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Captain America #1 (Again!)

Posted: Saturday, November 20, 2004
By: Ray Tate



"Out of Time"

Writer: Ed Brubaker
Artists: Steve Epting, Frank D'Armata(c)
Publisher: Marvel

Steve Epting can do no wrong. His artwork for the latest relaunch of Captain America--which one is this now, five?--is even more jaw-droppingly gorgeous than usual. The problems let me assure you do not stem from the artwork. They originate from a writer who has absolutely no affinity with the characters.

Ed Brubaker's Captain America is as slow as a paraplegic cat crawling on its tongue after mice. The book opens five years ago for no particular reason other than to provide an artificial umbilical cord to the way out there cliffhanger. You can see that it's in these scenes where Brubaker's heart lies. No surprise. He prefers shady dealings and political intrigue. Thus, another Red Guardian is killed in a style as if this book were Reily Ace of Spies rather than Captain America, which is brace yourselves about a super-hero who wears the flag as a costume and carries a shield made of vibranium and adamantium.

I'm trying to fathom for what reason the Red Guardian would just kneel down like a good boy and wait for the bullet to penetrate his skull. For bloody's sake man, he's wearing a costume. He's a super-hero. He looks like he can throw a truck. The Red Guardian should have as if they were Hackey-Sacks tossed around the two goons that have somehow captured him. He should have come at the Russian criminal and the Red Skull who should have let out a "Gott im Himmel!" The Red Guardian should have been mowed down in a hail of bullets not just casually shot in the head. Give the man some respect.

The scene moves really slowly to a cache of secret weapons, but anybody expecting a thrill packed scene similar to the thrills of the pre-credits sequence in Tomorrow Never Dies will be horribly disappointed. Brubaker instead has the Skull and the Russian just talking. For some reason I just kept thinking about Marvin Martian. "Where's the Ka-Boom?!?" It's on the cover. It's nowhere to be found in the book itself.

The story skips ahead to the present day. I actually wondered for a moment if Brubaker was going to detail everything that happened in the interim, but no, we do skip ahead. The Skull's dull narration accompanies scenes that try to present him as a Smallville Lex Luthor without a face, but there's something about the scene that just doesn't work. I'm trying to think of exactly what it is. Yes, that's it. The Skull isn't a classy villain. He's a friggin' Nazi who doesn't know when to die! Dr. Doom is a classy villain. The Skull is a goose-stepping thug. You know in your heart that the Skull should be kicking some Aryan servant and calling him a "Schweinhund!" for serving him slightly overcooked venison.

The Skull's yawn-inducing narration transports the reader via "spies" to Captain America at his "lowest point" due to Marvel letting Brian Bendis have his way with the Avengers in what will be considered the second stupidest mistake in the comic book company's history; the first was the Bucky with boobies era.

Brubaker segues to Sharon Carter having a heart to heart with Steve seen in slow-motion action. If Jack Kirby had mapped out that scene it would have been a big splash page filled with drawings of Steve Rogers bouncing off of all sorts of gymnastic equipment and then ending his routine by flipping over Sharon for a perfect two-point landing, but I can see Brubaker's point. Can't have something happening getting in the way of all this scintillating dialogue:

"Blah, blah, blah, blah, Sharon, blah, blah, blah. Ex-Girlfriend."

"Blah, blah, blah, SHIELD, blah, blah, worried, blah, blah, actions, blah, blah, blah extreme."

This trite bad cop-movie talk slowly lulls the reader to sleep, but then a flash of red-white-and-blue tricks the reader back to the story only to find an alternative to Nyquil-induced slumber. Captain America moves as slow as he never has against "terrorists." Oh, stop it. AIM are not terrorists. They are loons who have a habit of wearing bright yellow beekeeper outfits. They would not use a "dirty bomb." That's far too pedestrian. AIM would build a giant tuning fork to vibrate the city to pieces, but only after issuing their demands for eighty-billion dollars or such. They are extortionists. Not terrorists. Stop using buzz words when they don't apply or if you don't know their meaning. A "dirty bomb" is radioactive. Note Steve Epting's clearly indicated symbol for radioactivity. However if you were to judge by Steve Rogers' report, then the "C4" upon impact should have incinerated the "chemical waste" since its in the immediate area of detonation. While the loss to life in the immediate area of detonation would be tragic, the bomb would not have turned Coney Island into a "wasteland." It would spread a cloud of radioactive particles into the air that would cause panic, health risk and property damage. It would not however be a devastating nuclear event.

Okay. So after all this rubbish, Cap goes into fighting mode, and we don't even have the luxury of seeing it. We see the aftermath. It's just so wrong to see Captain America running in slow-motion and then see the after effect of his decking of a "terrorist." If I'm reading Captain America I damn well better see his fist smash into AIM jaw. Speed lines optional.

Cap's lack of action also carries over to his accouterments. Cap's SHIELD shouldn't look like a bloody red-white-and-blue flying saucer ready to abduct some cracker from a Red State. It should be speeding toward something, ricocheting off an object, but alas, this thing just acts like a weird hovering, slow boomerang. Then Cap gets his Batman on and threatens the "terrorist" with a can of Abu Gharib if he doesn't disarm "the dirty bomb." Two things: Cap is not Batman, and he can disarm bombs of all sorts by himself. Hell, if he didn't have this knowledge before, I would think it would have been the first thing he would have learned after being thawed from the ice. Remember? "Bucccccccccccccky! Nooooooooooooooo!" Come to think of it, I think I could disarm that bomb in the train. Just a guess, but I'm thinking if I remove the leads from the plastique, AIM is pretty much screwed. The device doesn't appear booby-trapped. The leads aren't hooked to a timer that I can see and they're too small to be anything but what they appear. Now, finding the brake, that might be difficult. Hopefully, it's marked brake.

Brubaker insists that Captain America is haunted by nightmares of World War II. Oh, for bloody sake. Cap wasn't thawed out of the ice yesterday. Yes, I would expect that Cap would on occasion have a flashback, but he's been out of the ice for years. He's had hot monkey sex with Sharon Carter. He's experienced Spider-Man's comedy shtick. He's led and been part of the Avengers. He's not an angst-ridden psychotic stuck in one era. He's made his peace. He's not some bitter old bastard who keeps girls he could have helped crippled.

Captain America is supposed to represent the hope and optimism of the USA. He's supposed to make us believe that the USA can be the good guy even when evidence to the contrary keeps presenting itself. This fifth or sixth relaunch is simply not Captain America.



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