Thursday, 22 November 2012

Captain America #1 review


After years of super-serious, super-spy action, the Captain America series tries a new direction - Jack Kirby craziness. The relaunched Marvel Now! title looks back for inspiration to the Seventies, when Cap's co-creator wrote and drew the adventures of the Sentinel of Liberty, and far-out was the order of the day.

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
The artists take a different approach for the flashback, with a looser finish, perhaps to evoke the notion of memory. Colourist Dean White excels here, sticking to watercolour tones and damping down the sheen. It's extremely effective.
I'm less enamoured of White's choices for the Dimension Z worldscape - if we're going to the Kirby well-spring, bring on the primaries, the wild contrasts. Not browns and oranges knocking together. Cap standing against a DayGlo world would be something to behold. As it is, even the freakish Zola fails to pop.

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.

11 comments:

  1. I got a chance to read this comic recently despite my troubles with the comic shop. The comic is pretty decent and interesting in general. Along with the Thor comic, I think this comic is so far one of the better Marvel Now titles in general. I'm curious to see where it goes and I may buy a copy for my cousins (trying to get them into comics). I'm not that much into John Romita Jr's art, but it certianly isn't bad here. Regardless, I will certianly check out the next issue to see where it goes.

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    1. Hello IG, glad you enjoyed the comic!

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    2. I think that the baby is the Captain's son, the one that Sharon suposobly lose in the fight with the red skull's daughter, if you remember Zola was there

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    3. I keep thinking about buying this, but the four dollar price tag is such a turn-off. What do you think, Martin? Is it worth the price of admission?

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  2. Hi Anon, I wonder if you're right. I assumed it was freshly grown ...

    Ben, I can honestly say ... no, not really. Yep, I enjoyed it lots, but I wouldn't say there's enough value in there for a $4 price tag. It's ten minutes of good comic bookery, stick the collection on a wishlist!

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  3. Did you catch the bit in the early action sequence with the Green Skull about Cap's left hand being "shattered" and in pain, while afterward when he's with Sharon his hand is perfectly fine? Bad writing? Bad editing? Both? As for the baby/little boy carried out in the shield, he's just had a transfusion of Super Soldier Serum. They seem to be implying that the Serum has toughened up the lad, who's already been genetically engineered to mature quickly. Or perhaps I'm reading something into the script. Or perhaps it's bad writing and editing again... *Shrug*

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    1. Hello Joe, that would be 'both', surely? I'm avoiding my regular rant about Marvel's sloppy editing - just.

      Good explanation for how the kid survives the shield! I don't suppose I can bestow No Prizes?

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  4. Well, if you could, I'd happily accept, Mart. *Grin*

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  5. i hear that the green skull will return and that remender plans for zola to be the big bad for most of his run.

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    1. Green Skull, good. Zola, bad - I get bored with one ongoing mastermind.

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    2. don;t worry zola will only come back for the big story line remender sets up like the dark angel saga from uncanny x-force which i recommend plus new villain's will join caps rogues gallery his name iron nail and Dr mind bbble

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