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"An empire toppled by its enemies can rise again. But one which crumbles from within? That's dead... forever."
Helmut Zemo[src]

The Avengers Civil War was a conflict between members of the Avengers, that was semi-orchestrated by Helmut Zemo, who sought to exact revenge for his family's deaths during the Battle of Sokovia.

Background

Age of Heroes

"The world is filling up with people that can't be matched, can't be controlled."
Nick Fury[src]

In 2009, Tony Stark announced to the world that he was the armored superhero known as "Iron Man".[4] Immediately following Stark's disclosure, the number of enhanced individuals increased exponentially, generating strong feelings of resentment and fear among the general populace. It was not until after the Battle of New York, however, that the fear of those with powers became more ubiquitous.[5][6]

As the world realized that humanity was not alone in the universe, public opinion of the Avengers became increasingly divided. While many regarded the Avengers with praise, others either called for their arrest or resented them for the destruction caused.
Battle of Triskelion 2

The fall of S.H.I.E.L.D.

In 2014, the peacekeeping organization S.H.I.E.L.D. put Project Insight, a secret operation that would prevent future threats to international security, into effect. Unbeknownst to all, HYDRA, who had been embedded within the organization since the end of World War II, attempted to use the project to achieve their goals and establish a new world order.

Captain America and his allies successfully exposed HYDRA but were forced to release S.H.I.E.L.D.'s classified files on the Internet, which resulted in S.H.I.E.L.D. being disavowed and labeled a terrorist organization by the international community. Despite mass panic over the fact that there was no one left to protect the world, a new S.H.I.E.L.D. emerged under the direction of Phil Coulson and worked in secret to defeat HYDRA.[7][8]

Meanwhile, on a smaller scale, enhanced vigilantes such as Daredevil, Spider-Man, and Luke Cage emerged, attracting the attention of local news networks.[9][10][11]

Ultron Offensive

With S.H.I.E.L.D. in disarray, the Avengers reassembled and worked together to take down HYDRA cells around the world. Their mission climaxed in 2015 when they raidedSokovian research base and arrested high-ranking operative Wolfgang von Strucker.

During the raid, Stark recovered the Scepter wielded by Loki during the Battle of New York, which Strucker used for his experiments. Stark later discovered an artificial intelligence hidden within the scepter's gem and used it to create the Ultron Program.

However, the program became self-aware and convinced itself that humanity was responsible for preventing peace. Ultron proceeded to launch a series of attacks with the ultimate goal of global genocide. The attacks eventually culminated with the Battle of Sokovia, which caused the death of 177 civilians and $474 billion in damage.[12][2]

Battle of Sokovia

The Avengers fight the Ultron Sentries

Immediately following the Ultron Offensive, public opinion of both the Avengers and "gifted people" worsened. Many people went as far as threatening to expose them and often referred to them as freaks.[12]

Inhuman Outbreak

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Inhumans are revealed to the world

During a confrontation between S.H.I.E.L.D. and a faction of Inhumans, a Quinjet filled with Terrigen Crystals crashed into the ocean and contaminated a shoal of fish. The fish were later caught, turned into fish oil pills, and distributed worldwide.[13]

Though S.H.I.E.L.D. pulled some of the product off store shelves, several people consumed what was not caught and, in doing so, discovered their true heritage.[14]

In the wake of both the outbreak and several attacks engineered by the Inhuman known as Lash, the Advanced Threat Containment Unit was formed in order to handle incidents involving the rise of Inhumans.[14]

At the same time, a radical group known as the Watchdogs emerged and attacked an ATCU facility, killing all of the personnel inside. They later broadcasted the terrorist act, using the Battle of Sokovia as an excuse for their actions.[15]

As a result, public negativity towards superhumans increased and the nations of the world began demanding government oversight.[16]

The Lagos Catastrophe

"Our people's blood is spilled on foreign soil not only because of the actions of criminals but by the indifference of those pledged to stop them. Victory at the expense of the innocent is no victory at all."
T'Chaka[src]

Approximately one year after the Ultron Offensive, the Avengers learned that former HYDRA sleeper agent Brock Rumlow, who had aligned himself with several mercenaries, had been sighted in Lagos, Nigeria.

Captain America Civil War 13

Brock Rumlow's team storms the IFID

Upon arriving in Lagos, the Avengers learned Rumlow's team was planning to break into a lab belonging to the Institute for Infectious Diseases and steal a biological weapon. Although they secured the weapon, Rumlow managed to escape. Rogers confronted him and the two engaged in a hand-to-hand duel that ended with Rogers subduing the former STRIKE commander. When Rogers pressed Rumlow for information about his employer, the latter distracted him by mentioning Bucky Barnes before activating a suicide bomb attached to his vest, intent on taking Rogers with him.

Captain America Civil War 89

Wanda Maximoff in the wake of the chaos

Wanda Maximoff contained the explosion and attempted to move the blast away. However, she moved it too close to a nearby building and inadvertently caused an explosion that killed 26 people, with several relief aid workers from Wakanda among the dead.[2]

The Sokovia Accords

"For the past four years, you've operated with unlimited power and no supervision. That's an arrangement the governments of the world can no longer tolerate."
Thaddeus Ross to the Avengers[src]

With the catastrophe in Lagos deemed a public relations disaster, several international politicians, chief among them Wakanda's reigning monarch T'Chaka, called for the United Nations to create a system of accountability.[2]

More than a month after the attack, Thaddeus Ross, who had been recently selected by Matthew Ellis to serve as Secretary of State, met with the Avengers at the New Avengers Facility and informed them that the United Nations was preparing to pass the Sokovia Accords, a set of documents that would oversee the increasing number of enhanced individuals while establishing a subcommittee that would monitor their movements.

Captain America Civil War 106

Thaddeus Ross attempts to prove his point

Ross went on to explain that anyone who refused to sign would be forced to "retire" and left the facility so the team could discuss the matter privately. The team immediately became divided over the issue of government oversight, with Stark supporting the accords due to his guilt over the destruction of Sokovia and Rogers opposing them due to his strong distrust of government agencies. 

During the discussion, Vision noted that, in the six years since Stark revealed himself as Iron Man, both the rate of hostile enhanced individuals and the number of potentially world-ending events grew exponentially. While Stark agreed, Rogers argued that they would be surrendering the right to choose if they agreed to sign.[2]

The Vienna Bombing

"At least 12 are dead, including Wakanda's King T'Chaka. Officials have released a video of a suspect who they have identified as James Buchanan Barnes, the Winter Soldier. The infamous HYDRA agent linked to numerous acts of terrorism and political assassinations."
―News Report[src]

Eventually, Stark, Vision and James Rhodes decided to sign the Accords while Clint Barton refused, citing the fact that he was retired. Rogers, who was forced to put the discussion on hold after learning that Peggy Carter died in her sleep, confided in Natasha Romanoff that he stood by his beliefs.

Three days later, the United Nations arranged a formal ceremony at the Vienna International Centre in Vienna, Austria. Among those in attendance were Romanoff, King T'Chaka, and his son T'Challa. T'Chaka accepted Romanoff's apology but was saddened to hear that Rogers was not in attendance.

Captain America Civil War 10

The Vienna International Centre is destroyed

While watching his father open the proceedings, T'Challa noticed a commotion taking place outside the Centre and discovered that a bomb had been planted in a news van. Despite T'Challa's attempt to evacuate the room, the bomb detonated and decimated the building, killing T'Chaka and several others. Immediately following the bombing, T'Challa became Wakanda's new monarch. When security footage revealed that Bucky Barnes was responsible for the bombing, T'Challa set out to avenge his father's death.

Meanwhile, Rogers learned about Barnes' supposed role in T'Chaka's death and implored Sharon Carter to help him. She eventually revealed that Barnes was in Bucharest, Romania, prompting Rogers and Sam Wilson to track him down.[2]

Conflict

Capture of Winter Soldier

Captain America Civil War 70

Captain America follows Black Panther

"Congratulations, Cap. You're a criminal."
War Machine to Captain America[src]

Rogers and Wilson managed to find Barnes living in a Bucharest safe house only to learn that both T'Challa and local law enforcement were also in pursuit. This led to a high-speed chase through the city, which came to an end when Rhodes apprehended the four and escorted them to the Joint Counter Terrorist Centre in Berlin. Barnes was then placed in a contained cell while Everett Ross arranged for Theo Broussard to speak with him.

Meanwhile, Stark attempted to persuade Rogers to sign the Accords. The conversation became heated when Stark revealed that he confined Wanda to the New Avengers Facility.[2]

Escape from the Joint Counter Terrorist Centre

Captain America Civil War 92

Bucky Barnes attacks Tony Stark

"What do you want?"
"To see an empire fall."
Steve Rogers and Helmut Zemo[src]

As Stark and Rogers continued arguing, "Broussard" arrived and met with Barnes. Before the discussion officially began, the power suddenly went out. Broussard then recited a set of conditioned trigger words that were used when Barnes was a HYDRA operative. His programming reactivated, Barnes broke free of his restraints and went on a rampage throughout the facility. After overpowering Romanoff, T'Challa, Carter, and Stark, Barnes made his way to the roof, where he attempted to escape via a helicopter. Rogers, meanwhile, reached the roof and grabbed the helicopter's landing gear in a desperate attempt to stop Barnes from escaping, but caused the copter to fall off the helipad and into the ocean. Rogers saved Barnes from drowning while Carter allowed Wilson to escape with their confiscated equipment.

After taking Barnes to a remote location, Rogers reunited with Wilson and began interrogating Barnes. Barnes revealed several personal facts about Rogers' life before explaining that Broussard wanted information about a HYDRA facility that housed five other Winter Soldiers, all of whom would prove to be unstoppable if revived them. Rogers and Wilson discussed the situation, deciding that Stark would not be able to assist them due to the accords. Wilson then mentioned that they don't have to fight on their own and offered to call Ant-Man for assistance.

Meanwhile, Stark traveled to New York City and recruited Peter Parker, who was secretly the vigilante, known as Spider-Man. Parker accepted on the condition that his aunt continued to remain unaware of his activities. Stark agreed and decided to upgrade his new ally's equipment, giving him a high-tech suit and web-shooters.[2]

Rescue of Wanda Maximoff

"Cap needs our help. Come on."
Hawkeye to Scarlet Witch[src]

Sometime later, at the New Avengers Facility, an explosion prompted Vision to investigate while Maximoff stayed behind. Suddenly realizing she was not alone, she used her powers on a kitchen knife to attack the intruder. Maximoff quickly learned that Clint Barton was in the room and that he was responsible for the explosion, which was meant to distract Vision while he rescued her. 

Vision vs Scarlet Witch

Wanda Maximoff attacks Vision

Vision suddenly returned and confronted Barton in a fierce duel that ended with the synthetic being overpowering his former ally. At the last moment, however, Barton convinced Maximoff to take down Vision, which she reluctantly did. The two fled the compound and recruited Scott Lang before making their way to Germany, where Rogers was waiting with Barnes and Wilson.[2]

A Team Divided

"I'm trying to keep you from tearing the Avengers apart."
"You did that when you signed."
Iron Man and Captain America[src]

Rogers and his team assembled at Leipzig/Halle Airport in Schkeuditz, where they planned to take a Quinjet to Siberia, where the HYDRA facility was located.

Civil War Clash

The Clash of the Avengers begins

Before they could make their way to the Quinjet, sirens went off, indicating that the airport was being evacuated. Rogers instructed the others to suit up and confronted Stark's faction on the airport runway. Rogers tried to convince Stark that Barnes was being framed, but the latter refused to listen and the two factions engaged in a fight that resulted in mass destruction. 

In an extensive amount of devastation had happened, Lang decided to test the Ant-Man Suit's latest upgrade and reversed the suit's ability to manipulate atomic space, growing incredibly large while providing a distraction for Barnes and Rogers. However, he was taken down by Parker, Rhodes, and Stark.

Barnes and Rogers were then confronted by Romanoff in the hanger, but allowed to take off in the Quinjet after she chose to follow her conscience and used her Taser Disks to stall T'Challa.

Captain America Civil War 76

Tony Stark holds an injured James Rhodes

As Stark and Rhodes chased the Quinjet, Vision attempted to blast Falcon, who was making sure that the Quinjet escaped, out the sky. However, Falcon noticed the Energy Blast and moved out the way as the blast hit Rhodes in his power core, who plummeted to the ground and was knocked unconscious.[2]

A Truth Revealed

"Let's reroute the satellites, start facial scanning for this Zemo guy."
"You seriously think I'm gonna listen to you after that fiasco in Leipzig? You're lucky you're not in one of these cells."
Tony Stark and Thaddeus Ross[src]

Sam Wilson, Wanda Maximoff, Clint Barton, and Scott Lang were captured and imprisoned on the Raft while Peter Parker was forced to return home and James Rhodes was left paralyzed from the battle. Natasha Romanoff went into hiding, knowing full well she would be arrested for her betrayal.

Mark XLVI trailer 2

Tony Stark flies to Siberia

Meanwhile, Tony Stark learned that the man claiming to be Theo Broussard was, in fact, Helmut Zemo who murdered the real Broussard and framed Barnes for Bombing of the Vienna International Centre. Stark attempted to tell Thaddeus Ross what he had learned but was rebuffed. Stark then decided to take matters into his own hands and convinced Wilson to reveal where Rogers and Barnes were headed. Knowing full well that his actions would violate the Sokovia Accords, Stark lied to Ross before donning the Mark XLVI Armor and flying to Siberia, unaware that T'Challa was secretly following him.[2]

Battle at the HYDRA Siberian Facility

"I've lost everyone. And so will you."
Helmut Zemo to Captain America[src]

Having arrived in Siberia, Rogers and Barnes infiltrated the HYDRA facility only to find themselves face-to-face with Stark. Stark immediately apologized for not believing Rogers and reconciled with his comrade before the three made their way deeper into the compound.

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Captain America and Iron Man confront Helmut Zemo

The three entered the room where the other Winter Soldiers were being kept and found that they had all been shot in the head execution-style. Zemo suddenly made his presence known, stating that he orchestrated the entire conflict for the sole purpose of avenging his family's deaths. Zemo proceeded to play security footage from December 1991, which revealed that Barnes was responsible for the deaths of Howard and Maria Stark. Blind with rage, Stark attacked Rogers and Barnes while Zemo made his escape, unaware that T'Challa had overheard his confession.

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Iron Man vs. Captain America

The battle climaxed when Stark dismembered Barnes' prosthetic arm, prompting Rogers to disable Stark's armor before departing with his childhood friend. Stark stated that Rogers did not deserve his shield, which his father made. Rogers momentarily paused, dropped the shield and walked away with Barnes.

Meanwhile, T'Challa confronted Zemo, who recounted his motivations and apologized for killing T'Chaka before attempting to commit suicide. T'Challa managed to stop him in time and turned him over to Everett Ross.[2]

Aftermath

The End of the Beginning

T'ChallaCivilWar

T'Challa and Steve Rogers look out on Wakanda

"You know if they find out he's here, they'll come for him."
"Let them try."
Steve Rogers and T'Challa[src]

Sometime later, Tony Stark received a package containing a cellphone and a letter from Steve Rogers who apologized for keeping the truth about his parents' death before promising that he would be there if he needed help. Moments after reading the letter, Stark received a telephone call from Thaddeus Ross, who informed him that Sam Wilson, Wanda Maximoff, Clint Barton, and Scott Lang had all escaped from the Raft.

After being pardoned and granted asylum in Wakanda by T'Challa, Rogers allowed Bucky Barnes, who was still shaken by his actions, to go back into cryogenic stasis until the HYDRA programming was either suppressed or erased completely.[2]

The Impact on S.H.I.E.L.D.

GlennTalbot-BarChat-SokoviaAccords

Glenn Talbot discusses the Accords

"I'm here because the President sent me. The Sokovia Accords are the law of the land now."
Glenn Talbot to Phil Coulson[src]

Shortly after Steve Rogers and Bucky Barnes went into hiding, Matthew Ellis sent Glenn Talbot to meet with Phil Coulson and get him to reveal any S.H.I.E.L.D.'s "undocumented assets". To Talbot's annoyance, Coulson refused to divulge any information, firmly stating that S.H.I.E.L.D. worked in the shadows. Nonetheless, Coulson gave Talbot a tour of the Playground and presented him Yo-Yo Rodriguez.[17]

Several months later, with HYDRA obliterated and Hive defeated, S.H.I.E.L.D. was relegitimatized under public servant Jeffrey Mace, who replaced Coulson as Director.[18]

During Mace's directorship, multiple Inhumans agreed to sign the Accords, such as Rodriguez[19] and JT James, although James was against it in the first place. Growing to hate what he had become, he forged an alliance with the Watchdogs and provided them with the access to the list of the Inhumans who signed the Accords as well to eliminate them.[20]

The Question of Effectiveness

Quake Article

Quake's activities make headlines

Around the time S.H.I.E.L.D. was legitimatized, Daisy Johnson went rogue and began to operate as a vigilante. Dubbed "Quake" by the press, her actions prompted many to question the regulations put in place by the Accords.[18]

Appearances

In chronological order:

References

External Links

Wars and Conflicts in Earth History
First Dark Elf Conflict (Pre-2988 B.C - 2988 B.C.) • Kree-Skrull War (995 A.D. - 1995) • Asgard-Jotunheim War (965 A.D. - 2010) • World War II (1939 - 1945) • Johann Fennhoff's Campaign (1946) • Cold War (1947 - 1991) • Chase of Bruce Banner (2005 - 2010) • Chitauri Invasion (2012) • Aldrich Killian's War (2012) • Second Dark Elf Conflict (2013) • Centipede Investigation (2013 - 2014) • HYDRA Uprising (2014) • Quest for the Orb (2014) • Ego's Expansion (Pre-1 A.D. - 2014) • Operation Cerberus (2014) • War on HYDRA (2014 - 2015) • S.H.I.E.L.D. Civil War (2014 - 2015) • Search for the Kree City (2015) • Ultron Offensive (2015) • War against the Inhumans (2015) • Chase of Luke Cage (2015) • Inhuman Outbreak (2015 - 2016) • Grant Ward's Campaign (2015 - 2016) • Frank Castle's War (2015-2016) • War for New York (2016) • Avengers Civil War (2016) • Erik Killmonger's Campaign (2016) • Adrian Toomes' Campaign (2012 - 2016) • Chase of Quake (2016-2017) • Attack on the Sanctums (2017) • Terror in New Orleans (2017) • War for Harlem (2017) • Triad War (2017) • Jigsaw's Campaign (2018) • Chase of Trish Walker (2018) • Infinity War (2018) • Sarge's Campaign (2019) • Izel's Campaign (2019) • Time Heist (2023) • Quentin Beck's Campaign (2024)
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