His super-soldier formula is gone, and Steve Rogers is once again just a man, but his years in Zola’s pocket dimension have come back to haunt him. Is this the end for Captain America? Your Major Spoilers review of Captain America #23 awaits!
CAPTAIN AMERICA #23
Writer: Rick Remender
Penciler: Carlos Pacheco
Inker: Mariano Taibo
Colorist: Dean White
Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna
Editor: Tom Brevoort
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Cover Price: $3.99
Previously in Captain America: “Captain America was kidnapped by Armin Zola and brought to Dimension Z, where Zola ruled as a harsh dictator. Zola wanted to use the Super-Soldier Serum in Cap’s genetic code to make his own race of super-beings, but Cap broke free before he could finish his experiments, taking Zola’s infant child with him. After spending twelve years in Dimension Z raising Ian as his own, Cap defeated Zola and escaped with Jet Black, Zola’s daughter, but lost both Ian and his lover Sharon Carter.
Before being defeated by Sam Wilson (a.k.a. The Falcon), the villains former SHIELD agent Ran Shen (now calling himself the Iron Nail) was able to neutralize the Super-Soldier Serum within Cap, causing him to rapidly age into an old man. Meanwhile, Zola began his invasion of Earth from Dimension Z. In addition to Zola and his army of mutates, a lone figure clad in armor came through with the intention of finding Captain America…”
So, this issue starts with one of those moments in comics that are always divisive: A masked, armored figure breaking into Avengers mansion, with a clear mission to find Captain America. Certainly some fans are already rolling their eyes, secure in the knowledge that they know what’s going to happen, and preparing to complain that the story was “predictable.” Indeed, the armored man engaged three of the most powerful Avengers in Thor, The Hulk and Iron Man, and uses guile and guts (with a smidgen of power) to get past them, and reveals himself to Captain America to be…
…exactly whom I though he would be. But that, rather than being predictable, is in my eyes a good thing. The issue’s cover shows the mystery-man removing his helmet, implying that it’s the reveal, not the mystery that’s important, and when Captain America introduces the Avengers to “my son, Ian Rogers”, it’s a strong moment for the now-elderly Captain America. The reveal is meant to be a powerful moment for the characters, but not necessarily a mystery for us, the omniscient readers, and on that level it works. At the same time, The Falcon and Jet Black are infiltrating Zola’s stronghold in the hopes of sussing out her father’s motives in this attack, as well as giving us more of the romantic tease between them (something that has been a sticking point for many readers in recent issues.) There’s a full-frontal attack by the Avengers that reveals Zola’s most powerful mutates (and a clever, memorable reveal it is) and the issue ends with another big reveal-that-isn’t-really-so-much-a-reveal as a deep breath of relief for those who have been reading the book since issue #1.
WHERE IT IS ALL LEADING
It’s a solid issue of suspense and fighty-fighty, with a quiet air that makes me think that all three of the issue’s big story beats have hidden depths. Is the armored man really Ian? Is Falcon’s discovery legit? Are Zola’s mutates just a visual gag? I don’t know, and given Remender’s plotting habits, full of moving parts and hinges, I can’t say that any of my guesses are going to be meaningful. From an art standpoint, it’s an enjoyable issue, with the core Avengers all putting in nice showings (Iron Man’s helmet is particularly nicely done by Pacheco) and the final page is lush in is disgusting filthiness. Jet Black is a wonderful Kirby-homage character (albeit one whose rapid-aging has led to some squickiness with regards to her very adult relationship with The Falcon), and the design of Ian’s armor is another visual reference to Zola’s creator. Even Senior Citizen Captain America is visually interesting, maintaining enough recognizable facial features to be an older version of Pacheco’s version of regular Cap, probably the hardest thing to deliver on (except for maybe the monstrous lumpy creatures of Dimension Z.) Those who pay attention to the solicits (and to Major Spoilers press coverage) know that The Falcon will be picking up the shield and mantle of Captain America soon, and this issue gives us some tantalizing hints of how that could end up going, but first we have to pick of the pieces left from Cap’s decade-plus trapped in a hell dimension.
THE BOTTOM LINE: I ENJOYED THIS ONE
It’s kind of rare these days to be able to pick up a single issue and enjoy it as a unit, rather than as a chapter of an ongoing saga, but this one is a good read from front to back, bringing back themes and characters from the earlier bits of this volume of Captain America in preparation for what I presume is a big wrap-up (in #25?) right around the corner. Captain America #23 raises a few questions, a few red flags, and looks good, but doesn’t back away from the most problematic aspects of this arc (re: Jet Black) but makes for an entertaining and complete single-issue read that makes me want to come back next time around, earning 3.5 out of 5 stars overall. As a Falcon fan, I’m interested in seeing how this all plays out, and what role Steve Rogers will be playing in future Cap stories…