In the editorial column at the end of this issue, Rick Remender expresses his longtime love for the character of Captain America. He cites specific eras that he favors and what he hopes to pull from to create his own Cap saga. Remender clearly holds this project very dearly. Good on him, because his first issue does more than enough to convince us that he’ll be just fine.
Written by Rick Remender
Illustrated by John Romita Jr.
Thrust into a bizarre, inhospitable world far from home, the all-new, high-adventure, mind-melting, tough-as-nails, sci-fi, pulp-fantasy era of Captain America is NOW! With no country and no allies, what’s left for the Sentinel of Liberty to protect? The Saga of Dimension Z begins here!
Rick Remender cites Jack Kirby’s psychedelic, sci-fi espionage period of Captain America as his major influence for his run – even going so far as selecting Arnim Zola as the adversary to kick things off against. The spirit of that era is definitely in this issue. In a mere 20 pages, Captain America saves Manhattan from an eco-terrorist, engages in some witty and character-building banter with Sharon Carter as he walks West Wing-style straight into his next mission, which sends him whipping through the otherworldly wastelands of “Dimension Z.” Remender balances the two popular sides of Captain America remarkably well: the boy scout superhero that darts into impossible odds and the blunt instrument spy that confidently maneuvers through shadowy missions. This is James Bond in a sci-fi fantasy setting.
Like the best relaunches, Remender pays homage to what came before while giving us a very clear “bold new” direction for the character. Rogers begins the issue engaged in a battle with a goofy, cackling eco-terrorist. The “Green Skull” flies around in a fighter jet while spouting alliterative & inflammatory proclamations that stand up to the best of the Lee & Kirby era villains of Marvel’s past. He’s almost too cartoonish in that he seems like far more of a “man out of time” than Cap, himself. It didn’t entirely work, but it’s a fun sequence nonetheless. Next, Remender gets to the heart of Cap’s current emotional state, having just been proposed to by Sharon and feeling uneasy about just how much of himself he can dedicate to a “real” life. The scene is briskly written and easily the most clever dialogue in these 20-pages. From there, things get weird as Cap takes the bad version of a trip to Hogwart’s in a rigged subway train. I’ll let you enjoy the rest.
Judging the issue gets a little tougher when you consider the art by John Romita Jr. His style is divisive and, granting that, this issue will not change your mind one way or the other. He is, however, a fantastic sequential storyteller who has a wonderful sense of movement and action. As a result, he is very well suited for this book when you consider that Remender is launching Cap through a lot of very different types of conflicts and settings in relatively few pages. His style lends itself to compressed storytelling where a lot goes on, because there is less of a prolonged focus on the details in the art. If that sounds like a backhanded compliment, well, unfortunately it kind of is one. When Cap gets to Dimension Z, there is an establishing page that shows a futuristic science fortress spiraling out of a detailed, rocky canyon. The red-orange hues through (and especially in the background of this scene) from Dean White lend a terrific mood to these scenes. This page is one of the finest I’ve seen from Romita Jr. and truly a standout in this issue. When asked to deliver a great action scene or a strange setting, Romita delivers. When asked to drive home an emotional beat, it seems a little too by-the-numbers. In an early flashback, Steve’s father and mother have it out in a horrible argument that turns into a violent bout of spousal abuse. The scene is effectively uncomfortable, to say the least, but the lack of detail in this sequence is jarring compared to the later scenes and the artists chose to use tears and blood to do the work while the facial expressions and character acting left a little to be desired. The difference between these pages and the rest of the book kind of speaks for itself.
When it was announced that Marvel was deciding to mostly shift their major talents around on the major books, there were arguments as to whether they would have benefitted more from hungrier and fresher writers or from trying to grab from outside their stable. But when guys like Remender so clearly have a passion for the characters they’ve been assigned to, then we end up with great issues like this and a sure sign that Marvel’s major creative stable still has plenty of new stories to tell. This is nothing less than yet another really smart pairing of writer, artist, and character – something that Marvel said was their aim with Marvel NOW! While I don’t know what sort of silly initiative a company would introduce that didn’t promise great writers and artist with great characters, what I am sure of is that “Captain America” certainly fits that bill.
Final Verdict: 7.9 – Buy.