Or – “How Do You Follow Up A Huge Anniversary Issue?”

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Some people would go with a high-speed storyline rocketing you into the future, showing the new direction and showcasing what the new character(s) are going to be doing.  Marvel took a different approach with this issue, looking backward to the original Captain America in a World War II setting.  Question is:  does it WORK?

Previously, on Captain America:  Steve Rogers, a scrawny youth from Brooklyn, was treated with an CA2_1.jpgexperimental super-soldier process and turned into the original Sentinel of Liberty, the shield-slinging Captain America!  With the help of his teen partner Bucky, he fought the Nazis and various evils until Baron Zemo’s experimental plane thrust him into the freezing waters of the North Atlantic.  Blah blah blah iceberg, Namor, Avengers, Bernie Rosenthal, Red Skull, Secret Wars, Birthday Party, Jellybean, Cheesecake, BOOM, Civil War, Sharon Carter, Bang Bang Bang!  In the wake of Steve’s death, his former partner Bucky (himself the result of Russian experiments to create the ultimate cyborg killer) took up the mantle of Captain America for himself.  Last issue, on the anniversary of Steve’s assassination, a group of his friends finally took possession of the weapon that shot him down, and realized that it’s not so much a gun as it is a time machine.  Every since the shooting, the mind/spirit/what have you of Steve Rogers has been travelling through the timestream inhabiting his own body at various period in the past.  We are pretty sure that there aren’t any cave paintings involved, though…

We open with a note: “This story takes place during Civil War and before Captain America #25.”  So, we’re going to follow up our huge blockbuster anniversary with a retro story.  My irritation is gone when I see the work of Gene Colan on the next page though, as Nick Fury and Bucky Barnes (still the Winter Soldier at this point) monitor the situations going on in the aforementioned Civil War.  Bucky reminds Nick that a couple of old soldiers like them have seen people turn against their own before, and flashes back to Belgium in 1943.  The entirety of the first sequence was given a dark, muddy, red coloring which fit the scene of two men in a bunker fill of video terminals, but I realizae that the colorist is doing something else here, as the same sort of digital effects and dark yet somehow too vivid colors continues.  Bucky and Steve find a dying soldier in a ruined town,  and then the flashback has a flashback as Steve tells the story of his origins.  The note thus should now read “This story takes place during Civil War, after Captain America #25, in the spring of 1943, and across a time period from roughly 1915 to 1940ish, depending on who’s doing the telling at the time.”  Oy gevalt.

The soldier dies, and Cap and Bucky wait for something to happen…  The body then leaps up, red-eyed and befanged, and tries to eat them.  The twosome quickly dispatch him and set off to find out if Baron Blood is still in his grave.  While this is going on, a famous actress shows up on a U.S.O. trip (Foreshadowing:  Your key to quality literature) and the Patrionamic Duo find that the hamlet has been overrun with vampires, even as the Nazis left.  Cap is forced to fight again, killing a vampire soldier in front of his whole platoon, leaving everyone disbelieving and paranoid about who is and isn’t human.  An innocent man gets shot, and Cap decides to cancel the U.S.O. show, but only ends up getting attacked by the Head Vampire, Miss Mary Arnett, Vampire Showgirl.  Because nobody would have noticed strange behavior in a pin-up queen.  Bucky and Cap hold her off until sunrise, when she explodes, and the rash of vampires is revealed to have one more member: a five year old girl who has been seen throughout the issue running errands for grown-ups.  Steve hesitates to kill her, but Bucky takes the shot, killing the waif and saving his partner.  “So, like I said,” explains the Winter Soldier as we return to the recent past, “I’m no stranger to friendly fire.”  Bucky then reveals that this escapade is the last adventure he and Cap had before the whole shmageggi with Baron Zemo’s plane, the explosion, the freezing waters blah blah blah fishcakes.

My first impression of this issue:  Why did they ruin Gene’s art with such garish coloring?  It’s as if somebody decided that moody and compelling art isn’t enough to make a vampire tale eerie, they needed to Photoshop the crap out of it.  Granted, Colan’s work has grown more difficult to color as his craft grows more complex, but somebody really needed to reign in the computer guy on this issue.  The cover identified this book as “A Very Special Issue” (albeit not one where Blossom loses her virginity) and it comes across as such, but it’s an odd sort of choice in both timing and content.  The WWII purview is neat, and the flashback story is well done, but the Civil War behind-the-scenes makes me wary that we’re going to see another situation like “Avengers Flashback Theatre,” where the stories in the titles were halted, and the monthly issues used as DVD extras for the huge summer crossover.  If they do that with the regular Cap title during the run of “Rebornded,” I’m going to be highly disappointed in Marvel, and writer Ed Brubaker in particular.  Overall, it’s a good issue, with a legendary artist plying his wonderful trade on the pages, and it’s an interesting glimpse into the psyche of Captain America I and Captain America IX (at least by MY count) but the parts don’t quite exceed their sum with this one.  Captain America #601 earns 3 out of 5 stars, with one of those stars being solely attributed to the presence of Gene Colan in the issue…  I liked what they were going for, but didn’t quite feel that it crossed the finish line.

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The Author

Matthew Peterson

Matthew Peterson

Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture!

And a nice red uniform.

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9 Comments

  1. Greg A
    July 29, 2009 at 4:46 pm — Reply

    Was there a black and white version of this issue? I thought I had read there would be, but never found any confirmation.

    This issue and the Tales of Asgard reprint mini with Kirby pencils have been both plagued with really bad coloring. For some reason, computer coloring hasn’t proved to be a good match with Marvel’s legendary artists.

  2. July 29, 2009 at 6:53 pm — Reply

    This issue and the Tales of Asgard reprint mini with Kirby pencils have been both plagued with really bad coloring. For some reason, computer coloring hasn’t proved to be a good match with Marvel’s legendary artists.

    Because the art wasn’t created for computer coloring. It was designed to work with standard four-color presses… For all that you can say about the old art styles, that sort of thing DOES matter.

  3. davek
    July 29, 2009 at 7:25 pm — Reply

    Wait, Blossom lost her virginity in an issue of Captain America? If Arnim Zola was involved, I’m officially burning my own eyes out.

  4. July 29, 2009 at 7:59 pm — Reply

    Ei, Matthew, it’s Reborn, not Rebirth.
    “Rebirth” is DC’s (and Geoff Johns) thing, while “Reborn” is Marvel’s (go away, bad memories of the nineties!).
    I get it, it’s very easy to get confused with concurrently event mini-series of with such similar names, especially with “Reborn” having been announced so recently…

    But, hey, the good news is, they are not going to do this [turn the the monthly issues of Captain America as “DVD extras” for Reborn] simply because Captain America #601 was the last solicited issue to this point.
    It seems Captain America’s publication has been halted, I believe, at least until the end of Reborn in November.

  5. July 29, 2009 at 8:13 pm — Reply

    Reborn, Rebirth, Potayto, Potahto.

    Either way, that begs the question: Why not just make Rebornded (my new name for it) part of the REGULAR title?

  6. ykw
    July 29, 2009 at 8:24 pm — Reply

    Why ain’t REBORNEDIFICATED running in CAP proper? Because Marvel gets to sell a new number-one with the mini =and= gets to pick up people who would generally not read the main title but aren’t averse to grabbing multiple copies of a “sure-to-be collector’s item!” limited-run title.

  7. July 29, 2009 at 10:20 pm — Reply

    Exactly.
    Because as I said, it’s a event mini-series.
    It sells a whole lot better that way (each issue has three (!) covers, with #1 having 4 plus the sketch variant!).

  8. Gorbash
    July 30, 2009 at 2:30 am — Reply

    Greg A. There is a B&W version of the book, and it is glorious. I got realy lucky from DCBS and got the variant instead of the colored version.

  9. July 31, 2009 at 5:22 am — Reply

    I gotta say I think the coloursist on this did an amazing job and i love the painted effect. It was one of the main reasons I decided to pick it up. I thought the art all round was fantastic.

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