While incoming writer Rick Remender emulates The King's trademark bombastic dialogue in just one sequence, he does put one of his creations, Arnim Zola, at the centre of the action. The fabulous Zola - a Nazi mad scientist with a chest-TV for a head - lures Cap into the weird Dimension Z via monster-filled subway car, there to steal our hero's super-soldier serum for his genetically engineered sons. Of course, Cap escapes, taking one of the bairns with him ... only to realise that there's no way home.
And back home, girlfriend Sharon Carter awaits, wondering if Steve Rogers will ever truly commit to her, or if Captain America will always come between them >choke<.
In the past, four-year-old Steve gets a lesson from his mom in facing up to bullies.
The flashback to New York's East Side in 1926 opens the book, reminding us that Steve was born into a tough area in a tough time. It turns out that his dad was a weak man, given to drink and domestic abuse, but his mother had the grit to stand up to him. It's obvious who Steve grows up to take after - his courage, his hatred of injustice, has nothing to do with super-science and everything to do with a good role model.
You couldn't get a worse role model than Zola, so it's possibly a good thing that Cap manages to carry away one of the Zola children, a baby (knowing Zola, it's probably booby trapped ... baby-trapped?). It stretches credulity that he can smuggle the kid out in his shield, falling into it as he escapes Zola's HQ, without crushing his charge, but let's just say that's down to the shock-absorbing Vibranium in said shield. Or the artificially grown kid being a wee tough nut.
Whatever, I enjoyed this issue a great deal. After the opening flashback, there's the end of Cap's battle with new bad guy The Green Skull, an eco-homage to a certain rouge-faced rogue. This is where Remender truly taps into his inner King, unleashing some amusingly awful dialogue. We'll likely never see this guy again, but he makes for a fun vignette establishing Cap's capabilities and workaholic ways.
The date scene that follows with Steve and Sharon - she takes him off to investigate the mystery subway car - shows that even if these two do tie the knot, life's never going to be boring. It's soapy goodness with sparky banter, demonstrating that while Cap fears no super-villain, marriage is another matter.
Longtime collaborators John Romita Jr and Klaus Janson team up once more on pencils and inks, and thank goodness their interior work is better than the hideous cover. Yes, I've railed against the fussily tweaked costume Cap's wearing these days, but that doesn't mean I want our hero to look like Ninja Action Cap. There's no narrative reason for Cap's face to be obfuscated, and it certainly doesn't look good. Plus, that left arm looks off.
The bulk of the issue, set on July 4 2012, is the Romita/Janson we've gotten used to in recent years, with convincing masked heroes and dopey civilians. So when Cap is in costume and moving, all is well; when he's with Sharon, he's a wonky fella, apparently on the verge of falling asleep. But don't dwell too long on the details and you'll be propelled through the story.
|That's one drawn-out conversation in panels 2 and 3|
Memo to Sharon Carter: if you want Cap to jump into bed with you, don't wear your hair the same way his mother did.
If there's an over-arcing theme for this issue, I failed to spot it (personal responsibility? legacy?) but given time one will likely emerge. For now I'm happy just to read Cap in a big daft superhero adventure. But bigger and dafter would be even better.