June 23, 2009

The Rebirth of Captain America

I'm not too upset about Captain America's "death" - not because I dislike the character, but in comics, death is nothing more than an inconvenience. I'm sure there are big plans for Cap to come back in a mega-ultra-crossover, "Captain America: Back from the Dead And Not Happy About It".

When I wrote those words two years ago, I have to be honest...Marvel had lost a lot of its luster. In fact, many of the Marvel books I'm reading now have little to do with the mainstream Marvel universe - mostly, it's cosmic stuff like Nova and Guardians of the Galaxy (Thanks, Rich!), but the new Cap...was getting to me Much like our country, when James Buchanan Barnes took over the role, he was unsure of himself, dealing with his less-than-pleasant past...well, you could make the Bucky-as-America metaphor better than I could. And in fact, if Bucky was one of the few deaths that could never be reversed, in an ironic reversal....Steve Rogers was the hero without a resurrection.

That is, until Captain America # 600 (or #51, if you don't accept Marvel's cynical renumbering), which is....well, it's not bad, just a little overstuffed.

There are appropriate reprints of material at the beginning, explaining Captain America to the one guy who probably doesn't know who Captain America is. (Or even Joe Quesada. Maybe they're both the same person, who knows?). The main story - a series of vignettes about people reminiscing about the first anniversary of Cap's death...well, it has its moments. (Most notably the "Youth of Today" segment) Much of it reads like a cynical marketing ploy to build the buzz over Cap's impending return. (And if you don't believe me, check out this Newsarama story). There's a shockingly bad 1940's Captain America reprint, a nice Roger Stern-written tale, and "The Persistence of Memoriabilia" by Mark Waid and Dale Eaglesham.

A very simple tale about a man selling off his Captain America memorabilia, it stands in direct contrast with the overall tone of the Marvel universe. It's a simply told tale that describes the effect of a hero - and his principles - upon a varied group of individuals. It also seems to contain (at least, in my view) a direct response to the current view of the Marvel Universe.

A very wise friend who works at a very cool comics shop once remarked that DC was based on legacy, whereas Marvel was based on tragedy. The one thing that current Marvel books lack - but which this story helps provide - is a strong sense of hope.

The rest of the book? It ranges from OK to so-so. Maybe worth borrowing from a friend, but buying yourself? It's your call.

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