Captain America #1 has all the hallmarks of a jumping on point. There’s a very brief Steve Rogers/Captain America narrated recap of the major points of the last 70 years, a touch of melancholy exhibited by Steve over his being a “man out of time,” the introduction of his current love interest and two of his best friends, some World War II flashbacks concerning a war time villain, long thought dead, who’s seemingly returned, some acrobatic fisticuffs and shield slinging designed to show off his particular power set, and the big, final page reveal of the real bad guy behind it all. In short, just about all you need to know topically about Steve/Cap is established for new readers (or returning ones), but there’s nothing by the way of any interesting or powerful storytelling for long term readers. Captain America #1 is completely geared towards the wayward Cap readers and the newbies. It’s a return to the status quo storytelling that lead to Steve’s death, Bucky’s assumption of the role of Captain America, and the great stories that spun out of these events. Or to clarify, it’s a return to the same old boring and rehashed Captain America stories that lead to the type of low sales that forced Marvel Comics to kill Cap off in the first place to garner readership.
Captain America #1 is by no means any slouch in the pacing, action, or sentimental and witty banter departments though. The artwork isn’t lacking either. Steve McNiven’s artwork, with its clear, crisp, and sharp lines coupled with his highly kinetic action style, is perfectly suited to the morally black and white character of Steve/Cap. It also brings to mind a certain cinematic style with its overlapping panels and designs that remind one of a movie fade in or out shot…and speaking of the cinematic…
It is Captain America #1’s blatant, and frankly boring, attempt to be a book tailor made for those who see Captain America: The First Avenger and decide to pick up a comic book staring their new favorite hero that really makes this first issue forgettable. Marketing, share holder results, and movie tie ins are what makes corporations like Marvel Comics’ parent company Disney go around though, so we have to deal with the corporate mandated junk along with the gems. What made the original Captain America series so great for the past few years has been its unique and thematically groundbreaking stories that didn’t labor under the need to coincide thematically with a movie project. The whole Bucky-Cap saga (“Bucky-Cap” is my reference to the Bucky Barnes/Captain America character) was so great in so many ways. It was also quite the debate stirrer. Regardless of what your opinion on Bucky as Captain America, and the ideas and themes that this shake up of the status quo as regards the ultimate American hero was, no one can deny that Bucky’s saga was a thought provoking and interesting one that definitely brought in readers…without having to capitalize on there being a movie of the character coming soon.
Proponents of leaving Steve Rogers dead and Bucky behind the shield (like myself), who knew that these two developments wouldn’t last long (although they lasted way longer than I thought they would), also knew that Steve would eventually return from the dead and resume the identity of Captain America just in time to launch a new Captain America comic book series to coincide with the film. I just wish it wasn’t as boring looking as this new lease on Cao’s life looks like it might be. Steve did fight some battles in the shadow as Steve Rogers: Super Soldier and as leader of the Secret Avengers for a while, but he’s back in the limelight now. With a creative team as creative as Brubaker and McNiven though, perhaps Captain America will get better. It’s not fair to damn a new series after only one issue, and I won’t, but if issue #2 doesn’t progress storytelling wise, and fast, I’ll probably not read issue #3.