Monday, November 26, 2012

Captain America by Ed Brubaker Vol. 1 (comic)

Writer: Ed Brubaker
Artist: Steve Niven
Collects: Captain America (vol. 5) #1-5

The Marvel love affair with relaunching rolls on. The sad part being that it wasn't twenty issues before that they renumbered the last volume to legacy numbering. Then, this one lasts all of nineteen issues before they relaunch Cap again*! Unbelievable.

Steve Rogers has the mantle again and Ed Brubaker decides to lead off with an accessible story. You need no knowledge of prior volumes to read this one. Brubaker's been pretty generous in giving us an easy in between bigger storylines. "Two Americas" is similar in this regard.

This story leans on a few Captain America cliches to work. Someone from his past returns and is kind of cheesed at him. They fight. Steve then ends up wondering if he's a failure as Cap or if America has lost its way under his watch. On the plus side, Ameridroid shows up for a bit, even if we aren't likely to see him again. What we end up with is more of a straightforward action comic, which is not something Ed Brubaker has done a lot of in the past.

I mentioned Two Americas earlier; this volume has a few similarities to that book. The basic conflict is the same; someone shows up who is pretty unhappy with the way that America has gone, has a pretty concrete view on how it should be and will go to extreme methods to "fix it". The difference is in the message. The point of Two America's is that Crazy 50's Cap was essentially fighting to regain a vision of America that probably never existed. It was pretty clear that, however good the intent may have been, 50's Cap was off his rocker and definitely in the wrong. This time, it's left ambiguous; Rogers himself wonders if the jerkass had a point. Not exactly unfamiliar ground for a Captain America story**, but it's not something I recall Brubaker doing before, so I can cut him some slack here.

The ending points towards another multi-arc plot from Brubaker, but I have no idea if it's resolved. Brubaker's run finally ended - after a staggering eight years - about fourteen issues later. You'd think that would be plenty of time to wrap it up, but it depends on when exactly Bru knew he was leaving and if he got enough space.

Steve McNiven's art is nice, as expected. There's a gaffe or two in there, though. The two panels where Sharon tosses the shield from out a hole in a building immediately come to mind. I wish I could counterbalance with something other than "it was nice", but I'm far from a master art critic.

The Score: 7 out of 10

This arc doesn't hit the highs of the past, but it's solid entertainment. Not a bad place to jump on either; I wouldn't recommend it, but if you just wanted a recent Cap book without six years worth of ongoing plot driving it this is as good a choice as any.

* Because, you know, DC did it and it was pretty successful. They deny it, of course, but they're not fooling anyone. To their credit, though, they're doing a better job with the rollout; instead of the hardline "wrap your shit up before September" approach DC took, Marvel's spreading out the new number ones and allowing books time to finish. So I hesitate to give them too much of a hard time. Still, two Captain America and Uncanny X-Men relaunches within two years?

** We can thank Watergate for that.

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