Overview

Captain America Theater of War: America the Beautiful

Review

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Captain America Theater of War: America the Beautiful

Credits

  • Words: Paul Jenkins/Dan Jurgens
  • Art: Gary Erskine/Jerry Ordway
  • Inks: Gary Erskine/Jerry Ordway
  • Colors: Chris Sotomayor/Gregory Wright
  • Story Title: America the Beautiful/Heart
  • Publisher: Marvel Comics
  • Price: $4.99
  • Release Date: Jan 21, 2009

More than any other superhero, Captain America and World War II are integrally linked. Despite the moral ambiguity of modern warfare, and equally ambiguous morality of modern superheroes, Captain America remains essentially pure, and idealistically American.

The latest one-shot from Marvel Comics is a giant sized ode to the American soldier sung by its greatest super-soldier. It’s nice to see Steve Rogers alive and well, as the two tales contained therein transpire several months before his untimely demise. Just as hearing the strains of the song "America the Beautiful" leaves any American unable to contain his patriotism and love of country, so it is after reading Captain America Theater of War: America the Beautiful. Nothing earth shattering happens here to satisfy the continuity mavens, but any fan of four color adventure should be thrilled after plunking down his five bucks and settling in for Nazi thumping action.

The main feature, "America the Beautiful," written by Paul Jenkins and illustrated by Gary Erskine shows Captain America resolving some long unfinished business, as he recounts the heroic tale of Bobby Shaw. Jumping between the present and flashbacks to the past, Cap reveals, through the story of Private Shaw, what he considers to be true American heroism, and how a perfect soldier acts. Bobby Shaw is everything Steve Rogers was before the Super Soldier serum. Physically limited, but with the will to fight the good fight despite being scared and weak, and above all never giving up. Jenkins serves up some excellent historical color, with the soldiers in the European Theater and their boasts of their prowess with girls and drink. There is no irony here, no deconstruction of war and its horrors, just flat out bravery and heroism, and it works extremely well.

Erskine's art is well detailed and has a nice clean quality suited to the material. His take on the Captain America costume is pleasing and believable, retaining the four color magic of the original, but adding the armored feel of more current renditions.

The backup feature by Jurgens and Ordway is also told in present day and flashback sequences. Not only does Captain America star, but he is joined by Nick Fury and his Howling Commandoes. A S.H.I.E.L.D. Agent acting on his own motives convinces Captain America to enter his flying car by pretending to be on orders from Nick Fury. His subterfuge uncovered by the star-spangled Avenger, the agent confesses to attempting to reunite Cap with his grandfather, a WWII veteran rescued by Captain America 60 years before. While lacking the characterization of the tale of Bobby Shaw, Jurgens and Ordway capture the feel of the patriotic comics and spotlight the heroism of Americans during World War II. Ordway's art is superb as always, and Gregory Wright's palette is as bright and optimistic as the tale itself.

I don't know if this comic will get a place on the newsstand, but it is the perfect vehicle to attract a new reader. Plenty of pages of action, simply told, but with themes as inspiring as the red, white, and blue main character. I've recently read the "Death of Captain America" storyline, and for all its strengths both in story and in art, I far preferred reading about Steve Rogers, alive and well. This year has given us an awful lot to be cynical about in America. It’s refreshing to read some good old American superhero comics. Especially with the most heroic and American of them all, Captain America, at the helm.

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