The regular ongoing Captain America series, which has been damned amazing since Brubaker came on board with # 1 a few years back has become Captain America & Bucky, and will retain its original numbering, focusing on the pair of heroes and their numerous adventures under the watchful eye of a new creative team. A brand new Captain America # 1 hit stands last Wednesday, again under the direction of Ed Brubaker with art by Steve McNiven, he of Civil War and Old Man Logan fame. It marks a new chapter for the Captain America saga. One that builds off of Brubaker’s already elaborate work and provides a new jumping-on point for new readers as well. It’s a strategy that has worked well for other books in the past, with Invincible Iron Man under Fraction and The Mighty Thor under…Fraction again.
The book begins in a cemetery where Cap is mourning the loss of an old friend. If you’ve been reading Fear Itself, you’re almost immediately convinced that it’s (**spoiler alert**) the recently deceased Bucky Barnes. But that’s not the case at all. In fact this introductory issue doesn’t address Bucky at all. Brubaker instead hits the ground running and plunges us into the story that, in a manner consistent with the rest of his run, is tied heavily to Steve’s adventures in World War II. The interplay between the past and the present is a defining element of Brubaker’s run. The Winter Soldier storyline would have had no impact if Ed and company hadn’t been able to skillfully craft the narrative in such a way that all the pieces fit like a jigsaw puzzle. Steve remarks that he sometimes still has trouble reconciling the fact that even after all these years he is still a man out of time. He’s displaced. Despite being the representation of America itself, the modern landscape is never fully going to be his home. While some writers take this and run with it in precisely the wrong direction, as was the case with Civil War Frontline, Brubaker’s Steve Rogers is a character who always tries to retain the elements of himself that shine brightest while trying to evolve to fit into a world that, quite frankly, does not deserve a hero of his caliber.
Some fans will be put off by the fact that the manner in which Steve becomes Captain America once again is not immediately addressed, but this is just as much a book for new converts from the film as it is for longtime fans. Brubaker is not one to ignore those elements, but they will have to be introduced organically over time so that everyone feels at ease. This is a very classically written book in that regard. Half of the fun will be having answers revealed over time as it is appropriate. Brubaker’s crime-fiction background shows heavily in his writing here. Little snippets surface to make the big picture appear clearly but they don’t come at you on every panel. Brubaker is a master of the slow burn, if his prior work on the title has shown us anything. I would expect that tradition to carry over here.
As for McNiven’s art, it’s as clean and crisp as ever and I can only hope that he’s got the issues finished because I would weep at the thought of a fill-in artist. He draws Cap with amazing skill and his artwork matches the tone of the book perfectly. You couldn’t ask for a better artist, though many in his caliber have worked with Brubaker on Cap in the past and I’m hoping that Steve Epting and Michael Lark get their turns on the new title as well. Rotate them all through the different arcs and you’d have as close to a perfect Captain America title as could be managed.
I strongly advise picking this up. Captain America is and has been one of Marvel’s best properties for quite some time now and this issue seems to indicate that’s not changing anytime soon.
So I’ve been battling a cold that’s primary affliction to my system has been a severe sense of apathy. I don’t think I’ve ever moved slower on a Wednesday than I did at work yesterday, but when the fever broke in the night I realized that I had a blog to update, and thus I started work on this week’s reviews, which will begin momentarily.
THE PULL LIST: 2-17-2010
AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #621 GNTLT 2.99
BATMAN #696 2.99
BATMAN STREETS OF GOTHAM #9 3.99
BLACK WIDOW AND MARVEL GIRLS #4 (OF 4) 2.99
BLACK WIDOW DEADLY ORIGIN #4 (OF 4) 3.99
CAPTAIN AMERICA #603 3.99
CHASE VARIANT ONE SHOT IS ALL I NEED (ONE SHOT) 3.99
DAREDEVIL #505 2.99
DARK AVENGERS #14 SIEGE 3.99
DEADPOOL #19 2.99
DEADPOOL MERC WITH A MOUTH #8 2.99
DOOMWAR #1 (OF 6) 3.99
GREEN LANTERN #51 (BLACKEST NIGHT) 2.99
GREEN LANTERN CORPS #45 (BLACKEST NIGHT) 2.99
HULK #20 FOH 3.99
IGNITION CITY TP 19.99
INCORRUPTIBLE #3 3.99
INCREDIBLE HULK #607 FOH 3.99
JOE THE BARBARIAN #2 2.99
JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #42 3.99
POWER GIRL #9 2.99
PSYLOCKE #4 (OF 4) 3.99
PUNISHER #14 2.99
SPIDER-WOMAN #6 2.99
STARMAN OMNIBUS VOL. 4 49.99
SUPERGIRL #50 (NOTE PRICE) 4.99
THOR BY DAN JURGENS & JOHN ROMITA JR TP VOL 02 24.99
UNCANNY X-MEN #521 2.99
And so, I begin:
AMAZING SPIDER-MAN # 621
I feel like I’ve heaped sufficient praise on this book over the course of it’s “Gauntlet” storyline. This issue is worth picking up for Michael Lark’s art alone. That man could draw Daredevil making a sandwich for 32 pages and I’d buy two copies. (Grilled cheese variant?)
This issue catered to me in numerous ways. It had Black Cat, who I effing love. It had Mr. Negative, who I honestly believe is one of the better additions to Spidey’s rogues gallery that we’ve seen in the last few years. Honestly, it was just a good Spider-Man comic. And while the previous few issues have felt decisively like old-school Spidey, this one feels frighteningly modern, and I think alot of that comes from Michael Lark’s artwork. While not overly realistic, the tones are muddied and contrasting as opposed to the clean cut-and-dry work of the last few issues. I like both styles, and the art definately worked for this story, but the change is a litle jarring when held up to what had come before. The saving grace comes in the form of the writing, which doesn’t shift tone nearly as radically and keeps the story on course.
Again, I really only have good things to say about this series at this point, and if you’re not picking it up I think you’re probably just still bitter over the One More Day angle. We get it, you feel slighted, but at this point you’re just denying yourself some quality entertainment with a character you claimed to love.
Rich Johnston is basically what would happen if I went around shouting a bunch of stuff I heard and considered it hard journalism. I won’t deny that the man gets his shit right every so often, as the man does have some sweet hookups and his site is a go-to for many people. I consider him and people like him to be the reason that Wizard has lost it’s relevance to the comic community and that in itself sort of makes him relevant.
Does any of that qualify him to write a comic book?
I don’t know. If it does, I’m hoping someone at Image calls me because I’ve got a great pitch about a Texas ranger who fights ronin-Samurai in a post-apocalyptic California with the help of a cat named Asshole. (Seriously, call me.)
I don’t know if he’s ever written anything outside of an editorial before this book, but if he’s a newbie he didn’t do too bad for his opening shot. If nothing else, the book has a pretty cool framing device, with unseen hands dealing magic-style dueling cards that shape the flow of the narrative. Such a framing device would be especially interesting in an ongoing series, where it could be explained in detail, but as it is not an ongoing and simply a one-and-done sort of deal, part of me wonders what their purpose was. Though that’s just me contemplating what could be or should have been and not what is.
As far as what the book is, I would say that Chase Variant is decent but it feels like an anachronism. A sort of throwback to the 90’s Image that I never really got into. There’s no character development or plot that runs beyond a few lines of dialogue, but there is some well-developed imagery and the potential for impressive worldbuilding. Environment and aesthetic over true content, honestly.
That doesn’t mean that it’s rubbish, because at least the book feels like it moves forward given it’s limited frame of existence. It’s not like it treads water trying to stay afloat. The book may not be the best thing ever written, but none of the effort was phoned in and it feels genuine, which is more than can be said for some books.
I’ve gotta nominate this one for turnaround book of the month, because the last issue to hit stands was downright atrocious. I was literally floored by how asinine that book was. This issue on the other hand seems to work well to regain focus and present a singular path for the book that I hope isn’t lost next month for some reason nobody can explain to me.
Instead of disjointed mini-sodes with a hodge-podge of different artists breaking up the flow, we get Deadpool and co. sucked into the Marvel Zombies universe where Deadpool goes all Tom Savini on a bunch of undead superheroes. The art is clean, crisp, and fits the tone preented by the writing and the jokes don’t completely suck the life out of the book.
Thank god, I was afraid I was going to have to drop this book. And how damned ironic would it be if after clinging to Cable and Deadpool because I didn’t want to see DP’s only book get cancelled would it be for me to be able to drop a Deadpool book and not be concerned because he has two other books I could read? I’d love to go back to the 90’s and drop that bombshell on someone. The look on their face would be priceless.
SUPERGIRL # 50
I’m glad that we have a Supergirl book that isn’t a horrible trainwreck. The current team has been doing a bang up job with the character, and though I’m not a big fan of the huge line-wide crossovers the Superman family seems to be enduring until the end of time, this book has been doing the best with what it’s been given from the get-go. The character development they’ve been working with Kara and Lana is refreshing, as both of them have drastically needed to be refocused for quite some time.
This issue feels like a good old fashioned Superman story to me. I mean, replace Supergirl with Clark and you would swear that this story belonged in one of those Black and White SHOWCASE books. Giant wasps? Lazer beams! GANGBUSTER?!?!?!
The backup story is short and essentially unnecessary, but the tone was on the money and I’m sure putting Helen Slater’s name on the book bumped sales by a fair margin, though what size that margin is could be anybody’s guess. Either way, the total package was worth the extra dollar on the price tag.
If all they had printed in this book was that final page, I still would have loved it. I won’t spoil it, but they made me a very happy nerd.
Very very happy nerd.
And I’m done for this week. Check back next time, when maybe I’ll review a comic that totally sucks. It’s kind of odd when I don’t read anything that makes me wanna hurl.