Tuesday, November 27, 2012

COMIC BOOK REVIEW: Captain America #1

Captain America #1 (Marvel)
Rick Remender (writer); John Romita, Jr. (pencils); Klaus Janson (inks); Dean White (colors); Joe Caramagna (letters)

I missed most of the entirety of Ed Brubaker's 8 or 9 year run on Captain America. I wasn't really reading monthlies regularly during the first 2/3s of his run. I jumped in good old Cap with volume 6, number 1, which started around the same time as the Captain America movie and ran 19 issues ending just last month, right before Rick Remender's and John Romita, Jr.'s volume 7, number 1. So, where Brubaker apparently grounded his Cap stories in espionage and mystery, Remender's take is to bring some pulpy, sci-fi fun back to Cap. Now, I can't comment on Brubaker's entire run, but his Captain America volume 6 begins with quite a pulpy opening arc concerning Codename: Bravo's origin and then later the machinations of the Hydra Queen. (Of course, that series got bogged down in mad bomb silliness that went on and on, but the opening arc was great comic book fun: pulpy, hints of sci-fi, and things only probable in a comic book along with a spy and mystery angle).

This is all a long way of saying that, unlike other reviews I've been reading about this new incarnation of Cap, Remender’s take doesn't seem so unlike the Captain America of volume 6. There is a different tone, of course, as there should be with new creative teams. Remender provides Cap with a staccato, terse narration that's at once to the point, colorful, and full of the right amount of bravado, especially during the opening encounter with the environmental villain, Green Skull. The story moves along to see Cap fall – too easily – into a trap set in another dimension ("Dimension Z") and a frenetic action sequence setting the plot for future issues.

It's a fast moving issue and Romita's art is excellent during the action sequences, capturing action in a hurried, urgent, yet balanced way. However, the art falters during the civilian scenes. Sharon Carter looks 13 years old in one panel then looks like her Agent 13 self in the next. This is a small quibble as action carries the day throughout the issue, so Romita is well served by Remender’s script.

Remender sets up an interesting storyline using a flashback to Steve Rogers as a boy, Sharon’s long-term plans for her and Steve in the present, and Cap’s current situation in Dimension Z. This new Captain America is simmering with potential. Let’s hope when the story reaches its boil, it’s worth the wait. Recommended.

Monday, November 26, 2012

COMIC BOOK REVIEW: Journey Into Mystery #646

Journey Into Mystery #646 (Marvel)
Kathryn Immonen (writer); Valerio Schiti (artist);  Jordie Bellaire (colorist)

I read good things about Kieran Gillen's run on Journey Into Mystery, which just ended. I never found a good jumping on point for it, but do plan to catch up digitally or via trades one day. However, with the focus switching from Loki to Sif, I figured it would be fine jumping on point to begin reading this. I like the idea that a comic like Journey Into Mystery is being published, exploring lesser-known characters from Aasgard. I've always been a fan of how god and myths are used, borrowed, contorted, and appropriated in the comics.

As for JiM 646, this is a fun issue. Kathryn Immonen begins an interesting quest for Sif, and though I'm not entirely clear on all facets of it as part of the impetus for the action is based on past events, I was able to gamely follow along and enjoy it all. The opening page is quite fun and irreverent and there's a great scene within the story with a dragon. The  conclusion is effectively creepy.

Throughout, Valerio Schiti's art depicts the action quite deftly, concisely flowing from panel to panel. Very thorough and efficient storytelling with the proper amount of urgency, danger and dread thrown in. His Sif is strong and memorable. Though their styles are considerably different, his Sif reminds me of Cliff Chiang's Wonder Woman in that both woman are depicted as strong and capable warriors. Dressed for battle Schiti's Sif is fierce and to be admired as a warrior and not as a pin-up. As always, Jordie Bellaire's colors are stunning. The orange and green hues throughout enhance each panel of Schiti's art and the murky browns of the final page accent Immonen's script all the more.

A strong start to this story arc. I look forward to see how this all unfolds. Recommended.