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The ’90s Revsited: Captain America #12

90s_revisited

captain_america_(1996)_0012Heroes Reunited part 4 of 4: Let It Be

Story: Jeph Loeb
Pencils: Joe Bennett, Ed Benes
Inks: Homage Studios
Colors: Nathan Lumm & Wildstorm FX
Letters: RS & Comicraft/Albert Deschesne
Editors: Mike Heisler & Mike Rockwitz
Published by: Marvel Comics
Cover Date: October 1997
Cover Price: $2.99

Here we are with Captain America #12. An "anniversary" issue, double-sized (and extra-priced for its time), yet it is "only" $2.99…cheaper than something HALF its size even twenty years later. This is chapter 4 of the 4-part Heroes Reunited arc that spanned Fantastic Four (1996) #12, Avengers (1996) #12, Iron Man (1996) #12, and this issue.

We open on Rikki Barnes–a girl that’s apparently been Cap’s partner of late, a new "Bucky"–as she discovers a mess of a break-in at her grandparents’ house. This turns out to be Dr. Doom, who goes on about her being some chronal anomaly that shouldn’t exist. Captain America arrives and saves her, confronting Doom, as things start to come out. The Fantastic Four are currently battling Terrax in Central Park (presumably from where Fantastic Four (1996) #11 had left off…or one of the #11s); there are other heralds as well, and the FF WILL perish. Doom has already seen the Earth destroyed three times, and now his time-travel device is damaged and can’t be counted on for a fourth trip. Galactus prepares to consume the Earth after his heralds soften things up a bit…and only by trusting Doom and the information he brings to the table can the heroes hope to prevail. While the "Knights of the Atomic Round Table" work on a solution and build on Banner’s idea that they find a way to "overload" Galactus, Rikki ponders her place and the personal idea of how she’s not supposed to even exist. The Silver Surfer arrives and tries to get her to convince the others to evacuate what people they CAN from Earth before its destruction. When he flies off, she manages to grab his board; Cap gives chase and pleads with her to let go (mirroring what we know of his facing the original loss of Bucky in WWII). Galactus blasts her, apparently perturbed that a human would dare to touch the Surfer, and thus something that belongs to Galactus. Of course, this becomes some poignant bit that makes the whole thing PERSONAL for the heroes, prompting them to want all the more to take down Galactus (as if the entire WORLD being at stake wasn’t enough). So, too, does the Silver Surfer join in, seeing the injury of one human where he was ok with billions being not just injured–but killed. The Surfer becomes the key, bearing the heroes’ devices and artifacts, betraying Galactus, and though he dies, Galactus is destroyed as well. Doom refuses to stay with the heroes even in friendship; and a brief epilogue, Cap meets James Barnes and Peggy Carter Barnes, with Fury explaining that he knew them but can’t be told how/when…and as Cap prepares to take off, The Watcher talks about how all this has been only one of many tales of heroes reborn.

I felt like more than the previous three chapters of this story, this one had a lot of "splash pages" and "double-page splashes" and such…a bit of a "cheat" regarding the page count, propping that up to a higher count but not really increasing the "value" of the amount of story contained in the pages. The art itself is quite good, and I enjoyed it…once again, despite multiple pencilers I didn’t notice any overt, clear shift from one to another…I simply read the issue, followed the story, and nothing wonky or weird jumped out screaming "this is a different visual style here from that last panel/page" or such. One can do a heckuva lot worse than to have Ed Benes art in an issue…and for my not noticing any stand-out difference, I’d have to say that at least here, the same goes for Joe Bennett.

heroes_reunited_04

The cover is part of a 4-part image…something I’ve pointed out in the previous chapters’ write-ups; and something I far, far, FAR prefer to contemporary practices that would see something like this done all on one single issue, forcing one to buy 4 copies of just one issue to get the full image. Here, the buyer is rewarded: buy all 4 chapters of Heroes Reunited, get this bigger 4-piece image.

Story-wise, this was a mixed issue for me. It felt a bit choppy and bigger on ideas while constrained by space: we have a bit of "subplot" of Rikki contemplating her existence just because a supervillain claims she shouldn’t exist…and there’s not much room for that to really be explored and all–for the character, for Cap, for anyone. For the story essentially picking back up with the Fantastic Four facing Terrax, it seems like we get to a resolution with Galactus being destroyed a little too easily and conveniently; though we have the "shorthand" of being able to just be SHOWN different heroes facing different heralds, and "assuming" that (if one’s read the previous three chapters of Heroes Reunited) we’ve already seen the action/details, we don’t have those details actually within this issue itself. It also hasn’t entirely felt like we’ve had any real focus on Doom gathering pieces of information through the previous chapters in a way to fit stuff…more like he gleaned a bit of extra info from SHIELD in the Iron Man issue and now put it to use (though we don’t really get clued in on the exact data).

As a whole, though…this caps off the four part story with Doom bringing what’s needed after several failed attempts, that allows the heroes to destroy Galactus withOUT destroying Earth. We get a rather arbitrary/sudden turn of the Silver Surfer for this being a new iteration of his seeing the heroes, rather than a continuation. But the issue ultimately stands somewhat alone; one gets context of what’s gone on, so you don’t NEED TO have read the previous chapters. You’ll just "get" more out of this issue if you have, and appreciate the overall story a bit more, I think.

I guess I feel like this is like far too many epic stories: the setup in the first chapter can be great and full of potential…but fails ultimately to live up to the potential in MY mind. That we get an epic story on this scale in only 4 issues (though they’re the size of 8 regular-sized issues) with no other tie-ins and such is something that would be completely "impossible" today, and so even a "choppy" issue is preferable to avoid umpteen tie-ins and expanded chapters and such.

I’d bought this originally when it was a brand-new issue; but the copy I read this time is one I got from a quarter-bin; and certainly is well worth the 25 cents if only for the amount of time it took to just READ the issue (even WITH double-page splashes!). And to get all 4 issues of this Heroes Reunited arc for $1, for the reading experience, I definitely enjoyed this stuff…maybe a little more for the art than story, but I hadn’t realized quite how much this story had stuck with me, of seeing the heroes lose–die–multiple times before achieving victory.

There were 13th issues for all four series, as another 4-part story, with the Marvel characters and this Heroes Reborn universe merged with the then-Wildstorm Universe; and then there was the 4-issue Heroes Return mini-series that bridged the characters from these series back to new series in the main/actual Marvel Universe.

But on the whole, this story served to "end" this iteration of the series, and works well enough on its own to be well worth reading for a bargain price (25 cents, 50 cents, $1-ish). I’d say if you find it for 25-50 cents it’s definitely worth reading Captain America #12 on its own; but it’s best read along with the other #12s, and a real treat for $1 or less an issue (making for a reading experience 8 times as long as a contemporary regular Marvel issue for the same price as the contemporary issue!)

captain_america_(1996)_0012_blogtrailer

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Captain America: Reborn #6 [Review]

By: Ed Brubaker, Bryan Hitch and Butch Guice
Colors: Paul Mounts
Leters: VC’s Joe Caramagna
Designer: Rian Hughes
Covers: Hitch and Mounts; John Cassaday and Laura Martin; Joe Quesada, Danny Miki and Richard Isanove
Assoc. Editor: Lauren Sankovitch
Editor: Tom Brevoort

Before I read a single page of this issue, I was impressed by a stark difference I’m entirely unused to. This issue–at least, for the version of the cover that I bought, keeping with the visual style of the covers I’ve chosen since issue #1–sports not only a wrap-around cover, but a gatefold as well. That is, we have a 3-“panel” cover that folds out to the width of 3 comic covers, as a single, large image. Meanwhile, the latest Justice League of America issue from DC features HALF of a two-panel image as each of two different editions of the same exact issue. I dislike variants, but have a much easier time tolerating them when each is at least its own complete image. And the “build-an-image” motif where covers connect to form a larger image is cool, so long as it is multiple different issues–whether consecutive issues of a series/mini-series, or of a crossover/story arc.

Picking up where the previous issue left off, this issue finds Steve Rogers in his Captain America uniform, his body in control of the Red Skull’s consciousness, ready to murder his old partner Bucky, now the current Captain America. Meanwhile, a number of friends/allies fight for not only the rescue of Steve but also of those who have become entwined with the Red Skull and his machinations. Steve battles for control of his body, and unsurprisingly (especially given the title of this series) Steve wins out, the Skull is dispatched, and Steve is left–stable and no longer being bounced throughout his own history–in the present, to deal with a world in which he’s been absent and missed the Secret Invasion and most of Osborne’s Dark Reign.

The art on this book is high quality stuff. While it’s not perfect or anything, It really brings a lot to the story, enhancing the story and never particularly distracting from the reading experience. There are a couple of “iconic” full-page shots that were a little distracting as a result (in a good way, though). Despite the distraction–of noting the enormity of the moments depicted–they were a couple of my favorite moments of the entire issue. One shows Steve and Bucky rushing into battle side-by-side…two Captain Americas existing side-by-side. The other is Steve leaping into the fray, shield raised, the sunlight glinting off it, as many of the characters realize that THEIR Captain America is back.

While I tend to enjoy Brubaker‘s writing, this issue seemed so anticlimactic as to lack any real enjoyment for me. The enjoyment I found was in the art, in those images mentioned above. It doesn’t help that there wasn’t much to “wonder” about in this series. The title itself gave away the ending: Captain America would be reborn…and as we’d pretty much JUST wrapped up an 18-month mega-arc introducing a NEW Captain America into things (Bucky’s transformation from enemy agent to Shield-bearer)…it was pretty darned obvious. This issue in particular was spoiled by the fact that its first “epilogue” shipped some 4-5 weeks ago. Why that couldn’t have simply been held is beyond me–but it gave us an issue of Steve obviously back, obviously no longer bouncing through time, obviously alive, and Bucky alive as well. All that was left was the exact, specific details as to how things would wrap up.

If you’ve been following the series so far, it’s worthwhile to snag this issue to wrap up and such. Otherwise, wait for the collected edition–which will HOPEFULLY contain not only this 6-issue mini, but BOTH epilogues: Who Will Wield the Shield? and Who Will Not Wield the Shield?

Story: 5/10
Art: 8/10
Overall: 6.5/10

Chiming in on Captain America

So, Marvel–or the comics news sites, or some combo therein–managed to hook me.  Last week while I was at my primary local comic shop, I asked if I could be put down for a copy of Captain America #600.

I had picked up the first couple issues of Brubaker’s run when they came out, and didn’t find it to my liking at the time.  I returned with issue #25, and stayed on til #45 (18-part Death of Captain America epic, and the first three “Bucky issues.”  Decided to bail on the book to wait for the trades (and lookie here, I only lasted the equivilent of a single arc and I’m coming back).

I don’t know what the “big news” will be next Monday–whether it’ll be a Return or actual Rebirth of Steve Rogers.

But to be honest, I sincerely hope the news does not involve “the” (nor “a”) return of Steve Rogers. At least not yet.  I just last week finished reading the Captain America Omnibus (1-25 plus a couple specials), and adding that to what I read in singles from 25-45…it’s just far too soon in my mind for them to be bringing Steve back. With 25 issues of build to get to the death, and another 18 issues to get Bucky officially into the costume…I can’t honestly believe they’d (Marvel) force Steve’s return when Bucky’s only actually BEEN in the costume for 9 issues.

I think back to the 1990s and changes wrought–remember the bone-claws Wolverine?  That particular change stuck for a full SIX YEARS (real-world time). So much so that I think that version of Wolverine was actually starting to get a bit of notice outside of standard comic book readers (I have zero stats to back that up, though).  (But when one looks at stuff like the Ultraverse crossovers, the Overpower card game, possibly video games, etc…)

I hope that Bucky stays in the costume for at least a few more years.  Even then, at this point I think I’d find Steve much more interesting in a General Hawk sorta way–circa the latter issues of the first Devil’s Due G.I. Joe series.

But hey…time’ll tell. Right?

Captain America #45 [Review]

Time’s Arrow – Part 3 of 3

Writer: Ed Brubaker
Pencilers: Luke Ross with Butch Guice
Inkers: Rick Magyar, Mark Pennington and Butch Guice
Colors: Frank D’Armata
Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna
Production Irene Lee
Assoc. Editor: Jeanine Schaefer
Editor: Tom Brevoort
Cover: Steve Epting
Publisher: Marvel Comics

Bucky (well, Captain America) continues his battle with Batroc and a mysterious assailant with ties to the past. By the time all’s said ‘n done, Cap finds himself facing an even bigger threat than he’d initially thought.

No real complaint on the art here for me. Art duties are shared a fair bit according to the credits, but nothing on-page took me out of the story or got me to pause and think about having seen different art–which is credit to the team for keeping a consistent enough style to not jar me outta the experience. (Which is not to say one can’t find the differences).

The story’s solid as usual for the title, and we’re really seeing all the more a tonal shift from the “super-hero” stuff to the spy/espionage stuff. The costume, shield, and title of the series are Captain America…but with a diferent man under the mask and different relationships with supporting cast, this is beginning to feel like a much different character and title.

There’s a fairly decent ending to this issue, closing out this 3-parter; but we’re still left with a to-be-continued note, as this story “cliffhangers” into the next.

As 3-parters go, this is not a bad initial post-Steve, Bucky-actually-IS-Cap-now story. However, having been brought on-board with the Death of Cap back in #25 and following that and checking this out, I get the feeling that this is going to read much better in collected format, and so plan to discontinue purchasing the monthly issues and wait for the collected volumes to follow this. Brubaker’s story is fairly deep, layered, and well-done…but I’m ready to break from his single issues and wait for full stories.

Story: 7/10
Art: 8/10
Whole: 7.5/10

Captain America #44 [Review]

Time’s Arrow – Part 2 of 3

Writer: Ed Brubaker
Penciler: Luke Ross
Inkers: Fabio Laguna & Rick Kagyar
Colors: Frank D’Armata
Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna
Production Joe Sabino
Assoc. Editor: Jeanine Schaefer
Editor: Tom Brevoort
Cover: Steve Epting
Publisher: Marvel Comics

Bucky (Captain America, really) and Black Widow decide to split up to tackle their “problem” from two different angles–each taking the angle their strengths play to. While “Captain America” might get some results, Bucky is able to fall back on his reputation as the “Winter Soldier” to get answers, and eventually get his rematch with Batroc…and then face a figure from his past.

I’m not terribly familiar with Luke Ross–by name–in terms of prior work; but what we have in this issue, I really like. There’s a very realistic feel that lends something extra to the story. Though this plays in a world with super-spies and super-heroes, it feels like it takes place in a real world much moreso than a comic book world.

Brubaker continues to provide a strong story that goes beyond “simple” super-hero vs. bad guy, and exploring the world he’s crafted with Captain America now as a “legacy character.”

Despite this, I find myself checking out a bit. There was a certain excitement and interest locked up in the epic The Death of Captain America, and now that that story is behind and there’s no imminent sign of Steve Rogers returning, I feel like we have a new status quo that is interesting conceptually, but more well-suited for collected volumes. Barring learning something particularly engaging about the next story, I’ll likely finish out this arc, then let this title go for a bit, and possibly just wait for a collected volume of the next arc.

On the whole, definitely a solid issue of the title, and well worth getting if you’re interested in seeing the new Captain America in action, with the status quo left by the end of the aforementioned epic. This is, after all, the first “original” story OF the new Cap.

Especially if you can find the previous issue, this is well worth picking up–this is part 2 of just a 3-part story (a nice break from the 6-issue “acts” of an 18-issue epic).

Story: 8.5/10
Art: 9/10
Whole: 8.5/10

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