The Avengers Civil War was a conflict between members of the Avengers, that stemmed from tensions between two factions of the team led by Captain America and Iron Man over their divisive opinions of registering into the Sokovia Accords. Helmut Zemo, a man who sought to exact revenge for his family's deaths during the Battle of Sokovia and intended to destroy the Avengers, bombed the United Nations where the law was going to be passed and framed Winter Soldier for the attack.
Captain America's team of Avengers became international fugitives for aiding in Barnes' escape from a JCTC facility in Berlin, prompting Stark's team to chase them on orders of U.S. Secretary of State Thaddeus Ross. Rogers, Stark and Barnes came to a head at a HYDRA facility in Siberia to stop Zemo, but instead ended up fighting each other when Zemo revealed Barnes' role in the murder of Stark's parents, fracturing the Avengers as a team. Although successful in his plan, Zemo was subsequently apprehended by T'Challa, Prince of Wakanda, and was given to the JCTC.
With the Avengers in disarray and some continuing to live as fugitives of the law, the team was unable to combat new emerging threats in unity, which ultimately resulted in the Snap. Rogers and Stark ultimately set aside their personal differences to reassemble the team for a final mission to resurrect the victims of the Snap, resolving their conflict.
Age of Heroes
In 2009, Tony Stark publicly admitted that he was the armored superhero "Iron Man." Following this disclosure, the number of enhanced individuals increased at an exponential rate, and generated feelings of resentment and fear among the general populace. Yet it was not until after the Battle of New York that the fear of those with powers became more ubiquitous.
As the world realized 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 personal reasons.
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.
Steve Rogers, Natasha Romanoff, and Sam Wilson 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 U.S. government. 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.
In 2015, with S.H.I.E.L.D. in disarray, the Avengers reassembled and worked together to take down HYDRA cells around the world. They raided a Sokovian research base and arrested high-ranking operative Baron Strucker.
During the raid, Stark recovered the Scepter 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. During this time, an enhanced individual, Wanda Maximoff, joined the Avengers. The attacks eventually culminated with the Battle of Sokovia, which caused the death of 177 civilians and $474 billion in damage.
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.
During a confrontation between S.H.I.E.L.D. and an Inhuman faction, a Quinjet loaded with modified Terrigen Crystals fell into the ocean. When the jet reached the bottom of the ocean floor, the crystals dissolved, contaminating a shoal of fish. The fish were later caught, turned into fish oil pills, and distributed worldwide.
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.
In the wake of both the outbreak and the attacks engineered by the Inhuman known as Lash, President Matthew Ellis authorized the creation of the Advanced Threat Containment Unit, which would handle incidents involving the rise of Inhumans.
Months later, a radical hate 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.
As a result, public negativity towards superhumans increased, and the nations of the world began demanding government oversight.
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 stole a biological weapon. Although they secured the weapon, Rumlow managed to escape the facility. After trying to find Rumlow in a public area, Rogers confronted him, and the two engaged in a hand-to-hand duel that ended with Rogers subduing him.
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. 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.
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.
A month later, Thaddeus Ross, who had been recently selected by Matthew Ellis to serve as Secretary of State, met with the Avengers at the Avengers Compound 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.
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 Ultron's creation 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.
Eventually, Stark, Vision, and James Rhodes decided to sign the Accords while Clint Barton refused, citing the fact that he was retired. Rogers, who 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.
While watching his father open the proceedings, T'Challa noticed a commotion outside after a police dog sniffed out a bomb planted in an ADS News van parked outside the Centre. Despite his attempt to evacuate the room, the bomb detonated and decimated the building, killing T'Chaka and several others.
Following the bombing, T'Challa became Wakanda's new monarch. When security footage revealed Bucky Barnes was responsible, T'Challa set out to avenge his father's murder. Meanwhile, Rogers, having learned about the bombing, implored Sharon Carter to help him. She eventually revealed Barnes was in Bucharest, Romania, prompting Rogers and Wilson to track him down.
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.
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.
Sometime later, at the Avengers Compound, 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 Barton was in the room and that he was responsible for the explosion, which was meant to distract Vision while he rescued her.
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, Barnes, and Wilson were.
A Team Divided
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 hangar, but were allowed to take off in the Quinjet after she chose to follow her conscience and used her Taser Disks to stall T'Challa.
As Stark and Rhodes chased the Quinjet, Vision attempted to blast Wilson, who was making sure that the Quinjet escaped, out the sky. However, Wilson 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.
A Truth Revealed
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 after Vision accidentally shoots him. Natasha Romanoff went into hiding, knowing full well she would be arrested for her betrayal.
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 the bombing. 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.
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.
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 about his parents' death and how Rogers never told him this, Stark turns on Rogers and Barnes and attacks them while Zemo made his escape, unaware that T'Challa had overheard his confession.
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, reluctantly 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.
Off the Grid
A few weeks later, Tony Stark, who had since returned to the Avengers Compound, received a package containing a cellphone and a letter from Steve Rogers who apologized for keeping the truth about his parents' death from him 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 freeing them, Rogers and Bucky Barnes traveled to Wakanda and were granted asylum there. T'Challa let Barnes, who was still shaken by his actions, go back into cryogenic stasis at the Wakanda Medical Center until the HYDRA programming was erased. Rogers then left and was joined by Wilson and Natasha Romanoff. The three spent the rest of the year and all of the next year, living as fugitives.
Meanwhile, James Rhodes, regretting his decision to agree with the Sokovia Accords told Thaddeus Ross that because of the accords, it had caused more damage and harm to the Avengers and hopes for protecting the world.
The Impact on S.H.I.E.L.D.
Sometime after Steve Rogers and Bucky Barnes went into hiding, President 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.
During Mace's directorship, multiple Inhumans agreed to sign the Accords, such as Rodriguez and JT James, although James was against it in the first place. Growing to hate what he had become, he allied with the Watchdogs and provided them with access to the list of the Inhumans who signed the Accords.
In 2023, Steve Rogers and Tony Stark made amends with each other at the Avengers Compound. Stark gave Rogers his shield back to him and agreed to help with the Time Heist. Thus, with all the team reassembled, the conflict was officially over.
In chronological order:
- Captain America: Civil War
- Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
- Spider-Man: Homecoming (mentioned)
- Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
- Ant-Man and the Wasp (mentioned)
- Avengers: Infinity War (mentioned)
- Avengers: Endgame (mentioned)
- The Falcon and The Winter Soldier
Behind the Scenes
- According to Anthony and Joe Russo, the Avengers Civil War only truly ended when the Avengers reassembled and Iron Man and Captain America made amends with each other.
- WHIH Breaking News: Attack in Lagos
- Captain America: Civil War
- Iron Man
- Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: 1.01: Pilot
- The Avengers
- Captain America: The Winter Soldier
- Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: 1.22: Beginning of the End
- Luke Cage
- Avengers: Age of Ultron
- Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: 3.01: Laws of Nature
- Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: 3.14: Watchdogs
- Twitter Profile/WHiH Newsfront
- Black Widow
- Avengers: Infinity War
- Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. 3.20: Emancipation
- Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. 3.22: Ascension
- Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: Slingshot: 1.02: John Hancock
- Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: 4.04: Let Me Stand Next to Your Fire
- Avengers: Endgame
- Avengers: Endgame - Audio Commentary