The Cape: 1969 is the predecessor to the Eisner-nominated, Joe Hill-inspired The Cape miniseries from a few years back. This comic takes the action back to the Vietnam War, telling the story of how the supernatural cape came to be.
THE CAPE: 1969 #1 OF 4
Written by: Jason Ciaramella
Art by: Nelson Daniel
Additional art by: Zach Howard
Lettering by: Shawn Lee
Edited by: Chris Ryall
Inspired by a Joe Hill short story
Previously, in The Cape: Based on a short story by Joe Hill (writer of IDW series Locke & Key), The Cape told the story of a man rediscovering an artifact from his childhood, a cape that he used to play make-believe superhero adventures. But this time around, the cape gifts him with the power of a real superhero, and he’s not as innocent as he once was. The Cape 1969 is a prequel that purports to show the origin of aforementioned cape. Please note that I have not read either the short story or the comic adaptation, nor does this have anything to do with that canceled NBC show.
WARNING: THIS COMIC CONTAINS NO CAPES
As a prequel, The Cape 1969 does very little to set up its premise. Beyond the appearance of a mysterious tribal-tattooed old man lurking about, nothing in this issue speaks to supernatural capes or superheroes or anything of that ilk. What The Cape 1969 delivers is a brutal war comic about a medevac chopper crew in the Vietnam War. The violence comes early and often, with most of the plot devoted to the downing of the helicopter and the surviving crew’s subsequent efforts to evade their Viet Cong antagonists. There are bullets and grenades galore and plenty of action. But all that comes at the expense of anything truly unique. Any supernatural cape-type elements will have to be introduced in issue #2, because they are not here.
Jason Ciaramella’s script replicates the spirit of fun war-movie chatter, and provides a few taut, thrilling moments, but precious little in the character department. None of these guys are anything other than generic GI types. Beyond the initial banter, nothing is done to make any of them relatable or notable, so when various characters die, there is little emotional impact. This is unfortunate, since otherwise he’s written a capable war comic, rife with tension and terror.
BOOM BOOM BOOM
The tension in the script is greatly augmented by Nelson Daniel’s art. He does bloody, sweaty action well, and the issue lets him show off. A two page spread of the chopper crashing in the jungle is poster-worthy. As he infuses his energetic combat sequences with vital coloring and a great sense of motion, Daniel wrings drama from things as simple as a solitary grenade. The only missteps are the mystery guy’s tattoos (which somewhat resemble very modern, very lame tribal tats) and some irregularities in the firearms. I think Daniel was going for something more Asian-inspired with the tattoos, but they come off more brotastic than mystical. Still, Daniel draws a great war comic, and his work is a major selling point for this issue.
The Cape 1969 #1 is a rough depiction of war in the simple sort of way. Profanity is liberally applied, people are wasted left and right, while there is zero Platoon-style reflections on the deeper meanings of war. What is on display is the full-on horror and capriciousness of combat. Again, I have not read the source material for this prequel, but from what I understand, the protagonist of The Cape was nasty bit of business, not meant for the faint of heart, and this is certainly a very violent comic. The execution of this issue could have been stronger, but it did pique my interest in the source material. Tracking down Joe Hill’s short story and/or the comic adaptation is definitely on my to-do list, and I’m hopeful the character of Captain Chase will be more deeply explored in future issues. The Cape 1969 #1 earns three out of five stars.