Comic Fodder

Tpull's Weekly Marvel Comics Review - Part 2

Captain America Theater of War: To Soldier On 1

by Paul Jenkins and Fernando Blanco

In a change from the WW-II focus, this one-shot is set in modern-day Iraq, and just as a ‘Flash” issue of Amazing Spider-Man was used to highlight the true story of an actual soldier, this story also focuses on real people, and tries to tell their story, with Cap grafted onto the events. It works well, and hopefully a few readers will sit up and take notice of some of the timeless agonies of war. Previous Theater of War stories have been used to drive home some bad stuff that happens during war, but this issue reminds us that those conflicts are still going on today.

The tale begins commonly enough, with a group of US soldiers riding into an ambush, and getting pinned down. Usually, this means some soldiers die, and/or one of them is instrumental in heroic action to get them out of the trap. In the comics, Captain America takes over as the de facto hero. The main character, Bryan, ends up meeting Cap again, dragged along on a ‘hearts and minds’ tour, but his jeep gets blown up on one of those runs, and he loses both his legs and an arm. It might have happened on any mission, but it happened on one with Cap.

We follow Bryan all through his rehabilitation, learning to walk again with prosthetics, etc. Blanco does well in trying to stress the setbacks, as we are treated to multiple times of Bryan falling and pummeling the floor in frustration. It’s really a hard thing to convey, exactly how hard it is to work at getting your mobility back, but there’s a reason for all of that tripping, and I’m still not sure we get a full understanding of the struggle, sometimes just to break in a new pair of prosthetics that work different from the last pair.

The end is solemn, with Cap visiting Bryan again, and Cap revealing that he has a didactic memory as one of the side-effects of the super-soldier process. As a result, Cap remembers not just tactics and strategies, he also remembers the name of every person he meets. Including fallen soldiers. Very worthwhile.

Dark Reign: The List – Avengers 1

by Brian Michael Bendis and Marko Djurdjevic

Osborn has put together his to-do list, and the Avengers are numero uno on said list. Ronin genuinely wants to kill Osborn after the mutant island mess. Bucky Cap has a hilarious comment where he mentions he actually did kill Hitler in the middle of the classic go-back-in-time-and-kill-Hitler conversation, highlighting that the team is not really under his control, and he has not stepped up to become the leader that Steve Rogers was.

Clint’s bloodlust is a little against his traditional character as well. Clint has always been about giving people second chances and following Cap’s lead in the preservation of life. If Bendis wants to argue that the death of Steve Rogers has made a difference in how Clint approaches things, that’s one thing, but to leave it unaddressed is a little clumsy. Of course, this is House of M Clint Barton, so who knows what variation we have to deal with now concerning this character.

Dressed up in his Ronin togs, Clint simply waits for the Sentry to head out somewhere, and then gets into Avengers Tower in a couple minutes. No alarms go off until he throws Venom out a window. As secure as this place was revealed to be during Secret Invasion, they gloss over this real fast, because they want Ronin in there already, and they don’t have enough pages to concentrate on showing us how he gets past all the security systems. He just does.

Ronin reaches Osborn, but can’t get past Osborn’s personal force field, or Ares. Djurdjevic does well on art, and they toss in a couple previews of upcoming episodes of The List, concerning Osborn’s attempts to get his house in order and tackle all of the remaining loose ends. It’s an okay start, but I’d like to see something more exciting as this facet of the meta-story takes off. Oh, and I'd like to see Ronin act a little less stupid.

The Marvels Project 2

by Ed Brubaker and Steve Epting

The original Angel has started his career, and we already have mentions of other members of the Twelve, Straczynski’s unfinished mini-series: Fiery mask and Mister E. Marvel continues to find ways to reference those characters, as if it will maintain interest in the conclusion to a series that may never come, for all we know. With the kind of irritation that comes from that mention, maybe they should have just left them out entirely.

Other pieces come together, with the original Human Torch trying to figure out who and what he is, and coming to the conclusion he is indeed a ‘good guy.’ Nick Fury and Red manage to snag Erskine, the man destined to perfect the super-soldier serum. The Angel witnesses the death of one of the first masked heroes, and takes offense on behalf of the caped brotherhood.

Given what longtime fans know of Marvel history, this is a fun jaunt down memory lane, expertly illustrated by Steve Epting. The little extra pieces of flavor added by Brubaker fill in some narrow areas of Marvel history from the WW-II era, and in this he reminds me of retcon master historian Ron Thomas. Roy Thomas worked WW-II magic with the Invaders for Marvel, and with the All-Star Squadron for DC Comics. This series has the same type of feel to it.

I am interested to see how things progress in the next couple of issues, as we follow these well-known characters and they fall into position on the historical timeline we know.

Ultimate Comics Avengers 2

by Mark Millar and Carlos Pacheco

A slight scandal is revealed in the Ultimate universe, concerning the fact that Captain America had a child out of wedlock, who was born after he disappeared. A little retcon of WW-II history again, and it seems like Marvel just can’t leave WW-II alone, can they? Cap ditches the heroes, forcing Carol Danvers to call in fury to clean up the mess.

We learn that the Red Skull is really the son of Cap, and the kid grew up on a military base, being groomed to be the perfect fighting machine. Somehow, in a way that Millar glosses over, this kid was violently evil, and successfully hid that fact for many years, despite constant exposure to psychologists. It’s the normal type of detail-skipping that Millar does all the time, and for a reader it can sometimes be frustrating. Nothing, no clue at all, comes from the flashback sequences as to how this kid could be so warped.

Back to Cap, who has hacked into a database and learned the truth. He’s now off the grid, and tackling US soldiers to get away. Pacheco gives us some great art, with good inks by Danny Miki, and it looks like Pacheco is actually improving a tiny bit in his style, which was already good from the start. It brings to mind the idea that since this is the Ultimate universe, perhaps it is also a good place for artists to be bolder in their experimentation with style, and if they are brave enough, they could really stretch things and break out. Of course, there are risks with that approach, too.

Anyway, the departure from existing Marvel history continues, which is good. The bad thing is they still introduced a Red Skull into the Ultimate universe, and maybe, just maybe, they could have done something similar with Cap that didn’t involve a Red Skull. It’s like for every step-and-a-half they take forward, they still slide a step back towards the regular Marvel universe. I’ll have to keep on stressing that we already have a regular Marvel universe, and this is supposed to be the place for something different.

Tpull is Travis Pullen. He started reading comics at 5 years old, and he can't seem to stop.