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Captain America’s 70th Birthday Party

captain america angus wrap

"This analogy will have to do."

It’s the 70th anniversary of the publishing of the first issue of Captain America, and Marvel Comics is partying it up!  And by ‘partying,’ I mean they’re releasing an INSANE number of one shots and mini series as well as reprints and commemorative issues of Captain America – not to mention the Captain America movie.

Imagine that instead of releasing a bunch of comics that aren’t necessary in terms of story arc pertaining to Captain America (or the Marvel Universe overall) in any shape of the imagination, Marvel Comics hosted a birthday party dinner instead, but served up the same level of quality in terms of food as they are with this March’s comics.  The main course would probably be a McDonalds Angus Wrap (looks like poop), a Dunkin Donuts cup of coffee (makes you have to poop) and for desert: dog poop (actual poop) – you’d say, “Wow, Marvel sure is serving up a big pile of shiz here,” and you’d be right.

Marvel seems to have decided it needs to do some kind of event that would coincide with a major story arc and the release of many ‘special’ issues every year, which sounds like a great idea, but in my experience, they’ve been largely unsatisfying – not to be confused with DC’s Return of Bruce Wayne “event,” which was just as uninteresting as Marvel’s events.  During last year’s Daredevil “event” entitled Shadowland, I did a good job of picking up the bear minimum of books necessary to understand what was going on.  During Marvel’s Siege event, I wasn’t so smart, and I bought a bizillion books  that were all a huge waste of my time, Vantage Point style – I’m looking at you, Siege:  Embedded.  Now this isn’t the same situation; a bunch of unrelated Captain America one-shots is not the same as a multi-limited series event, but it’s not far off – particularly when it coincides with the end of the Captain America limited series “The Korvac Saga,” “Man Out of Time” and the near end of “Hail Hydra.”  The insanity that has been the release of Captain America titles in March has been a big problem for specifically me because Cap has always been my favorite comic book character, and I have a hard time not buying everything he’s in.


captain america comic books from march 2011

And this isn't everything that Cap was in that was published in March 2011.

Rather than analyze each one-shot or limited series, it’d be faster to just say that any issues NOT heralding themselves as being written by Ed Brubaker pretty much suck; but, to at least do a half ass review of everything at once, I’ve group the comics into one of three categories:

The Good

  • The reprint of Captain America Comics #1
    • featuring cases 1 through 4 – classic stuff by the inventors of the character themselves, Joe Simon and Jack Kirby.  It looks like the cover has been redrawn (but Cap is still punching Hitler in the face and Bucky is still saluting, so it’s a tribute, not a re-imagining) as well as maybe some help with the coloring and inking on the interior of the book.
  • Captain America 615.1
    • This picks up right where we left off in issue 614; Bucky is in prison in Russia and a new Captain America has shown up, and he’s going to get himself killed if Steve doesn’t do something about it.  It’s Ed Brubaker writing Cap; you can’t go wrong!
  • Captain America 616 (70th Anniversary Issue)
    • Love that they used that classic drawing of Cap for the Table of Contents page; why they couldn’t list the features in order, I don’t know.  Why we needed 7 individual features instead of just one big feature, I also fail to understand.
    • First Feature:  “Gulag”  Again, picking up right where we left off in 614, we get to see Bucky in Russia, dealing with prison life.  Written by Brubaker, so it’s all good.  Travis Charest’s art is great.
    • Second Feature:  “Must There Be A Captain America?”  Steve is trying to figure out what to do with himself as he explores the inner conflict concerning his desire to serve his country, but not necessarily as a symbol.   Again, written by Brubaker, so it’s all good.  Ed McGuinness’ art is not my favorite style, but well done.
    • Third Feature:  “Opaque Shadows”  Howard Chaykin writes and draws a story from Cap’s days in World War 2… it’s not bad.  It’s not great either.
    • Fourth Feature:  “Spin”  Cullen Bunn writes and Jason Latour draws a feature that reminiscent of the writing style of Mark Gruenwald on his best day.  It’s a decent little story.
    • Fifth Feature:  “Operation:  Tooth Fairy”  Mike Benson and Paul Grist combine on another ‘daring days of World War 2’ story, but this time, featuring Baron Blood, a Nazi agent I wish Marvel would leave on the cutting room floor.  LAME.  Art is awful – you can say they made a style choice,but it just looks lazy to me.
    • Sixth Feature:  “The Exhibit”  Frank Tieri writes and Paul Azaceta draws (and this guy can really draw) on a story about one of the many clones of Hitler that wander around the Marvel Universe.  This was actually well done, and I enjoyed it.
    • Seventh Feature:  “Crossfire”  Captain America and Union Jack trying to hold a village in France during World War II.  It’s a decent little story.  Great art by Pepe Larraz; writing by Kyle Higgins and Alec Siegel is pretty good

The Bad

  • Ultimate Captain America #3
    • This has been going poorly from the start, and the fact that they can’t get Frank Simpson’s character design right on the cover is a indication of the crappyness within.
      • Actually, I hate to pick on this issue, because issue 3 has been the best yet, but overall, Ultimate Captain America is a failure in my eyes – they’ve got the character all wrong… until this issue, that is.  Ron Garney’s art is impressive, though, and Jason Aaron is getting better every time out, so I have hopes that this title might end up being decent.
  • Captain America:  Hail Hydra!  (#3 of 5)
    • The covers are great, and it’s a little too soon to see where they’re going with the end game, but this has been disappointing so far, and I’m not expecting it to redeem itself any time soon.  It reminds me a lot of Invaders Now! but not nearly as interesting, but equally lame.  At least I wanted to see how Invaders Now! ended, even if it was stupid, but this is just barely holding my attention.  Note to self:  limited series are usually bad.
  • Captain America and Batroc The Leaper
    • Read Pile Thoughts:  After flipping though this issue, it looks like Cap (Bucky) is in most of the issue.  The second feature is a reprint of Tales of Suspense #85, as the main feature is looking like it’s on the short side.
      • I’ve read this now, and this was ok… but again, not enough Captain America, but I guess I should count myself lucky that Cap was in the issue at all.
  • Captain America:  Man Out of Time (#5 of 5)
    • Read Pile Thoughts:  Lame cover art.  However, this series has been decent.  It makes you wonder if any of this story line is going to end up in the second solo Captain America movie…
      • I’ve read this now, and this was actually a semi-satisfying mini series, despite the rush at the end – I think if this was a sixth issue, they could have developed the Kang story and maybe done something special here, but it didn’t happen.

The Downright Insultingly Hideous Fug-Ugly

  • Captain America and Crossbones (one shot)
    • Uhm, guys, you forgot to put Captain America in this issue.  Neither Steve Rogers nor Bucky Barnes makes any appearance of any kind in this issue.  I don’t know what else to say, except that I’d like my money back.  When I buy a comic that says “Captain America” on the front, I expect to get Captain America, damn it!
  • Captain America and the Falcon (one shot)
    • Again, for the most part, you folks at Marvel forgot to put Captain America in this issue.  WTF.  Just WTF.
  • Captain America and the First Thirteen (one shot)
    • It’s poorly written and the art is… I don’t know, done in water colors, maybe… it just doesn’t work.
  • Captain America:  The Korvac Saga  #4 of 4
    • I don’t think they knew where they were going when they started this, because issue 1 and 2 were OK, but 3 and 4 were a waste of my time and money.
  • Captain America and the Secret Avengers (one shot)
    • Read Pile Thoughts:  I just flipped through it and it looks like Cap is only in the first two or three pages, if that.  Again, WTF.
    • Now that I’ve read this issue… holy hell, is it bad.  The only thing worse than the story telling is the art.  It’s that bad; it’s so bad I can’t even be bothered to break out the nuances of awfulness – anyone and everyone involved in this plot to extort $3.99 from me should be ashamed of themselves.  In other words, it’s bad.  I think A Comic Book Blog put it best:  “If you’re a Cap or Black Widow completist, you’ll likely buy this anyway, but if you’re looking for a nice little book starring two fairly fun characters to read, then you might like this book.  However, don’t expect this to become a series or move mountains.”  That’s exactly who I am:  a Captain America completist, and I let Marvel exploit that sad sickness when I purchased the Captain America and the Secret Avengers one shot.  In a way, I’ll never be whole again…  (Look, this issue was so bad that it’s worth of this level of sarcasm!)

On the read pile:

note: as I read issues, I moved them from this category and moved them up to their spots above – hence, this post has been updated several times.

  • Secret Avengers #11
    • On the cover, Steve Rogers is wearing the Captain America uniform…  but that doesn’t mean anything like that happens on the insides.  Comics rarely have stories that are indicative of what’s on the cover these days.
      • It’s a flash back issue, and it’s a good one – but no, what happens on the cover never happens in the book.  Shocking.

Under normal circumstances, I would conclude this post with a rant about how I can’t take it anymore, that there is such a thing as too much of my favorite character, but most likely, March is an aberration, and I’m never going to deal with a 13 issue month of Captain America again  – and I didn’t even count The Avengers because Steve Rogers isn’t in that book at all; Bucky is still Captain America there, for now.  I do think this is a ridiculous onslaught; a 70th anniversary celebration turned into an awful marketing scheme to sell more comic books, and I fell for it.  But you won’t find any parting swears or vows to stop buying Cap books – first, because I love Cap and I can’t, and secondly, it’s not like this is Batman, and Marvel does this every single month! I’ll let Marvel slide for now, but I’ve got my eye on ya’ll, not to mention this year’s big “event,” Fear Itself, which will have Cap up front and center.  (NOTE:  I also didn’t count the Fear Itself Prologue, which also prominently featured Captain America, also came out this past March.)

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