Saturday, December 8, 2012

REVIEW: Captain America #1

Writer: Rick Rememder
Art: John Romita, Jr.
Review: Will Dubbeld

What do we want?


When do we want it?


Hey, anybody remember when Marvel and DC weren't constantly trying to one-up one another and aping each others ideas?

Me neither, but I think it was in the 80s. Anyhow, in the wake of DCs New 52 we are gifted with Marvel Now! (exclamation theirs), a non-reboot reboot of Marvel's titles. Clean break, starting over, renumbering everything at #1 just like New 52 did, and tossing foolish sounding adjectives in the titles. Because somehow "Uncanny X-Men" I'm fine with, but "Savage Wolverine" just sounds silly. They might as well used "The Hellacious Hulk" or "The Splendiferous Spider-Man!"

Bitch and moan I may but I will still try more of these than not, much to my chagrin. Can't help it. I love comics. Every time (EVERY SINGLE TIME) I see Batman sling a Batarang at a thug or Wolverine snikt a Hand ninja I can't help but smile, just a hair, and think "fuck yeah, comic books".
So, I'm what marketing strategists presumably refer to as an easy target, and I'm inexplicably drawn into my Nerd-Soaps no matter how bad they end up. Shadowland, Before Watchmen, I'm lookin' at you...
At least Chaos War gave Alpha Flight back.

So, as Marvel Now! titles start their trickle to the newsstand, this Marvel Zombie dutifully tests the water. I've tried some Hulk and some time traveling X-Men and I shan't be back for seconds on either. Certainly my favorite piece of comic book propaganda since Chick Tracts had to have a great hook and pique my curiosity enough to lasso my interest. Certainly the Star Spangled Avenger wouldn't let me down. After all, I stuck with him through The Return of Bruce Wa...erm...Captain America: Reborn. Admittedly, I was not always a fan of Captain America. When I was younger I had him pegged as too hokey, too goody-goody. Then I smartened up and realized that it's a comic book, and it's supposed to by slightly hokey and goody-goody. We're talking about a WWII era superhero that has little wings on his head an socked Adolph Hitler on the jaw. Not everything has to be The Crow, I realized, and Cap and I were off to put the hurt on some Nazis!

Our most recent showing of Captain America gives us a glimpse of Steve Rogers as a lad in 1920s Brooklyn watching his mother suffer the abuses of his drunken father.
Because Marvel hasn't given us enough daddy issues with Bruce Banner's father,

Howard Stark, Wolverine/Daken, or Hulk and his brat pack from Sakaar.
So my optimism soon gave way to narrow-eyed fanboy scrutiny within the first couple of pages. After that I was treated to a classic Captain America clinging to a crashing plane and battling hippie terrorists led by the Green Skull, the evil hippie mastermind.
I'm hoping for a Red/Green Skull book soon. Hopefully in time for Christmas.

This was more like it, Cap beating up goons and ricocheting his shield off of things. That's kind of his deal. After a few pages of reprieve I was treated to an awkward scene between Cap and his belle, Sharon Carter. I'm all in favor of character development and drama and romantic interludes, but reading sexual innuendo between the two was a little sacrilegious, and not in that good Garth Ennis sort of way. I'm pretty sure Sharon makes an oblique comment low The Captain's...Victory Legumes hang. Even in jest, that seems wrong.

With that painful exchange, Sharon and Cap investigate a mysterious subway car that has appeared and is dropping off mystery passengers. Cap hops the subway car and is whisked away, car and all,with a flash of light.
Presumably to Hogwarts.

Lots of filler pages follow as Captain America awakens in an evil laboratory with some evil mutated fellows and is subjected to some evil experiments.
Our villain revel is none other than Arnim Zola, everyone's favorite Nazi with television set body, which I was fine with. He does a bit of monologuing and then Cap escapes from his torture chair like so much Arnold Schwarzenegger in Total Recall. He then proceeds to trash the lab and escapes into what might be some dystopian civilization or Days of Future Whatsis or alternate earth or somesuch. They don't explain it, and by this time I'm not sure I care.

Our adventure closes with Cap revealing he made off with one of Zola's clone babies/eugenics projects/future Boy From Brazil and is off to Brave New Worlds.
Because not only does Marvel have difficulty with positive male role-models, it feels the need to pair a dude and a baby up to fight bad guys. Refer to Cable/Hope and Nomad/Bucky if necessary. Next issue blurb showed us a long haired, grizzled Cap with a laser gun and holding the hand of what appears to be a young girl. On the same page is a brief editorial by Rick Rememder about the new book and the journey fans are about to embark on, and his inspirations.

Then it clicked. All the pieces fell into place. This book wasn't bad, it certainly wasn't great, but it felt like it could have been. After reading Remender's afterward it was revealed that his favorite bits of Captain America were the 1970s Jack Kirby issues with "a strange mixture of espionage, science fiction, and pure psychedelic imagination".


Having read some of those books, I can see what Remender was going for. All of the elements were there, whacked out hippie villain, weird disappearing subway car, weird Nazi scientist-robot fella, but it was like Remender was trying to make a cake, bought all the ingredients, and then didn't measure them before mixing. He was on the right track and just fell shy of the mark.

As far as JRJRs art goes, you'll like it if you like his usual fare. There are very few people in favor of his art that I talk to and I'm pretty sure at least one of those people dropped a beloved title due to Romita's art. I'm a firm believer that with an excellent inker and colorist, JRJR can do some pretty good pencils. Man Without Fear, Enemy of the State, The Eternals, and many other books he's drawn were very well done, but sometimes it just doesn't pan out for him. Darker books with a feeling of grit and visceral action suit him, whereas team books with brightly presented heroes do not. He has that muddied penciling technique and seems like he rushes his work. It also sometimes feels like he learned his craft via that "How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way" book.
Anyone else have that book?

The cover was very well done, but the interiors were another story. Granted, I'll talk Romita's rushed, muddied work over Liefeld's Sistine Chapel and day, but who wouldn't?

Upon finishing this book I found myself in an awkward spot, torn between my love for Captain America and the general feeling of "meh" the script and art gave me. I'll probably stick with it for a few issues or so, but thusfar I have not gotten $3.99 worth of wow from this book. It didn't matter how often he threw his shield, it just felt like the book was coming up short and I hope it'll get on track after Remender gets a few more issues of it under his belt. If it ends up disappointing, I'm sure I can get my Cap fix in any number of Marvel Now! titles that have the word "Avenger" on the cover.

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