During a televised raid of a house containing select villains that had recently escaped from the super villain facility at Ryker's Island prison during a massive breakout, the escaped villain Nitro let off a massive explosion that killed the majority of the New Warriors, as well as the children at a nearby elementary school. In the wake of the tragedy, the U.S. Government proposed the Superhuman Registration Act, intending to register all super-powered beings as living weapons of mass destruction and requiring all costumed heroes to unmask themselves before the government and subject themselves to federally mandated standards.
This event triggered negative public opinion against the super-heroes, resulting in the assault of Human Torch (Johnny Storm) by a mob and the request by S.H.I.E.L.D. for Captain America (Steve Rogers) to become part of the enforcement of super heroes to register. When Cap refused, S.H.I.E.L.D. Director Maria Hill ordered S.H.I.E.L.D.'s Anti-Superhuman Response Unit to tranquilize him, but Rogers escaped and went underground.
When the super-heroes met to discuss the best course of action, Uatu the Watcher appeared. As Watchers only appear to monitor key events throughout history, it was noted that his presence did not bode well for the heroes.
In a secret meeting with the President, Iron Man suggested that the President proceed and push the registration act while he, Mr. Fantastic, and Yellowjacket vowed to bring Captain America to the ground.
The Superhero Registration Act became law, and S.H.I.E.L.D. captured the Young Avengers. But little did they know that Captain America and the Falcon were undercover and rescued the Young Avengers, who joined their rescuers in the Resistance.
At a press conference in Washington D.C., Iron Man gave a speech introducing Spider-Man to the podium. Spider-Man then talked about how over the past years, he had kept his identity a secret, then talked about the registration act and how it gives superheroes a choice... to continue the trend Captain America advocates and have people with powers completely unchecked, or that superheroes can go legitimate and earn back a little public interest. To demonstrate his support of the Act, Spider-Man unmasked himself and revealed to the world that he is Peter Parker.
Iron Man traveled to the X-Men Mansion, asking Emma Frost if the X-Men would sign the registration act and join his side. Miss Frost explained to Stark that the X-Men would not sign the registration act because they believe that hunting down registration rebels would be against everything the X-Men stand for, explaining that they know what it's like to fight the good fight while being persecuted. Frost says that as long as the pro-registration side leaves the X-Men alone, they will not join Captain America's side either. While Stark left the mansion, he was approached by Bishop, who asked for a word with Iron Man.
As Captain America, Hercules, Daredevil, and Goliath were discussing their new secret identities, they received news of a petrochemical plant fire with three or four hundred workers trapped inside. Uniting the Secret Avengers, they headed to the plant only for Cable to discover that it was a trap set by Iron Man. Iron Man gave Captain America one last chance to register, offering a chance to explain things. Captain America answers by striking the first blow and disabling Iron Man's armor. A battle ensues, ending with Iron Man savagely beating Captain America, and the return of the long-absent thunder god Thor lashing out against Captain America's Secret Avengers. The war has begun...
Captain America's Secret Avengers