Any conversations about Civil War with non-Civil War readers requires some form of introduction--and the introduction usually leaves non-readers cold. After the introduction, non-readers than have to be convinced that what's going on in Civil War actually has some emotional content, and then (if there still is a then, because by now who would continue listening?) one can get into the meat of this storyline, now only two issues away from climax. In essence, Civil War can never really be a "great comic." It's appeal stems primarily from it's willingness to shatter the tropes of the Marvel comic line, and it's the sort of thing that is nearly unreadable to a cursory comic fan. It's not that they wouldn't understand it; Mark Millar's writing is some of the least convoluted in this business, it's that much of what makes it so entertaining and unsettling is completely beyond anyone without some relationship with the characters. Someone could pick it up off the shelf and read about Spiderman revealing his secret identity, or the complete and total collapse of Iron Man's friendship with Captain America, and that someone might enjoy it, but without having read about all that Spidey has done (and why) to keep his identity secret in the last forty years of his existence, it's not going to seem as revelatory as it does to those who've devoted a massive amount of time and income to Peter Parker.
While the obsessive comics reader may argue that they're undeservedly bashed (when they're acknowledged at all) by outsiders, the simple numbers are against them. Superhero comics sell better than anything else in this country, the companies that produce them engage in whatever unsavory tactics they can come up with to keep independent comics out of their stores, and the stores that sell this stuff are fiscally incapable of experimenting with alternative sales practice. The low quality of most superhero books, the lack of technical or artistic difference between them, is a reflection of the consumer's lack of willingness to stop buying them. As much as comics fans love to complain about the latest issue of Ghost Rider or X-Men, their refusal to speak with their wallet ensures that everything they dislike will continue and spread.
All of this is why Civil War has been so surprising--it's a comic that seems to be singly designed to infuriate anyone with a love for the status quo. When a new issue shows up (the delay has been horrific between chapters,) message boards and comics shops are explosively filled with complaints, whether because these 40 year old characters are behaving so incredibly different than how people want them too, or maybe because no fan is sure anymore how the twists and turns can be ignored. The Factual itself has been curious--after all, as Civil War progresses, how is it possible to be an Iron Man fan anymore, and what does one call the Fantastic Four now that two of them have quit? There's a considerable amount of change that Civil War brings about--unless the comics themselves set off a big reset button (which has been done, more than once) than Marvel fans will be looking back on 2006 as the year that things became completely different.
Whether Civil War ends up mattering or not, none of this should deter one from how good Civil War # 5 actually is: the wait, as they say, was worth it. Although Steve McNiven will clearly never be an artist anyone can rely on to turn out books in a timely fashion, his art is so ridiculously good that it really doesn't matter. The return of anti-comics favorite asshole, the Punisher, is surprisingly well handled, as is the closing pages total rebuff of Iron Man, courtesy of a Bible-quoting Daredevil. Like all the other issues of Civil War, every characters face and eyes are laden with fear and hate, and every page reads like a movie. This is heavy, dark stuff, and it's unlikely to be fully embraced by anyone, but in a market saturated with total safety, Civil War is the most controversial thing the underwear crew has released in twenty years and if Marvel has any courage at all, it may also become one of the most integral pieces of reading for any comics fans still alive in 2026.
-Tucker Stone, 2006