While the events from Free Comic Book Day’s “Civil War II” teaser have yet to happen, Brian Michael Bendis and Olivier Coipel’s “Civil War II” #0 feels much more like an actual prologue for the hard decisions to come. Bendis uses the issue to add complexities to the moral dilemma plaguing our heroes and furthers the dialogue around this upcoming ideological divide. This prologue is meant to be much more expository than action-packed, but it feels necessary in order to fully appreciate and understand the Avengers’ conflict over freedom and security.
Bendis makes an excellent choice when he sets the stage with Jennifer Walters, a hero and an attorney-at-law, as she defends a former masked villain. Her view is that, if the justice system truly believes in rehabilitation, there must be allowances for that; people cannot be punished for crimes they have yet to commit, no matter their past, present or future. Bendis puts her firmly in her element here, and there’s no denying the real-life political parallels in her speech to the jury. Lieutenant Colonel James Rhodes is the second main player introduced this issue during an escalating situation in Latveria, and — after he swiftly deals with it — he receives an invitation to a very private discussion at the White House; it culminates in a job offer and a tempting possibility for Rhodey’s future before Bendis takes us to the Triskelion, the island headquarters of S.H.I.E.L.D. Like She-Hulk and Rhodey’s scenes, Captain Marvel’s brief psychoanalytic conversation with Doc Sampson is wonderfully written and rife with metaphor. Her anxiety over the things she cannot control is poignant and gives us the opposing view to She-Hulk’s earnest delivery in the courtroom. Nevertheless, Bendis’s writing is lacking during the scene that spotlights the newly “hatched” Inhuman, Ulysses. It may be that we’re not meant to know much about this generic teenager just yet, but — in such a dense issue — it feels lackluster.
On the other hand, Olivier Coipel and his bold lines are anything but lackluster as he sets each scene in the issue. From She-Hulk’s determined lawyer look to her transformation into the fearless hero we know and love, Coipel puts care in every single stroke. He is a master at giving us a sense of drama, and that skill is particularly apparent during Captain Marvel’s conversation with Doc Sampson. In her body posture, we see someone who is tired and nearing the end of her rope, but her face betrays the strength and drive of someone willing to face what lies ahead no matter the cost.
Paired with Justin Ponsor’s versatile coloring, “Civil War II” #0 makes an impression. Ponsor succeeds in keeping the reader on their toes during the Latveria setting, and then makes the scene feel uneasy with a sickly green palette when Ulysses undergoes his transformation. Considering all of Bendis’ dialogue, I am incredibly thankful for Clayton Cowles’ ability to place speech bubbles in just the right place. There was a ton of narrative and voiceover that could have made pages look cluttered and busy, but Cowles keeps it all from impeding the pace of the issue.
Overall, Bendis and Coipel’s “Civil War II” #0 serves the sole purpose of laying out the foundation for the series. Despite being driven almost entirely by dialogue, it’s never once boring, and the only real issue is the question on everyone’s minds: Where is Iron Man? My hopes are very high for “Civil War II,” and hopefully we’ll see just where Tony Stark fits into everything soon.