Review: Civil War II: Choosing Sides #5

ChoosingSides5CoverIn the latest installment of the anthology series Civil War II: Choosing SidesAlpha Flight goes on a mission on American soil, Misty Knight and Colleen Wing trade blows with the cast of a cancelled Marvel series providing backup, and the Declan Shalvey/Jordie Bellaire Nick Fury spy saga continues. The Alpha Flight and Nick Fury stories are good, and the Colleen Wing is okay so everything averages out in the end.

The best and strangest story of the bunch is writer Chip Zdarsky and artist Ramon Perez‘s Alpha Flight story featuring a prominent guest appearance from current Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau. Trudeau doesn’t just appear in a blink and miss cameo, but has a substantial role in the issue as he is caught between the clashing factions of Captain Marvel and Iron Man. He is smack dab in the middle of this ideological conflict and has some good points about each side’s from Captain Marvel and Alpha Flight’s civil rights violations to Iron Man’s propensity for hero versus hero conflict.

The big setpiece in this story is a two page sparring session between Trudeau (known for his boxing as well as politics) and Tony Stark as Stark gets some of his guilt and grief about Rhodey’s death in the grief, and Trudeau tries to redirect him towards a path of compromise. Perez composes the sequence expertly with beat panels of punching juxtaposed with quick, barbed lines of dialogue from Stark and Trudeau. I won’t spoil the victor, but the issue ends with both Team Iron Man and Team Captain Marvel not feeling well.

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Having a guest star from the world of, let’s say, non-fiction puts some much-needed perspective on the Civil War II event where it’s starting to look like both sides are in the wrong as the body/injury count continues to rise. Chip Zdarsky balances his zany sense of humor (There are so many cheesy Canada themed jokes in this story.) with a critical perspective on Marvel’s latest summer event while Ramon Perez finds a happy medium between cartooning and photorealism befitting a story starring real and fictional humans or mutants.

The second story featuring Misty Knight, Colleen Wing, and the Howling Commandos by writer Enrique Carrion (Image Comics’ Vescell), artist Annapaola Martello (Spider-Gwen Annual), and colorist Nolan Woodard (All-New X-Men) is the weakest of the bunch and could have benefited from being a two parter. Carrion plots a story about Misty Knight, Jasper Sitwell, and Man-Thing transporting a Huntstalker (Basically, a rogue demon hunter.) to STAKE (The supernatural version of SHIELD.) HQ when Colleen Wing attacks them because she needs them to track down a vampire. This one sentence plot summary is cooler than the actual comic with the exception of a too short battle between Colleen Wing and Man-Thing, which features a green/orange explosion from Woodard.

The comic also deals with the fallout of Colleen Wing and Misty Knight not being friends any more because of Civil War II, but spends a single, pink flashback panel on it before going back to some stale banter between Misty and her teammates. There is something to be explored in this friendship as Misty has gotten closer to Sam Wilson in the pages of Captain America: Sam Wilson, but Carrion also tries to shove in an action sequence and a kind of twist ending.

The final page of the story is really rushed as Misty Knight immediately decides to stop doing missions for STAKE and lets Colleen go off with the Huntstalker off panel. It seems like a setup for a Colleen Wing vs. vampires story, but the comic unfortunately reads “The End”. Martello and Woodard indulge in the wild and wacky side of Marvel with katanas and monsters galore, but unfortunately this story is cut short and doesn’t reach its full potential.

The third and final story in Choosing Sides #5 is the penultimate chapter in Declan Shalvey and Jordie Bellaire’s neo-Sterankoean Nick Fury Jr. saga. Nothing will probably top the completely silent battle between Nick Fury Jr. and Black Widow in the previous issue, but Shalvey compensates with a fun twist, some great one-liners, and a battle between old school and new school Nick Fury.

Bellaire complements Shalvey’s taut, minimalist plotting with a clear emphasis on green and grey as Nick Fury Jr. faces off with a rogue Nick Fury LMD in a super secret base. Green and grey could also symbolize Nick Fury Jr and Nick Fury as the first has only been in comics since 2012 whereas Nick Fury has been the “man on the wall” since the Silver Age. There are also little touches of red when Nick Fury Jr. gets the upper hand on the LMD like when he stabs his robot eye with some kind of high tech weapon and on the SHIELD emblem on his chest. Nick Fury Jr. wants SHIELD to continue to be a peacekeeping force, but in light of Civil War II and events like Avengers Standoff where Maria Hill used a Cosmic Cube to brainwash villains, maybe it’s better if it died off.

But Shalvey leaves things ambiguous for now as Nick Fury Jr is fed conflicting reports about his mission and reacts to it through some nice secret base destruction. Shalvey captures the angry sneer that Samuel L. Jackson brought to his performance as Fury in the Marvel films without resorting to stiff photorealism and leaves us with this image of defiance as the storyline reaches its end.

Civil War II Choosing Sides #5 features a funny and insightful Alpha Flight story, a subpar Misty Knight/Colleen Wing battle royale, and an enthralling spy thriller with virtuoso storytelling from Declan Shalvey and Jordie Bellaire. It’s definitely worth picking up.

Story: Chip Zdarsky, Enrique Carrion, Declan Shalvey Art: Ramon Perez, Annapaola Martello, Declan Shalvey Colors: Ramon Perez, Nolan Woodard, Jordie Bellaire
Story: 8 Art: 7.5 Overall: 7.6 Recommendation: Read