Tag Archives: Captain America

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

Today’s Super Comic — Captain America #12 (2005)

captain_america_vol_5_12Retconning is tricky business. The writers are basically meddling with fictional history—changing backstories to suit current stories. When dealing with the Marvel Universe’s elastic timeline, tweaks are often necessary to keep things modern. But when the adjustments are more ambitious, books can easily go off the rails…or, when done properly, they can further enrich characters and stories.

Fortunately, Ed Brubaker’s major retconning of the Captain America and Bucky Barnes partnership falls in the latter category. Marvel doesn’t really do teen sidekicks, but it hadn’t figured that out yet in the 1940s (it also hadn’t even figured out it was “Marvel,” yet—it was Timely Comics back then).

The established story for many years was that teenage Bucky was an Army orphan who stumbled upon Cap’s secret identity, and he convinced Cap to take him on as a partner. And then he died at the same time Cap began his decades-long hibernation on ice. So…Cap fought with the aid of an experimental Super-Soldier serum coursing through his veins, while Bucky fought with the aid of plucky youthful exuberance and somehow managed to keep up. Other than the part where Bucky dies, it never made any sense, even by comic book standards.

In the “Winter Soldier” arc, Brubaker rewrites and fleshes out that backstory. Issue #12, we see Cap in 1941 learning about Bucky for the first time, as his superior officer explains the rationale for Captain America having a young sidekick. Part of it is propaganda, making sure the symbol of Captain America appeals to the youth. But there’s also a more pragmatic side—Bucky’s a gifted natural fighter who has received advanced training, and he can perform some of those wartime dirty deeds that need doing, thereby allowing Cap to keep his red-white-and-blue hands clean.

Brubaker didn’t merely retcon Bucky’s backstory—he gave a previously underdeveloped character an identity worth having. The friendship between Cap and Bucky was genuine, and that’s key, but otherwise the Bucky we had known was just the propaganda front. Turns out he was really Captain America’s secret weapon.

And now that secret weapon is aimed at Cap himself. It’s a rich conflict indeed.

Writer: Ed Brubaker

Artists: Steve Epting and Michael Lark

Cover: 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

Today’s Super Comic — Captain America #2 (2004)

captain_america_vol_5_2I reviewed the first issue of this series over the summer and was reminded just how fantastic Ed Brubaker’s run on Captain America was. So it’s past time I resumed re-reading, and issue #2 validates that decision.

Brubaker’s portrayal of Cap is spot-on, and the excellent artwork of Steve Epting and Michael Lark bolsters the writing’s effectiveness. Captain America has gravitas here (which will make key events later in the run all the more meaningful), and he never seems like anything less than a hero.

Cap and SHIELD investigate the assassination of an old enemy, one who has tried to kill them all a ridiculous number of times over the decades. No great loss for the world, but the death brings Cap no joy. Though not exactly torn up, he feels the loss of someone who had played a major role in his life. And yeah, he’s appropriately skeptical, given death’s unreliability in the Marvel Universe. It all combines into a reaction that’s perfectly in character, and perfectly human, while further enhancing that gravitas.

I’ll have to follow through with this series, too. (What’s one more to juggle?)

Writer: Ed Brubaker

Artists: Steve Epting and Michael Lark

Cover: 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

Today’s Super Comic — Super-Soldier #1 (1996)

super-soldier-1You’d think having Marvel and DC characters duke it out over the course of a four-issue miniseries would be enough of a gimmick, but the publishers didn’t. In the middle of DC vs. Marvel, the companies’ respective characters fused together as the universes combined into Amalgam Comics.

So, if you were ever wondering, “Hey, what if Superman and Captain America merged into one character?” … well, writer Mark Waid and artist Dave Gibbons answered that twenty years ago in Super-Soldier #1.

A rocket crashes to Earth in the 1930s, but the alien infant within doesn’t survive. Scientists use its cellular samples to create a “Super-Soldier” formula, which they give to an ordinary recruit, granting him powers far beyond those of mortal men. Like Captain America, Super Soldier got trapped in ice before the end of World War II and spent decades frozen. When he awakens in the present, kryptonite radiation in the atmosphere continually weakens him, like it would Superman. He works for the Daily Planet with star reporter Sharon Carter, and his arch-nemesis is Lex Luthor, the Green Skull.

Basically, it’s professionally produced fanfiction. But it’s fun to visit this alternate reality for an issue, and everyone involved clearly enjoyed making the book and building its fake history. There’s even a letters page with imaginary longtime fans expressing their excitement about the new Super-Soldier series after its long hiatus.

Super-Soldier was one of 12 Amalgam one-shots, and Marvel and DC produced a second wave the following year. There’s no need to ever revisit the gimmick, but it worked because great effort and skill accompanied the high concept.

Writer: Mark Waid

Artist: Dave Gibbons

Publisher: DC Comics (on behalf of Amalgam Comics)

How to Read It: back issues; included in The Amalgam Age of Comics (The DC Comics Collection) (TPB)

Appropriate For: ages 9 and up

Today’s Super Comic — Captain America: Sentinel of Liberty #11 (1999)

Captain_America_Sentinel_of_Liberty_Vol_1_11Sometimes a completely goofy book hits the spot.

Sentinel of Liberty was Captain America’s answer to Batman’s Legends of the Dark Knight, an opportunity to tell out-of-order tales from various points throughout Cap’s long career. Unlike Batman’s book, Cap’s didn’t last long, but it featured entertaining stories by Mark Waid and various artists.

The silliest entry in the series was by far #11, which takes us back to an equally silly (if less intentionally so) Silver Age story. Back in 1963, before Cap was revived in the then-modern era, Marvel tested him out by having a Captain America imposter face off against the Human Torch in Strange Tales #114. And let’s just say, that’s not a comic that will appear in this series of positive reviews.

Sentinel of Liberty #11 has fun with the Silver Age story. Lots of fun. The issue is framed around the present-day Human Torch recounting the “classic” adventure to a disbelieving Cap (who of course was still on ice as it was all going down…there’s a visual representation in case you had forgotten). The Torch is treated as an unreliable narrator, though he’s amusingly accurate in his recollections, right down to his girlfriend calling for someone to “send some new linoleum over right away,” the Torch getting trapped in an asbestos-lined van, and the expensive lengths to which the Cap imposter goes to rob banks.

Not every comic needs to strive to be The Best Ever. It’s perfectly okay to merely deliver unpretentious, good-natured fun. And this one does so with excellent cheer.

Writer: Mark Waid

Pencilers: Walter McDaniel and Anthony Williams

Inkers: Whitney McFarland and Andy Lanning

Publisher: Marvel Comics

How to Read It: back issues

Appropriate For: ages 9 and up

Today’s Super Comic — The Avengers #32 (2012)

Avengers_Vol_4_32Brian Michael Bendis kicked off his nearly decade-long stint of writing the Avengers by demolishing the team in the “Avengers Disassembled” arc, so it’s fitting that his final storyline reunited the classic team and un-killed the Avengers’ original heroine.

Issue #32 is the second part of what we might as well call the “Bringing Wasp Back from the Dead” arc, though it’s technically dubbed “End Times.” The team’s roster has swelled considerably and branched off into two squads (maybe three if you count the Secret Avengers, but they’re secret, so…shhhh!), but here much of the focus narrows onto Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, and Giant Man has they shrink into a micro-world to, they hope, find the Wasp and bring her home, like she’s Matt Damon or something.

So, if you don’t count the Hulk and if you want to grandfather Cap in, that means the story focuses on the original Avengers in all their original glory. Whether it’s due to the history or the characters’ chemistry, watching these five working together is always a treat.

In particular, Bendis’s lively characterization of the Wasp is spot-on, and the reunion scene is about perfect. Even at the end of his run (which finished two issues later), Bendis still had it.

Writer: Brian Michael Bendis

Pencilers: Mike Mayhew and Brandon Peterson

Inker: Brandon Peterson

Publisher: Marvel Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Marvel Unlimited; Comixology; included in Avengers vol. 5 (TPB) (2013)

Appropriate For: ages 12 and up

Today’s Super Comic — Astonishing Ant-Man #3 (2015)

Astonishing Ant-Man 3Ant-Man and Captain America team up! Though it’s neither the original Ant-Man nor the original Captain America … but it is Scott Lang and Sam Wilson, who are both great characters with a lot of history in the Marvel Universe. Besides, by now, the Ant-Man identity belongs to Scott more than it does Hank Pym. And knowing how comics operate, I have no doubt Sam will inevitably return to his Falcon role and hand the shield back to Steve Rogers, but he’s a worthy substitute for the short term.

Plenty of fun ensues in this issue, particularly with Scott critiquing Sam’s performance in his new role.

As written by Nick Spencer, The Astonishing Ant-Man does not take itself too seriously. For Exhibit A, this issue features what might be the first Ant-Man vs. Giganto fight, with one combatant making short work of the other. The stakes don’t feel terribly high, but it makes for an entertaining scene.

The book is just goofy enough to delight, but Spencer avoids getting too ridiculous with everything. Scott’s personal problems help ground it just enough.

I’m liking it and ready for more.

Writer: Nick Spencer

Artist: Ramon Rosanas

Publisher: Marvel Comics

How to Read It: recent back issues; Marvel Unlimited; Comixology; included in The Astonishing Ant-Man vol. 1: Everybody Loves Team-Ups (TPB)

Appropriate For: ages 12 and up