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Review: Civil War II: Choosing Sides #6

choosingsides6coverIn the final installment of this anthology tie-in series, Civil War II: Choosing Sides #6 offers up three distinct perspectives on the conflict between Captain Marvel’s predictive justice side and Iron Man’s conventional justice faction. There is a Jessica Jones story from writer Chelsea Cain (Mockingbird), artist Alison Sampson (Genesis), and colorist Jordie Bellaire as the superpowered P.I. looks into the precog Inhuman Ulysses’ life before his powers. It is followed by a story featuring White Fox, a South Korean secret agent and superhero from Al Ewing’s Contest of Champions, written by Christina Strain (Runaways colorist) and drawn by Sana Takeda (Monstress). The final story in the comic is this conclusion of Declan Shalvey and Jordie Bellaire’s Nick Fury Jr. saga.

Chelsea Cain, Alison Sampson, and Jordie Bellaire’s Jessica Jones story is the kind of story fans have been waiting for since Alias wraps as Jessica hits the road to get some background info on Ulysses. Cain really gets Jessica’s trademark sarcasm and cynicism as she is convinced that Ulysses is hiding something beneath his average college freshman posters and books. The comic is really funny too, and Sampson nails the disdain on Jessica’s face when she has to interact with Ulysses’ Civil War reenactor parents. (They named him after Ulysses S. Grant and are tour guides at his birthplace in Ohio.)

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Sampson also puts her own visual stamp on Jessica Jones using Post-It Notes in her layouts to follow Jessica’s investigation of Ulysses’ bedroom. (And porn stash.) She uses a lot of close-up shots of toads, dragonflies, and other critters to show how out of sorts the Hell’s Kitchen based P.I. is in the rural Midwest. The small town setting gives Bellaire a chance to work with an idiosyncratic color palette, like a disgusting green when a dragonfly flies into Jessica’s windshield or an equally disgusting pink when she runs over the toad. The interiors of Ulysses’ childhood home are muted and mundane showing his utterly average nature. This story is an anti-mystery mystery as Ulysses is just a normal kid with no dark secrets and even got a friend to hide his porn stash in case he went missing. This absolute normalcy causes Jessica to conclude that maybe Captain Marvel was right to trust his visions. Without her appearing or a mention of Carol’s friendship with Jessica, this story makes the world cop, borderline fascistic Captain Marvel seem slightly sympathetic.

If the Jessica Jones story made Captain Marvel a tiny bit sympathetic, the White Fox story is the complete opposite as Christina Strain and Sana Takeda combine Korean mythology with espionage in a story that goes completely against Captain Marvel and her predictive justice. Strain also connects this to American interventionism as White Fox tells off Abigail Brand by saying that South Korean delegates weren’t even allowed in the room when the Korean War armistice was signed. To go with this anti-imperialism, Strain and Takeda also make White Fox a part of the kumiho stories where a nine tailed fox can transform into a woman and seduce and kill men. Except White Fox’s grandmother could control her powers and so can she.

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In eight pages, Strain and Takeda craft a smart, savvy, and fiercely independent heroine, who definitely deserves her own miniseries. The climax of the story is a sparring session between White Fox and Abigail Brand, which is fluidly choreographed by Takeda as she switches angles and uses speed lines to show both character’s agility and competence culminating in one powerful strike. The comic ends in a poster worthy image of White Fox with her bird familiar soaring above her defiantly saying that she and South Korea will make their own choices about being involved in Civil War II. And hopefully, we’ll see more of her soon.

The final chapter of Declan Shalvey and Jordie Bellaire’s Nick Fury arc is more reflective than action packed, but truly sets Nick Fury Jr apart from his father as he burns the rogue LMD of Nick Fury and sets aside the eye patch for his own look and unique role in the Marvel Universe. The combination of burning and walking away wearing sunglasses reminded me a lot of Nick Fury’s final scene in Captain America: Winter Soldier, but Shalvey and Bellaire make this iconic scene their own as Fury Jr is returning to SHIELD and not going on the run as a fugitive.

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Nick Fury Jr is part of SHIELD, but he only trusts himself after Maria Hill sent him on a suicide mission after one of Ulysses’ visions said that killing Nick Fury would save SHIELD. This individualism in the midst of a twisted system has kind of defined what Nick Fury is for better or worse, and over six chapters, Shalvey and Bellaire have built Fury Jr up as a viable solo threat and not just lipservice to the Marvel movies.

Also, each chapter has been a masterclass in comics storytelling, and Choosing Sides #6 is no exception. Red is the most prominent color in Bellaire’s palette, and she brings it to bear as Shalvey slows down time and spends a page having Fury ponder his next move. This kind of decompression doesn’t feel like padding, but lets the reader into Fury’s head as he struggles with returning to SHIELD when he could pull a James Bond in Skyfall and relax far away from the world of HYDRA, spy games, and superheroes. Ultimately, the comic ends with a close-up on a pair of sunglasses and a one-liner as Shalvey and Bellaire have returned Nick Fury to his proper place as the coolest, cold blooded spy in the Marvel Universe.

Choosing Sides #6 has three solid stories from three talented creative teams that fall all across the Civil War II “ideological” spectrum. They also fit in three different genres: small town mystery, a superhero story grounded in both spy stories and Korean mythology, and a straight up espionage thriller.

Choosing Sides #6 is a testament to the range of stories that can be set in the Marvel Universe. Hint: they don’t all have to be superhero slugfests.

Story: Chelsea Cain, Christina Strain, Declan Shalvey Art: Alison Sampson, Sana Takeda, Declan Shalvey Colors: Sana Takeda, Jordie Bellaire
Story: 9 Art: 9 Overall: 9 Recommendation: Buy