While Captain America: Civil War may feature fewer major easter eggs than many of the Marvel Cinematic Universe films that preceded it, it’s a film chocked full of subtle references and comic book roots. By better understanding these references, viewers can better grasp the history of the MCU and its possible future.
From the origins of its new heroes to the conflicts that could inform the rest of MCU’s Phase 3 of films, eagle-eyed viewers can mine countless crucial details from Captain America: Civil War. Beyond the obvious general adaptation of the 2006 Civil War comic book storyline, every comic book inspiration and crucial easter egg will be detailed here. The more you know, the more you can understand the robust Cinematic Universe and its thrilling future.
Read about the differences between the comic and film in “Captain America: Civil War” – Movie vs Book.
WARNING: THERE ARE MAJOR CIVIL WAR SPOILERS BELOW
Gracing the screen for the first time ever, T’Challa, aka Black Panther, is incredibly faithful to the comics and is given enough backstory during his screentime for viewers to better understand him. However, there are enough small Easter Eggs buried throughout Civil War to give an even greater understanding of the character.
The Black Panther costume is composed of vibranium, the indestructible metal native to Wakanda that also comprises Captain America’s shield. This same metal was stolen by Ulysses Klaue in Age of Ultron and used by the film’s robot villain for a new body. While no direct explanation is given, T’Challa has enhanced speed, strength, and agility apart from his near-indestructible vibranium outfit. In the comics, those abilities are due to a mystical connection with the Wakandan Panther God, who is the inspiration for the warrior title of Black Panther. T’Challa also makes mention of how the Wakandan people believe in the afterlife. In Marvel Comics, the Black Panther is anointed as “King of the Dead,” giving him a connection to all past Black Panthers and control of the undead. Finally, Wakanda is shown for the first time ever in the first of two end credits sequences, showcasing both the advanced technology and deep jungle that have characterized the African nation for decades in comics.
Frank Grillo returns as Hydra agent Brock Rumlow, aka Crossbones, in Civil War after being horribly scarred in the climax to The Winter Soldier. Here, the character wears a black and white skull-emblazoned costume that is far more similar to his comic book look. The costume also uses mechanical gauntlets to give him strength on par with Captain America and armor to withstand attacks, which makes him closer to his massive comic book version.
However, Crossbones kills himself with a suicide bomb, which eliminates him from taking part in his biggest comic book storyline – the murder of Captain America. While a Hydra agent in the film, the comic book Crossbones is a close partner of The Red Skull and helped to kill Cap after his surrender in the finale of Civil War. He is still alive wreaking havoc today.
As the U.S. Secretary of State, Thaddeous “Thunderbolt” Ross (William Hurt) is the face of the government’s push for superhero registration via the Sokovia Accords. However, this isn’t the first time we’ve seen Ross in the MCU. In 2008’s The Incredible Hulk, Ross was an army general fanatically devoted to stopping and capturing Bruce Banner, aka The Hulk. In the time since, he’s worked his way into a governmental position of power, but his anti-superhero beliefs are still present. Only this time, his beliefs have government backing and a more reasonable cause. While his Hulk-related past is never addressed, those familiar with the character will have a deeper insight into his mind.
Six Seasons and a Movie
Prior to their work in the MCU, the Russo Brothers worked on many different TV sitcoms, the most recent and most notable being NBC’s Community. In Winter Soldier, the Russos featured actor Danny Pudi, who starred as Abed Nadir in the series. This time, actor Jim Rash (who played Dean Pelton) makes an appearance as an MIT faculty member following Tony Stark’s speech. Maybe this is the closest thing we’ll ever get to a Community movie?
The Russos also previously worked on many episodes of Arrested Development and the briefest of nods can be seen during Civil War. As the heroes fight at the Berlin airport, the signature “stair car” airport vehicle can be seen in the background, sporting the Bluth’s white and blue design from the comedy. Blink and you’ll miss it!
Spider-Man is limited to approximately 30 minutes of screentime in Civil War, but his time in the film is jam packed with amazing moments and character beats that draw inspiration from his 50 years in comic books. Like the character’s early days, Peter Parker is a high school student living in Queens with his Aunt May. Peter states he has only had his powers for six months (the time gap between Age of Ultron and Civil War) but is already fighting crime. Like the comics, Peter has designed his webbing and web shooters all on his own and hints at the mantra of “with great power comes great responsibility,” which was instilled in him by his Uncle Ben. While not said, his uncle’s death is a clear motivation for him.
While the new Spider-Man suit created by Stark is more technologically enhanced than the traditional costume, its web pattern, spider symbol, and eye size pay tribute to the early Spider-Man costumes. In particular, the thick, shape-changing eyes look similar to his first appearances drawn by Steve Ditko and his following adventures drawn by John Romita, Sr.
In Civil War’s second credits sequence, we return to Peter’s home in Queens, where he happens upon a new piece of tech in his web shooter – The Spider-Signal! Projecting a holographic symbol onto his ceiling, this is the first time Spider-Man has ever had The Spider-Signal on film. In the comics, it’s a light that he shines on criminals to announce his presence and light up the dark. It may serve the same purpose in future films, but it also seems to have an interface on it that may allow Peter access to Stark technology.
Falcon and Redwing
At the very beginning of Civil War, Falcon is shown using a bird-like drone to assist in missions, which he insists on calling Redwing. This is more grounded take on the comic book Redwing – an actual falcon that The Falcon has a telepathic relationship with. That’s a hard sell in the MCU, especially with Falcon not having actual superpowers, but the inclusion of Falcon’s assistant here works great as both character growth and fan service.
Riding the Arrow
The first of two big moments involving Ant-Man, Scott Lang rides one of Hawkeye’s arrows in order to get inside Iron Man’s armor. It’s a move pulled directly from the comics, most specifically Avengers #223. It’s a move that has been used a few different times within the comics and was brought to life in the animated series Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, as well as the video game Marvel vs Capcom 3.
By far the most spectacular moment involving Ant-Man during Civil War is his rapid growth into a two-story tall combatant. While the name isn’t used during the film, Ant-Man has regularly transformed into Giant Man throughout the history of comic books. This transformation and name originally belong to Hank Pym, the first Ant-Man, but many other heroes have taken up the mantle across the decades. Most often, whoever takes on the Giant Man ability can only increase in size, not decrease to miniature levels, and also wears a unique costume. However, the abilities use the same Pym particles as Ant-Man’s shrinking, so it’s only fair that MCU Ant-Man can do both abilities back to back.
Iron Man’s Bleeding Edge Armor
Iron Man has gone through nearly 50 armors in the time since he debuted in 2008’s Iron Man and he’s sporting yet another version in Civil War. Here, the suit most closely resembles his “Bleeding Edge” armor from Volume 5 of his comic book series, which ran in 2010. The comic book version of the costume was a liquid armor composed of nano machines and able to be stored within his body.
The film version features similar light-up nodes across the body like the Bleeding Edge armor, but is not composed of nano machines. It is, however, his most fluid suit yet, pouring over his body after he sticks a finger into a port. It’s a big upgrade from his previous piece-by-piece armor suit-ups.
Daniel Bruhl’s Helmut Zemo is the true villain of Civil War, manipulating the events that push the Avengers into war with one another, even if it was The Avengers themselves that had escalated events to the tipping point. While Zemo shares his identity with a classic Captain America villain, the Zemo of the film has very little to do with the Zemo of the comics.
In the comics, Baron Helmut Zemo is a German supervillain and the son of Baron Heinrich Zemo – a Nazi villain who fought Captain America in WWII. In the modern era, Helmut Zemo still believes in the idea of The Master Race and seeks to conquer the world. He also wears a mask over his scarred face and is deadly with a sword. During the comic book Civil War, Zemo played a minor role as one of the villains conscripted to Iron Man’s side to fight the war. While the Zemo of the film is a master manipulator like the comic version, he has incredibly little to do with the comic villain. However, his survival at the end could lead to future storylines that are closer to the comic.
Scarlet Witch and The Vision
After having both introduced during Avengers: Age of Ultron, Scarlet Witch and The Vision share a large portion of screentime during Civil War. Here, they share discussions concerning the mysterious origins of their powers and their ethical dilemmas as superheroes. While Vision does not understand what the power source in his head truly is, astute followers of the films and comics will know that this is the Mind Gem, one of the six Infinity Stones (or Gems) that controls all aspects of reality. The intergalactic despot Thanos is currently in search of all six, which will give him unlimited power over the universe should he find them and affix them to The Infinity Gauntlet.
In addition, it is clear that Vision is beginning to have feelings toward Scarlet Witch, as he finds himself protective of her, even when they are on opposite sides. But this results in tragedy when he miscalculates and accidentally shoots down War Machine. When Stark asks him how he could be distracted enough to do that, Vision simply answers that he didn’t know he could be distracted, hinting at the burgeoning feelings that he has for Scarlet Witch.
Cybernetic James Rhodes
In the closing moments of the clash between the superhero teams, James “Rhodey” Rhodes is accidentally hit by a laser blast from team member The Vision, which sends him plummeting to the Earth. The result is spinal trauma that causes him to be a paraplegic. Stark manages to outfit his best friend with cybernetic implants to help him walk once again. But this trauma for Rhodes is not without precedent. In the mid-2000s, Rhodes was several injured during a terrorist bombing, but Stark rebuilt him through cybernetic implants and bionic limbs. As a result, Rhodes was more meshed with his War Machine armor than ever and could merge with other pieces of technology and weaponry to boost his own armor. For comic book reasons, Rhodes was eventually returned to normal.
The Raft Prison
In the comic book Civil War, those arrested as criminals under the Superhero Registration Act were interred in Prison 42, a maximum security penitentiary located in the anti-matter universe known as The Negative Zone. In the movie Civil War, those captured are imprisoned in the ocean-based prison called The Raft. Clearly, The Raft is far more believable within the current state of the MCU, but it also has comic book roots. While not nearly as high tech as the film version, The Raft is an island prison created to specifically house supervillains. In either case, Captain America helps bust out imprisoned superheroes from their registration-related captivity.
Giving Up The Shield
After being defeated by Captain America in brutal one-on-one combat, Stark tells Cap that the shield doesn’t belong to him since Stark’s father made it. In response, Cap leaves the shield behind. But what is Captain America without his shield?
In his 75 years of comic book stories, Cap has lost the shield multiple times, either due to giving it up or having it destroyed. The movie version most closely resembles when he gave up the shield to the U.S. government after retiring as Captain America in both the 1970s, following his disillusionment after the Watergate Scandal, and in the 1990s, when the President of the United States asked him to step down after he teamed up with the Red Skull for complicated reasons. In the ‘70s, Cap took on the identity of Nomad, a hero without a country, while in the ‘90s he operated without an official costume or identity.
After giving up his shield in the ‘90s, Captain America used a prototype photonic energy shield, which could block attacks and be thrown just like his original vibranium version. He used a similar version later on when his shield was destroyed and even later when Bucky Barnes took on the identity of Captain America and used the original shield. Today, The Falcon is the new Captain America, while Rogers has also returned to the role. Falcon uses the original shield while Rogers uses a new version that can split into two pieces.
With Rogers no longer in possession of the shield and gone rogue, could it be that a new character will be elected as the replacement Captain America in future Marvel films? Or maybe Black Panther will create a new shield for Rogers after taking him into Wakanda for safeguarding?
At the very end of Civil War, Captain America has busted his fellow anti-registration Avengers out of The Raft, with the group escaping to Wakanda. Only Tony Stark, The Vision, and James Rhodes remain as government-affiliated Avengers. But it’s clear that Cap and his fellow heroes will continue to fight villainy around the world.
Will there be two Avengers teams now? It seems so. In the comics following Civil War, the anti-registration heroes who escaped capture went underground and formed The New Avengers, who fought crime outside of the law while Iron Man and his Mighty Avengers fought as the public, government-backed team. However, the MCU version is far more hopeful, given that Captain America is both free and alive still, unlike this point in the comic books. The two would clash multiple times until the heroes would reunite in the face of a massive villain takeover during the time known as the “Dark Reign.” Eventually, superhero registration would be repealed and the hero community would mend.
The division within the hero community and two teams will likely be explored in the coming films Doctor Strange, Spider-Man, and Ant-Man and The Wasp until the heroes must reunite against Thanos during Infinity War Parts 1 and 2. Until then, and possibly after, the landscape of the Marvel Cinematic Universe may be severely altered.