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Captain America #1 (Vol. 5)

Posted: Friday, November 19, 2004
By: Michael Lucinski



“Out of Time: Part One”

Writer: Ed Brubaker
Artist: Steve Epting

Publisher: Marvel Comics

The Plot: In a flashback, the Red Skull attempts to purchase used KGB super weapons after the fall of the Soviet Union. The seller wants the Cosmic Cube, which the Skull doesn’t have and wouldn’t give up anyway. In present day, S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Sharon Carter checks in on her old boyfriend to gauge his mood following recent tragedies. As the Skull attempts to re-energize his latest version of the Cosmic Cube, he receives an unexpected late night caller.

Comments: A #1 issue has two purposes at one time. First issues for new characters give the publishers a chance to introduce heroes and villains previously unseen in an attempt to keep the superhero genre fresh and exciting (The Fantastic Four, Daredevil). Or a first issue signals a bold, new direction for an established character that radically alters what came before, generating excitement about characters ignored for a long time (Superman). The fifth volume of Captain America, which puts Steve Rogers just behind The Punisher in the race for “Marvel’s Most Re-Launched Character” features a Captain America haunted by World War II and moody around his ex-girlfriend while the Red Skull plots, using the Cosmic Cube to destroy New York City and torment Rogers.

Thank God this issue is a number one to call attention to this bold, new direction for the Star-Spangled Avenger.

Brubaker and Epting craft a very serviceable issue if this was Captain America #76 or #193 or #487. Epting, in particular, manages to draw a creepy Red Skull and Cap in a tightly drawn train-top action sequence. But absolutely nothing is found in these pages that demands yet another new numbering sequence. It seems like a minor quibble, but an extensively numbered series like Action Comics or Detective Comics fosters a sense of continuity and history with classic characters. Tossing that away for cheap marketing purposes does nothing but poke fans in the eye, something Marvel seems to specialize in these days.

It’s been so long since Mark Waid’s limited run on the character that I’m beginning to think it was just a figment of fandom’s collective imagination. Steve Rogers is grumpy again. Whether his surly mood is just part of the unpleasant backwash of the unpleasant “Avengers Disassembled” storyline, or the writer using Cap to reflect the current American zeitgeist, is not clear (because God knows it’s impossible to write a Captain America without political/social commentary seeping in).

The Red Skull doesn’t sound like the Red Skull. He’s too modern, too ordinary. And we know the Skull hates Captain America. We know Cap is tormented by World War II and Bucky’s death. Why must we be reminded of it constantly? The Skull’s dire predicament at issue’s end is undercut by the notion that he’s been thought dead so many times before that a gunshot wound is nothing perturbing.

Is it impossible for Steve Rogers to smile? Where’s his sunny optimism, that quintessential American characteristic? True, Hawkeye’s death and the Avengers’ temporary dismemberment would darken anybody’s mood. A soldier would always mourn, but also cherish the time he has because he is too aware of life’s fragile nature.

Epting’s work saves this issue from being a complete waste of paper and ink. The Skull looks as menacing as ever. When Rogers fights the terrorists, each panel’s narrowness conveys well not only the tense situation but the strategic nature of Cap’s battle tactics. Plus, it’s a good sign to see Epting incorporating the Jon Cassaday’s armorized version of Cap’s uniform.

The Final Word: Captain America, Volume Five, Number One is more of the same. More of the muddled, negative and frustrated Captain America struggling with the same foes and inner turmoil. While this is his third number one issue in six years, it’s still the same old, same old.



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