[editor's note, Feb. 16, 2017: Newsarama senior editor Michael Doran had a crazy theory a couple years back about Marvel's next Civil War. It didn't happen exactly that way, of course, but there eventually was another, different Marvel Civil War that just concluded. But just for fun we're revisiting that story today, in response to Thursday morning's latest Marvel teaser (Generations by Alex Ross , seen above and below).]
Originally published March 3, 2014: Let’s be clear about this from the start — the following is not a "rumor." It’s not a planted information leak or otherwise based on any inside knowledge. This, as our title qualifies, is just a homegrown theory — speculation based on breadcrumbs of information, attempting to map out from afar where the trail will lead.
That all said, our inner GPS system is wondering if Marvel is blazing a trail to their next Civil War event?
Let’s establish some facts here first: 2006-2007’s Civil War was far and away not only Marvel’s most commercially successful "event"/publishing endeavor of the last decade, but it was also arguably the comic book industry's biggest commercial success story during that time (maybe someday someone will calculate all of The Walking Dead’s collection sales and we’ll have a healthy debate). Its early issues sold better than 300k a piece, and it was one of the few event titles whose sales actually went up from the first to second issue.
Marvel eventually returning to the valuable brand and formula in some fashion is more likely a matter of "when" than "if."
The challenge for the publisher, if and when they ever do attempt a follow-up, is devising an original premise that isn’t just a redo of the ideological hero-vs.-hero formula of the first, but has enough thematic weight to legitimately be branded another Civil War.
2012’s Avengers vs. X-Men was certainly a play on the popular brand-vs.-popular brand theme, but there was too much fractional divide between the worlds of the mutants and the Avengers-based superheroes to legitimately have been called a “civil” war, and Marvel astutely didn’t go there.
So who could Marvel pit against one another that could genuinely represent a war of ideology amongst those who consider themselves of the same community, family and culture, but also be big and broad enough to involve their biggest superhero franchises?
Hold that thought for a moment…
What else do we know about Marvel events? Well, we know they don’t ever really end. The conclusion of a Marvel or DC event almost always just winds up planting the seeds of another event. Crisis (apologies, DC) begets crisis. There’s rarely a dull or down moment in the Marvel Universe, and two of the publisher’s more recent events, both largely orchestrated by Marvel event conductor-in-chief Brian Bendis, seem to be establishing time travel as an increasingly important element in the Marvel U.
The Bendis co-written Avengers vs. X-Men led to the time-displaced original X-Men being pulled from the past to help combat what the X-Men believe to be a corrupted Cyclops in All-New X-Men.
2013’s Age of Ultron was steeped in time travel — with Ultron attacking the present from the future and Wolverine and Invisible Woman traveling to the past to try to prevent the future/present and just making things worse. It also apparently was the straw that broke the camel’s back – if the camel is the space/time continuum in the Marvel Universe. After Age of Ultron’s egregious abuse, the walls of reality between parallel universes began to collapse, causing ripples across many titles.
All-New X-Men is prominent, as they discovered that they could not send the young, original X-Men back to their own time, but it isn't the only ongoing Marvel series where time travel is playing a major role.
Time travel has been a part of Uncanny Avengers — the first Marvel NOW! series out of the gate — almost since the start, and that series may offer the reason for All-New X-Men’s troubles, as a “time sink” device used by the Apocalypse twins is currently preventing any time travel. They’re using it to keep Kang and his army of time-displaced or alternate-reality heroes and villains out of the “present day” of the Marvel Universe, but it could be causing some of the other problems, too.
In New Avengers, the collapsing realities have been the central conceit of the Illuminati reforming in the first place. As worlds continue to end, taking their universes with them, the assemblage of heroes including Beast, Mr. Fantastic, Namor, Black Bolt, and more, have been trying to devise a way to keep the main Marvel Universe safe – preferably without killing billions or trillions of lives in other worlds (though they’re not beyond that possibility).
The Hulk traveled the busted-ass time stream in Mark Waid’s Incredible Hulk for a while, and now the apparent Avengers of the past (although there may be more to that story than meets the eye) are poised to battle the Avengers of the present in the pages of Avengers.
Heck, even Spider-Man 2099 is running around in contemporary New York due to the events of Age of Ultron and the continued muddling of the time stream.
Finally, and admittedly this is more of a ‘dimensional’ issue than time-based one, the Ultimate Universe suffered perhaps the worst of the space/time collapse, as Galactus was sent from the “616” main Marvel Universe over to that world. There, he merged with their Gah Lak Tus swarm, and very nearly took out their world entirely, killing heroes such as Captain America in the process.
So then, what does all this have to do with a sequel to Civil War?
What ideological line of division amongst heroes could Marvel use to legitimately fuel another broad scale, commercially blockbuster civil war? How about the one Bendis has already established in All-New X-Men — Marvel's biggest heroes against themselves? The purer, less jaded and scarred idealists of Marvel’s past vs. their own war-worn, pragmatist counterparts of the present. 'Lighter' vs. 'darker' ... era vs. era.
Maybe eve a future version of the Marvel hero community could become involved, trumping the original concept by making it a three-way Mexican stand-off, expanding what happened in X-Men: Battle of the Atom out into the full Marvel Universe.
Truly a Marvel Civil War for the Ages.
Comic book readers love nostalgia, homages to the past, and contemporary revivals of classic concepts. They love alternate futures. The love hero face---offs and team-ups and universe-wide events (despite what some may say on Facebook).
Fans loved the philosophical questions the original series posed.
This version of Civil War 2 would have ALL of those things. Imagine Luke Cage rocking the yellow disco shirt and tiara against his modern-day counter-part. The original Defenders against the New Avengers. Past Xavier vs. current Cyclops.
The possibilities are endless, as is the potential.
Or an idea whose 'time' has come?