Posted tagged ‘Captain America’

Review: Captain America: Reborn

May 6, 2010

After 50 issues (of which the title character has been dead for the last 2 years worth) Ed Brubaker has brought things to a conclusion in Reborn.  It’s not a bad summation to the story (or of Captain America’s history for that matter), and it does accomplish its main goal of resurrecting Cap without resorting to too large of a deus ex machina, but it does have a pretty major plot flaw.

So, two years ago, Captain America was shot and killed by girlfriend who was being controlled by minions of the Red Skull at the time.  As it turns out what actually happened was that Cap became unstuck in time (slaughterhouse-five style) thanks to Dr. Doom’s time platform (which to be fair, had been introduced into the story before then).  And now in this book the Red Skull has launched his master plan, to bring Cap back to the present and take control of his body.

As master plans go, not so original.  And furthermore, this doesn’t really make sense as it was established pretty well in here that Cap’s time traveling was an accident because the time platform was broken.  So, after all this time Brubaker’s master plan for the Skull was this, despite tons of villainous monologuing from both the Skull and his allies about how nefarious his plan was and how people would be astonished when it was unveiled.  Yeah, not so much.

But looking past that flaw, the story’s pretty good in a widescreen action way, which isn’t a surprise with Bryan Hitch on art duties.  The man is the #1 go to guy for illustrating enormous super hero battles, and Brubaker gives him plenty to work with here.  And it does make for a pretty satisfying ending, but it is also a bit at odds with the more intricately plotted sort of espionage stories that Brubaker had been telling up until now.  Brubaker can do better, but Cap still remains one of Marvel’s best books.

Review: Captain America: Road to Reborn

May 3, 2010

Ed Brubaker treads water a bit in this volume of the ongoing series.  I suspect a lot of that is publisher interferance though, and Brubaker makes the most of the situation, but it is what it is.

The problem is a pair of scheduling debacles.  First of all there’s the slightly contrived back-to-back anniversary issues.  This volume collects issue 50 of the current series, and which point Marvel reset the numbering to its original system, giving us issue 600.  So we have an issue dedicated to the history of Bucky (the current Captain America), and one dedicated to remembering the death of the previous one.  Both are good, but both are also filler.

Scheduling problem two, Marvel decided to take the next major story arc, in which the original Captain America returns from the dead, and pull it out into its own mini-series in an attempt to boost its prominence.  This move left the series with an extra issue to be used up, so more filler it is.  This time its an unused annual Marvel had lying around that has become Cap 601.  The issue is really meant to be a tribute to Gene Colan, one of the legends of the industry.  And on that level it works, letting the Dean come back to draw a double sized issue of Cap battling vampires, elements from two of his signature comics.  And his art is as wonderful as it ever was (although he could make do with a better colorist).  However, this is also the third issue in a row that doesn’t advance the story, and enough’s enough.

I’m being pretty harsh here I realize, and none of these comics are bad issues.  But you can pretty much skip this whole book and not notice a thing, and that’s got to matter.

Review: Captain America: the Man with No Face

July 27, 2009

The latest Captain America collection from Ed Brubaker and company is sadly the weakest in the series to date.  Fortunately it’s still a pretty good superhero tale, just a generic one that doesn’t further the overall plot a bit.  This story solely exists to provide Bucky Barnes one story to shine in as Cap between taking on the role in the Death of Captain America epic and having to presumably give it up in the wake of the current Reborn story.

The tale takes Cap, Black Widow, and guest star Namor to China to confront some lose ends from Cap’s days as the Winter Soldier, namely the villain from the title (who can only be a knock off of the long deceased Daredevil villain, Deathstalker).  Brubaker also finds a way to bring in and salvage perennial joke villain, Batroc the Leaper.  Now I’ve always liked Batroc and it’s great to see that all it took to make him a more serious was to make it so he actually spoke French, eensted of talking like zis.

This isn’t a bad book by any means, it’s just that you can skip this 6 issues and be none the wiser.

Review: The Death of Captain America Vol.3

April 20, 2009

Happy government workers in Mass. get an extra day off day (a.k.a. Patriot’s Day).  It seemed appropriate to finally finally finish up the Death of Captain America today.  Not that these issues actualy wrap anything up.  At story’s end Cap is still dead and most of the villains are still at large.  But what this book does is cement Bucky in place as the new Captain America.

Since taking over the book Ed Brubaker and Steve Epting have maintained the book’s quality without missing a beat.  Many reviewers have noted that the book has been so constant that it’s become difficult to review.  We’re nearly 50 issues into what is essentially a single story arc now with no end in site, but nothing feels like it’s padded and the tale certainly isn’t dragging on.  

This is just a massive superhero epic unlike anything else being written at the moment.

Year In Review: Comics

December 13, 2008

I am so close to declaring this a three way tie for the top honors.  This was not a great year for comics over all, but the highlights made for some truly great reading.

1) The Umbrella Academy

I’m going to give the win to Gerard Way and Gabriel Ba’s stunningly original Umbrella Academy.  The book, which won a ton of awards this year, is just a great example of everything I love in comics.  The book starts with an insane Eiffel Tower and ends with a battle against some who (as Paul O’Brien described them) has the power to play the violin very well.  The story has some great characters, gorgeous art, and a playfullness that shines through on every page.  In short it’s the perfect comic.

2) All-Star Superman

A very close runner-up is Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely’s take on Superman, which deserves to be the defining take on the icon from here on out.

3) Criminal

Criminal is without a doubt the most well crafted comic on the stands.  Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips are both at their creative peaks here, telling a series of interconnected crime tales that they are clearly passionate about.  This is also the one series that absolutely must be read in its single issue form due to the extensive backmater included each month on the history of noir.

4) Scalped

Jason Aaron has proven me right when I named him the top writer to watch.  In the last year he’s made Ghost Rider worth reading for the first time in history, is looking to do the same with Wolverine, and has turned Scalped into Vertigo’s latest must read series.  Scalped is not a plesant book to read, it’s dark, brutal, and depressing as anything, but it’s all the better for that.

5) Scott Pilgrim Gets It Together

Bryan Lee O’Malley may only get one of these books out a year, but the time and effort clearly pays off.  This book is the turning point of the series, where Scott Pilgrim finally decides to put his life in order.  But there’s still plenty of the usual fun to be had.  A book guaranteed to make you smile.

6) Fables

Fables pulled off the gutsiest move in literature all year, simply by continuing.  Since it began the series has been building up to a climactic battle between good and evil, which came to a head in issue 75.  An evil empire has been destroyed, and now the book is actually going to show what comes next.  I’m going to call this the comic to watch for next year.

7) The Incredible Hercules

Who knew Hercules could actually carry his own book?  He’s been brilliantly cast here as a drunken braggart suddenly thrust into being a role model, thanks to the great Amadeus Cho (the 4th smartest person on Earth).  This has rapidly become the most enjoyable book being published by the big two.

8) The Immortal Iron Fist

My favorite comic from the previous year lost it’s entire creative team this year.  Still Matt Fraction and David Aja managed to go out on a high note with the conclusion to the Seven Capital Cities of Heaven.  But without them I had pretty much given the book up for dead.  So I was very surprised to see Duane Swiercynski and Travel Foreman come aboard without a misstep.  Their first arc was promising, their next one looks to potentially be great.

9) Captain America

It’s been a year and a half and Captain America is still dead in what has become one of the few prolonged story arcs in modern superhero comics.  Ed Brubaker has managed to kill and replace a legend and put some life into one of the weaker rogues galleries out there.  For the first time in nearly 30 years, Cap has become meaningful again.

10) Omega the Unknown

Jonathan Lethem writes Steve Gerber’s most experimental creation.  ‘Nuff said.

Serial Offenders

September 29, 2008

Serials are a nightmare for catalogers.  The reason for this is fairly simple.  The rules that govern the cataloging of bibliographic items are largely based around the conventions established within the publishing industry.  We draw our main information from title pages and verso, we understand subtitles distinguished by font changes, and we know the difference between a second printing and a second edition.

But then there are serials, where all that goes out the window.  I’ve heard some colleagues say (mostly out of frustration) that publishers should do a better job of following the rules.  Suffice to say that’s not going to happen, nor should it.  Instead what needs to happen is that we need to update our processes to ones that can cope with any curve-balls thrown at us.

One of the biggest problem areas we’ve experience lately have been (surprise surprise) graphic novels.  Theses are particularly hard because the publishers have been continuously changing their publication models.  Right now the big two publishers (Marvel and DC) release each story in up to five different formats (single issues, trade, digest, hardcover, deluxe hardcover) in a very small period of time.  

Let’s use Captain America as an example.  We’re currently at volume 6 (I think) of the monthly comic.  Those issues have been collected in a deluxe edition collecting the first 25 issues.  It has also been published in two volumes of the Winter Soldier (named after the story arc), 2 of Red Menace (collection a story of a totally different title) 1 of Civil War, and most recently 3 of the Death of Captain America.  Each of these collections reset the volume numbering for each arc, despite the fact that they all belong to vol. 6 of the comic.  The only logic here is that comics with a number 1 sell better, so they reset the numbering as frequently as possible.  This is not an anomaly, this is standard practice, and we have no clear way of dealing with it adequately.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Free Comic Book Day

May 3, 2008

Yes, conveniently scheduled to coincide with the opening of Iron Man (which was surprisingly good by the way) today is Free Comic Book Day, and it is really nice to actually see so many libraries participating.  It’s still not enough but this year is a huge improvement.  This has been an annual event since ’02, and has always tied into a major film release.  So essentially it’s a day to give out free reading materials to children with a lot of free publicity.  How could you go wrong except by ignoring it.

And for those who might want to work on building up a comic collection, you could do a lot worse than to work off the top 100 comic runs that was just put together by the readers of the comics should be good forum.  There are a few notable absences (Steranko’s Nick Fury, Englehart’s Captain America), but all in all this could be an excellent collection development tool.