Captain America

mighty fighting avengers

Captain America/Thor: The Mighty Fighting Avengers (May 2011)

Captain America/Thor: The Mighty Fighting Avengers

It's not a complicated story–writer Roger Langridge sends Captain America (from World War II) and Thor (from the present day) back to Camelot. They discover Loki has wormed his way into King Arthur's court and there's some trouble.

Good thing there are a couple superheroes to deal with it.

Langridge doesn't worry about establishing the relationship between Cap and Thor, he moves right into Loki, the Knights of the Round Table and the adventure. He's got a lovely Empire Strikes Back homage going too for the heroes versus a three-headed dragon. You'll just have to read it.

At its core–with Chris Samnee on the art, doing a wonderful job–it's an issue of Thor: The Mighty Avenger with Cap (the Fighting Avenger version) thrown in. Langridge does make a little time for a Thor and Jane character development subplot and, while lovely, it begs for more.

So it's a functional success.

B+ 

CREDITS

Once and Future Avengers!; writer, Roger Langridge; artist, Chris Samnee; colorist, Matthew Wilson; letterer, Rus Wooton; editors, Sana Amanat and Michael Horwitz; publisher, Marvel Comics.

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Captain America and Black Widow 640 (February 2013)

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It’s another all action issue–there’s some talking heads for the planning and the various plot twists, but it’s an action issue. A bunch of slightly different superheroes–the Black Knight has a magical chainsaw and Venom can pilot a spaceship and Ghost Rider’s techy–attack some slightly different other superheroes who are now bad. Human Torch is a burning skeleton, I think.

It’s all confusing but very nicely illustrated. Francavilla has a great time with the battle scenes.

Otherwise, Black Widow gets the most important scenes. Cap gets none. His promise to the lizard people gets a summarized follow up. The multiverse thing gets even sillier.

Bunn fails at the one duplicate of the bad lady he needs to get right. The other one he does in this issue, he does well. But not the important one.

It’s not a success, it’s mildly disappointing, but at least it’s competent.

CREDITS

Writer, Cullen Bunn; artist and colorist, Francesco Francavilla; letterer, Joe Caramagna; editors, Jake Thomas and Lauren Sankovitch; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Captain America and Black Widow 639 (January 2013)

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Apparently, in some realities, Captain America is a dick. Bunn gets how to write Steve’s honesty and morality. It helps here, but doesn’t fit with Bunn’s style otherwise.

I also didn’t get the guy in the Doc Ock arms was the Lizard. My bad. I just thought it was some creature. But no, it’s Curt Connors and he’s not too terrible a guy in this alternate reality.

Decent art from Francavilla. It’s mostly talking heads. The alternate Black Widow talks at length (as usual) about the multiverse. The big action is in the background or in extreme close up, so Francavilla never really shines . I guess I’ve gotten used to how he does the close up conversations.

Bunn giving Steve a promise to help people in the garbage planet dimension makes the comic immediately more interesting. Of course he’s getting home, but will he be able to keep the promise.

CREDITS

Writer, Cullen Bunn; artist and colorist, Francesco Francavilla; letterer, Joe Caramagna; editors, John Denning and Lauren Sankovitch; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Captain America and Black Widow 638 (December 2012)

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You can tell the Black Widows apart by their belts. I hadn’t realized that detail. My bad.

Once again the Francavilla art is good. He’s stronger on the distance shots than he is during the close ups. Not to knock him–he’s good all the time but there are a couple fantastic long shot panels this issue.

It’s another all action issue. It takes place over twenty or so minutes, approximately five times longer than it takes to read the comic.

There’s a tiny bit with the bad lady and her duplicates. The scene features Bunn’s best writing. He’s not good for the existing character stuff. He needs to be generative, not repackaging Steve and Natasha exposition. The other best writing bit, for example, is the two Black Widows talking. The bad one’s much more compelling.

It’s a technically competent issue; it’s a waste of time in the important ways.

CREDITS

Writer, Cullen Bunn; artist and colorist, Francesco Francavilla; letterer, Cort Petit; editors, Jake Thomas and Lauren Sankovitch; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Captain America and Black Widow 637 (November 2012)

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Clearly I haven’t been reading Marvel comics for a while. Since when do they talk about a multiverse like it’s early eighties DC and what’s the deal with the big tripod monsters?

Confusion aside, it’s a fairly good issue. Bunn’s plot twist is somewhat unexpected–supervillain arms dealer only employs her multiverse selves; there’s none of the cool different back stories this issue, which is too bad.

Instead, Bunn and Francavilla do an action issue with some occasional confusing talking bits. There are two Black Widows and it’s unclear who is who… But it doesn’t really matter, since the issue moves so fast.

As far as the writing, Bunn’s got Steve telling a proctologist joke. It’s an odd moment, making one wonder if Steve’s really a multiverse double too. It’s not good banter for him.

It’s an interesting misfire–way too heavy on the dystopian sci-fi–with nice art

CREDITS

Writer, Cullen Bunn; artist and colorist, Francesco Francavilla; letterer, Joe Caramagna; editors, Jake Thomas and Lauren Sankovitch; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Captain America and Black Widow 636 (November 2012)

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I like Francesco Francavilla. He’s a little awkward with Captain America out on a mission and the superhero stuff, but he makes the talking heads interesting and he’s got a great rendering of Central Park at the open.

As for Cullen Bunn? He has a similar problem. The issue’s perfectly well-written, somewhat confounding stuff about an arms dealer seemingly with clones. Except all these clones have different memories, which Bunn covers in the narration. There’s a great bit with Hawkeye complaining about different dimensions.

But Bunn’s Steve Rogers lacks personality. He plays off people–Hawkeye, Iron Man, the bad arms dealer lady. Even when there’s a good line–Captain America liking Sizzler–it passes quickly. Does Steve Rogers really like Sizzler? There are Sizzlers in Brooklyn?

Bunn can probably get away with it, since the story’s intriguing (and he writes Black Widow well) but it’s unfortunate Steve’s so vapid.

CREDITS

Writer, Cullen Bunn; artist and colorist, Francesco Francavilla; letterer, Joe Caramagna; editors, Jake Thomas and Lauren Sankovitch; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Winter Soldier 9 (October 2012)

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I can’t believe I forgot about the Brubaker fake arc. It’s when he identifies something as an arc, but it leads directly into the next issue, which starts another arc. He usually uses a hard cliffhanger (and does so here too).

It’s always vaguely frustrating because Brubaker uses the expectations to fool the reader. It’s mostly a Marvel phenomenon for him and it’s always a little hostile.

With an extremely fast-paced issue–like this one–it leaves one wondering why bother reading it at all. The recap in the next issue will have all the pertinent information, since Brubaker doesn’t have a single character moment in this issue. It’s all setup for what’s next.

If Brubaker’s Marvel career has been rehashing the books he liked in the seventies, Winter Soldier is more just rehashing his own earlier Marvel work. Bucky’s got a nemesis. Big whoop.

It’s okay, albeit unrewarding.

CREDITS

Broken Arrow, Part Three; writer, Ed Brubaker; penciller, Michael Lark; inkers, Brian Thies and Stefano Gaudiano; colorist, Bettie Breitweiser; letterer, Joe Caramagna; editors, Jake Thomas and Lauren Sankovitch; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Winter Soldier 8 (September 2012)

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Once again, I’ve got to question Brubaker’s approach. He splits this issue of Winter Soldier between Bucky and the bad guy. The bad guy has kidnapped Natasha and he’s going to brainwash her. It’s unclear why he hates Bucky so much–Brubaker plays fast and loose with that logic a lot. He tries to “realistically” update seventies Marvel comics, but he doesn’t take into account the character motivations.

Except when Bucky’s fellow SHIELD agent wonders why Bucky would be dating Black Widow in the first place.

Bucky and SHIELD are trying to find Natasha, which provides some fight scenes. Nothing too fantastic, just Bucky beating the crap out of thugs. Again, logic. A super-spy is hiring thugs from waterfront bars? Because it’s the 1940s? Later, Bucky’s metal arm saves his butt. It made me question how good he’d be without it.

As usual, it’s great looking, fun and problematic.

CREDITS

Broken Arrow, Part Two; writer, Ed Brubaker; penciller, Michael Lark; inkers, Brian Thies and Stefano Gaudiano; colorists, Bettie Breitweiser and Mitch Breitweiser; letterer, Joe Caramagna; editors, Jake Thomas and Lauren Sankovitch; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Winter Soldier 7 (August 2012)

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Brubaker uses Bucky as narrator here, but mostly Bucky just waxes on about Natasha. It’s filler. I wanted to make a joke about it seeming almost as romantic as Jeph Loeb’s Superman/Batman narration but it’s insincere.

Brubaker has no reason to try to convince the reader of Natasha’s skills as a super-spy. He’s just filling some exposition boxes.

Otherwise, the issue’s great. It’s Michael Lark drawing a superhero spy book. There are no super powers, so the threats are all a lot more grounded. Lark maintains the realistic mood while still doing the absurd action too. It makes Winter Soldier even more interesting to read, to see how Lark bridges the disconnect.

The issue probably does read a little fast and the busy middle of the night mountain highway seems a tad much, but it’s very exciting. Shame Brubaker felt he needed to blather on in the narration.

CREDITS

Broken Arrow, Part One; writer, Ed Brubaker; penciller, Michael Lark; inkers, Brian Thies and Stefano Gaudiano; colorist, Bettie Breitweiser; letterer, Joe Caramagna; editors, John Denning and Lauren Sankovitch; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Winter Soldier 5 (July 2012)

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Tom Palmer is a very strange inker for Guice. Gaudiano shows up for a bit, at the beginning and end most noticeably, but Palmer handles the big action scene. It’s Bucky, Natasha and Doctor Doom versus the Super-Apes and some other bad guys. With the Palmer inks, it looks like something out of a seventies Marvel comic. It’s glorious action in the Marvel style. This issue makes up for the lackadaisical pacing in the last few and it’s not even Brubaker’s fault. It’s all Tom Palmer.

Even more, when he does the quiet scenes, he brings age and gravity to Bucky. I love Gaudiano, but with Palmer… Winter Soldier is a whole different book.

Brubaker writes some great Nick Fury and Doctor Doom banter–they need a team-up series, obviously–and maintains Bucky’s questionable morality.

It’s an excellent finish to a first arc. Fast and fun but fulfilling.

CREDITS

The Longest Winter, Part Five; writer, Ed Brubaker; penciller, Butch Guice; inkers, Stefano Gaudiano, Tom Palmer and Guice; colorist, Bettie Breitweiser; letterer, Joe Caramagna; editor, Lauren Sankovitch, John Denning and Tom Breevort; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Winter Soldier 4 (June 2012)

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Wait a second… at no time during Marvel’s attempts to “toughen up” the line did anyone ever stop to consider Doctor Doom having nuclear weapons is a lot more dangerous than the Hulk?

Sorry, I just gave away Brubaker’s big reveal for the issue. Sadly, it’s a lame one.

Otherwise, the issue’s okay. The pacing is still bad. Bucky and Doctor Doom head to beat up a Doombot, which leads to some excellent art from Guice and Gaudiano. They’re an interesting pair for Doctor Doom and he looks great. The mass destruction chase scene at the U.N. is good too. It’s just without payoff.

As for Black Widow, she gets a side mission. Unfortunately, she mostly just recounts it in exposition.

And that ending? It’s three times longer than it should be, if not more, and Brubaker hasn’t got any reward for the reader.

Winter‘s technically excellent, but highly problematic.

CREDITS

The Longest Winter, Part Four; writer, Ed Brubaker; penciller, Butch Guice; inkers, Stefano Gaudiano, Guice and Brian Thies; colorists, Bettie Breitweiser and Matthew Wilson; letterer, Joe Caramagna; editor, Lauren Sankovitch, John Denning and Tom Breevort; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Winter Soldier 3 (May 2012)

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So, if the good guys are going to figure out the identity of the bad guy–bad girl, actually–before the issue starts, why bother making it a mystery?

In addition to that silly plotting, this issue is the first where Brubaker’s pacing is too hurried. There’s a mission briefing, there’s the mission, then there’s the surprise ending. Except it’s not a particularly good surprise. Maybe in the Marvel Universe, there just aren’t any good surprises. I mean, it’s good comics and it’s fun and Brubaker writes Doctor Doom really well, but the end isn’t a surprise.

I guess there’s some more filler–the bad guys doing bad things–and a funny primate sight gag, but this issue is thin.

Well, except for Guice and company. The artwork is absolutely amazing, both in how Guice toggles between detail and action and how he composes the pages. Even the filler’s beautiful.

CREDITS

The Longest Winter, Part Three; writer, Ed Brubaker; penciller, Butch Guice; inkers, Stefano Gaudiano, Brian Thies and Guice; colorists, Bettie Breitweiser and Jordie Bellaire; letterer, Joe Caramagna; editor, Lauren Sankovitch, John Denning and Tom Breevort; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Winter Soldier 2 (April 2012)

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While Winter Soldier remains exceptionally entertaining, Brubaker runs into some genre problems. He runs the book like it’s action espionage with supervillains–though it’s unclear why Bucky isn’t familiar with the Red Ghost (to be fair, I got companies confused and thought the machine gunning gorilla was Monsieur Mallah)–but he still keeps the mystery investigation angle.

So Bucky and Natasha are trying to figure out the second bad guy and Brubaker already told the reader last issue. There’s no way the discovery is going to have a significant pay-off and it’s bewildering why he wouldn’t keep the reader in the dark too.

While the approach allows him a money shot at the end of this issue, it’s not a particularly good one. Guice and Breitweiser make it look cool and all… but who cares?

The art continues its excellence. Guice concentrates on the action more, as does Brubaker.

CREDITS

The Longest Winter, Part Two; writer, Ed Brubaker; artist, Butch Guice; colorist, Bettie Breitweiser; letterer, Joe Caramagna; editor, Lauren Sankovitch, John Denning and Tom Breevort; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Winter Soldier 1 (April 2012)

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So Black Widow is ageless, right? I’m not missing something. Brubaker uses her to interesting effect in Winter Soldier. While she’s technically the sidekick, she’s more a supporting girlfriend character. The comic is so much in Bucky’s head, there’s not really room to share it with a sidekick.

The story’s good Marvel Brubaker; a modern approach to an old story, one with some unexpected villains. But it’s not surprising, even with the big reveal at the end.

What is surprising is the artwork. Guice toggles between these intricate action panels and these photo-like close ups. It causes a pause every time, which is another contributor towards Widow not being a full partner in the book. Bucky–and Guice–concentrate on her as a subject.

Not much happens, but Brubaker’s pace is fantastic. Between his thoughtful, deliberate Bucky narration and Guice and colorist Bettie Breitweiser’s jaw dropping art, Soldier excels.

CREDITS

The Longest Winter, Part One; writer, Ed Brubaker; artist, Butch Guice; colorist, Bettie Breitweiser; letterer, Joe Caramagna; editor, Lauren Sankovitch, John Denning and Tom Breevort; publisher, Marvel Comics.