Captain America #1: We’ve Been Spoiled
This review is really going to serve as more of a warning for all Captain America fans. We’ve been spoiled; Ed Brubaker has treated us to the absolute best run on the Captain in years. With that run finished, the fate of the Star-Spangled Avenger has been left to writer Rick Remender and artist John Romita Jr. The team’s first outing, Captain America #1 is, really, really, weird. I’ve read it three times and I’m still unsure if I like it or not. I will say this; Remender is putting his foot to the gas trying to make sure his work is not compared to Brubaker. He succeeds, and that may be where the problem is.
Captain America #1 opens with Steve Rogers as a child in 1926 witnessing his mother being beaten by his father. I didn’t know Steve Rogers came from an abusive home and I could see no real reason to include this scenario. From there, we cut to Captain America attempting to stop a biological terrorist called Green Skull. No, I did not make that up. A man with a Green Skull has decided that mankind is too sick to survive so he has loaded a plane with a biotoxin that will eliminate mankind by turning them into plant fertilizer. Think of it as Poison Ivy’s big brother trying to make a name for himself. Cap foils the plot and then heads off to meet Sharon, the SHIELD agent who has just proposed marriage to him.
Here’s where it gets weird. Captain America, the greatest hero we have, is requested by SHIELD to look into a subway car traveling a line through a station that has been abandoned for eighty years. Really? Captain America is asked to investigate something best left to subway officials and local cops? Cap and Sharon are met by a guard and, after exchanging a weird pass code, are let into the station. Steve gets aboard the train and, oops, turns out it’s an inter-dimensional vehicle that transports Steve to Dimension Z. There, Arnim Zola attempts to draw the Super Serum out of the good Captain to inject in Zola’s clone son. Captain America escapes with the child, but is now stranded in Dimension Z.
See what I mean? This is not just weird, but weird largely just to be weird. Using this multitude of plot points, Remender has fully and quickly separated himself from Brubaker’s run by surgically slicing off the seriousness and depth of the character. I’m all for goofy, fun comic book stories, but coming so soon after Brubaker’s run, Remender would have been better served to slowly ease us into his story arc. Instead, he throws everything but the kitchen sink in at once, and it comes off as a desperate play to make Captain America his own. I won’t go so far as to say Captain America #1 is bad, but it does miss the mark.
The saddest part of all this is how Remender’s purposefully weird story and sequence of forced events, leaves John Romita Jr’s art out in the cold. I worship Romita Jr., always have, but here his hyper-stylized work and dedication to making comics look like comics plays into the silliness of the story. I don’t think that Captain America needed to keep the same noir look as Brubaker’s run, but between the overindulgent story and the art, Captain America #1 comes off like a little kid’s comic instead of a story about the greatest hero on earth.
Eventually, the Remender/Romita Jr. collaboration will find it’s own voice. Let’s just hope that it happens before too many people get turned off.
(3 Story, 3 Art)