Already miserable? Try reading Civil War for extra feels.
Gosh, this is a long one! Go get a sandwich or something before you start, guys.
So basically some teenagers are filming a reality TV show and they want to be famous for having powers and saving the day and whatnot and they think in order to get good ratings they must take on big-name super villains. Unfortunately for them, the way people become big-name super villains is by being HUGE GIGANTIC ASSHOLES. So this one asshole, Nitro, blows up a whole town, killing the kids (called the New Warriors) and also some nearby schoolchildren and like 600 other people. It's fucked, and everything sucks.
People start to call for more oversight and culpability from their super heroes, and the Super Hero Registration Act is born. It sucks for everyone, basically. All super-powered individuals must disclose their secret identity to the U.S. government and become S.H.I.E.L.D. employees, with special training and support and all that jazz. Which is nice, but people are worried about their information being leaked to the crazed and dangerous villains they fight on a daily basis, endangering their family, and also people get like a week's notice to sign. Captain America is invited to sign and then immediately begin hunting down his friends who won't sign. He tells S.H.I.E.L.D. to go fuck themselves, handsomely and patriotically, and then starts the resistance movement.
Meanwhile, the mutants are all "wow. I guess for once it doesn't actually suck to be us, because with everyone launching a big witch hunt for super heroes, they're kind of laying off on all the "we hate mutants!" shit. However, some mutants bust out of the Sentinel-guarded area they're supposed to keep to after M Day (it's totally not a reservation you guys, more like a gulag! wait, that's not right...), and Tony Stark wants Bishop to lead a team to bring them in.
Here's what the new Sentinels look like:
TRANSFORMERS, AM I RIGHT?!
Anyway Tony asks Emma Frost (currently head of Xavier Academy) for her support in the war, and subtly hints that they, at some point in the past, have knocked boots. UM. YES PLEASE. Anyway, at the mansion, Scott (Cyclops), Warren (Archangel, or is it just Angel? I can't remember), Bobby (Iceman) and Hank (Beast, and, he's like, a cat! It's awesome) decide to go after the escapees themselves. They ditch their usual outfits and Bobby asks Emma how their new "life of crime" look is working.
Bobby: How you like the bad-boy look?
Emma: Hold me back.
I'M WITH EMMA ON THIS ONE, BOYS. GODDAMN.
So anyway things are generally getting shittier for everyone. A lot of the few remaining mutants are all "hey, I think the X-Men know more about this whole House of M thing that none of us remember. Why are they lying to us?" But all of that kind of takes a backseat when heavily-armed S.H.I.E.L.D. 'cape-killer' squads start re-enacting scenes from V For Vendetta all over the place.
This is...oh shit, I forget his name. Anyway his power is that whenever he absorbs kinetic energy, he can make MULTIPLE MAN, THAT'S HIS NAME. Anyway yeah he can make additional copies of himself. He's also a Douglas Adams fan, apparently:
Hitchhikers reference! Take a drink!
Meanwhile, the Young Avengers team up with the Runaways (another group of kids and teenage super heroes) and Tommy is forced to interact with a small girl named Molly, who thinks the fact that he can run fast and make stuff blow up is AWESOME. Tommy is quietly very pleased by the attention, and they share an adorable bond, but neither of them want to come right out and admit it. Sidenote: I should make Tommy my new avatar y/y? I mean. Just look at that face:
I don't know that I have a screenshot to go with this but at some stage I wrote "have I mentioned how much I love T'Challa because it's a lot". T'Challa (Black Panther) and Ororo Monroe (Storm, former head of the X-Men) are king and queen of Wakanda, and while initially they stay out of the war, concerned about the ramifications of an international diplomatic incident, they eventually join the resistance.
And here's why. But first, oh god oh god oh god OH MY GOD. Even though I knew what ‘Project Thunder’ was, I WAS NOT PREPARED FOR THIS.
EVIL THOR!CLONE JUST STRAIGHT UP KILLED A DUDE.
CAN I JUST TAKE A MOMENT TO APPRECIATE THAT THE CLONE'S SHUTDOWN CODE IS "WAGNER"? TALK ABOUT CYNICAL MANIPULATION BY A FASCISTIC IDEALOGUE. Are we trying to sneak a Nazi reference into every issue, I wonder?
So yeah. Goliath getting a king size serving of Norse thunder god right through the stomach pretty much turned a lot of people away from the Registration side. Sue Storm (Invisible Woman) confronts her husband, Reed Richards (Mr Incredible, I think? He's a fuckwit, who cares) about the clone. She is all I CAN'T BELIEVE YOU AND TONY CLONED YOUR DEAD FRIEND AND THEN IT TURNED EVIL AND KILLED ONE OF OUR OTHER FRIENDS. WHAT THE HELL IS YOUR PROBLEM, RICHARDS.
Sue: You've just made a fist, Reed. Use it, put it away, or I'll take it off at the wrist.
That's Sue Storm, being a fucking badass, and her husband, Reed Richards, being a douchecanoe. As always. JUST LEAVE HIM FOR NAMOR ALREADY GEEZ. Basically, they break up, and Reed continues to spearhead new and horrible scientific breakthroughs for the Registration act, while Sue joins the resistance.
Do you guys remember the Sentry? He appeared in my New Avengers recap. He's not sure if he wants to take sides in the war, so he goes to the moon to think. (Yes. I know.) There are a group of dudes on the moon called the Inhumans living in a city called Attilan, and they invite him to sleepover. This takes up a whole issue and the only reason I mention it is because can I move to Attilan plz?
HOLY SHIT THE MOON IS PRETTY.
And then, so, like, the cape-killers catch Daredevil, and take him to this awful Negative Zone prison, which I think I will talk more about later, and Tony's all "you don't need to go in there and be tortured horribly! Just register! And then ruthlessly hunt down your friends and former comrades!"
I NEED TO TELL YOU ABOUT MY NEWFOUND APPRECIATION FOR DAREDEVIL.
Tony: What do you say? Can we talk?
Negative Zone Guard: Actually, he’s barely said a word since we brought him in, Mister Stark. But we found this silver dollar under his tongue. He said he’s been saving it for you.
Tony: A silver dollar? I don’t understand.
Daredevil: Guess that’s thirty-one pieces of silver you’ve got now, huh? Sleep well, Judas.
OH MY GOOOODD SNAP. MATTHEW MURDOCH THAT IS THE LONGEST TROLL EVER. You went to the trouble of keeping a nasty-ass coin in your mouth all the way to the Negative Zone just so you could issue Tony an epic burn. I approve, and I love you.
Okay so there's the kingdom of Atlantis, in the ocean, and the guy in charge of it is Prince Namor (sometimes he's a king, too, I haven't quite worked it out). And Atlanteans can disguise themselves when on land to look like regular human beings, but also they can sometimes look like this:
So I am, just like, un-fucking-reasonably attracted to these Atlanteans. Which makes it official: if it's blue, I'd probably hit that. (Atlanteans don't really give two shits about the Civil War either way until some of their agents are brutally slaughtered by the Green Goblin, who the pro-Registration side had LET OUT OF PRISON to help them hunt down unregistered individuals. Yes. That happened.)
Like I said, reading this event was seriously painful. You know things are bad when you see a Winter Soldier issue, and you think "oh good. A Winter Soldier issue. That will cheer me up." Bucky Barnes (Winter Soldier) has like, one of the most tragic stories in all of the Marvel universe, and that is fucking saying something. In the 40s he was Captain America's teen sidekick, until he died horribly, scarring Cap forever and filling him with this insane guilt that he'd caused the death of this child. Never mind the fact that WHY WAS A CHILD RUNNING AROUND WITH CAPTAIN AMERICA IN THE WAR, WHAT THE ACTUAL FUCK.
So he "dies", right, and is frozen in ice, only not really that well because he loses an arm, and the Soviets find his body and reanimate him and give him a fuck off awesome metal arm. Then they train him to be a ruthless killer, and snap freeze him again, thawing him out every few years so he can go on espionage missions and assassinations. By the time Civil War is happening, Bucky's about the same age as Steve, but he kind of lived through the intermediate time, doing horrible things he had no control over. He eventually manages to break free of his Soviet programming though, and is a total badass, but feels super bad about it. So he spends his Christmases at the graves of his victims, apologising.
After a quick encounter with the Winter Soldier, the Young Avengers work out who he is, and then ALL SALUTE HIM, BECAUSE THEY ARE ADORABLE BABIES.
(I need to take a Young Avengers interlude here, and briefly mention that just when I thought things could NOT get any worse, and watching Peter Parker spiral into depression was honestly the saddest thing I could ever imagine, things just got so much worse.)
There's a different prison called the Cube, run by this awful dude they just call the warden. He captures Billy and Teddy, and promptly begins attemping to remove Teddy's insides, while Billy is forced to watch.
Billy spends the entire time trying to cast a spell to stop his boyfriend being tortured, but his spells don't work because there's a device STAPLED to his ears that mean he can "hear everything but [his] own voice". He knows it won't work, but he can't stop trying.
You guys. I just. I can't.
Okay Young Avengers interlude over. Throughout the Fantastic Four's history, there has always been a bit of tension between Namor and the group, because he has a burning hot crush on Sue. Namor logic is as follows: object of your affection visits you in your underwater kingdom after separating from her husband? Get in your finest pair of scaly undies, put on a robe, and sit on your pimp throne.
and now I….kind of ship it?
Sue: [something to the effect of] What are you talking about, we don't have a relationship.
Namor: I can feel your heartbeat through the water, Mrs. Richards...and it tells a very different story from the lies upon your lips.
He basically Sherlocks her. Namor's kind of my favourite.
Steve's resistance eventually break in to the Negative Zone prison (WITH THE HELP OF TEDDY, WHO SHAPESHIFTED INTO HANK FOR LIKE, THREE DAYS, BECAUSE HE'S AWESOME AND OH MAN, I just love Teddy a lot) and bust everyone out. They all get teleported back to New York and have a big awful fight, and as Cap realises that the fight is leading to massive property damage and civilian casualties, he realises that he needs to fight the Act not with his fists, but with, like, sitting down and talking to
his boyfriend Tony and coming to a sensible compromise.
Cap surrenders to S.H.I.E.L.D. and is put in custody. He and Tony have a brief discussion where Steve says, listen, if you think that just because I surrendered that I lost? You've got another fucking thing coming. This isn't over, I am just trying to minimise the amount of INNOCENT GODDAMN PEOPLE who get killed as a result of this fuckery. Everything is kind of starting to look up, I guess?
Except no, obviously. This is the Marvel universe, where the motto is "cheer up, this isn't the worst day of your life. So far." On the way to his trial, Captain America is shot dead, seemingly by a sniper. His special fucking lady friend Carol rides in the ambulance with him and tries to get him to hold on, but he dies. While at the hospital, Carol is told by a nurse that she "has a message from the Red Skull. He says to remember."
And then Carol is struck by the image/memory of her shooting Steve in the chest at point blank range. Wonderful.
Then there's The Confession, which to be honest I had read most of before I even picked up Civil War, but it still punched me right in the feels. The whole thing is basically Tony having this incredibly painful conversation with Steve's corpse and culminates in Tony confessing that all the things he did, all the awful compromises he made, all the betrayals, all the fighting, all the getting-in-bed-with-the-wrong-people he did in order to try and make things better, all of it. He says it wasn't worth it.
It wasn't worth it because he lost Steve, his greatest friend and the man he spent his whole life looking up to.
Now, after the whole thing goes down, some journalists confront Tony about his larger role in the Civil War. They notice that the stocks of Stark Industries seem to move with the events of the war, seemingly as if someone was manipulating them in order to capitalise on the unrest. That money is then spent building this fuck off awful prison in the Negative Zone, called 'Project 42'. Basically, super-powered individuals are sent there and given their own personal hell in order to keep them contained. It's a dystopic hellhole, and without T'Challa's super hacking skills, there's basically no chance of escape. The journalists are like "the man who starts a civil war and watches his best friend die must do it for pretty goddamn compelling reasons. Maybe he means for the war to end, but the prison to remain standing, and then be used to house villains, instead of, you know, heroes."
So that's it. The whole thing was just a really elaborate plan by Tony, to ensure that public opinion of super heroes remained high, and that a really gross facility that would otherwise never get public support is built to house actual criminals. I thought I'd come out of this really hating Tony, but his pain is fucking palpable the whole time, and I ended up just having more Tony feels, which is ridiculous, because I already started with a lot of those.
In short, everything hurts.
Thank you for your time.