Tuesday, September 16, 2008
Fair Trade -- Essential Captain America v.1
I picked this up at HeroesCon back in June, and, in honor of Rick's new Captain America blog, Let's Rap With Cap, I figured that now would be a good time to talk about the Living Legend of World War Two and his Silver Age adventures.
The vast majority of the stories presented here (Tales of Suspense #59-99, and Captain America #100-102) are written by Stan Lee (of course) and drawn by Cap's co-creator Jack Kirby. While the pairing of Lee and Kirby on Fantastic Four is the stuff of legend, their work on Captain America is rarely talked about in similar tones. Maybe it's because it's not an unbroken run (there are a couple of spots where Jack needs a fill-in), or maybe it's because these Cap stories in ToS were 10-pagers instead of full length. But whatever the reason, it's not really fair, because this volume contains some absolutely masterful Silver Age heroics.
The series takes the fact that Cap is a man out of time and really plays that up as a strength. Stories vary between Cap busting up commies or gangsters in the present day, and busting Nazis with Bucky in WW2, both of which play well as straight action while also giving the team a chance to flex their creative muscles and play with the setting. In the early 60s, the war was not so far in the past as to be dim in the minds of readers, and America's fascination with WW2 was in full swing, so if nothing else this was a smart move on Stan and Jack's part.
The art is pure Kirby, with bombastic battles and insane technology, both on the side of good with SHIELD and the forces of evil . Jack plays to his own strengths with lots of brawling fights, with Cap springing between opponents like a pinball and laying punks out with punches which look painful some 40+ years after they were drawn. And Lee holds up his end of the bargain as well. Even though each ToS segment is only ten pages, Lee writes feature length tales and just breaks them into chapters; where the ToS Iron Man strip is often just a short, Captain America is epic each and every time. And the cast of characters which surround Cap are strong -- the mysterious and beautiful Agent 13, the gruff SHIELD Man Nick Fury, the diabolical scientists known as AIM, and the utterly evil Red Skull all have the chance to share the spotlight.
As one of the original Marvel Essentials, this is an excellent choice for someone just getting started reading the Silver Age or wanting to learn more about Captain America and his history. As the first large chunk of solo Captain America I ever read, I must say I was impressed, and walked away with a new interest in the character. So this volume is definitely recommended.