SPOILER WARNING: This review contains MAJOR spoilers for the Civil War II series.
I’ve lost track of when the last issue came out. Thankfully, what I do remember about Civil War II #4 is that there was a fan and some. . .well, you know. And that’s where writer Brian Michael Bendis and artist David Marquez pick up.
Civil War II #5 opens with a tour helicopter making a crazy sharp turn around the Statue of Liberty and Drax flying through the air. From there, the action shifts to the rooftop of the Triskelion where two squads of heroes (some more questionably suitable for the label “hero” than others) are charging at each other, fists flying. Essentially, it’s Captain Marvel against Iron Man and their corresponding Red Rover tourney teams. Carol calls upon the Ultimates and Guardians of the Galaxy while Iron Man calls upon the All-New, All-Different Avengers, and tacks on some characters from Bendis’ New Avengers’ work: Doctor Strange and Luke Cage. The X-Men (such as they are) are split, right down to two Icemen zipping down ice slides at one another.
This single image, like the majority of Civil War II #5, focuses solely on the characters at play, with the background only gaining detail through some incomplete architectural lines and color patterning thanks to colorist Justin Ponsor. As the issue rolls on, more “backgrounds” come into play, but those backgrounds are little more than detailed rubble. All of that works for the issue, as the story is essentially a high school debate topic filtered through superhero costumes and amplified by today’s turbulent social climate.
With Civil War II #5, Bendis takes the metaphorical undercurrent of profiling and makes it the line in the sand. This is the world we see in our news feed, but instead of pre-judged skin color, it’s the potential actions based on past experience. Algorithms, as Tony Stark keeps insisting, which may or may not play out. That’s the battleground for the moral debate here, and little is done throughout the issue to inform the debate beyond what we’ve already seen in the past four issues. Those for pre-emptive activity fighting those against.
Except Bendis drops a bomb. We’ve already seen one Avenger kill another. The shocking revelation that ends Civil War II #5 is all Spider-Man-centric. Miles Morales to be specific. I’m going to remain as vague as can be here, but odds are if you’ve come this far towards this review you already have an idea of what happened, if you don’t already know. That scene changes the complexion of the issue and the series. It also adds grist for readers to take another look at the story. Except it didn’t need twenty pages to get there, and this series sure hasn’t needed five issues to get to this point, nor does it seem as though there’s enough fuel to add on an additional issue.
At least the characters have been gorgeous throughout the series.
That opening scene is eye candy, with heroes charging into battle. Marquez makes it look great, but it took me a second to realize the green-skinned, purple-clad lady was Gamora (context is our friend when we read, kids!). I’m still kinda wondering when Puck gained the ability to fly, but neither here nor there, that spread is dynamic. Ponsor is as responsible for the dazzling bigscreen-ready visuals as Marquez, with all sorts of effects being utilized throughout the issue. Letterer Clayton Cowles has his work cut out for him, as all of the heroes debate and argue through and around the fights.
Marquez skews the fights, putting the action or the panels themselves on diagonals, channeling the energy of each struggle. His storytelling is solid throughout the issue, and the only visual hiccups comes in the visual similarity between She-Hulk and Gamora that I already mentioned. Beyond that, every image is detailed and strong, every character distinct, and all of the characters telegraph their emotions.
Civil War II #5 has some predictable confrontations and pacing, but Bendis balances that nicely with some surprise match-ups and a gut-punch for the finale. Seeds of the post-Civil War II Marvel Universe are planted here, some subtly, some thrown right at the readers’ faces. This issue is a tipping point, and the next three (really, three?!) issues are going to contain some interesting fallout and character moments. At least in the algorithm I just worked out on my whiteboard.