Sunday, January 08, 2012

Captain America #6 – A Review

Captain America (2011) #6

Writer: Ed Brubaker
Penciler: Alan Davis
Inker: Mark Farmer
Colorist: Laura Martin
Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna
Publisher: Marvel
Price: $3.99

In Jim’s Dec 21st Week In Review (posted 12-26), he said Marvel was insane for publishing two issues of Captain America in one week (#5 & 6). I was in hearty agreement with him at the time, but now that I’ve read both issues back-to-back I have to say it was not only sane, but also an extremely necessary move.

Despite my love of the first issue way back in July, the story has been extremely slow since then and I haven’t really enjoyed the “Unreal” fantasy world element either. And not counting this week’s catch-up issues, we only got four chapters in just over six months time. By contrast the Captain America & Bucky title has been superb both in story and schedule (if that wasn’t the case for the latter then the story made up for any lapses). So, it will come as no surprise (from fickle me) that the regular “current time” Cap book was on the chopping block from my pull list.

Issue 5 by itself would not have lifted the title from its dire fate. For one thing, the book had two artists with incompatible styles: Steve McNiven and Giuseppe Camuncoli. Camuncoli is the artist I had difficulty appreciating his style over in Amazing Spider-Man recently. He only pencilled six pages, but for a book that was delayed, couldn't we have waited another few weeks for McNiven to finish the whole issue? I really love McNiven’s figure work, but he’s a bit of a minimalist when it comes to the backgrounds. So, even while it looks great and the action sequences are usually stellar, it sometimes comes across as a bit lite.

I had issues with the story too. Codename: Bravo (one of the “strangest” [I’m being kind here] names EVER) starts harping on how all of Congress has been bought and paid for by the Robber Barons and Cap has failed the nation by not standing up to this. He implies that the media is controlled by this elite as well. Given that Brubaker has shown more left-leaning tendencies in the past, it really had me mystified as to his intentions here. It seems like he’s lumping both parties in together – I suppose that’s being fair and balanced – and I won’t argue that politicians are under various influences for good or ill to the point I’m hesitant to trust any of them. Still, Cap really gets shaken by all of this and you have to wonder if he’s not going to join Occupy Wall Street in the near future. That would be…topical, but it might not make for the best super-hero comics.

Issue 6 by comparison was an example of good-ol’ fashioned super-hero storytelling – something that has been missed from this title since Brubaker took over the writing chores. Don’t get me wrong, the Winter Soldier, and more S.H.I.E.L.D oriented dramas have been for the most part exceptional. However, there’s a huge portion of Cap’s history that has been largely put on the back burner. It’s fitting that this shift comes at the same time Alan Davis and Mark Farmer begin handling the art. I don’t think it’s a coincidence either. I’ve long had a theory that writers often craft their stories to match the artist’s strengths – and Davis is the King of Spandex.

While Baron Zemo and Queen Hydra (loved the concise caption intros) are plotting and scheming, Cap is having nightmares about him reverting to his former 4-F state. This actually happened to him during his time in the Unreal. So at Sharon’s behest, Steve goes to visit Tony Stark for a check-up (glad they’re friends again). Nothing seems to be the trouble, but (and this was great) Tony will get back to him with final results the next day. (I mean how often does it actually take time to do something in comics – I’d never make it on the Enterprise. “Sorry Cap’n it’ll take me at least a week to do the analysis, NOT 20-minutes!!!” 23rd Century computers might work faster, but the human mind doesn’t.)

An unrecognizable Hawkeye is also present (he’s been “Ultimatized” in preparation for the new Avengers film and he looks just like the DCnU Green Arrow only with a different color scheme) and suggests to Cap that they go bust some heads by doing some street fighting. They tangle with some sort of clown-gang tripped out with tech from the Tinkerer. (Although, I thought it was strange that they said he was back in town, because I’m not sure he ever left town! Hasn’t he always been working behind the scenes for New York’s underworld since ASM #2?) While searching for big-T’s hideout, they get a call about a full-scale riot in the streets. Having just read Cap #200 within the Jack Kirby Captain America Omnibus, I recognized the symptoms immediately and was not disappointed at all when they came face-to-face with the source of the madness – a Madbomb! (This one is nameless, despite that all the originals had designations – I’ll call this one “Sugar Baby” – after the candy).

Anyone remember how the Falcon single-handedly diffused (or more accurately overloaded with sonics) – the “Big Daddy” Madbomb, saving the entire nation on America’s bicentennial? It’s hard to believe he got such a cold, almost racist reception from Hawkeye when Gyrich added Falc to the team to fill a quota (Avengers #181). Of course Hawkeye was kicked off the team in the process – but I digress…

Before Cap can even call in one of the Avengers scientists to dissect the device, he begins to perspire profusely, falls prostrate on the ground, screams in agony, and reverts to his frail form. Meanwhile an electric blast downs Hawkeye. The source: the Eel from the Serpent Society, who is accompanied by the Cobra and the Viper in all their four-color costume glory. (Cap’s costume looks great by the way. The mask is seamless with the chain mail – the way it was portrayed for decades. It doesn’t look like a big ugly – although it could be more realistic – cowl.) Eel destroys the Madbomb (to prevent anyone from learning its secrets) and the three villains start to beat up on Cap – just like the dream he had with a multitude of Baltroc the Leapers! To Be Continued…

Now this is more like it! I sure hope Davis and Farmer are on the book for the good stint. How about a year or two? – PLEASE!

Grade A: Slick and smooth like colorful spandex. A welcome return to costumed super-heroics that has me pumped about the series again.

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