Tuesday, July 19, 2011

REVIEW: Captain America #1 (with spoilers)

Captain America is back!

Marvel Comics has returned Steve Rogers to the red, white and blue in a brand new #1 issue by writer Ed Brubaker and penciler Steve McNiven.

Is it just a cheap, commercial ploy timed to coincide with the release of Cap's feature film this weekend? Or does the first issue mark a bold new direction and newbie friendly jumping on point for one of Marvel's oldest superheroes? Well, its a little bit of both, I suppose.

Yes, Cap is hitting the silver screen this weekend in the USA, and is thus accompanied by all manner of merchandising roll out, including comic books, etc. But this issue also marks the return of Steve Rogers to the star spangled uniform he made famous after time away while his former sidekick Bucky took up the mantle in his absence.

The story begins with a montage of images that carry the reader through the highlights of the Cap mythos - a young man in Brooklyn during the Great Depression, fighting in the trenches of WWII, fighting Nazi supervillains, joining the Avengers - and then cuts to a funeral for a friend. Despite what's going on over in the "Fear Itself" miniseries event that's currently rocking the Marvel U, it is NOT Bucky's funeral that Cap is attending. Instead, its that of Cap's WWII paramour  Margaret "Peggy" Carter.

Cap is in attendance along with Nick Fury and Dum Dum Dugan of the Howling Commandos (characters also featured in the movie - though no Samuel Jackson as Nick Fury here) and Sharon Carter, his current love interest, and the niece of his former love interest. (Apparently, Cap has a thing for genealogical romances.) The group's nostalgic reminiscing is interrupted by sniper-y goodness, which sets Cap and company on the trail for clues to the sniper's identity which lie buried in Cap's and Peggy's past during WWII.

Alternating between scenes set in the present and scenes told in flashback, we're introduced to a brand spanking new nemesis (and old ally) in Codename: Bravo, rogue agents of Hydra (not coincidentally the villains featured in the Cap movie) and a reveal of  Baron Zemo (another German supervillain in the vein of the Red Skull, though he has a generational aspect) to cap the issue off.

Does the story hit all the classic Cap notes that a jumping on point should? Shield slinging? Check. Man out of time ennui? Check. Action and intrigue? Check. A villain with a Nazi past? Check.

The art in the issue was clean, crisp and bold, which fits the swashbuckler-meets-soldier tone of Steve Rogers as Cap perfectly. Brubaker's writing and characterization of Steve and his friends is good, though after getting used to Brubaker's very "Bourne Identity" flavor of Bucky Barnes as Cap, the shift in tone back to Steve's style took a bit of getting used to. Not that I'm complaining, mind you - the fact that Bru made Bucky-as-Cap the tone that one became accustomed to is a testament to his great writing.

The issue serves as a serviceable jumping on point for new readers looking to hit the comic books after their movie experience this weekend, but I'm not sure that it offers anything particularly new to those of us that grew up with Steve Rogers as Captain America. Well, other than having Steve Rogers back in the red, white and blue again, anyway.

For this reader, that's enough to bring me back for more. Welcome back old soldier, we missed you!

RATING: 4 out of 5 stars