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Friday March 16, 2007

A captain’s end

Captain America (2004) # 25 (Marvel) (US$3.99)
Writer: Ed Brubaker
Artist: Steve Epting

LAST Thursday marked the “passing” of a comic book legend and nobody saw it coming except for those at the House of Ideas.  

For comics fans, there was ample time to stock up on Kleenex when the Man of Steel had his solar charged cells snuffed out by Doomsday many moons ago, but this time around we were totally caught off-guard by Steven Rogers’ (aka Captain America) assassination.  

Captain America’s death was reported through a newsflash on CNN, editorials in major US papers and interviews with Marvel’s Joe Quesada. Those tributes pretty much summed up the Sentinel of Liberty’s 66-year battle against the Nazis, disfigured Nazi-cronies, uber villains and politicians.  

Upon reflection, what is more shocking is not Rogers’ death but the manner in which he died. During his heyday, the man had figured in the Marvel Universe’s most cataclysmic battles. He had to sort out acosmic cube bearing Red Skull (Captain America (vol.1) # 116), a Beyonder-enhanced Doom (Secret Wars), an Infinity Gauntlet bearing Thanos (Infinity Gauntlet) and even Bill Clinton (Captain America (vol.1) # 451).  

For years, Cap prevailed in a world of super-powered beings but he met his maker after being shot last week. Here is where a sniper succeeded where thousands of Hydra goons, Nazi troops and even the Punisher had failed!  

The recently-ended Civil War has certainly caused more harm to Cap’s status as an American symbol, especially with his flopped role as “Mr Opposition” to the anti-Superhuman Registration Act. Hence, a fallen martyr would certainly garner more impact than a fallen hero. Relying on guerrilla warfare against Marvel’s brainiest heroes (Tony Stark @ Iron Man, Mr Fantastic and Hank Pym), Cap’s “rebels” were left without a cause when the super soldier came to a realisation that his means and methods were totally wrong (see Civil War # 7). His brief “interview” in the pages of Civil War Frontline # 11 further underlined that his methods and insights are totally alien to 21st century America where the most hated person is not the Red Skull but K-Fed! 

However, does it warrant the death of a legendary hero who has graced nearly seven decades of comic book adventures? Affirmative is my answer.  

For instance, retracing Cap’s adventures would be a negative thing, while “death” and “resurrection” are two interchangeable terms in comics.  

The last two years have been turbulent for Cap, as evident in the pulsating pace of the story-arcs presented in the last two dozen issues (Captain America (2004) # 1-24) by the team of Brubaker, Epting, (Michael) Perkins and (Michael) Lark. It started with Out of Time, a six-issue mystery thriller focusing on the “death” of the Red Skull and the return of Bucky, aka the Winter Soldier. While Cap-purists would deem Bucky’s resurrection as pure blasphemy, the creative team delivered superbly to counter all doubts. The next story-arc certainly upped the ante as The Winter Soldier not only delivered Bucky back to present-day continuity but also did some house cleaning in the Cap-universe by killing off Jack Monroe, aka Nomad, and rekindling the Cap-Sharon romance.  

Prior to the final Civil War (# 22-24) story-arc, there was more “consolidation” in the Cap-universe with Winter Soldier playing a more prominent role, Sharon and Cap officially an item (again) and the menace of Sin (Red Skull’s daughter) and Crossbones. Looking back, these last two years certainly represented the best Cap-run since Mark Waid and Ron Garney strutted their magic (Captain America (vol.1) # 444-454).  

For now, Captain America is dead. Period.  

The upcoming months promise a “mourning” period with sombre plots in the Captain America regular series and a limited series, befittingly entitled Fallen Son, on the cards.  

The question is, what impact would the death of a Sentinel of Liberty pose to the American dream? The initial signs have been strictly on the financial side – as Marvel shares rose to US$27.60 (RM99.40, a 2% increase) and scalpers making a killing on E-bay as issue # 25 was strictly under-ordered everywhere. A second print run is on the way.  

Brave & The Bold # 1 (DC)(US$2.99)
Writer: Mark Waid
Artist: George Perez

DC’s answer to Marvel Team Up couldn’t have come at a better time as this “dynamic duo” pairing comes packaged with the nostalgia of yesteryear. It also addresses the long outstanding “cold war” between the Dark Knight and the Emerald Knight. Their recent meetings have ended with cheap blows as Batman still holds a grudge against Hal Jordan for his Parallax sins.  

Anyway, it takes doppelganger corpses to mend ties and re-unite the duo for a Vegas outing. This is definitely Perez at his best as he revisits his glory days by producing vintage Batman and GL illustrations that are comparable to his Justice League of America and Teen Titans days. 

Legion of Monsters: Werewolf (Marvel)(US$2.99)
Writers: Mike Carey and Skottie Young
Artists: Greg Land and Skottie Young

MARVEL’S plans to bring back characters that go bump in the night commence with this first of three one-shots (the others being Morbius and Man Thing). While Jack Russell’s most notable contribution to comics was to host the debut of the Moon Knight, this one shot should give us reasons to bark at the moon! 

Greg (Ultimate Power, Sojourn) Land delivers a cool tale on Russell’s “cursed” life and how he attempts to help a similar case to adapt to her condition. 

  • Comics reviewed courtesy of Earth 638 (03-7729 6380 or email: earth638@streamyx.com).

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