Civil War? So what is an “event” anyway?

This week we’re getting started with Marvel’s Civil War event. You’ll notice that some of the comics on the schedule have “Civil War” in the title, and others don’t, but beginning with The Amazing Spider-Man #531, all of the comics we’ll read are part of the same story arc. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the kind of weird world of comic book publishing, I’m going to clue you in on some of language used to describe comics series and stories.

Series: I talked about series some in the previous post, so I won’t dwell on it here. A series is like a magazine–it’s published once a month for a period of time. Usually, series focus on one character (like Captain America), a couple of characters (like Deadpool and Cable), or a group of characters (like The Avengers). Some series last for decades (broken up into different time periods on the digital pages). Others only last for a short time and are known as . . .

Limited Series: Limited series that are intentionally only produced for a short period of time. Sometimes limited series are used for a short-term team-up between two characters (Iron Man and Thor, for example) or two different series (like X-Men and The Fantastic Four). Other times limited series feature the core story of a much larger story arc. The Civil War and Civil War: Frontline comics we’ll be reading are both limited series created to support the larger event.

Event: This is the term used to refer to major crossover events that include most of the major regular series in the Marvel universe. In events, there is a core story told through a limited series, but the story arc is much larger and is developed through individual issues in regular series. Events are a standard feature of the Modern Age of comics. (What’s the Modern Age, you ask? Check out this site with information about the eras of mainstream comics.)

If you’re new to comics, this glossary of comic book terms might come in handy for more terms.


About Civil War. I picked this event for us to read for a couple of reasons. First, I like it. That’s a pretty good reason to choose something.

But it’s not just that I like it. It’s widely recognized as one of the most interesting story arcs in the Modern Age. It doesn’t really get any of the graphic novel love that The Dark Knight Returns or Watchmen get (those are practically legitimate these days and are regularly taught in college classes). But I think that’s mostly because the event is so big that it can’t easily be collected into a print book likeĀ The Dark Knight Returns was.

You can get the limited run Civil War series as a graphic novel, but those seven issues tell such a small part of the story, and a lot of the really interesting stuff happens in other series. That’s why we’re reading comics digitally instead of graphic novels. Also, reading the event allows us to see a wide variety of artistic and writing styles, as each series has different writers and illustrators. A graphic novel with a single writer/artist only gives us one style to look at.

All of that aside, the main reason I chose this event is because as this storyline progresses, argument is as important to the story as action, maybe even more important. Since this class is, in part, about rhetoric and persuasion, this is ideal for us. In fact, your second major composition will be analyzing the arguments of this event (you can check out the assignment page here), so keep track of interesting arguments.

Since this event is so huge, we won’t be reading all of the issues associated with it. You can thank me for that later, or you can read all of the issues on your own–whichever suits your preference. I recommend reading them all if you like reading comics. These are some pretty good ones. I’ll be sending you pdf files of pages from some of the issues we don’t read so you’ll get most of the arguments. But if you want to get a sense of the story arc, I’m developing an issue guide, which you can find here.

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