Trades for 2/23/13: Death of the Dream, Return of a Legend

That's right you guys. He's been gone for a while, but now he's back. It's the long-awaited return of the McRib sandwich.

. . . wait. Hold on. I'm confusing my Americas. Today we're talking about Captain America. I got ahold of Road to Reborn and Reborn, and got to finishing them as well. So get your flags ready, and put on your baseball caps, 'cause America's back, baby.

Click here to read more about Captain America's death.

Captain America: Road to Reborn
By Ed Brubaker, Luke Ross, Butch Guice and Gene Colan
collects Captain America #'s 49-50, 600-601

Issue 600 is super-sized, so don't let the issue count fool you. For a four-issue paperback, there's a lot of material, and the material is really repetitive. Each issue rehashes Steve Rogers' life in one way or another. Issue 49 has a splendid Marcos Martin-drawn set of pages that retell his life and times. Then over the course of the next few issues, Cap's teammates, Sharon, the Falcon and Bucky start monologuing the heck out of his life. Then issue 600 throws another montage at you! It gets tiring you guys.

What this trade tells me is that people are not over the Death of Captain America. Which is fine, he's a great guy. Did a lot of cool stuff. I'd just rather read some stories than keep getting told how great a guy he was, or how much people miss him. Y'know, because that's why I'm reading this thing. To get some stories.

Gene Colan does a super-special supernatural special for issue 601. It's. . . strange, to say the least. The anatomy is off, and there's this murky painting color to it. There are no panels, so the pages blur into each other. Bucky recalls the time Hitler set loose some vampires during the war, so it's this whole Cap n' Bucky vs. vampires deal, a little reminiscent of Mike Mignola's Hellboy-verse.

Lastly, here is a nice page about Bucky striving to live up to Steve's legacy:

Captain America: Reborn
by Ed Brubaker, Bryan hitch and Butch Guice
collects the six-issue mini

Remember Captain America's assassination? That sucked didn't it. Well, it turns out that the bullets used to shoot Cap, were time bullets, and so Steve Rogers' consciousness was stuck on a never-ending loop of the ridiculously exciting and tragic times of his life. And he can't do anything about it, otherwise his actions in the past will affect his future.

With some scheming from Norman Osborn, Director of H.A.M.M.E.R. and some collaboration with the Red Skull-bot from previous storyarcs, they force Steve Rogers back into their own time. It ends pretty much the way you'd expect, with a huge fight in front of the Washington Memorial, an army of M.O.D.O.K.s to kill the Avengers, a Red-Skull controlled Steve Rogers and a giant robo Red Skull to fight.

This thing is its own miniseries, and that makes sense. It doesn't fit the tone of Brubaker's Captain America title, and it has a way different artist. It reads like a big action movie, with a lot of wide-screen shots and splash pages. Although it doesn't have the intrigue that Brubaker's Cap does, tt's really fun to read, visually. It was a good way to bring back Steve Rogers, but I don't think it'd be a good introduction to the title or the character.


My scanner was not manly enough to capture the glory of this two-page spread. Dig the way his body takes over the two pages. It's a great shot!

Check out Iron Man's supple buttocks. Metal has no right to be this sexy.
Verily, Thor would tap that ass.

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Trades for 1/20/13: I can't feel my arms

At chezkevin: we read comics so you don't have to! Today I'm continuing my romp into Brubaker's Captain America-verse, as well as diving into a Wolverine paperback. Kids these days like that guy right?

Captain America: The Man with No Face
by Ed Brubaker, Luke Ross and Butch Guice
collecting issues 43-38

The paperback's broke up into two separate stories, "The Man with No Face" by Luke Ross and "Old Friends and Enemies" by Butch Guice. Both of them bring up stories from Buck's past as the Winter Soldier. Memory is a huge theme in the title, and it's Bucky's memory that compels him to right the wrongs he committed as the Winter Soldier. In fact, it's the biggest motivator in these stories: Bucky acts the way he acts to honor Steve Rogers' memory and, in "Old Friends and Enemies," to honor Toro's legacy. Memory makes us who we are, and Bucky uses that to shape his role as Captain America.

I'm pretty surprised at how much I liked Luke Ross' pencils. It's pretty straightforward superhero/noir stuff, and then he has these bombastic action shots, of the Black Widow jumping off a motorcycle or Batroc the Leaper (Batroc the Leaper) kicking Captain America in the face.

As far as Brubaker stories go, these are amazingly self-contained. They start in the first issue and end in the third. Then an all new one starts, unrelated. Considering his 42-issue mega-arc, I was expecting the start of another, -- but I liked the stories all the same. Ho-hum, we'll see what next paperback has to offer.

Wolverine: Origins - Savior
by Daniel Way and Steve Dillon
collecting Wolverine: Origins #'s 6-10

Back in the day, Origins had some amazing variant covers. I mean amazing. I remember one time I got issue 9 from a bargain bin, based solely on the variant by Texeira.

So when I found this in the library, I figured I'd give it a shot. It's a solid Wolverine/espionage/flashback story, but passable for anyone who doesn't care too much about Marvel's favorite Canadian. It's no Enemy of the State, and it left me feeling indifferent.

That said, there's this one page that I found very odd. It's the strangest piece of visual storytelling I've seen in a while:

When you get speared in the chest by a Carbonadium tentacle, is that the first thing you say? Is that how you react -- by saying, "I. . I can't feel my arms."? The only way it works is if we have that close-up in the fourth panel, and then the "shock" fifth panel, but even then it rings false. That guy should be grunting in pain, not looking melancholily at the hole in his chest and saying he feels numb.

Steve Dillon has some really great pages in here. This was not one of them.

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Trades for 1-14-13: The Death of Captain America and more

Welcome to chezkevin! You can sit at any table you'd like. I'll be your waiter today -- Floyd. Would you like anything to drink? What can I start you off with? Not much, because we only have one appetizer today:

Predator versus Judge Dredd
by John Wagner and Alcatena
collecting the 3-issue miniseries and the short story "Predator: Rite of Passage"

I have no idea how big the Predator franchise was, because I was 8 at the time and watching Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, but it must've been big enough to get a 3-issue miniseries from Dark Horse comics, crossing over with Judge Dredd (who I assume was also big enough). In this short, 76-page, $9.95 trade paperback, a Predator crash lands on Mega-City One and decides to hunt the greatest prey there -- the Judges. After a few gruesome murders, there's one final confrontation between the Predator, Dredd and a descendant of one of the movie characters, now a Judge from the PSI division, which ends pretty much the way you'd expect. For a 3-issue miniseries, I think it could have been told in a single prog.

The biggest thematic significance seems to come from the PSI judge's comparison between Dredd and the Predator: both of them are singular in goal, one consumed by justice and the other consumed by the hunt. It doesn't really go farther than that. Aside from the grisly murders, there's one thing that really stands out to me:

Alcatena really likes drawing perspective, and he nails these scenes of hunting: it's this specific hierarchy, this specific top/bottom of hunting your prey without the prey knowing it, which gets turned on its head when Dredd confronts it. This is the kind of read that I would only expect Predator or Dredd fans to enjoy.

That might hold off your hunger until the main dish today, served with a side of snark. That dish is

The Death of Captain America: Death of the Dream
collecting Captain America #'s 25-30
by Ed Brubaker, Steve Epting and Mike Perkins

If you haven't read through the Cap omnibus, read my review over here first. Brubaker's Cap is like one of those TV shows that gets better with each season, but you need to know what happened last season in order to get the most out of it. That link again is over here.

Ready? Death of the Dream follows where the omnibus ended, with Steve Rogers' assassination. This trade deals mainly in the aftermath, with Bucky doggedly running off to find who's responsible, as well as with Cap's allies, Sharon Carter (AKA Agent 13 of S.H.I.E.L.D., who resigns) and The Falcon. Not much happens here and Brubaker seems more interested in asking questions, than answering them in this trade (What happened to Steve? Who will take over for him? Where does Sharon get her hair done?) So I think I'll ask a few of my own, as I read through this:
That thing on Sharon's shoulder, is it a cloth shoulder patch or is it actually her shoulder? Why did the colorist have to make that thing the color of skin!

Whoa what happened to Steve? It can't be him, because he comes back in Captain America: Reborn. Don't spoil this for me, as I haven't checked it out yet!

Death of the Dream segues into The Burden of Dreams, collecting issues 31-36. Click here to read about that. Afterwards, read below for The Man Who Bought America, collecting issues 37-42.

The Death of Captain America: The Man Who Bought America
collecting Captain America #'s 37-42
by Ed Brubaker, Steve Epting and Roberta de la Torre

After all the setup in the previous issues and all the intrigue, we reach something of an endgame in this paperback. Brubaker cashes in all his plot devices, and it breaks the bank. The Red Skull pushes forward a candidate for President of the United States of America, and he makes his play for America's heart and soul. Take that, Obama!

Herr Skull also digs up a Steve Rogers clone from stories of eras past, and that makes for great drama. Count on Brubaker to make the plot devices from old stories -- clones and mind control -- and combine them with his own plot devices -- miscarriages and cybernetic left arms -- to weave a yarn that fits so well in the realm of espionage and comic books. Count on Brubaker to make Captain America such a strong title that moves forward as well as strengthen its past.

I was hugely satisfied with this trade paperback, seeing the fruits of 42 issues ripen. Additional kudos to Roberto de la Torre, who draws a powerful interlude issue that focuses on the Steve clone. If you look at his rough, messy lines, it really underlines the memory loss and roughness of the clone himself.

And, I thought I'd show you my favorite scene from this trade. Bucky, as Capt. America, dives in front of a rocket launcher with just his costume and shield, in order to protect America.

Ignore the cheap digital effects, and you will see the most magnificent moment in comic book history. I might as well stop reading comics now, because no other scene will ever compare.

But I won't, of course. Next week we'll be looking at the follow-up trade paperback, The Man with No Face along with Wolverine: Origins - Savior. Thank you for eating at chezkevin! We hope to see you again soon.

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Trades for 1-6-13: Up, up and away

If you're hankering for some Man of Steel, have no fear: chezkevin's here! Today we've got two hardcover editions to talk about with you. I really liked one of them. Can you guess which???

Superman: Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?
collecting "Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?" (Superman #423 and Action Comics #583), "The Jungle Line" (DC Comics Presents #85) and "For the Man Who Has Everything. . ." (Superman Annual #11)

It's very rare that I say this, especially for a $24.99 that collects material from just four comic book issues, so you better listen up. The stories here are extraordinary and worth reading for anyone who appreciates super-comics. Alan Moore understands Superman -- he understands what challenges the Man of Steel, he understands his desires and he knows how to tell a good story with Superman. Not since Grant Morrison's All Star Superman have I read such a profound understanding of the character, and that's a damn shame.

Now, the stories. There are three of them, starting with the two-part "Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?" which serves as a "last story" for Superman as the Crisis on Infinite Earths mega-event rebuilt the DC Universe. It imagines a story "10 years from now" that reflects on Superman's final confrontation with his greatest enemies and it's as powerful then just as it is now. It evaluates that crucial balance in comic books: the reader's want to read them forever against the reader's desire to see the characters happy. Doesn't Superman deserve a happy ending too?

The second story introduces an asteroid that has the effects of straight up killing Superman, starting with a fever. It's a moody thriller that's unique and powerful. And it's not just because he holds hands with Swamp Thing while he's dying:

The third story begins with Superman's friends meeting at the Fortress of Solitude to give him his birthday present, when suddenly, they happen into a terrible discovery! Mongul's set the "Black Mercy" on Superman, a half-plant half-parasite that bonds to the host's chest and gives them a fantasy of their greatest desire. It's a great insight to see Superman's greatest desire: Krypton never blew up -- and we get a story of what happened if it didn't. It's smart, it's powerul, it's unique. It's a shame that super-comics have lost Alan Moore, he's really a treasure to the industry.

Superman: Grounded volume 1
collecting Superman #'s 700-706

I just typed the above and found out that issue 700 is included in this hardcover. It's not that good. For a 700th issue, Superman deserves better. It takes place after the "New Krypton" saga: Superman's newer, sexier, more attractive home planet has exploded and, in a need to reconnect with Earth, he decides to take a walk across the country (America, just in case you haven't assumed the anglocentrism inherent in super-comics). He meets people in small towns and helps them out in small ways. The premise is not that bad, and there are some nice slice of life moments in there. The premise is not so bad, but it's the execution that's lacking.

See, there are some ways that the story could be told, but the writer decides to put Superman as this odd contemporary version of superdickery. For instance, the Man of Tomorrow quotes Thoreau and strokes his chin at a random dude:

It's a strange take on Superman. I get that the writer is trying to make Superman a "man of the people" by having him talk to regular people. This is not how you do it. There's also a setup where Superman runs into an abusive father and saves the child and wife from them. And then he looks out into the panel, looks right at the reader and says that anyone could have saved them, if they had "ten cents' worth" of compassion:

Superman, are you trying to shame me for not noticing this kids' abusive father? What kind of message are you trying to send here? I would say the entire trade is like this. There seem to be places where the writer knows what he's doing, and then these odd moments that are way off and fail to do the character justice. It's a shame that the creative team didn't live up to the hype.


Have you ever wondered where to pickpocket Superman? Wonder no more! In Grounded we discover where the Man of Steel keeps that sweet dough:

Check out this sweet Dave Gibbons-drawn scene, after Superman is freed from the Black Mercy and finds out that Mongul was responsible for it, and beating on his friends:


Next week: Captain America: Death of the Dream and Predator vs. Judge Dredd!

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