Protecting the Marvel Universe from villains that could conquer or destroy it is a dangerous job, but it's nowhere near as complex as fighting for a cause. That's because when heroes fight for something ideological the battle lines can become muddied, often finding themselves up against former comrades and institutions they worked alongside.
The most famous example of such an ideological schism happening in the Marvel U is of course "Civil War," the 2006-2007 event storyline from writer Mark Millar & artist Steve McNiven. The U.S. government's Super Hero Registration Act ignited an ideological war of liberty versus security between Iron Man, who supported the act, and Captain America, who opposed it. The conflict came to an end when the two generals and their followers clashed on the streets of Manhattan and Captain America realized his point could best be made by surrendering.
What if the Sentintel of Liberty never had this moment of clarity? The conflict between his followers and Tony Stark's could have raged for years, escalating and becoming a war that divided the entire country, just as it had its heroes. This idea fuels writer Charles Soule and artist Leinil Yu's upcoming "Civil War" series as part of Marvel's "Secret Wars" event this July, transporting readers to a ravaged Battleworld domain known as the Warzone.
CBR News spoke with Soule about returning to one of Marvel's most storied and polarizing conflicts, the scope and scale of battle, the combatants who will play key roles in the series and how years of unending war has shaped life in the Warzone.
CBR News: Charles, from what I've read your "Civil War" series continues and escalates the titular event to the point where it becomes much more than an ideological schism between heroes. What can you tell us about the conflict raging in your Battleworld domain, the Warzone, when your series begins? How long has it been raging and how dedicated are its combatants? Given the time that has passed, does each side still have a valid ideological argument?
Charles Soule: When the story opens, the Civil War has been raging for years, and has consumed the entire country. So it's not really just a war between heroes -- non-powered people are involved as well. That said, life goes on. Each side has its own society, cities, infrastructure, etc. It's not like a post-apocalyptic "Terminator"-esque future. It's life during wartime. That's what was interesting to me. I mean, the ideological divide in the original series was compelling -- do you want security, or do you want freedom? The reason it worked so well is that we all have an opinion on that question. In the first book, we had Cap and Iron Man as the figureheads -- here it's gone much further. People have literally picked sides and gone to live in the "nation" that best represents their ideals.
The conflict has developed, too -- I didn't want to have a story that was just about the same questions as Mark Millar and Steve McNiven's great story from 2006-2007. So, this story looks at perpetual war -- its social causes and impacts -- among other things. I think for most people reading it, those questions will feel pretty immediate.
That said, it's not a big social screed -- "Civil War 2" is a huge, awesome superhero action story. Just because it tries to have more going on doesn't mean it's not a fun read.
Captain America and Iron Man were the focal points of the original "Civil War." What kind of presence will they have in your story? Are they P.O.V. characters for the reader? Can you hint or tease how the ongoing conflict has affected them?
Cap and Iron Man are once again the central figures in this story -- but at this point they're statesmen more than generals (although they're generals, too). They've each been struggling with trying to lead their nations during the war that's been going on. They've both changed, as we'll see. Cap in particular never really anticipated being a king, which is where he is when we see him. His side is known as the Blue, and Tony's is the Iron. They each have incredibly cool-looking capital cities, too. The Blue's is known as Liberation, and the Iron's is Resilient Alpha.
With "Inhuman" you've become pretty adept at juggling a very large cast of characters. Is that something you're doing here with "Civil War?" Who are some of the heroes we'll spend time with in this series?
Well, thank you! I definitely think working with large casts is a skill set that takes some time to develop -- but really, every book flows into the next. Anyway, to answer your actual question, yes, the cast of "Civil War" is huge. Many familiar faces from the original story, but as it's been years since that point, many of them have new or adjusted looks and designs. In particular, Tony has a new set of armor that's just amazing -- Leinil Yu did a killer job designing that and all the other cool stuff we see.
Who else -- well, a large part of the story focuses on the seconds-in-command for each of Cap and Tony. Cap works closely with Peter Parker, and Tony has Jen Walters, AKA She-Hulk. I just can't seem to stop writing She-Hulk. However, they, and all the other characters we see, have evolved considerably since the first story. That was one of the best parts of this project for me. I got to work with a pretty broad brush as far as rethinking these characters.
Since "Civil War" is set in a world where the conflict between two heroes has escalated it begs the question -- what happened to the villains of this universe? Is there anything you can share about them at this point?
The terms "heroes" and "villains" have become pretty diffuse at this point. There are people who follow the rules on each side, and those who don't. In the Blue, order is maintained by a de facto police force known as the Punishers. In the Iron, it's something like S.H.I.E.L.D., but again, evolved. We'll see plenty of villain-type characters, but Leinil and I have reimagined them in much the same way we did for the hero characters.
How large is the territory you're dealing with in "Civil War?" Will the conflict in "Civil War" be confined to the Warzone or will other Battleworld domains become involved?
It feels huge. The Warzone is designed to feel like the United States. The Blue is like the American West (mountains and desert) while the Iron is more like the East (forests, coastal regions, etc.) Now, that's the feel we're going for more than anything specific, but we did want to work against a really big canvas. And because it's so big, we can keep the whole story set in the Warzone. It's very self-contained.
I know you're wary of spoilers but what sort of details can you offer up about the action we'll see in "Civil War?" Is this a book primarily about on-the-ground fighting, or are there other types of action involved as well?
Every kind. It's huge. Secret missions with small squads all the way up to huge battles of incredible scale and scope. I really wanted to fulfill the promise of a story called "Civil War."
As you mentioned, bringing to life this event is Leinil Yu, a superstar artist and Marvel event story veteran you haven't worked with yet. Leinil has demonstrated time and time again that he's capable of drawing big action, big emotions, and juggling lots numerous characters. How does it feel to be working with him? What do you enjoy most about his art?
I mean, you pretty much nailed it. I have to think "Civil War" isn't an easy gig for an artist. All the characters, all the new designs and locations, the scope -- and it all still needs to feel real, with the characters acting like people as opposed to cutouts. Leinil has approached all of that with incredible skill and good humor. I mean, he did tell me at one point that he'd never work with me again if I was going to throw things at him like I do in "Civil War 2" -- but I'm sure he was joking. I hope he was joking.
[Laughs] Finally, I read in another interview that this project carries some special weight for you because of when you read the original. How does it feel to be reimagining the outcome of "Civil War?" What did the original series mean to you as a reader and a writer?
"Civil War" was sort of a sea-change moment for me as far as books about superheroes. I realize books had told socially relevant stories before, but for me, living in a post-9/11 NYC, that book struck a chord. So getting to tell a new story centered around that same idea is a huge opportunity. I hope I don't screw it up.
We're trying to do something here that feels new, big and cool, while not disrespecting the amazing work that came before. "Civil War" was such a huge thing in comics at the time -- we'd be dumb to try to recreate that. So, we're taking some of the architecture and telling our own story -- and that's really what comics have done for decades. I think it's good stuff. I'm proud of what we're doing, and I look forward to hearing people's reactions in July.
"Civil War" invades "Secret Wars" this July at Marvel Comics.