Its been nearly a year since Ed Brubaker and Butch Guice’s first issue of Winter Soldier came out. Now, 14 issues later, they’ll be moving on and next issue a new team will take their place.
Writing: Brubaker produces another well-written Captain America issue. Everything is technically good. However, if you have more than a passing knowledge of Captain America, you probably won’t get much out of this issue. Either you already knew it or, if you’ve been reading Brubaker’s run up to this point, you saw it coming.
Art: What we can appreciate in Brubaker’s writing, is that he let his art team strut their stuff. I didn’t review the last issue, but, if I had, I would’ve criticized the art. Either Hitch and Guice were rushed, or maybe they just didn’t work well together. Whatever it was, it’s been fixed. This issue’s art is a massive improvement over the opening chapter’s. This looks like the Hitch that many people fell in love with during The Ultimates or The Authority.
Final Word: Marvel is marketing this comic as some sort of event. It’s not. Captain America: Reborn’s counterpart is Geoff John’s Green Lantern: Secret Origin. Both are retelling a classic character’s origin story with a twist, and both are forwarding the ongoing epic being told in their respective monthlies. The only difference is that unlike Secret Origin, Reborn is being told in a mini. That’s a smart move. Though you may already know a lot of the details, this comic makes up for it with its art, and the hint of something grand.
I have a confession to make – I’m not reading Captain America. At least, not in monthly form. A combination of factors caused this, but largely it’s because I didn’t hear about how good his run was until it was over 20 issues in… and I didn’t believe it until I managed to pick up that first omnibus (which managed to sell me on his run completely). I keep relatively up to date on what’s happening, though I try and avoid spoilers. Still, when the title of the mini is Captain America: Reborn, you face the reality that there are some spoilers you just can’t avoid.
Still, I thoroughly enjoy Brubaker, I enjoy his take on Captain America, and Marvel is marketing this as a mini-series. By doing so, they are clearly courting a larger audience than merely the one that regularly reads Captain America. So the question here is, does Captain America: Reborn work for audiences both new and old? Yes, it does. And that’s not always a good thing.
This issue is extremely heavy on the exposition. And I mean, there is exposition, sometimes quite lengthy exposition, on almost every page of the book, sometimes overloading the action going on in the foreground of the panels. It’s framed in a number of different ways, it’s well-written, and Brubaker makes sure that what’s happening on screen as he infodumps is generally pretty interesting, but it is nonetheless a whole lot of exposition covering the entirety of Brubaker’s run.
Hitch and Guice provide static art that’s always just a little bit darker than it really needs to be. Which is not to say it’s bad – there’s a great deal they do right. A few of the fight scenes seem to be fairly dynamic, and the more conversational panels are done extraordinarily well. The panels seem to sweep around the room in a few conversations, making it feel almost like a movie in the way it’s set up. But Hitch is an artist who’s never quite worked for me. In struggling to be too realistic, he loses some of the motion, some of the essential humanity of his characters.
I realize that this sounds particularly negative. I assure you, Captain America: Reborn #1 is not a bad book. Brubaker clearly knows what he’s doing, and there’s the sense throughout that you’re watching something enormous and unexpected unfold, like a massive Christmas present being unwrapped. Even if this issue is almost entirely set-up for what is to come, it is still capable, relatively enjoyable set-up that offers a great deal to future issues.
In other words, Reborn #1 does what it needed to do – informed new/returning readers of what’s been going on while still moving the action forward – and that’s definitely to its benefit. But that’s about as ambitious as it gets. If this issue is any hint, Reborn will be as excellent as the rest of Brubaker’s run, but the issue doesn’t make me need to read the next one. I’ll wait for the trade.
– Cal Cleary
You’ve got to hand it to Marvel. Even though most of their comics cost 3.99 now, they always make sure you get your money’s worth on the big, anniversary issues. Captain America #600 is a billion pages long, and features an army of artists, most of them great. However, even with all the weight and pretty art, is the giant page-count necessary? I actually don’t think so.
We start off with a two-page reprint from Paul Dini and Alex Ross. It’s great, but it’s a reprint, so who cares? Up next is an “In Memoriam” story (I’m saving Brubaker’s tale for the end). It ends well, but it goes on way too long, and is ultimately just filler. After that comes a story from Mark Waid and the newly Marvel, Dale Eaglesham. This tale promotes memorabilia, and, especially after seeing Pixar’s “Up,” that message seems worthless. The real treat here is to get an early peek at Eaglesham’s Marvel work. It looks great, as always. What follows is a brief letter from Captain America creator, Joe Simon. It too is meaningless filler. And, of course, the issue ends with an old Captain America reprint written by Stan Lee. The problem? It’s not drawn by Jack Kirby! The Kirby estate must have a problem with Marvel. Otherwise, why in the hell wouldn’t Kirby’s art be part of a Captain America anniversary issue?!
Final Word on Bonus Stuff: Skip it, unless you really, really want to see a brief, but bad, Mark Waid and Dale Eaglesham story.
Now, onto the main event. Well, seeing as how this issue came with the Captain America: Reborn news, and the fact that issue #50 didn’t contain anything big, and the expectation that a big, anniversary issue would contain some startling events, you’d think the world would explode, right? Nope. This is one of the two major problems I have with Brubaker’s Cap. It’s too much setup and not enough payoff.
Having said that, I really don’t have many complaints about the story itself. Just, for the love of God, don’t expect anything big, only hints of big things to come. Actually, without all of the hype, this would probably be one of the better Captain America issues. Multiple artists are on board, and if the guests aren’t better than the regular team, at least they don’t suffer from the horrible Frank D’Armata coloring. My favorite guest, of course, is David Aja (Get him a good, regular gig, Marvel). He illustrates a wonderful Crossbones and Sin segment. My other major problem with Brubaker’s Cap is Bucky. Since this issue contains multiple perspectives, we only see a little of him, and we’ll hopefully see even less in the coming months!
Final Word: Stellar main attraction, but due to the bloated page number and price, this issue’s overall quality suffers.
The best Captain America bonus:
Ultimate Origins #4 (**1/2)
Well, it pulled out of that downward spiral. In fact, this issue was even better than last. Unfortunately, it’s still not enough for me to recommend. This issue’s “reveal” was particularly lackluster. Ultimatum is coming, I get it. Stop talking about something big happening and actually show it please. Butch Guice’s art has been mediocre at times, but after looking at this issue, you can see that the man has talent. His renderings are probably the most impressive ingredient in Ultimate Origins. Sadly, this series has turned out to be a moderate retelling of well-known origins with an ultimate twist. Is that really worth your money?
Ultimate X-Men/Ultimate Fantastic Four Annual#1 (****)
Ah, another “people from a warped future come to the present” story. Isn’t that kind of boring now? Yes, but it can still be fun when done well. This comes from two Heroes writers, Joe Pokaski and Aron Coleite. They’re both fairly new to comics, but they’ve already become quite proficient. As I mentioned, this is one of those future yarns. We get to have some fun discovering what’s happened to all our favorite characters. Don’t worry. We still get to see plenty of the current ultimate heroes. They’re drawn wonderfully by Mark Brooks and Dan Panosian. Panosian is a name I’m not familiar with. I found his art to be quite pleasing though. He has a cartoonish style that I’m very fond of. Some more good news is that this issue may actually contain a clue as to what will occur in Ultimatum. Whether it does or not, this was an extremely entertaining read.
Monster Pile-Up (-)
It’s only two bucks. That’s about the best thing I can say about this. I bought it because I’m reading Astounding Wolf-Man and this was supposed to feature “compelling tales essential to each series!” That is a load of bull! I only got 4 pages of Wolf-Man and all it did was inform me of stuff I already knew and spoiled things for new readers! It spoiled a twist that actually surprised me too. I’m not reading the other three titles nor do I want to after reading the samples in here. Oh and they give misinformation about the Astounding Wolf-Man trade to put the ass tasting icing on the cake!
Ultimate Origins #3 (**)
This book is caught in a downward spiral. I really liked the first issue. It revealed some pretty shocking information and had good action and pretty art as well. The second issue didn’t really give us anything shocking but it was still a well-written retelling of Cap’s Origin. That’s cool too. It is Origins after all. But with this issue, again there is nothing shocking revealed. I guess what’s bothering me is how this book began and how it was advertised. This book was supposed to show dark secrets about the Ultimate U and how everything was connected. That theme has been absent these last two issues in a five issue miniseries which isn’t good. There was a little bit of behind the scenes stuff going on here, but it wasn’t anything to get excited or even care about. It’s a decent book when it comes to the retelling of origins, but we’ve already seen a lot of that sprinkled throughout the Ultimate books for eight years. So this was disappointing to me, but hopefully the last two will blow me away.