Saturday, July 2, 2011

Captain America #618

Cover by
Marko Djurdjevic
Captain America #618 (May 25, 2011)
Writer: Ed Brubaker
Penciller: Butch Guice, Chris Samnee, Stefano Gaudiano
Colorist: Bettie Breitweiser
Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna

So you know how I’ve been talking about my experiences with jumping right into story lines whenever I pick up a single issue comic? I was wrong. I have never jumped straight into a story arc as blindly as I did today with Captain America #618.

When I opened it up to the first page to my trusty character web/backstory, courtesy of Marvel, I was instead greeted by the bold words: GULAG part 3. Whoops.

But my desire to introduce myself to the Marvel world of solo heroes overwhelmed any reservations I had about starting at a part 3 in a narrative. With my trusty page of backstory in hand, I figured that I would be able to handle any twists and turns of Captain America.

Gulag Part 3 follows Bucky Barnes (the NEW Captain America because remember, the original died a few years back but surprise! he came back) as he struggles to gain back his memory and identity after being brainwashed and thrown into a Russian gulag. He’s forced to participate in gladiator-style fights with the other prisoners as the warden looks on. We know the warden does not really want Bucky dead just yet but we don’t know his full nefarious plans.

Meanwhile, Sharon Carter and Black Widow are investigating the truth regarding poor Bucky’s imprisonment and Steve Rogers (the original Captain America) is also performing his own investigation. He suspects a former Soviet government agent for his recommendation to transfer Bucky to Russia and before long, Steve and the reader learn some dark, murderous secrets about Bucky. Oh God, can we not even trust Captain America?

With fight clubs, explosions, secret KGB agents, mind-controlled activation codes, dead Soviets popping up all over the place and an appearance by Nick Fury, there was plenty of action in this short issue. Although I was scrambling to catch up with the plot, I have to admit that I have a major soft spot for comics that deal with old school villains: the KGB, Nazis, whatever. There’s something so wonderfully easy about these sorts of comics. In fact, while I was reading Captain America #618, I kept thinking of one of my favorite comics by the great Kate Beaton featuring Wonder Woman returning to her roots.

Corresponding to the retro villains, the art in the majority of the panels also had a very retro feel to it. Aside from the scenes in the gulag (which were very scratchy and filled with shades of green and gray and of course, red), the rest of the comic reminded me of vintage cartoons like Hanna-Barbera or even the concept art of Pixar movies. Steve Rogers in fact kind of looked like Jonny Quest’s dad, actually. I liked it quite a bit.

Narrative-wise, there were more questions than answers by the ending and a deliberate cliffhanger. Still, the plot was strong and the writing as well, though it did not have a great deal of heart, if I may use a cliché. It just didn’t feel as real or genuine as other comics I’ve read so far. It was not mediocre or poorly executed, it just didn’t have anything worthwhile in it for me.

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