Before I start, just to clear, I’m not the type of person who normally reads comics. However, after seeing (and being 100% impressed by) the movie, when I landed on the Civil War novel collection atop the store shelves for only 20 euros (22.5 dollars) I just HAD to get it. I completed reading it a few hours ago and after managing to surpass the original excitement, I’ve started making the more objective comparisons.
WARNING: MAJOR SPOILERS
First off lets start with the simple statement, they’re vastly different, mostly on their FOCUS.
The Captain America: Civil War movie was less about an actual “war” for the independence of super heroes and more about the personal conflict between Tony Stark and Captain America, who was covering for his friend Bucky.
The comic on the other hand was just that, CIVIL WAR. While there was a small subplot about Mr. Fantastic’s and Invisible Woman’s (or whatever her name is) relationship, there wasn’t nearly as much focus put on that as Cap’s friendship with Bucky in the movie, which was actually more of a central plot than the actual heroes’ rights (keep in mind, not saying that’s a bad thing).
With a lot more time to develop more characters, the comic’s Civil War definitely won when it came to scale. The battles were pure chaos, with superhero fighting superhero mercilessly, Shield taking Iron-Man’s side, the participants’ numbers swelling exponentially as the comic went on.
At first I was impressed by the grand scale of the comic, but then as the enthusiasm started to wa(y)ne I looked at it with new eyes. Was that massive level really a good thing? Admittedly few characters got nearly as much development as the movies’ heroes, especially Tony, who wasn’t even the main character, or hell, even Black Panther and Black Widow! While in the comic Tony did have a few moments of saying “God I hope we’re doing the right thing.” at the start, that’s as far as it went, and by the end of it he was back to being all smiley, overconfident and cocky as hell. In direct contrast, the movie’s Iron-Man goes through very deep thought and dilemmas that last until the very end. The “I used to be your friend too.” dialogue in the movie got a pure 10/10 from me. Such raw emotional power was missing from the comic.
And then there are the tactics used in the war… While the movie did make it clear that the two teams might eventually be forced to kill each other, there was some kind of… Noblety to the whole thing (minus the last Cap&Bucky vs Tony fight). In the comics on the other hand things got really darker, making me personally vote for Captain America as the moral winner, despite my supporting of Tony in the movie. In the comics Iron-Man and Shield make use of super villains. No, not simple anti-heroes or at least the noblest of villains (who end up volunteering to help Cap before being shot to death by punisher), but for the most part PURE PSYCHOS.
Venom?! Taskmaster?! Jack’o’Lantern?! What I think is Lady Deathstrike?! Were these really the most stable guys you could find to represent justice?! Hey, next time how about you enlist Dormammu and Galactus while you’re at it?! Oh, not to mention THE KILLER THOR ROBOT. What?! Wasn’t one Ultron enough Tony?! (I know in the comics he was made by Ant-Man but still…) But hey, maybe we’re being unfair with them and they’ll display logical, sensible behav… NOOOOPE! First thing they do is beat Spider-Man to near death, then gang-up on Cap.
But enough ditching the comic, because lets be fair, it did have its fair share of great moments. Goliath’s (who?) death was indeed a powerful moment, the first actual casualty of the war, as was Punisher refusing to fight back against Cap, Spidey’s fight with Tony, and of course, Cap’s realization at the end that they were no longer being heroes.
The final question is though, was the sheer scale of the thing and the notable epic moments in the comic enough to surpass the well-directed fights and emotional dramas of the various characters in the movie? The answer? No. I do admit that the comic had its own strengths, but the villain-recruiting of all things did it for me. It was impossible to stay neutral when you saw these guys take on a side. Team Iron-Man were the “bad” people, team Cap the “good guys”, the end. In the movie (a movie called CAPTAIN AMERICA even) this was a highly debatable, controversial subject. Here it was pretty much clear as day. And in the end, if the reader himself doesn’t feel divided, a war, even one of that magnitude, holds little more interest than a spectacle.