Sunday, April 14, 2024

Mini-Run Review: "Captain America," #1-#8

Back in 2014 I wrote about how J. Michael Straczynski had written a chunk of awful comics, some mediocre ones, and a single incredible series I adored--"Supreme Power," under the then-relatively-new (at the time he wrote for it) Marvel Max line. He gave us 18 amazing issues and then it all fell apart. JMS dabbled in other comic series for some time, but he came back to Marvel recently for a new run of, "Captain America.". I was concerned I'd be disappointed going into the series but so far it has been...good?

JMS' take on, "Captain America," has started strong, but a lot of his comics do that and then get incredibly messy. He seems to be avoiding that, however, but letting this series be a bit messy from the start but in a charming manner. He's added a supernatural element of demons, the human embodiment of life (as well as death) and it is a bit weird but has still somehow managed to work. I have concerns with how heavily JMS has changed the continuity of Steve Roger's past (basically, he teamed up with some Jewish and Italian mobsters to stop some local Nazis before he even became superpowered, it's a little quirky), yet, between that and the introduction of some demons and vaguely angelic figures we're clearly getting a more out-there take on Captain American than before, but one which manages to have some nice grounded moments too.

In this day and age, it is alarming how Nazi-related ideas seem to be rearing their ugly head again. JMS touches upon that plenty within these first eight issues and even with a lot of more magical story elements emphasizes the humanity of Steve Rogers and the people he fights to protect as Captain America. JMS gives us some fun bits of dialogue too, be it a Stakeout-gone-wrong with Spider-Man that results in awkward apologies or a bit where Steve and Sam Wilson watch a movie about heroes and crack jokes about the overreliance on CGI these days (JMS has got jokes about the Marvel Cinematic Universe, clearly). Now, all of this interesting writing would matter little without some stellar art, and Jesús Saiz thankfully provides stupendous work.

Whether we're witnessing the past with everything looking impressively period-set or in the present as Captain America fights threats of a human or demonic nature, Saiz illustrates the Hell (no pun intended) out of every page. Quiet silly moments such as Captain America interacting with a Dr. Strange doll used by Stephen Strange to astroproject are as pitch-perfect as eerie scenes of Nazi-sympathetic Americans filling Central Park for a disturbing rally. Saiz is at the top of his game and gives us the mundane and realistic just as well as he portrays the supernatural stuff.

J. Michael Straczynski has a tendency to start a story like a pro but then loves to either abandon it in the middle of his telling the tale or to just utterly shit the bed (figuratively) at a narrative's conclusion. Would I be foolish to get my hopes up and think JMS might actually stick the landing with his run on, "Captain America," at whatever point it finishes? Perhaps, but I'm ready to be ever-so-slightly optimistic with my usual caution. Plus, whether JMS does his usual thing of driving the metaphorical train off the tracks or not, at least everything should continue to look good with Jesús Saiz providing art. Time will tell if the story wraps well eventually, but for now, I'm having fun!

4.5 out of 5 stars.

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