Tag Archives: Captain America

Today’s Super Comic — Black Panther #8 (1999)

Flexibility with continuity can be a good thing when done right, especially when characters are appearing in stories over the course of multiple decades. What made sense in the 1960s may not make as much sense by late 1990s, such as a sovereign monarch choosing to join an American superhero team.

Black Panther #8, which features Avengers guest stars and flashbacks inspired by the classic 1968 Captain America #100, makes sense of T’Challa’s counterintuitive decision to leave his throne to gallivant as a superhero, and it does so by adding context and motivation that rightfully put the Black Panther’s monarchial role in the forefront. (I’m about to spoil it.)

So back in Captain America #100, Cap was so impressed by the Panther that he invited him to join the Avengers. T’Challa accepted, and thus began the Wakandan king’s American adventures. In the fast-paced, make-it-up-as-you-go style of 1960s Marvel Comics…sure, why not? But in 1999’s Black Panther #8, writer Christopher Priest considers that moment with the benefit of hindsight and takes a more modern approach.

The Avengers were relatively new at the time—an autonomous, unsupervised, unregulated group of powerful individuals claiming to have everyone’s best interests in mind. But Wakanda already had a history of unwanted and destructive foreign interference, so how could T’Challa be certain the Avengers wouldn’t pose a threat to his nation? And here he had an opportunity to infiltrate their ranks and take their measure firsthand. Thus, he joined the Avengers thinking first and foremost of his nation’s security.

Sometimes, retroactive tweaks to continuity (retcons) wind up convoluting the backstory or muddying things up, but this is an example of a retcon that enriches and deepens what came before while creating tension for present stories. The revelation is true to the character and therefore credible. Exactly how to do it right.

Writer: Christopher Priest

Pencilers: Joe Jusko and Amanda Connor

Inker: Jimmy Palmiotti

Publisher: Marvel Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Marvel Unlimited; Comixology; included in Black Panther by Christopher Priest: The Complete Collection Vol. 1

Appropriate For: ages 14 and up

Today’s Super Comic — Captain America #37 (2008)

Dayyy-umm, what an excellent series this is.

Yes, I know—that was the height on intellectual literary criticism. I’m a bit pressed for time.

Captain America #37 begins the third trade paperback collection of the “Death of Captain America” arc, so we’re back to some rising action. The Falcon expresses his skepticism about the new Captain America to Tony Stark and the new Cap himself, Bucky Barnes, and these scenes are especially interesting in hindsight considering that Falcon (Sam Wilson) is the current Captain America substitute.

But the scenes are strong in their own right, adding tension and casting doubt as to whether Bucky can succeed as Captain America. As another former partner of the original Cap, Falcon is certainly qualified to have an opinion.

Falcon isn’t the only doubter—we get a nice little Hawkeye appearance, too, giving the new Cap a hard time, kind of like how he often gave the old Cap a hard time back in the day.

And if that all isn’t enough reason to keep reading, the cliffhanger involving Sharon Carter will do the trick.

Dayyy-umm indeed.

Writer: Ed Brubaker

Artist: Steve Epting

Cover: Jackson Guice

Publisher: Marvel Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Marvel Unlimited; Comixology; included in Captain America: The Death of Captain America vol. 3 (TPB)

Appropriate For: ages 14 and up

Today’s Super Comic — Captain America #33 (2008)

In the past 15+ years or so, comics have embraced longer-form storytelling. Stories are still divided into chapters of 20-22 pages, but there’s been a greater focus on the overarching narratives that build over the course of years. The old rule of “every comic is someone’s first, so make it accessible” is less of a concern (recap pages try to compensate for that, though), and you’re best off starting with #1 or the first issue of a new creative team (which partially explains why companies keep rebooting books back to new issue ones). Television has undergone a similar evolution during the same time.

A common complaint when the “decompressed storytelling” trend first emerged was that you’d sometimes read an issue where it felt like almost nothing happened. The story would read great in trade paperback, but the month-to-month pace suffered…in some cases. Not in the case of Ed Brubaker’s Captain America run, which demonstrates the creative benefits of the slow build.

(Some spoilers ahead.)

Brubaker began reintroducing Bucky Barnes back in #1, took his time developing the character, and killed Captain America in #25. And yet, it’s not until #33 that Bucky is even ready to entertain the notion of succeeding his old partner.

By this point, clear motivations are established for everyone involved. The idea comes posthumously from Cap himself, communicated in a letter he arranged to have delivered to Tony Stark upon his death. He asked Stark to save Bucky from himself and to make sure the legacy of Captain America continues. Stark, wracked with guilt about how the whole Civil War debacle went down, feels especially obligated to comply, and he sees only one way to fulfill both objectives—have Bucky become the new Cap. Bucky, out of loyalty and respect, is not going to let anyone else take the job, and he has much to atone for. And Black Widow, who first met Bucky as the brainwashed Winter Soldier, knows he’s not ready to carry the burden, but out of respect and affection for both Bucky Barnes and Steve Rogers, she’s there to help.

The full saga is basically like a novel with dynamically laid out artwork. And so far, it’s every bit as amazing as I remember.

Writer: Ed Brubaker

Penciler: Steve Epting

Inker: Butch Guice

Publisher: Marvel Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Marvel Unlimited; Comixology; included in Captain America: The Death of Captain America vol. 2 (TPB)

Appropriate For: ages 14 and up

Today’s Super Comic — The Infinity Gauntlet #4 (1991)

Four issues into a six-issue miniseries, the good guys are due for a major setback.

I think everyone dying qualifies.

In an effort to woo Mistress Death, Thanos has already vanquished half the population of the entire universe using the power of the assembled Infinity Gauntlet. He’s achieved godhood, and now he wants love.

In #4, a band of surviving superheroes mounts a major offensive against Thanos while his captive half-brother, former Avenger Starfox, narrates from the sidelines. Mephisto, who’s basically Marvel’s version of the Devil, convinces Thanos to dampen his omniscience to give the heroes a sporting chance—in doing so, Thanos would display courage in battle and could thereby impress Mistress Death, Mephisto reasons.

So the heroes have a minuscule chance of victory against a supremely powerful villain, but they fight anyway. And they fall—and die—one by one, until Captain America is the last man standing against the mad god. Cap has his big hero moment staring down an opponent he has almost no chance of defeating.

It’s an absolutely classic Captain America scene that says a great deal about his character. While Thanos is pretending to be brave to impress someone, Cap is legitimately displaying supreme courage with no ally left to witness it as far as he knows.

And he dies. The good guys fail. And there are two issues left!

As a whole, The Infinity Gauntlet is cosmic-scale comic book storytelling at its finest. A universe in peril, life-and-death struggles, a twisted version of courtship—quite a bit going on here, all of it entertaining.

Writer: Jim Starlin

Artists: Ron Lim and George Perez

Cover: George Perez

Publisher: Marvel Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Marvel Unlimited; Comixology; included in The Infinity Gauntlet (TPB)

Appropriate For: ages 12 and up

Today’s Super Comic — Captain America #27 (2007)

The title character may be dead, but Captain America #27 features lots of great escalation.

Everyone is still mourning Captain America in their own way. Tony Stark is taking it rather hard, on account of the guilt he feels regarding the “Civil War” debacle. Sharon Carter has quit SHIELD. Bucky Barnes decides to gather Cap’s equipment. The Falcon tries to find Bucky. And so on.

The Black Widow enters the story, and we learn there’s a bit of backstory between her and Bucky. Makes sense, as both were used and manipulated by the Russian government.

The issue begins with Stark’s public proclamation that no one else will take over as Captain America—Steve Rogers was one of a kind and the decision is final. So that’s crying out to be boldly defied.

Bucky has a nice moment at a Captain America memorial, talking to an old woman who says Cap saved her father during a particular battle in World War II. Bucky knows the statement to be factually incorrect, but he chooses not to spoil her father’s memory. It’s a nice little touch that makes him a bit more likable. And that’s kind of important, given the role he’ll be playing as the story unfolds.

Captain America’s death may look like a big event comic, but it’s actually a terrific character-driven story.

Writer: Ed Brubaker

Penciler: Steve Epting

Inker: Mike Perkins

Publisher: Marvel Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Marvel Unlimited; Comixology; included in Captain America: The Death of Captain America vol. 1 (TPB)

Appropriate For: ages 14 and up

Today’s Super Comic — Captain Marvel #1 (2012)

Carol Danvers hasn’t had the smoothest history, but she’s finally in the A-list where she belongs. After her character-rehabilitation in the Ms. Marvel series from ten years ago, she was finally ready to take the name and title she should have had from the start—Captain Marvel, Earth’s Mightiest Hero.

She officially takes the name in Captain Marvel #1 (from 2012, not 2014 or 2016; I miss the days when series would go on for hundreds of issues). It’s basically a tone-setting issue, beginning with a fun romp as then–Ms. Marvel and Captain America take on the Absorbing Man, who amusingly wants to steal a moon rock in hopes it will give him moon powers. Things get a bit more serious later with the true inciting incident for the first storyline—the death of Carol’s hero from her youth (and not a superhero hero).

It’s a solid start that strikes a nice tonal balance. I thoroughly enjoy Kelly Sue DeConnick’s writing style—the dialogue sounds organic, the sense of humor is strong, and there’s a focus on character. All good stuff.

Writer: Kelly Sue DeConnick

Artist: Dexter Soy

Cover: Ed McGuinness, Dexter Vines, Javier Rodriguez

Publisher: Marvel Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Marvel Unlimited; Comixology; included in Captain Marvel vol. 1: In Pursuit of Flight (TPB)

Appropriate For: ages 12 and up

Today’s Super Comics — She-Hulk #8-10 (2014)

She-Hulk has always thrived when interacting with the broader Marvel Universe, and a fairly recent story took full advantage of that shared setting to excellent effect. It also took full advantage of its protagonist’s legal acumen.

In She-Hulk #8-10 by writer Charles Soule and artist Javier Pulido, She-Hulk is hired to defend none other than Captain America himself in a wrongful-death civil lawsuit. In recent events outside this title, Cap had been aged to his true 90-some years. Even with the super-soldier serum, he doesn’t have a long life left, so naturally an old enemy would try to tarnish his legacy in his final days.

With Cap being Cap, he wants She-Hulk (or more specifically Jennifer Walters) to win the case fair and square, exploiting not a single legal loophole. No technicalities allowed. He wants a righteous win, not an easy one. So he asks Matt Murdock (Daredevil) to represent the plaintiffs to the absolute best of his ability, pulling no punches.

So Jen’s got to be at her lawyerly best to save Captain America’s legacy. There’s hardly any superhero action in sight. This is pure legal drama with Marvel flourishes (and nice bits of comedy, too). For all her incredible strength, Jen needs to be clever more than anything else as Marvel’s preeminent attorneys clash in court.

And if that’s not enough, the story also includes Patsy Walker (Hellcat) and, quite randomly, an eccentric duplicate of Madrox the Multiple Man.

The Marvel Universe is a bustling place indeed, and She-Hulk is right at home in the thick of it.

Writer: Charles Soule

Artist: Javier Pulido

Cover: Kevin P. Wada

Publisher: Marvel Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Marvel Unlimited; Comixology; included in She-Hulk vol. 2: Disorderly Conduct (TPB)

Appropriate For: ages 12 and up

Today’s Super Comic — Captain America #25 (2007)

captain_america_25If you simply must kill the title character, this is the way to go about it.

Captain America #25 made national news when it came out. Must’ve been a slow news day if fictional events were considered newsworthy, especially given death’s well-known lack of permanency in the comic book realm.

We know Captain America isn’t going to stay dead forever, and no one tries to fool us about it. His death isn’t treated as the climactic event of the character’s story; it’s the inciting incident of this new story, which will carry the title for a while after. It’s not so much about how Cap dies, but more about setting up uncertainty about what will happen while Cap is dead.

Interestingly, writer Ed Brubaker and artist Steve Epting initially seem to present the death as a murder mystery. Cap takes a bullet for a stranger—a very Captain America thing to do—and in the commotion that follows, we see a gun drawing closer to him and shooting him point-blank in the gut. But we don’t see who fired the lethal shot. It’s a crowded, chaotic scene. Any number of people could’ve slipped in and done it. It looks like that question may be left unanswered for the time being.

Nope. We learn the identity of the shooter in the final pages, and rather than deflating the tension, this knowledge enhances the drama, demanding we read the next issue.

By the way, this issue also serves as an epilogue to the original “Civil War” crossover storyline, but that’s not essential reading for this story. You’ll get up to speed quickly enough.

Writer: Ed Brubaker

Artist: Steve Epting

Publisher: Marvel Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Marvel Unlimited; Comixology; included in Captain America: The Death of Captain America vol. 1 (TPB)

Appropriate For: ages 14 and up

Today’s Super Comic — Captain America #21 (2006)

captain_america_vol_5_21There’s a lot going on here, all of it fun.

For the first time since World War II, Captain America and Bucky team up to take down a giant robot! And it’s just like the old days, aside from Bucky being the Winter Soldier, of course.

London superheroes Spitfire and Union Jack guest star and clobber a new Master Man (always good to clobber Nazis). Agent 13 (Sharon Carter) takes on Crossbones and Sin (the Red Skull’s daughter). And though his body his dead, the Red Skull shares a brain with an evil Russian, and somehow a non-corporeal Skull is far creepier than a corporeal one.

Issue #21 is a big action fest, though it builds on what’s come before, maintains ongoing story arcs, and continues to set up future threads. And during it all, writer Ed Brubaker and artist Steve Epting successfully balance classic comic book fun with a modern tone.

An enjoyable time all around.

Writer: Ed Brubaker

Artist: Steve Epting

Publisher: Marvel Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Marvel Unlimited; Comixology; included in Captain America: Red Menace (TPB)

Appropriate For: ages 14 and up

Today’s Super Comic — Captain America #14 (2006)

captain_america_vol_5_14I was reading an entirely different comic the other day, one that won’t appear among these all-positive reviews. It wasn’t bad on the whole, but the villain totally fell flat. He seemed formidable, sure, but the writer primarily used exposition to sell this new nemesis. No organic connection between hero and villain ever developed, and the result was utterly generic.

Everything that storyline got wrong, “The Winter Soldier” gets right. The initial arc concludes in Captain America #14 (though the story is far from over), as Captain America finally confronts his friend-turned-enemy.

Bucky Barnes, now the Winter Soldier, isn’t some random villain shoehorning himself into Cap’s life—he was a major part of that life back in their shared glory days. And now Cap needs to not only stop Bucky from hurting others, but he also needs to save Bucky, too. Cap genuinely cares about his opponent. That adds a nice extra dimension to the usual hero/villain conflict—stopping the bad guy means saving the bad guy.

Well…maybe.

Oh, and Sharon Carter/Agent 13 and Falcon are in this, too. They’re a bit overshadowed in this issue, but their presence is always welcome. Lot of great characters in this book.

I remembered this series was great, but I had forgotten just how great. The folks behind the Marvel Cinematic Universe were wise to draw inspiration from this particular story.

Writer: Ed Brubaker

Artist: Steve Epting

Cover: Alex Schomburg and Steve Epting

Publisher: Marvel Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Marvel Unlimited; Comixology; included in Captain America: Winter Soldier (TPB)

Appropriate For: ages 14 and up