The Marvel Universe has always had problems with masked identities. From the Sentinels and the Mutant Registration Act to Jonah Jameson and his tirades against Spider-Man, masked heroes and villains are usually the object of scorn. However, when a group of heroes inadvertently destroy a small town, the scales of tolerance are tipped and the civilians call for the cataloguing of the super-hero community. The mini-series, "Civil War", details with the inevitable factions that arise and the effects is has on some of the greatest heroes in the Marvel Universe. Caution: Possible spoilers ahead.
Speedball, Night Thrasher, Namorita, and Microbe (the New Warriors, reality-show stars and superheroes) are outside a nondescript house in Connecticut, debating on whether or not to enter the house and take down four villains who are hiding out in it. The villains (Coldheart, Nitro, Speedfreek, and Cobalt Man) notice the young heroes, and a fight ensues. Speedfreek, Coldheart, and the Cobalt Man are easily taken down. Nitro proves to be a bit more of a hassle, however, and Namorita goes after him. In response to this, Nitro unleashes a devastating explosion that levels the small town of Stamford and leaves few survivors.
At some point later, many superheroes have arrived to help find survivors and generally clean up. Iron Man tells Captain America that Nitro was seen fleeing the scene in the back of a pick-up truck, but Captain America only cares about the tremendous loss of life that occurred for a reality show. The X-Men and a squad of Sentinels are there, as well. The devastation and distrust surrounding the heroes leads a superhero called Goliath to declare that this is the straw that broke the camel's back.
Later, Tony Stark attends a memorial service for Stamford. An angry mother confronts him about his part in the rise and popularity of superheroes. This is only the tip of the iceberg, as the Human Torch is later violently attacked outside a club in New York.
The next morning, a number of heroes have arrived at the Baxter Building to discuss the Superhero Registration Act. Under the act, the heroes would be given assignments by the government, as well as a salary and benefits. However, the heroes would have to give up their secret identities. Of course, the various heroes are split on the issue.
Meanwhile, at the SHIELD Helicarrier, Commander Maria Hill demands that Captain America track down and arrest the heroes who think that the Registration Act is a bad idea. Taken aback, Captain America refuses then fights his way out of the Helicarrier, supposedly going underground. However, this act gives those against the Registration a leader.
Back at the Baxter Building, a new guest has arrived and his arrival does not bode well for the coming events. This guest is Uatu, the Watcher. At some point later in Washington DC, Iron Man tells several political officials to go ahead with the Superhero Registration Act and that he, Mister Fantastic, and Yellowjacket will take care of Captain America.
Remarkably, the first issue of a massive event mini-series actually starts and moves the plot along at a brisk pace. While there are few surprises for those who are interested in this mini-series (especially since most Marvel books were carrying a short preview), it still manages to entertain the reader. On the visual side, the art was befitting of a mini-series that could potentially change the way the Marvel Universe operates.
The first issue lays everything out and starts moving things along, and it looks great while doing it. The only reason it does not merit five webs is because the next issue needs to have a chance to be better than this one.