Overview

Cap Is Dead. Long Live Cap!

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Outrage does not begin to describe what I felt when I heard that Marvel was going to kill off Captain America. Not only do I think that death is too often used to for cheap shock value, but Captain America is my second favorite Marvel character (right behind The Beast). I have almost every comic he appeared in since the late 1960s. And I am guilty of what most comic fans are guilty of—being perhaps too personally attached to their favorite characters.

I found out about the events of Captain America #25 like most of the comics fans did, by reading the news that morning. Blessed with a slow news day, Marvel received nationwide mainstream attention for the story the day the comic hit the stands. The contents of the issue were revealed before many comic stores even opened for business.

I was angry even before I read the issue in question. I believe that there was a lot of potential in the Steve Rogers Captain America. After all, he lasted over 65 years, in the right hands he could last 65 more. And he was in the right hands—Ed Brubaker was writing some of the best Cap stories in the character’s history. I was upset that the monkey wrench of what I perceived as editorial mandate was thrown into what was working so well so far.

Back in May of last year, in this very column, I wrote about my opinions of death in comics. I still stand by those comments. But, thankfully, I didn’t let my negativity stop me from reading Captain America. Because, it turns out that the aftermath of Steve Rogers’ death made for a great epic story, an excellently written one that honors the history of the character even though he appeared nowhere in the issues.

Credit for this goes to Ed Brubaker. The author claims the death of Cap was his idea all along, and I believe him. The aftermath ties into Brubaker’s first issues on the title, creating one grand sweeping narrative. It is a complex and involved story with many twists and turns, and Cap’s death was an integral part of it.

The issues that came after issue #25 have formed a taut thriller of great intensity while focusing on the influence of Captain America on his friends and lovers. Tony Stark, a.k.a. Iron Man, feels guilt for being partly responsible for the death of his friend. The Falcon, a former partner of Cap’s, registers for the Superhuman Registration Act so he can search for Cap’s killers without having to worry about being arrested. Sharon Carter, Steve Rogers’ longtime paramour, wrestles with the guilt of firing the fatal shot that killed Cap while trying to break free of the Red Skull’s mental control. The Winter Soldier, the hero formerly known as Cap’s partner Bucky, feels honor bound to avenge his friend and the man who freed him from Soviet mental control by killing the man he blames for Steve’s death—Tony Stark.

Each character in this arc behaves in a believable and realistic fashion. The various plot lines weave together and intersect in such a way that it almost demands your interest.

Any company planning the death of a major character or a continuity reboot should use Captain America as an example. These events are purposefully controversial to garner attention and sales. But fans would be more receptive to them if the powers that be put more thought into it. Too often, these kind of stunts have the feel of being thrown together at the last moment, with no consideration to how it works with continuity, how it stands up as a story, or if it makes logical sense.

Many times, when a character is killed off and replaced with someone new, the stories that follow could easily feature the original as the main character. It seems the death was shallow and pointless. Not the case here. Cap’s death has had a real impact in the course of the story. That gives it more weight and gravitas.

This brings us to this issue. The Winter Soldier has just confronted Iron Man. Their battle comes to an end as Tony Stark presents a letter written by Steve before he died asking Tony to “save” Bucky and continue the Captain America legacy. Stark decides to kill two birds with one stone by offering the mantle of Cap to Bucky. This issue, one assumes, involves what happens after he accepts.

Also out this week:

Spider-Man: With Great Power #1:

Impossible as it is to believe, Spider-man’s origin only took up 11 pages of Amazing Fantasy #15. But as a credit to the storytelling abilities of Stan Lee and Steve Ditko, creators over the next 45 years have been returning to that original story to create numerous miniseries and story arcs that re-interpret aspects of it.

This series is the latest to do so. The intriguing combination of David Lapham and Tony Harris set out to further explore the period of time after Peter Parker was bitten by the radioactive spider, but before Uncle Ben died. This era only took up 6 pages of the original story, but in the hands of these masters will be fleshed out to fill five issues.

  David Lapham (W), Tony Harris (A), Marvel Comics, $3.99.   Five-Issue Miniseries.

Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic #25:

The four Star Wars titles Dark Horse currently publishes spans forty-one centuries of the Star Wars mythos. It seems that it would be impossible for one storyline to unite all the titles in one, line-spanning crossover. Not only is it possible, but that crossover begins tomorrow in this issue, starting an ambitious, year-long event called “Vector”.

The storyline will occupy four issues of this title, set almost 4,000 years before the first Star Wars movie (Episode IV: A New Hope to be specific), before moving on to Dark Times, which is set right after Episode III: Revenge of the Sith. After four issues there, it travels to Rebellion (set between A New Hope and Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back) for four issues before finishing up in Legacy (set 133 years after Episode VI: Return of the Jedi). Whew! Talk about an epic storyline!

  John Jackson Miller (W), Scott Hepburn (A), Dark Horse Comics, $2.99. Ongoing Series.

Adolescent Radioactive Black Belt Hamsters #1:

Back in 1984, Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird used their income tax refunds to publish the first issue of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #1. What was intended as a one-shot parody of Frank Miller’s work on Daredevil and Ronin soon became a worldwide phenomenon, spawning toys, cartoons, movies—and parodies itself. It seems that anyone who owned a thesaurus was putting out their own four-word titled aping of TMNT.

The first of these parodies of a parody was 1986’s Eclipse offering, Adolescent Radioactive Black Belt Hamsters. It has been almost 20 years since Chuck, Bruce, Jackie and Clint graced comic store shelves, but, with last year’s return of TMNT to movie and TV screens, the Hamsters are back as well. Now they are named Jean-Claude, Arnold, Rock, Steven and Lucy. What happened to the original four? All will be revealed as the series progresses.

Keith Champagne (W), Tom Nguyen (A), Dynamite Entertainment, $3.50. Ongoing Series.

Black Adam: The Dark Age #6:

Stinging from his defeat at the hands of the world’s heroes and left powerless by Captain Marvel, Black Adam has been on a quest to resurrect the one person who meant the most to him—his beloved Isis.

The sorcerer Felix Faust has allowed him to regain his powers by tapping into the magic contained in Isis’ remains. But every time Teth-Adam becomes Black Adam, Isis slips a little closer to the point of no return.

Now, his quest nears its end. He has rediscovered the magic word that makes his reliance on Isis’ magic obsolete. But has he gone too far to bring her back? And if he fails, what price will the world have to pay?

Peter J. Tomasi (W), Doug Mahnke (A), DC Comics, $2.99. Final Issue.

New Avengers Annual #2:

The Hood used the division of the hero community over the Registration Act to establish himself as the Godfather of super powered crime. He gathered many of the world’s villains under his protection. He put Tigra in the hospital to send a message. He shot the Owl to prove nothing goes on without his say so. He stole 12.5 million dollars from one of the riches banks in the US without breaking a sweat.

The New Avengers stepped in and ruined his party. His followers were scattered and defeated. The money was returned. The New Avengers think that now the Hood’s reign as Godfather is at an end. They’re wrong. It’s just getting started. And now, he’s going to bring the fight to them.

Brian Michael Bendis (W), Carlo Pagulayan (A), Marvel Comics, $3.99.  Annual.

Salem#0:

The Salem Witch Trials were one of the darkest moments in American history. Between July and September of 1692, 19 innocent people were put on trial for being witches, convicted of that crime and executed. Many more were falsely accused, spent time in prison, and were persecuted by their neighbors.

But what if those people were really witches? What if they were really powerful sorcerers and sorceresses? And what if it came down to one man to protect colonial New England from their nefarious intentions? That man is Elias Hooke and this is his story.

Screenwriter Chris Morgan (Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift, Cellular) melds history and fantasy to create an interesting tale in the tradition of Robert E. Howard’s Solomon Kane.

Chris Morgan & Kevin Walsh (W), Mike Hawthorne (A), Boom! Studios, $3.99. Five-Issue Miniseries.

###

William Gatevackes is a professional writer living in Mamaroneck, NY with his wife Jennifer. He also writes periodic comic reviews for PopMatters, is a weekly contributor to Film Buff Online and writes title descriptions for Human Computing’s Comicbase collection management software. Links to his writing can be found at his website, www.williamgatevackes.com.

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