Alex Ross Spotlight: Marvels X

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

In the wake of Marvels X #1, I’ve been reading up on all things Earth X. In looking for more info and background on this alternate Marvel Universe, who better to look to than the man himself?

Here’s Alex Ross on the Earth X prequel 15 years in the making…

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A Civil War II Review – Lighting Strikes Twice?

Civil War II, coverTITLE: Civil War II
AUTHOR: Brian Michael Bendis
PENCILLERS: David Marquez, Olivier Coipel, Andrea Sorrentino
COLLECTS: Civil War II #0-8
FORMAT: Hardcover
PRICE: $50
RELEASED: February 1, 2017

***WARNING: Spoilers lay ahead!***

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

There’s a good event comic somewhere inside Civil War II. You just need to squint really hard to see it. As amazingly talented as Brian Michael Bendis is, what he turns in here doesn’t truly get going until issue #5, and by that point you regret buying in to begin with. The series is also bogged down by a certain been-there-done-that feeling. The original Civil War was one of the biggest hits Marvel has ever had. By comparison, Civil War II feels like a knock-off song played by a shoddy cover band.

In the original story, the question of whether superheroes should register their true identities with the government caused a major rift, and subsequently a war. This time the divisive issue is “predictive justice,” or in essence, profiling. When a young man named Ulysses is suddenly able to see vivid visions of the future, Captain Marvel sees a crucial opportunity to stop instances of crime, injustice, and tragedy before they ever occur. Iron Man, however, can’t live with punishing someone who hasn’t done anything wrong yet. What’s more, the exact nature of these visions are unclear. Is Ulysses truly seeing the future, or just a potential future? As they search for an answer, heroes will fall in more ways than one.

civil-war-ii #4, two-page spreadThe predictive justice idea is a sufficient divider, and reflects recent real-world events involving police brutality. The Black Lives Matter movement specifically comes to mind, especially when we see what happens to Miles Morales. But it’s when we drill down on the notion of another war amongst the heroes that Civil War II begins to fall apart.

Civil War ended when Captain America surrendered, realizing how costly and violent the conflict had become. The idea that all of these heroes, most of whom were involved in that same war, would allow things to escalate to this degree a second time makes them all look irresponsible, and even downright stupid. This is especially the case after Hawkeye straight up murders Bruce Banner with a literal crowd of heroes watching. But of course, if the heroes don’t fight, you have no story. So you have to make it work.

The way you massage that into working, for my money, is to have the heroes lament having to fight each other again. The original Civil War is barely even acknowledged in this book. It’s almost as if Civil War II is trying to hide from it. While it goes without saying that this story has to stand on its own, it’s a sequel. A sequel to one of the most renowned stories Marvel has ever done, no less. Instead of dancing around it, why not embrace it? The payoff would seemingly be a deeper story.

Civil War II #5, 2016, Spider-Man, Captain AmericaBut even with that added depth, Civil War II would face the problem that it’s simply not that interesting until issue #5. Ulysses has a vision of Spider-Man clutching a dead Captain America in front of a decimated Capitol Building. Given how young Miles is, and the obvious real-world parallels, this is where the story finally starts to gain some momentum. Hindsight being 20/20, this should have happened in issue #3. You put the Miles vision in issue #3, and Bruce’s death in issue #5. That way, Bruce’s death doesn’t feel so glossed over, and it’s fresh in our minds when we get to the final confrontation.

How about this: Captain Marvel puts Miles in prison following the vision in issue #3. (That opens up issues with Miles’ civilian identity. But we can work around that.) After Banner’s death and Hawkeye’s subsequent acquittal, Iron Man’s crew breaks Miles out of prison. We then get the confrontation in front of the Capitol Building as they were presented in issues #7 and #8. Would this little switch fix everything? No. But it would at least up the intrigue level earlier, and perhaps take us on more of a ride from start to finish. In truth, James Rhodes doesn’t even have to die in issue #1. As was the case with Banner, his death is almost glossed right over.

Our primary artist is David Marquez, with Olivier Coipel and Andea Sorrentino tagging in for specific sequences. Marquez delivers big here, particularly in issues #5 and #6. His stuff with Miles is very strong, which makes sense, as he and Bendis worked on Ultimate Comics Spider-Man together. He gives us an absolutely gorgeous two-page spread of Spidey overlooking Times Square, watching the Hawkeye trial. And of course, primary colorist Justin Ponsor gives us the Marvel Universe in all its glory.

hawkeye-civil-war II #3, David MarquezWe do, however, see a lot of what I’ve come to call the “Marquez doe-eyed pouty face.” Marquez is good with facial expressions. But we see variations of this one over and over, perhaps most notably when Hawkeye surrenders in issue #3 (shown left). We see it multiple times from Carol Danvers and Ulysses. We see it so much it becomes distracting and borderline comical.

As many problems as I have with Civil War II, I’ll credit Bendis for one thing: Not killing off Tony Stark. That was what a lot of us were expecting, given Rory Williams had essentially taken up his mantle in Invincible Iron Man. Instead Tony ends up in a coma, and we get a vague explanation about how he can’t be treated. Frustrating in its lack of specifics, but better than having to go through the usual death, funeral, and resurrection routine.

Civil War II could have worked. It would never have been what its predecessor was. But it could have at least been a compelling story. What they gave us had its moments. But by the time things finally got off the ground, it was too late. Given how all-encompassing Civil War II was in terms of its effect on other books, this story can be given partial credit for DC Comics regaining all that lost momentum last year.

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A Civil War II #6 Review – Following the Moral Compass

Civil War II #6, 2016, cover, Marko DjurdjevicTITLE: Civil War II #6
AUTHOR: Brian Michael Bendis
PENCILLER: David Marquez. Cover by Marko Djurdjevic.
PUBLISHER: Marvel
PRICE: $4.99
RELEASED: October 26, 2016

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

***WARNING: Spoilers lay ahead.***

An irony occurred to me after reading Civil War II #6. All this in-story drama and controversy among the superheroes is occurring because a teenager named Ulysses can supposedly see visions of the future. The actions taken by the heroes as a result of these visions have brought about the deaths of James Rhodes and Bruce Banner, the ruining of Clint Barton’s public life, and a lot of bad blood among our characters.

But now it’s all come to a head thanks to a vision of Miles Morales, Spider-Man, another teenager. As if we needed further confirmation that this story is really about the violence we see on the news every day, particularly involving young people.

After last issue’s startling vision of Spider-Man moments after murdering Steve Rogers, the battle between the heroes has come to a stand still. Our characters reel from what they’ve just seen and ponder their next move.

This issue brings us some of the best work David Marquez and have done together. Naturally, much of it involves Miles. The genuinely unsettling two-page spread of Spidey and a dead Captain America is simply re-printed from last issue. I’d normally call that shamefully cheap. But it works to preserve the emotional intensity of the moment.

Civil War II #6, 2016, David Marquez, Miles Morales visionThe page at right is the best in the issue. It shows us Miles’ emotional state after seeing what he did, and is a classic example of showing instead of telling. I love that they took us inside the vision for one panel, and the red smears in the page gutters are a nice touch. Though that actually looks more like paint than blood. I think I had walls that color once…

Marko Djurdjevic’s cover also adds a new dimension to the idea of Miles murdering Captain America. With his own shield? Really? C’mon man.

The reaction that Steve Rogers has to this is important. It’s as big a character moment for him as anybody else. Not surprisingly Bendis gets it right, positioning Rogers as the compassionate moral compass. He then accents it by having Black Panther switch sides, saying that “if you are on Captain America’s side…you can rest easy knowing you are on the right side.”

This, of course, casts poor Carol Danvers as the bad guy. Her protege Ms. Marvel even   stands against her in this issue (Though she’d already done that in the Ms. Marvel ongoing.). Carol has more or less been in the bad guy position the entire time, making her decisions based on events that could happen, rather than what has happened. Perhaps recognizing this, Bendis takes time in this issue to remind us she’s still trying to do the right thing, and doesn’t want to hurt Miles. We see her guilt, and she gets a nice moment of reassurance from Peter Quill. But the violence that’s resulted from all of this is causing her case to fall apart. Kitty Pryde’s expression in the image below says it all.

We get what I imagine was meant to be a bit of foreshadowing for Champions, as Ms. Marvel, Nova, and young Cyclops rally to protect Miles. The delays that have plagued Civil War II obviously tarnish that. But this scene was my first exposure to Riri Williams, who will be taking on the Iron Man role soon. I imagine that’s the case for quite a few readers. So perhaps the upside is worth it.

civil-war-ii-i-am-grootCivil War II showed up late, in more ways than one. This story just found its second gear last issue, and it finally feels it has the stakes an event comic should have. Hopefully those stakes continue to rise. Toward the end of the issue there’s a spooky page with Ulysses. A descent into evil may be forthcoming.

The question is, does he drag Carol Danvers down with him?

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A Civil War II #5 Review – A “Black Lives Matter” Moment

Civil War II #5, 2016, coverTITLE: Civil War II #5
AUTHOR: Brian Michael Bendis
PENCILLER: David Marquez. Cover by Marko Djurdjevic.
PUBLISHER: Marvel
PRICE: $4.99
RELEASED: September 21, 2016

***WARNING: Spoilers lay ahead.***

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

It’s been a bumpy road for Civil War II. Despite its epic scope and game-changing plot points, it’s largely been a big bag of “meh.” And that’s not even getting into the scheduling delays.

Now, five issues in, it looks like things have finally picked up. The end of this book left a knot in my stomach. Despite having already killed off Rhodey and Bruce Banner, this series now finally has that heart-wrenching element that so many event comics strive for.

Thanks Miles Morales, and uh…sorry?

Ulysses, a new inhuman who can apparently see visions of the future, has torn the Marvel heroes apart. In Civil War II #5, they finally come to blows. Captain Marvel, who believes in using Ulysses to stop certain events before they happen, has assembled a group to fight against a team led by Iron Man. Tony Stark vehemently opposes acting on these visions, and questions their credibility. But by the end of the battle Ulysses has yet another vision, in which one of the Marvel Universe’s youngest heroes does the unthinkable. In a story that’s already seen the Bruce Banner murdered by Hawkeye, and Rhodey die in battle, the burning question is: Will Miles Morales be next?

Civil War II #5, 2016, Spider-Man, Captain AmericaThe image at left is our big vision reveal. Miles clutching a dead Captain America in front of a decimated Capitol Building. It may as well be an page from Red Skull’s dream journal. Now all the prior emphasis on Miles makes sense. Bendis and Marquez were planting a seed with a character they both have a lengthy history with. It’s fitting.

Virtually every Marvel book that doesn’t have Star Wars in the title has been effected by Civil War IISpider-Man is no exception. But in the main series Miles has mostly been a background character, albeit one Bendis and Marquez have made sure to keep around. I keep circling back to the two-page spread of Spidey watching the Hawkeye trial verdict on one of the big screens in Times Square. Intentional or not, it brilliantly positioned Miles as someone removed from some of the larger issues that plague more experienced heroes. There’s a certain naivety about him, partially because he’s so young. Those two elements are what set this moment apart from, say, the vision of the Hulk from issue #2.

But lets not kid ourselves. Like its predecessor, Civil War II is trying to be more than just another event comic. Its subtext speaks to the world we live in right now. Civil War speaks to post-9/11 paranoia, and Civil War II speaks to police profiling. It’s not an accident that Miles, a young minority, is shown harming Captain America, a symbol of American justice and values. This entire sequence with the vision and the subsequent arrest of Miles Morales is a Black Lives Matter moment. It’s Marvel looking at what happened with young men like Michael Brown and Eric Garner.

Ms. Marvel, Civil War II #5, 2016It’s one thing to show us characters dying in a story about proactive justice. It’s another thing to really connect it to the real world. This is the emotional punch that Civil War II has been missing. It’s a shame we had to wait this long to feel it.

Ms. Marvel also accentuates the big reveal very well. It feels a little too coincidental that the other teenage minority in the scene just happens to be the one consoling Miles.

Speaking of subtext, Miles has an awesome line during a fight with Venom. As the longtime Spidey villain is taking shots at Miles for not looking or acting quite like Peter Parker, our hero replies with: “Another Spider-Man expert telling me how it should be.” That’s barely even subtext. He may as well be looking up at his critics.

The sad thing is, most of what we see up until the vision sequence is largely forgettable. Marquez, artist Sean Izaakse, and colorist Justin Ponsor give us a very action-posed two-page spread of the heroes about to collide. There’s also a lovely shot of Hawkeye cloaked in shadow as he presumably goes into hiding (shown below). But by comparison, it all seems very generic and business as usual for a superhero epic.

Hawkeye, Civil War II #5, 2016, David MarquezFrom a comic book sales perspective, DC Comics has outpaced Marvel since the start of its Rebirth initiative. I estimate Civil War II is largely to blame for that. Marvel may have banked too much on the success of its predecessor, and additional eyes from Captain America: Civil War. The story has failed to capture imaginations until now. We finally have something to sink our teeth into, but it may be too little too late.

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A Captain America: Steve Rogers #2 Review – What Do You Mean, Hail Hydra???

Captain America: Steve Rogers #2, 2016TITLE: Captain America: Steve Rogers #2
AUTHOR: Nick Spencer
PENCILLER: Jesus Saiz
PUBLISHER: Marvel
PRICE: $3.99
RELEASED: June 29, 2016

***WARNING: Spoilers lay ahead.***

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

See? It’s not so bad. Bet the folks who threatened Nick Spencer’s life over last issue feel pretty silly right about now.

In issue #1, Steve Rogers did the unthinkable. He uttered the words: “Hail Hydra,” seemingly pledging his allegiance to the terrorist organization. But what’s really going on? Has Captain America truly turned to the dark side?

Nope. Not really.

Cap’s sudden change in allegiance can be attributed to Kobik, the sentient embodiment of cosmic cube fragments that has taken the form of a little girl. Just as a cosmic cube can alter reality itself, Kobik has altered Steve Rogers’ memories. In restoring him to his younger self during the Pleasant Hill storyline, Kobik also shifted Steve’s loyalties. And the person guiding Kobe’s actions? Red Skull himself.

Captain America #2, Red SkullSo basically, they went the mind control route. And that’s fine. There’s been some speculation that this issue was somehow changed following the backlash issue #1 got. That’s laughable. This is the story that Spencer wanted to tell, and it’s a story he stands by. As he should. Had he made the Hydra stuff part of Cap’s backstory, as opposed to a lie created by a cosmic cube, he’d have made it work. Was it controversial? Absolutely. Did it strike a nerve with readers? Of course it did. This character stands for something, and means a lot to people. But sometimes stunning revelations like this lead to great stories.

As Spencer himself wrote on his Twitter account: “[The] idea that we should treat a character with kid gloves due to symbolic value is a great way to lose symbolic value.”

Getting more into the issue itself, I love that this has all been Red Skull’s doing. He can’t compromise Cap’s values or integrity by himself, so he literally has to alter reality to do it. It’s perfectly twisted, insidious, and in character. Jesus Saiz also draws a hell of a Red Skull, particularly on the splash page shown above. From an art standpoint, he’s the highlight of the issue. Saiz makes him more expressive than many other artists do.

The events of the Pleasant Hill storyline factor heavily into what we see here. Bluntly, none of the Pleasant Hill stuff caught my interest, so I’m seeing a lot of this information for the first time. Spencer, Saiz, and the team walk you through everything. There’s still a frustrating, perhaps inevitable, disconnect for new readers. But the look back at Red Skull’s deliberate and drawn out plan is satisfying, and a lot of fun.

Red Skull, Captain America Steve Rogers#1,2016, Jesus Saiz

While we now know the truth behind Cap’s sudden allegiance to Hydra, from an in-story perspective, nothing has changed. For all intents and purposes, Captain America has now become an agent of evil. But what happens when his true allies learn what he’s done? What happens when Steve Rogers becomes an enemy of liberty, instead of its champion? We’ve already seen so much controversy. But this is only the beginning.

Images from author’s collection. 

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A Captain America: Steve Rogers #1 Review – Hail Hydra?!?

Captain America #1, 2016TITLE: Captain America #1
AUTHOR: Nick Spencer
PENCILLER: Jesus Saiz
PUBLISHER: Marvel
PRICE: $4.99
RELEASED: May 25, 2016

***WARNING: Spoilers lay ahead.***

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

This is the one everybody’s talking about. The one where Cap says “Hail Hydra.” You already know about it. Every fan with internet access knows about it. So why dance around it?

Steve Rogers has had his youth restored and is Captain America once again. He and Sam Wilson now share the title, with Rogers getting a new suit and shield. He’s also got new partners. In addition to Sharon Carter and the crew at S.H.I.E.L.D., Rick Flag and Free Spirit are back in the picture, with Rick Jones backing them up from home base. Our team faces off with a new incarnation of Hydra, and them comes face-to-face with Baron Zemo.

This issue establishes our cast, shows us who the bad guys are, and gets the plot moving. All in all, it’s a pretty standard issue. Until it isn’t.

Steve Rogers- Captain America #1, Hail HydraThe story ends with a serve turn, as Cap shoves Rick Flag out of a plane during their rescue mission against Zemo. It closes with a splash page of Rogers next to the victim saying two words many believe Captain America should never say: “Hail Hydra.”

At face value, this is truly a shock. The incorruptible Captain America is a Hydra agent! Somebody get Jim Ross on the phone. He needs to call this one. “My God, I don’t believe this! Steve Rogers has sold his soul to Satan himself! Someone tell me why!!!”

That’s a sentiment shared by many a reader. Nick Spencer apparently received death threats last week. Apparently some fans are burning copies of the issue.

Alright, let’s all settle down here…

Firstly, remember what we’re reading. It’s a mainstream superhero comic book. Owned by Disney, no less. This Hydra thing is a stunt. In a year or two at most, this all will have blown over. Anybody freaking out THAT much about a comic book, or any seriously needs to find other things to do with their time.

What’s more, things may not be what they seem. The issue shows us that in 1926, Steve’s mother was befriended by a Hydra agent. At the time he’s a little boy. The implication is that Hydra got to him before he was old enough to know what was happening. It’s not as if he willingly turned his back on his country.

Steve Rogers Captain America #1, 2016, Hydra recruitmentWhat’s more, this is only the first chapter. For all we know, Steve knew Flag would be saved somehow, and the Hydra line was part of a ruse of sorts.

But of course, the only way to find out is to come back for issue #2. There’s your real motive right there.

Spencer’s take on Hydra is very compelling. They’re bad guys, obviously. But via a flashback scene with Red Skull, Spencer makes it very plausible that someone from a certain background or facing economic hardships could fall in with this crew. Rarely has Hydra been so…relatable.

Jesus Saiz handles the pencils, inks, and colors all himself here. His best work in the issue are the flashback scenes with Steve, his mother, and the mysterious but kind stranger who invites her into Hydra. Her facial expressions are done particularly well during the first half of the issue, and her 1920s flapper style makes her stand out. The cool blues and deep reds add a nice dramatic flair to things.

I have a question: How old is Sharon Carter supposed to be? I get what they’re going for, with Steve being young again while Sharon continues to age. But Saiz’s depiction of an older Sharon looks, shall we say, unnatural. He seems to be going for someone akin to Michelle Pfieffer or Sharon Stone. But he’s trying too hard, and winds up landing closer to Willem Dafoe. That’s particularly uncomfortable mid-issue when Sharon kisses Steve.

Jesus Saiz, Steve Rogers, Sharon CarterNick Spencer finds himself in a unique position here. We’ve got two Captain America books on the stands right now, each starring a different hero, and he’s writing both of them. So in approaching Steve Rogers, he obviously needed to find a way to clearly differentiate it from the Sam Wilson book. Whether you like the Hydra route or you hate it, you’ve got to admit he succeeded in that sense. He also got people talking about Captain America, and thinking about what the character really stands for. While this issue may be pretty standard up until the big reveal, it still does what very few issues have done over the course of Cap’s run. That makes it a winner, like it or not.

Images from author’s collection.

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A Captain America: Sam Wilson #1 Review – On Wings of Partisanship

Sam Wilson Captain America #1, 2015TITLE: Captain America: Sam Wilson #1
AUTHOR: Nick Spencer
PENCILLER: Daniel Acuna
PUBLISHER: Marvel
PRICE:
$3.99
RELEASED: September 14, 2015

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Alas, poor Sam Wilson. He flew too close to the sun on wings of partisanship…

Yeah, that’s right. Wings of partisanship. Because his suit has big wings. And because apparently, Captain America is sounding off on the issues facing his beloved country these days. Of course, this issue doesn’t tell us exactly what his opinions are. But whatever he said, it was enough for S.H.I.E.L.D. to drop him from their ranks. Captain America is now a DIY project, with Sam and his remaining cohorts resorting to crowdfunding to restore some of their resources. And what of Steve Rogers? Has Sam even lost the faith of his former partner, the original Captain America?

I like the subtext of a half the country turning Captain America for “coming out” (for lack of a better term) about his true feelings. As the character himself says, our country is so divided right now. Opinions are widely different (at times violently so) about what America should be. Captain America now reflects that. He’s not above the squabbling anymore. That opens the door for compelling, emotional storytelling. Taking S.H.I.E.L.D. resources away from Sam and his cohorts also plays up his everyman appeal.

Captain America vs. Crossbones, Daniel AcunaCap runs into Crossbones early in the issue, and they have a funny little exchange. They’re about to fight, they know they’re about to fight, but first they shoot the breeze a little bit. They’re clearly enemies, but they’re almost old acquaintances too. That’s a funny dynamic. You wouldn’t want to see that with everybody, but ot’s cool once in a blue moon.

This issue also sets up a nice supporting cast for Sam. I don’t know as much about these characters as other fans do. But Sam’s partnership with Misty Knight is obviously intriguing. Nick Spencer and Daniel Acuna put together a nice sparring session between the two that’s ripe with sexual tension. On the opposite end of the spectrum, you’ve got D-Man to provide a little levity, along with some mechanical exposition. We also get a nice two-page scene between Sam and his brother Gideon, a pastor who brings a very personal, and potentially spiritual perspective to things. And of course, you’ve got our ol’ buddy Redwing. Add this all up, and it potentially gives the book some solid depth.

Captain America: Sam Wilson #1, Daniel AcunaDaniel Acuna is mostly on point here. He draws a good Sam Wilson, and I love his rendering of Pastor Gideon. He’s also good with the explosive moments. He’s also good with the explosive action moments that come during fights. Where Acuna lacks here is in Sam Wilson’s acting. When he’s in the mask, he almost always has the same blank and stoic expression. Granted, Acuna doesn’t have Sam’s eyes to work with, which I’m sure makes it harder. But even during the sparring scene with Misty, they both have expressions that aren’t blank (Acuna plays with the eyebrows a bit), but feel very lifeless. I hate to use the term “Captain A-Mannequin”… so I won’t. When Acuna has Sam’s eyes to work with, things are much better. But c’mon, man! You’re not working with a Spidey mask or an Iron Man helmet! Gimmie some feeling!

Sam’s stoic nature notwithstanding, we’re off to a really good start with Captain America: Sam Wilson #1. They’ve definitely got me coming back for issue #2. Something tells me old man Rogers ain’t too happy.

Images from author’s collection.

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A Captain America: White #1 – The Band is Back Together

Captain America: White #1TITLE: Captain America: White #1
AUTHOR: Jeph Loeb
PENCILLER: Tim Sale
PUBLISHER: Marvel
PRICE: $4.99
RELEASED: September 17, 2015

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Finally, after so many years of waiting, the band is back together.

Actually, Captain America: White #1 is more akin to discovering old recordings than an actual reunion. The last page is dated 2008. But who cares? Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale have a new comic book out. In the funny book industry, these two are as formidable as Cap and Bucky.

Seven years after the release of Captain America: White #0, the next installment in Loeb and Sale’s “color series” continues. After being awakened from his decades-long coma by The Avengers, Steve Rogers is horrified to learn how his young partner Bucky died. Now, Captain America, a relic of an era long gone, is left with nothing but the memories of the young man he knew so well, and trusted as his comrade.

Captain America: White #1, Cap and BuckyPart of the formula for a “color book” is that our main character is longing for someone they’ve lost, and is flashing back to their early days as a hero to remember them. In Spider-Man: Blue that person was Gwen Stacy, in Daredevil: Yellow it was Karen Page, and in Hulk: Gray it was Betty Ross. This story breaks that pattern with Bucky being in that spot. That’s all well and good, as it eliminates a certain repetition and keeps these stories from sounding similiar. Given Cap’s disposition as, in Sale’s words, “a fightin’ man” and “romantic neutral” (The latter is debatable, I suppose.), the partner dynamic makes more sense. Sales also presents a lot of cool big size/medium size visuals with Cap and Bucky, my favorite of which is the motorcycle shot above.

Sale is in mostly great form here. He starts things off with an awesome two-page spread of Cap literally leaping out of his coma as the original Avengers (clad in their ’60s era gear) look on stunned. Later, there’s another spread which mostly consists of a black and white news reel detailing Cap’s exploits. You can actually hear the ’40s style announcer’s voice in your head on those pages. Sale’s quirky style also lends itself very well to expressiveness, specifically during the scenes between Cap and Nick Fury, or Cap and Bucky.

Captain America: White #1, Nick Fury, Dum Dum DugganFrom a color standpoint, Sale and colorist Dave Stewart do beautiful work. These “color books” have always had a nice moody art to them that fits the deep and personal tone set by Loeb. Whether it’s the grim and shadowy reunion between Rogers and Fury, the lantern-lit moment in the tent when Bucky learns Cap’s identity, or the fiery skies of a battlefield, Stewart draws from a tremendous pallet, albeit one that’s a bit washed out at times.

I don’t get on Sale about his figure construction very often, but there are isolated moments in this issue where dynamism leads to awkward anatomy. Case in point, Cap’s pose on the cover. I assume that’s supposed to be his bicep covering his left cheek. But even if you stretch your standards, that’s a little too Rob Liefeld-esque for me. Ditto for the splash page where Cap extends his hand to Bucky. His chest is too puffy for my tastes. I hate even the thought of comparing Sale to Liefeld, but that’s where my mind went.

Captain America: White #1, Bucky!This issue is somewhat reminiscent of Loeb and Sale’s work on Batman: Dark Victory for obvious reasons. But there’s a significant difference in how both Captain America and Steve Rogers are perceived not only by Bucky, but by Fury, Dum Dum Dugan, and the American troops. Fury seems to regard Cap as more of a publicity stunt than a soldier, referring to him as a show off, a circus performer, and even “flagface.” It’s an interesting reminder that Cap wasn’t always a universally accepted personification of patriotism. It’s a cynicism that’s surprising, but insightful.

There’s also a scene where we get a sense that the younger Bucky may have a better aptitude with the opposite sex than Steve Rogers. Not only does he say it outright, but we later see the premise in action, as Steve interacts with ladies at a bar. Again, insightful.

Considering everything that’s happened to the Captain America status quo in recent years, i.e. Sam Wilson taking over the role and Rogers becoming older, it’s nice to see a throwback to Cap’s roots. It’s even nicer to see it done by such a masterful team. Considering Loeb’s role as head of television for Marvel, it seems unlikely we’ll see more comic book writing from him in the near future. That only serves to make Captain America: White more special, and more worthy of savoring.

Image 1 from Insidepulse.com. Images 2 and 3 from forbiddenplanet.co.uk.

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A Captain America: Cast Away in Dimension Z Review – About a Boy

Captain America, Vol. 1: Cast Away in Dimension ZTITLE: Captain America: Cast Away in Dimension Z
AUTHOR: Rick Remender
PENCILLER: John Romita Jr.
COLLECTS: Captain America #15
FORMAT: Hardcover
PUBLISHER: Marvel
PRICE: $24.99
RELEASE DATE: June 12, 2013

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Of his current run on Captain America, Rick Remender has said he was hoping to channel Jack Kirby and showcase Cap’s gutsy and noble spirit in a sci-fi environment. I’m not sure I expected things to get this sci-fi. But nevertheless, it works better than I ever expected it to.

Mere moments after being proposed to by his girlfriend Sharon Carter, Steve Rogers finds himself suddenly transported to a dimension ruled by the ruthless and sadistic Arnim Zola (a character created by Jack Kirby in the late ’70s). When Captain America escapes yet another one of Zola’s genetic experiments, he finds himself caring for an infant child rescued from Zola’s lab. Now, as he struggles to survive in a world he knows nothing about, Steve Rogers will know what it’s like to have a son. But despite his dramatic change in environment, Rogers will lives by a cardinal rule. A rule he learned from his mother while living as a poor child on the streets of Manhattan: When the odds are stacked against you, you always stand up.

Captain America #1, 2012When I opened Captain America #1, I had never been a huge fan. I liked him, and of course there was the obvious patriotic appeal, but the character had never connected with me on a personal level. This run by Remender and John Romita Jr. changed that. Despite the grand sci-fi setting, Remender injects a lot of great, relatable humanity into the story. The theme of Cast Away in Dimension Z is all about finding strength in the face of adversity and pain. It’s about finding the will to stand up, when it would be so easy to submit and stay down. That’s a pretty inspirational message coming from any character, but it’s especially so coming from Captain America. Amidst all the ridiculous chaos we see him facing in this story, he’s embodying what many believe is the true spirit of America. That’s a great thing.

While Remender and Romita are trying to channel Jack Kirby here, there’s more than a little Frank Miller to be seen here too. This book takes place over the span of about 11 years, so we get to see an older Steve Rogers who’s even more war-hardened than he was before. His bearded look, combined with the image of him running around with a kid, along with the way some of Zola’s minions look and speak, is very reminiscent of what Miller did with The Dark Knight Returns. The stories aren’t similar, but the the stories have a slightly similar feel. But then, given the involvement of inker Klaus Janson on both stories, it’s hardly a coincidence, is it?

Captain America: Cast Away in Dimension ZJohn Romita Jr’s gritty feel fits nicely with this story, given that much of it takes place in a bizarre wasteland. But once we get into Dimension Z, the real star of the book is colorist Dean White. Everything looks very faded, rusted, grimy and worn. This is in contrast to our flashbacks to Steve’s childhood in the ’20s, which are tinged with just the slightest amount of of sepia. It sets the mood and the tone perfectly for both settings.

Lest we forget, Cast Away in Dimension Z makes Steve Rogers a surrogate father to a young boy he names Ian. Hey Cap! Cap! Don’t do it, man! We’ve seen this episode! Mainstream superheroes do not have a good record with children, surrogate or otherwise. Aquaman’s son was suffocated by Black Manta. Superman lost his adopted son in the Phantom Zone. Wolverine ended up drowning his adult son. Let’s not even get into the two dead Robins that Batman has on his conscience. Heck, what about Captain America and Bucky? That’s been a rough road to travel in itself! But aw heck, the quiet scenes with Steve and Ian work pretty well, and Cap’s love for the kid comes off very effectively. So let’s go ahead and ride this train until the inevitable wreck…

Cast Away in Dimension Z does a great job of cutting to the core of Steve Rogers, and illustrating just what it is that makes him endure as Captain America. At the same time, it takes him out of his natural environment, and introduces some fresh elements. It’s not the best book we’ve seen from the Marvel NOW! initiative, but it’s definitely in the top tier.

RATING: 8.5/10

Image 1 from marvel.com. Image 2 from brokenspinecomics.tumblr.com.

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A Captain America #1 – A New Beginning…Again

Captain America #1 (2011)TITLE: Captain America #1
AUTHOR: Ed Brubaker
PENCILLER: Steve McNiven
PUBLISHER: Marvel
PRICE: $3.99
RELEASED: July 11, 2011

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

“That’s right, folks. This is it. The FIRST issue of Captain America! The very first! And when we say first, we MEAN first! That’s why we put the big number one on the cover, so that you you know didn’t miss anything. We at Marvel have heard your cries over the big numbers on all of our issues, and we sincerely apologize for assaulting your brains with double digits, and tea-bagging them with triples. That’s why we’ve brought your ol’ pal Cap back to #1! Because of all the numbers out there, 1 is the most accessible! It’s the most fresh! It’s the most hip! It’s an apple pie straight out of the oven, a new crayon out of the box, a fresh page in the notebook! One is the friendliest number that you ever did see! One is marketable! That’s why Thor was renumbered this year, and X-Men was renumbered last year! And if you think THAT’S groovy, did you hear about our friends over at DC? They’re renumbering EVERYTHING! That’s not just fresh, it’s funky fresh! They know what readers want! They’re fly! They’re dope! They’re way cool, man! And next month, be sure and come back for a NEW Captain America #1! We gotta keep it fresh, ya’ll!”

Captain America #1 (2011), Steve McNivenWhew. Okay, I’m done…

We start the issue with Steve Rogers, Nick Fury, Sharon Carter and Dum Dum Dugan (whose identities are never explained to the reader, which seems odd, as this is supposed to be a jumping-on point for new readers) at the funeral of Peggy Carter, Sharon’s aunt and an old flame/partner of Captain America’s from World War II. While at the funeral, the group comes under attack from a mystery assailant, who Steve recognizes as an old ally from the war. Little does he know that his old friend is now working with one of his worst enemies.

Ed Brubaker rarely gives you much to complain about. This issue is no exception, and that shouldn’t be a surprise, as he’s been writing Cap for quite some time. The only complaint I have regards (forgive the repetition) new reader accessibility. We get Steve’s backstory, and obviously that’s the most important one. But we don’t know how Fury and Dugan can look the virtually same in 1944 as they do today. Also, new readers likely won’t know who the villain revealed on the final page is. Thank God for Wikipedia.

Captain America #1, 2011, Steve McNivenSteve McNiven hits this issue out of the park. There’s a moment in this issue where Cap does one of his trademark shield throws, and the way he frames it from release to return is simply beautiful. You can almost feel the impact. The issue is almost worth it for that moment alone.

This certainly isn’t the best first issue I’ve ever read, but it’s nice. Hopefully it’ll do well, what with all the press for Captain America: The First Avenger. If it doesn’t, it should certainly be good enough to impress Cap’s current fan base.

Image 1 from comicbookmovie.com. Image 2 from scansdaily.dreamwidth.org.

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