In Review: Captain America #1

Captain America realizes the country has lost its way, while trouble is growing in Russia.

The covers: The Regular cover is by Alex Ross and I’ve found two versions of it online. One is a wraparound cover and one just features the right side of the image. The right side of this image has Cap in profile with red and white stripes behind him, while below two warships fire upon planes buzzing them. More planes are coming out of the upper left corner. Gorgeous. The back side, or left, has Cap battling several of his famous foes, Batroc, Baron Zemo, an AIM minion, a Hydra agent, with the Red Skull screaming the foreground. In the back, Bucky, the Falcon, and Namor are arriving to help. The American flag is the background on this. No matter how this cover is printed, it looks fantastic. The first Variant cover is by Adam Hughes and it was the one I had purchase. Cap is is holding his shield in his left hand as he swings an American flag behind him which streams over his shoulder and covers his right leg. Behind him is an American flag motif whose colors are lightened to allow Cap to stand out. The logo is in the bottom left, allowing the figure to stand out. I love this. The Joe Jusko Variant is classic Captain America. Holding the American flag up in a mound of rocks, Cap holds his shield high in his left hand and yells as the flag waves behind him and an explosion of yellow and orange goes off low in the background. Jusko was the cover artist of the 1970s and this stirs my heart seeing his interpretation of the character. A study in contrasts is the David Mack Variant which is almost entirely done in black and white. Using the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool in Washington, D.C., to split the illustration, the top of the image has a silhouette of Cap standing in the center of the page with the famous memorials and buildings behind him. In the sky is a red circle for the sun with a white silhouette of a jet liner within. Opposite these images is a white silhouette of soldier Steve Rogers saluting, accompanied by a mirror image of the memorials and buildings. In a white circle for the sun, a plane of the 1940s flies. Strong imagery. Jim Steranko also gets a Variant cover on this issue. I was only able to find black and white images of this cover online, so I’m assuming (and you know what happens when one does that) this is the way this cover is presented. Captain America leans into his right leg as he bends in the direction, his shield in his right hand also low. Where his right foot touches the ground, five diagonal running stripes emerge, shooting and expanding to the top left corner accompanied by stars. Six other stripes emerging from the same foot comprise the ground. This looks cool, as all of Steranko’s work does. Frank Miller & Edgar Delgardo’s Variant is a “remastered” cover featuring Cap holding the flag in his right hand, with his shield covering his chest in his right. A bald eagle stands atop the flag while stars provide the backdrop. This looks cool, with the colors lighter at the top than the bottom, but still really cool. Landing on his feet with a parachute behind him completing it’s fall to the ground, Cap stands ready to fight any foe in the Variant cover from Leinil Francis Yu. I like this illustration, but it’s colored too lightly. Darker colors would have made this much more memorable. Within an art gallery is a portrait of Cap and Bucky, signed by the pair. Standing before this painting is modern day Captain America and the Winter Soldier, smiling at their past selves. In the foreground are white silhouettes of people pointing in surprising at seeing the heroes before their likenesses. Clever idea for a cover with Paul Renaud doing the modern characters and a Joe Simon & Jack Kirby illustration used for the painting. So darned cool! Marko Djurdjevic’s Variant cover is very different: Captain America has his arms outstretched as he leaps into the air. He’s shown from just below his right side. He looks like he’s going to fly. This is a very realistic image of Cap and it’s fantastic. I wish this was a wraparound cover so I could see Cap fully. Outstanding. A full action scene from WWII comes to life on the Variant by Ron Garney & Matt Milla. Bucky grits his teeth as he brings a machine gun up to fire on Axis foes. Cap stands strongly behind him, striking an awesome pose. Behind and around the pair are the ruins of a city. Searchlights are in the sky as three bombers make their way to safety. Coloring the background rust and gray lets the bright colors of the characters’ costumes look incredibly strong. I love the WWII Cap and Bucky. I would buy a comic with this story immediately. I grew up in the early 1980s reading Captain America, so my default image of the hero is drawn by Mike Zeck. Joined by Richard Isanove, Captain America has one leg on the edge of a rooftop as he looks upon the city at night. Cap looks awesome, colored in red from a light behind him. The city is colored a dirty yellow. This is my Captain America. The John Cassady & Laura Martin Variant has the Avenger leaping at the reader with his left fist leading him. Behind him are red, white, and blue stripes with white stars on the blue. This looks great! Cap looks intense, with a lot of dark colors on his costume. Very cool. Overall grades: Regular A+, Hughes Variant A+, Jusko Variant A, Mack Variant A-, Steranko Variant A, Miller Variant A, Yu Variant B+, Renaud Variant A-, Djurdjevid Variant A, Garney Variant A+, Zeck Variant A+, Cassady A

The story: “The Sayan Mountains, Russia, months ago.” A convoy of Hydra vehicles are watched by a jacketed character. Within one of the vehicles is a blonde woman in a cell. The watcher, a woman, stands before the convoy and the center vehicle explodes. The cars halt and their riders emerge with guns firing. Within her cell, the blonde woman says to the dogma spouting Hydra soldier, “This is Russia. Graveyard of Hitler’s horde. Bane of Napoleon and his Imperial French.” A corpse of Hyrdra soldier lands on the windshield, looking drained of all life. “Why would Hydra be any different?” The woman outside waves a hand and a vehicle explodes. Freed from her cell, Alexa finds the woman, Selene, holding a Hydra operative by the throat. “No. Not yet,” Alexa says. “You’ve had quite enough to eat today, darling.” Selene chastises Alexa, but obliges, creating a portal to travel though, dragging her Hydra lunch after her. This mysterious opening is left until the final four pages, with the remainder of the book showing Cap fighting cyborg baddies and trying to figure out how the country came to the state it’s in. The action is good, with the Winter Soldier backing him up, but it’s the narration and the quiet moments that sell the story. Cap is trying to repair the damage done from the Secret Empire series. I didn’t buy any issues or its tie-ins, so it was a little confusing at times as to what people were discussing. What I did gather was that Cap knows he’s got to fix how people perceive him and that the government isn’t having anything to do with him — they don’t hate him, but it’s not going out of its way to help him. Sharon Carter is in this issue and she’s great; I grew up reading her exploits in this series, so she’s a welcome face. What’s done with her is outstanding during the dinner conversation between her and Steve. The thrust of this series looks to be Cap trying to fit into a world he doesn’t understand, with big doings about to go down in Russia. I’m enjoying this story from Ta-Nehisi Coates and there’s enough to make me want to pick up the next issue. Overall grade: A-

The art: Leinil Francis Yu provides pencils and Gerry Alanguilan inks for this issue. The first five pages of the book look great as Selene takes out the Hydra convoy. Alexa’s utter calm at the chaos that’s occurring outside is great, showing the reader that she knew of all the impending violence. The corpse that hits the windshield at the bottom of 3 is very cool, telling the reader that these men are not dying normal deaths. Page 6 turns to the National Mall where several men who resemble Nuke are causing chaos. An iconic shield takes these soldiers of death down and making others pause, leading to a full-paged splash reveal of Captain America on Page 8. Winter Soldier is revealed on 9 as also being on the scene, though at a distance. Cap gives his focus to one of the victims of the villains’ doings on 10 and it’s the perfect illustration to show what motivates this hero. The battle is quick, but good. The aftermath of this battle is shown as a full-paged splash on 18 and it’s dramatic one. These scenes are often shown in close-up panels in comics, but Yu’s point of view looks down on the destruction and it will hit the reader hard. Starting on Page 24 Steve and Sharon share three pages of quiet dialogue. Yu pulls in really tightly to the characters, giving every word they say a strong a punch as the action that occurred earlier. The final four pages cut back and forth between events in Russia and what Cap is doing in Brooklyn. They are effective without the dialogue, but bring the story to life incredibly well. I’m liking the art and am looking forward to what Yu and Alanguilan will bring to this book. Overall grade: A

The colors: The colors on this book by Sunny Gho are very realistic, but not bright. One of the joys of reading comics are the fanciful colors that they use. The characters’ clothes and the book’s explosions are bright, but not the explosions of colors that I’m used to. The opening five pages are set in a winter environment, so I expected the colors to be light. I did enjoy the colors used for Hydra’s colors. The yellows and flesh colors used in the present at the National Mall blend too much together, making the action sequences blobs of color. Page 18 has a lot of tans and yellows that also blend together. When Sharon and Steve are in the restaurant the background is also really similar to their flesh. The colors on this book are okay, but I want Gho to mix it up a bit more. Overall grade: B-

The letters: VC’s Joe Caramagna creates this issue’s text: scenes settings, narration, dialogue, and yells (the same font for all three), sounds, weakened speech, and transmissions. The scene settings are in bold letters, making them really pop off the page when they appear. The narration and dialogue are only differed from one another by the boxes or balloons that contain them as well as the colors of the boxes. The yells are in the same font as the dialogue, so they’re lacking any punch when they’re proclaimed. They were disappointing. The sounds are cool, at least. Overall grade: B

The final line: The last time I read Captain America, which was also a first issue, Sam Wilson was the title character. Captain America realizes the country has lost its way, while trouble is growing in Russia. The story hits all the right Cap moments: Hydra agents, fighting baddies, Sharon Carter, and the government not trusting him. The art is very realistic, though I’m hoping things become more fanciful with the characters and the colors. A solid first issue that will have me returning for more. Overall grade: A-

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Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer's Guide for several years with "It's Bound to Happen!" and he's reviewed comics for TrekWeb and TrekCore. He's taught 8th graders English for 20 years and has taught high school English for five years and counting. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars, or Indiana Jones items online.
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