. team arrived, they found Hammerhead holding a meeting with dozens of supervillains in a bid for power. The villains were rounded up and Hammerhead wound up back in the prison infirmary, where his top hitman, Underworld — who had secretly been working for Fisk the whole time — visited him and shot him in the head with an adamantium bullet.


(Cable & Deadpool #31-32 by Fabian Nicieza and Staz Johnson)

Hoping to impress the government enough that they’d hire him, Deadpool quickly signed up for the SHRA and began hunting down unregistered heroes. This ended up with him taped to a chair in the backroom of the resistance’s base for a long enough time to have a painfully full bladder. He thought he was being given mercy by his best buddy, Cable — who’d recently joined with Captain America — but upon letting him out of the chair, the from-the-future mutant teleported them both into the Oval Office.

Deadpool asked the President for directions to the bathroom, leaving Cable to try to convince the leader of the free world that he shouldn’t implement the Fifty States Initiative — a plan for a registered super-team in every state — because it would lead to a totalitarian future. The President didn’t take Cable’s advice and the Secret Service opened fire on the time-traveling telepath. Cable put them down just as Wade was returning from the bathroom, and the President ordered Deadpool to apprehend Cable.

The two destroy lots of priceless White House furniture before Cable teleported them again — this time to France, and outside Deadpool’s jurisdiction — but Deadpool keeps trying to take him down, which is exactly what Cable wanted. He caught it all on video and broadcast it in an attempt to make the SHRA look bad. Deadpool’s actions got him fired, but Cable’s lost him his best friend.


(Amazing Spider-Man (1999)  #530-531, by J. M. Straczynski and Ron Garney)

Before the war officially started, Tony Stark travelled to Washington, D.C. to speak before Congress in an attempt to slow down the SHRA, and he brought his new employee, Peter Parker with him. The hearing didn’t go well, but things were about to get even worse. As they exited the Capitol they were attacked by Iron Man’s old foe, Titanium Man, seemingly on a mission to kill Tony Stark!

Peter stealthily blinded the armored Russian assailant with webbing, giving him a chance to use activate his brand-new “Iron Spider” suit that Tony designed for him. They each landed a couple of blows before Titanium man attempted to fly off, but Spidey webbed on to him and went along for the ride. Titanium Man burned through the line, landing Spider-Man in front of the Lincoln Memorial, where he became distracted reading the Gettysburg Address, giving Titanium Man a chance to strike. Spider-Man used his suit’s new robotic arms to turn the tide, but the villain had enough, and retreated. The incident, and the rest of Peter’s trip to Washington, went a long way toward convincing him to join Tony’s side, which was just what Iron Man — who had secretly hired Titanium Man — had hoped for.


(Civil War: Choosing Sides #1, by Ty Templeton and Roger Langridge)

It wasn’t just superheroes who were required to register with the government during the Civil War; so was pretty much anyone who wasn’t a normal human being, and that included everyone’s favorite fowl, Howard the Duck!

After a lot of whining, Howard made it down to the Cleveland registration office, which he was baffled to discover was crowded with presumed superhumans. When he finally made it to the front of the line, he discovered he was in the DMV line, and grouchily found the correct line a few rooms over, which was full of still more waiting and paperwork.

Once our hero conquered yet another soul-crushing line, he spoke to the regional S.H.I.E.L.D. director, was told that they no longer officially acknowledged his existence due to the hundreds of reports a month they had to deal with about a “duck man.” True to form, Howard threw a tantrum in the office and was thrown out, but was actually overjoyed at the tax-less possibilities his non-existence offered him.


(Black Panther (2005) #25, by Reginald Hudlin and Marcus To, Civil War #7, by Mark Millar and Steve McNiven)

The decision that turned many heroes against Iron Man’ side was when he enlisted the help of Mr. Fantastic and Yellowjacket to create a cyborg impostor of Thor, who was dead at the time. During the clone Thor’s — who fans dubbed “Clor,” and who was later officially named Ragnarok — first outing, it murdered Goliath, leaving many heroes with a bone to pick with the creature.

When Clor entered the final battle in New York City, he was confronted by Storm, who challenged him to find out which of them was “truly divine.” Lightning bolts were exchanged and Clor attacked viciously, destroying the Wakandan embassy, which the then-Wakandan-queen responded to with a massive cyclone. Somehow, the monster still stood, forcing the Invisible Woman to step in and shield Storm from her husband’s creation.

It was then that an actual deity joined the fray, as Hercules tackled the insult to his friend and Avengers teammate. Tearing the fake Mjolnir from the impostor’s hands, he smashed it into Clor's head, destroying the hammer and its owner in an explosion of lightning.

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