This review is for Marvel’s Civil War Box Set.
I just couldn’t resist getting this treasure piece. Though Marvel had few photos published prior to release, I pulled the trigger.
In just two months, Marvel’s next big cinematic extravaganza hits and, not so coincidentally, it’s called Captain America: Civil War.
I usually steer clear of the crossover events. They tend to disrupt whatever threads the current monthly teams have cooking. Sometimes the titles never recover. So it was in 2006 when this mega-event occurred. I tuned out. I only picked up titles that weren’t involved.
Civil War Background
The root concept of Civil War did intrigue me though: what if a hero battle went too far and was captured on TV? What would really happen, especially in this age of the 24 hour news cycle, demagoguery, and extremism bifurcating democratic societies?
As politics and daily events continue to polarize the populace through the “talking heads” that always see a point of leverage in tragedies large and small, each new event threatens to rip us apart at the water cooler, the gym, the breakfast table, and the bedroom. When Civil War kicked off in 2006, this seemed like another “timely” comic plot ripped from the headlines.
How would superheroes be torn asunder? In a world where superheroes either wear masks or no costumes at all, where superheroes are celebrated or feared and vilified, where some are lone wolf anti-heroes and others incorporate their super gig into their family circle, the seeds of stark opinions are sown.
If offered a chance to “go legit”, get trained and paid, would it be worth it to hang up the mask and become a soldier? Selected for a state super militia? Definitely some would think so. Definitely others wouldn’t. The “swing voters” might sway back and forth as events unfold.
This is the premise of Marvel’s Civil War Crossover, gorgeously collected in this epic Box Set.
The Collection Design
First, my pre-order arrived yesterday, delivered in this massive shipping box, stuffed with packing peanuts and containing another container inside. Within that, a foam frame nestled the collected box, holding eleven gorgeous hardcover books and 4120 pages.
The front to the case swings open to reveal a drawing of the Vault on the inside panel. The front magnetically closes on the wraparound panel. Each book ships individually wrapped.
The books each have similar dress throughout. First, the spine has a fantastic Steve McNiven illustration of the heroes that runs across the top half of all the books. Next, the book’s name is in white lettering on the rust background, and finally, Civil War is written in two different colors, echoing the split in the capes community. The binding is sewn and not glued (similar to the recent Masterworks).
The front of each book mirrors the same duality on the spine, with the top half having a beautifully printed illustration and the bottom half a stark white background with the title of each volume merging into the illustration. On the bottom of each, the Civil War logotype is suspended in a sea of whitespace, except for on the cover of the Civil War volume itself.
On the back of each volume, random panels are excerpted from the stories and assembled into a mock comic page, complete with gutters that flow into the white cover motif. Really stunning design.
The material itself feels amazing to the touch, even superior than the tactile feel of recent omnibus releases, such as Uncanny X-men Volume 3 or Busiek-Perez Avengers 2. The books and the case evoke the same sense of precision and dedication that Apple’s packaging possesses. No buyer’s remorse here. This is a high-quality production done with expert craftsmanship.
Each volume has a different color theme, but carries over the same motif with the background screened art and the white header boxes. Each volume has a Credits page on the left, giving the title and issue numbers with the creative teams. On the right, the Contents page lists the issue number, the cover date, the story name, and the page number that the story starts on, similar to Masterworks. Unfortunately, similar to many “modern” collections from Marvel, page numbers are omitted from the interior.
The Prologue volume sets the stage with the New Warriors six issue reality TV show. This was a great concept that I can’t believe I missed when it was first published. Zeb Wells and Skottie Young do a fantastic job with a light-hearted look at superhero business.
In the second volume, Civil War, the mini-series kicks off with the tragedy at Stamford, CT. Afterwards, grief-stricken and angry relatives call on the government for action. Several of the heroes agree with the common sentiment. Some of this tension feels manufactured or evolves a little too quickly. None are more emblematic than the confrontation on the heli-carrier. The law wasn’t even in effect yet. Things got out of hand way too quickly.
I had this sense a few times when heroes that had known each other for years suddenly wanted to arrest and imprison each other.
Other than that, the story is well written and wonderfully drawn by Steve McNiven.
In the Avengers volume, there was an attempt to explain the heli-carrier scene. I admit that much of the tension was done better in the individual books than in the mini-series itself.
Another problem with the collection is the wide variety of different writers and especially artists on this collection. Whereas, the reader is given essentially a sampler of art styles from Marvel in that era, the effect moving issue to issue can be jarring.
Speaking of art, the roster on this event is deeper and more talented than the ’27 Yankees. Besides Skottie Young and Steve McNiven, this collection also includes art by Jim Cheung, Alex Maleev, Howard Chaykin, Lenil Yu, Oliver Copiel, Ariel Olivetti, Billy Tucci, David Aja, David Finch, Mark Texiera, Humberto Ramos, Yanick Paquette, John Cassaday, John Romita Jr., Michael Turner, Steve Epting, Mark Silvestri, Ed McGuinness and more.
The Contents of the Eleven Volumes
New Warrior (2005) #1-6, Illuminati #1, Fantastic Four #536-537, Amazing Spider-man #529-531 and variant covers by Bryan Hitch, Mike McKone, Mike Wieringo, Gabrielle Dell’Otto, and costume designs for Iron Spider by Chris Bachalo and Joe Quesada.
II: Civil War
Civil War 1-7, Daily Bugle Civil War Newspaper Special, Civil War Director’s Cut, and variant covers by Michael Turner (8 covers including both sketch and inked/colored versions), sketch variant wraparound by McNiven, Ed McGuinness, and 15 pages of quarter-sized original art by McNiven as well as four additional variant covers.
New Avengers 21-25, Ms. Marvel 6-8, Captain America 22-24, Iron Man/Captain America: Casualties of War, Iron Man 13-14, and Winter Soldier: Winter Kills, as well as five variant covers.
IV: Fantastic Four
Fantastic Four 538-543, Black Panther 18-25, 4-page article from Black Panther 18, and four variants.
V: Marvel Universe
She-Hulk 8-9, Civil War: Young Avengers & Runaways 1-4, Heroes for Hire 1-3, Civil War: Choosing Sides, Punisher War Journal 1-3, Civil War: the Return, and ten pages of extras.
VI: Front Line
Front Line 1-11
Amazing Spider-man 532-538, Spectacular Spider-man 28-34, and Spider-man 11-16 with 8 pages of extras.
VIII: The Underside
Thunderbolts 103-105, Moon Knight 7-12, Civil War: War Crimes, and Ghost Rider 8-11. This volume has three pages of extras.
Wolverine 42-48, X-Factor 8-9, Cable & Deadpool 30-32, Civil War: X-men 1-4, and Blade 5 with 5 pages of extas.
Captain America #25, Civil War: The Confession, Civil War: The Initiative, Fallen Son: The Death XX, What if? Civil War, Daily Bugle: Fallen Son. Includes 43 pages of extras from Captain America #25 Director’s cut.
XI: Civil War Files
Civil War Files, Civil War Battle Damage Report, Civil War Opening Shot Sketchbook, Civil War Script Book, Marvel Spotlight Mark Millar/Steve McNiven, Marvel Spotlight Civil War Aftermath.
There’s also a cloth banner included.