Captain America 1

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Reviewed by 21-Jul-11

I am a huge admirer of Brubaker, and he’s done a lot of his best work with Cap, so I had high hopes for this, but I am slightly deflated after reading it. It does a great job of introducing the essentials of the character, thankfully eschewing a millionth showing of the origin, but flashing back to WWII, showing him with the Avengers, bringing in Nick Fury, Dum Dum Dugan and Sharon Carter, giving him some action as Steve Rogers and finally as Cap.

Anyone know how many Captain America 1s there have been by now? An immediate trivial oddity on this one is that the cover credits stop after McNiven, omitting inker Morales and the colourist, which is not the usual practice these days – I guess McNiven is the artistic draw here, but that reasoning would often apply. Oh well, no matter.

I am a huge admirer of Brubaker, and he’s done a lot of his best work with Cap, so I had high hopes for this, but I am slightly deflated after reading it. It does a great job of introducing the essentials of the character, thankfully eschewing a millionth showing of the origin, but flashing back to WWII, showing him with the Avengers, bringing in Nick Fury, Dum Dum Dugan and Sharon Carter, giving him some action as Steve Rogers and finally as Cap – and I’ll note immediately that after ages not in the costume, McNiven clearly knows this is a big moment, and gives us a stunning spread of action there, including an absolutely gorgeous shot of Cap catching his shield. I wondered if the fact that the costume starts to be exposed through ragged clothes might be a quiet nod back to one of my absolute favourite scenes in the history of superhero comics, when the Avengers found his frozen body in Avengers 3.

Trouble is, I do know who Cap is, so didn’t really need that restatement of his identity and history. We also get Hydra, who have always been a bore, plus a classic Cap villain revealed on the last page – sadly, one I never cared for and have seen too much of. It also seems to feature yet another revived super-soldier type from WWII, one Agent Bravo, with a grudge against Cap. I’m fine with Cap having been revived, and the superb way Brubaker resurrected Bucky overcame my cynicism when I heard it was happening, but I don’t want to head towards last survivor of Krypton territory, where it went from one to an endless stream of survivors. I may be misreading this in some way, and I guess I should have some faith in Brubaker doing it right, but that on top of Hydra and a villain that bores me feels too same old same old, too much like just grabbing the Cap formula and sticking with it.

Having said all that, I complained at the new Thor series going so much the other way: this is a comic that could get bought by lots of people who see the movie, and it could hardly give a more solid introduction to the character for those readers, and should be praised for that. It also goes without saying from this team that it’s really well done, with controlled pace, some lively action, some intrigue and loads of excellent dialogue, nailing and expressing personalities beautifully. And Steve McNiven is one of the most appealing artists around, clear, sharp, bright, terrific at depicting action that looks powerful and fast, and able to rise superbly to big moments, such as that first look at Cap in full costume after a while. He also gives us some wonderful faces here, especially the contemporary Nick Fury ones. He’s very well served by Morales too, who balances bold clarity with fine detail superbly.

This is a high quality comic, and pitched very well for those readers relatively new to the character; and I have a high enough opinion of Brubaker to believe that the standard-issue aspects will not mean the story won’t get good for Cap veterans too. I’ll keep buying.

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One Response to “Captain America 1”

  1. Peter Campbell says:

    That’s a bloody awful cover – Captain America looks like a Mattel doll.

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