I originally purchased the main seven Marvel Civil War comics via an iPod app that lets you buy a small selection of Marvel comics. Unsurprisingly, I didn't think much of it, but I decided maybe I needed the whole story. Against the better judgement of, well, pretty much any rational being, I went ahead and obtained every single issue. I've also found a chronological list of the issues - though of course since some of them occur at the same time, and time lapses are a nigh-universal literary device, it's a little hard to say if this is accurate. Accurate or not, though, it's the order I'm going to subject you all to. There's just over 100 issues on the list, I might have to skip over some of them and a few are sketchbooks, recaps, or otherwise peripheral material that I didn't even bother to get, but I'll try to get them all in if I can, so buckle up.
The event starts with an issue called "The Road to Civil War: The New Avengers: Illuminati", a title which is inauspicious in more ways than I can comprehend. I would like to note, and this is not a complaint, that the cover prominently features something that does not appear in this issue: Namor's unsettling speedo.
It starts in the undefined regions of the distant-but-not-too-distant past with exactly what it says, a clandestine meeting of the world's most influential superheroes. Iron Man, Doctor Strange, Professor Xavier, Mr. Fantastic, Black Bolt, Namor the Sub-Mariner, and Black Panther. And here I've already got something I've just got to nitpick. Why Iron Man AND Mr. Fantastic?
I get why the rest of them are there. Black Bolt, Namor, and Black Panther aren't just superhuman, they're major sovereign powers, and Black Panther is also kind of the host to this little party. Charles Xavier pretty much represents the entire mutant world. Stephen Strange is the foremost authority on all things supernatural, with corresponding power in every sense of the word.
But Tony Stark and Reed Richards are just... rich, and kind of smart I guess. They're also both dicks, a fact which is well-established before this point in continuity and will only become more evident as time goes by. I could even see having one of them around, because most of the superhuman activity in the universe seems to take place in New York and they're prominent members of the supercommunity. But both?
Well, it turns out the whole meeting is Stark's idea, so that's why he's there, which is too bad because Richards needs an excuse to be there even more than Stark does but hey whatever. And T'challa agreed to allow six incredibly powerful foreigners into his castle, without knowing the purpose for such a gathering. This doesn't sound like a very wise move, especially since two of them could take out a fair chunk of the continent with a few words. Generally when meetings like this happen you at least want to know what the meeting is about ahead of time. I dunno, maybe he just trusts them. After all, they're clearly all trustworthy individuals, not some secretive league of secrecy, right?
Tony wants to talk to everyone about the Kree-Skrull war, and how Earth had it coming (apparently Earth is the domestic violence victim in an interplanetary threesome). He suggests that all the heroes of Earth should organize, so that maybe next time, aliens will see that Earth has defenders and maybe they won't hit us again.
By the way, as a little side note, guess what happens right after all of Stark's plans are implemented.
Pretty much everyone tells Stark his idea is retarded and also dumb. They do agree that they can work together as a smaller group to keep each other informed, in an attempt to defy Poor Communication Kills syndrome, but Namor insists they have to make sure that the meetings are private and nobody can betray them. Xavier grudgingly agrees to read everyone's mind to make sure nobody does if it's unanimously decided that he should do so. Everyone agrees to that, except - surprise - T'challa, who points out that these six have just decided that they're better than literally everyone else in the world and says he wants no part of it. Y'know, T'challa, you wouldn't have to waste your time listening to Stark's megalomaniacal plans if you would make sure you know what people want to talk about before you let them use your home for secret meetings.
T'challa walks out, and the rest of them talk a little more about how much they like the idea. Stark then asks if there's any other business while acknowledging that T'challa is probably instructing his guards on how to dispose of everyone's bodies right about now. Xavier mentions some long-forgotten X-Men storyline.
Then we cut away to the not-so-distant past.
Wait, sorry, looks like a page from some other comic was accidentally included at this point.
X2 PERSPECTIVE SWITCH COMBO!
Turns out the aforementioned page had been included to establish that the Hulk was rampaging in Las Vegas. Bruce, everyone knows the games are rigged, so if you're a sore loser maybe you should go somewhere else for your vacation.
For those enthusiasts who don't actually follow comics well enough to know this, that woman is Maria Hill, who took over SHIELD after Nick Fury went into hiding. She proceeds to suggest that repeat-offender supervillainy is the fault of superheroes, because the heroes never kill the villains, and just leave them to be locked up in the nearest Cardboard Prison. Charming lady.
Okay, let's see. First, you're the interim director of SHIELD. You know what your predecessor did, despite the risk of an international incident? Killed a supervillainess. You know what the legal system does to people who cause as much death and destruction as the average supervillain? Executes them. I guess what I'm saying is that if indeed supervillainy is entirely because the villains aren't killed, there are a lot more people responsible for that decision than the hero who stops the villain, so don't blame the guys who keep cities from being leveled, you dumb bitch. Second, you're using this logic to say that someone ought to kill Dr. Banner, who legitimately can't control himself when he's Hulking Out, and who possesses no powers at all other than strength and invulnerability proportionate to his anger. If there's not somewhere you can send him to make him less of a threat, like another dimension, or an island in the Pacific, or space, what are our tax dollars paying for?
Oh, Stark has an idea: Shoot the Hulk into space. To borrow a line from Linkara: Don't you hate it when a bad comic reminds you of a good comic you could be reading instead? Namor objects, because apparently the idea of the world's first IPBH (that's "Interplanetary Ballistic Hulk") isn't awesome enough for him. The rest of the Illuminati believe it's necessary.
After Doctor Strange breaks up the fight, Namor tells them, 'Banner will come back from whence you send him and he will kill you all! And he'll be right!' Given that despite all his xenophobia and paranoia, he's proven himself to be the smartest person in this comic, it's really unsurprising that he's right about this as well. Having said that, he leaves, presumably quitting the Illuminati. Tony then narrates a few recap panels that show the Hulk being sent away. I'm not quite sure what Dr. Banner thought they meant when they said there was "a job only the Hulk can do" that involved a spaceship.
We cut to the present day. Stark has called the Illuminati together. When they arrive, he says that even though they agreed not to have any more Illuminati meetings, there are special circumstances. Uh, okay, I guess that's as good as, y'know, saying it during their last meeting. Speaking of which, Namor has been invited back even though he made it clear last time he wasn't interested in the way the group operates. Also, Xavier's not present because he's presumed dead after House Of M, which makes one wonder what the point of inviting Black Bolt was, since the only way he can communicate with them is by having someone read his mind and the news Stark has doesn't affect him at all.
Stark reveals the Superhuman Registration Act, and says they all need to support it. Yeah, this is the part you all knew was coming. Strange calls the Act "disgusting", Richards bows his head solemnly, Black Bolt is totally disinterested, and Namor...
Namor sneers at the Act, which is easy for him to do since he's a foreign ruler and as such the Act doesn't apply to him. Tony insists that he and Reed are futurists, which according to him means that they're able to discern the future through sheer intuition. Funny, precognition isn't listed in their official powersets. Despite that, Iron Man proceeds to describe in some degree of detail several significant plot points of the upcoming storyline. Namor, of course, continues to be dismissive of the situation as he mocks Stark's arrogance and then leaves. Strange, seeing how both Richards and Stark believe in the Act, teleports away, admonishing them to never call on him again. Stark expresses regret that Black Bolt can't communicate with them.
The meeting ends with Stark sitting there in his chair, after everyone has left, looking very pathetic. This has to have set some kind of record. Usually, people don't get backed into a corner, requiring a poet to document how alone they are, until the storyline has at least had time to start properly.
The issue concludes with a preview of Marvel Civil War #1. I don't want to say too much, since I'll be getting to that later, but this should give you an idea.