Captain America and Black Widow 640 (February 2013)

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 … Continue reading Captain America and Black Widow 640 (February 2013)

Captain America and Black Widow 639 (January 2013)

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 … Continue reading Captain America and Black Widow 639 (January 2013)

Captain America and Black Widow 638 (December 2012)

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 … Continue reading Captain America and Black Widow 638 (December 2012)

Captain America and Black Widow 637 (November 2012)

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 … Continue reading Captain America and Black Widow 637 (November 2012)

Captain America and Black Widow 636 (November 2012)

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 … Continue reading Captain America and Black Widow 636 (November 2012)

Winter Soldier 9 (October 2012)

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 … Continue reading Winter Soldier 9 (October 2012)

Winter Soldier 8 (September 2012)

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 … Continue reading Winter Soldier 8 (September 2012)

Winter Soldier 7 (August 2012)

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 … Continue reading Winter Soldier 7 (August 2012)

Winter Soldier 5 (July 2012)

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 … Continue reading Winter Soldier 5 (July 2012)

Winter Soldier 4 (June 2012)

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. … Continue reading Winter Soldier 4 (June 2012)

Winter Soldier 3 (May 2012)

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 … Continue reading Winter Soldier 3 (May 2012)

Winter Soldier 2 (April 2012)

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 … Continue reading Winter Soldier 2 (April 2012)

Winter Soldier 1 (April 2012)

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 … Continue reading Winter Soldier 1 (April 2012)

Captain America 255 (March 1981)

Wow, what a truly awful comic book. Bryne inks himself here (I guess Joe Rubinstein) was busy and the results are unfortunate. The action lacks any punch and the bland faces have started, years earlier than I thought they would. It doesn’t help his rendition of the first Cap costume is silly. As for the writing, Stern outdoes himself as far as expository. FDR narrates the beginning of the story (because FDR used to read reports aloud to subordinates) then Stern has the subordinate narrate some more of the issue. It’s an iconic origin retelling. I remember it from when … Continue reading Captain America 255 (March 1981)

Captain America 254 (February 1981)

What a bunch of trouble to launch a new Union Jack. I guess Stern gets to kill the original Union Jack (and Baron Blood) but the whole thing is just a setup for Marvel UK. Whatever. I’m being really harsh and I shouldn’t be. The issue’s not bad—except Cap running around in his outfit, shield in hand, all the time. It just doesn’t work. They should have rethought it. Otherwise, Stern does a fine job mixing horror and superhero and Blood’s death scene is absolutely fantastic. There’s a strange logic misstep at the end too, with it being unclear how … Continue reading Captain America 254 (February 1981)

Captain America 253 (January 1981)

When Stern isn’t writing too much exposition, he really does a good job. I always forget during those exposition heavy issues. Cap heads off to the UK to help out the aged former Captain Britain with a vampire problem. Byrne gets to draw the English countryside. The selling point of the issue is really Byrne’s art. The plotting’s fine and the dialogue’s decent, but the art’s just phenomenal. Except maybe the last page, where Cap’s eyes are too wide. Other than the UK stuff, there’s only a couple scenes. The first is Cap foiling a robbery. Byrne really goes all … Continue reading Captain America 253 (January 1981)

Captain America 252 (December 1980)

Oh, is Stern’s exposition bad. I mean, it’s real bad. What I can’t figure out is why he bothers with it. It seems the only reason for the endlessly wordy narration is he has to fill space… but he doesn’t. This narration goes in boxes at the tops of panels. Byrne’s art is more than enough to hold the reader’s attention. The best part of this issue is when Cap and Batroc team up against Mister Hyde. Byrne’s action is fantastic, but the team up also makes sense. Unfortunately, the issue reads like a proto-“decompressed” narrative. Stern takes forever to … Continue reading Captain America 252 (December 1980)

Captain America 251 (November 1980)

Besides Stern inexplicably wasting four or five pages recapping Cap’s origin, it’s a good issue. The origin recap made me wonder if Byrne wanted to get to redo the iconic panels, but they’re really small. Byrne does a great job this issue, especially once the fight scene gets started at the end between Cap and Batroc and Mister Hyde. The bad guys have teamed up to blackmail the city. The fight takes place on a ship. It just works out great. Most of the issue is probably dedicated to the bad guys, actually. There’s a prison break sequence and then … Continue reading Captain America 251 (November 1980)

Captain America 250 (October 1980)

After some hiccups, Stern finally gets the whole “Captain America for President” idea working. The problem scenes are the establishing ones. It’s Cap talking to the third party guys who want him to run on their ticket. The issue gets good once it’s Steve Rogers trying to figure out if he should run or not. That opening is so bad, in fact, I thought the whole issue would be a disaster, but Cap’s speech explaining why he will not run is some iconic writing from Stern on the character. Maybe the awful expository narration for the opening action scene (Cap … Continue reading Captain America 250 (October 1980)

Captain America 249 (September 1980)

The Dragon Man cliffhanger really does not resolve well. All Stern can think of to get it over with promptly is for Cap to throw his glove in Dragon Man’s eye. Then Dragon Man heads off to confront Machinesmith and Cap tags along. This sequence, from the cliffhanger resolution to Machinesmith’s hide-out, is visually fantastic. Stern doesn’t even cloud it over with narration or exposition, we just get to see the Byrne and Rubinstein art. Unfortunately, the Machinesmith stuff is far less satisfying. Three quarters of the issue is Cap fighting a robot (or a piece of a robot) only … Continue reading Captain America 249 (September 1980)

Captain America 248 (August 1980)

Steve Rogers as mild-mannered commercial artist is a little off at first, but once he settles in with his friends—and a girl, I sort of remember him dating Bernie Rosenthal when I was a kid—it gets a lot more comfortable. Stern starts with more about him being wowed by the era, but it quickly dissipates and the issue’s a lot stronger than the previous one had suggested it could be. Dragon Man shows up and a big rooftop fight scene ensues. Machinesmith is still an annoying villain, but he eventually goes away. I mean, Dragon Man tries to eat Steve’s … Continue reading Captain America 248 (August 1980)

Captain America 247 (July 1980)

Byrne does a great job with everything this issue except Cap. He draws him a little like a big dope. There’s just something bland and dully affable about him. And he’s always in costume, so clearly Byrne is doing a good job of drawing him that way since he never gets to fully illustrate an expression. The issue is about Cap recovering his memory, which might also lead to the dull part. He thinks he’s got false memories and he discovers the truth in a few pages, leaving him ready to fight Baron Strucker. There’s a really cool bit about … Continue reading Captain America 247 (July 1980)

Captain America: Man out of Time 5 (May 2011)

As Man out of Time finishes, it’s not clear if it’s the new continuity or if Marvel just gave Waid and company the chance to retell the Cap origin again. The series suggests it might behoove them to let other writers take a crack at it, because Waid does find a lot to talk about, a lot to look at. This issue finally returns Cap to the past, something I can’t remember having read before. The future, it turns out, has spoiled him in a lot of ways. Waid does take the easy way out—he doesn’t give Cap an Edith … Continue reading Captain America: Man out of Time 5 (May 2011)

Captain America: Man out of Time 4 (April 2011)

It’s nice to read a Captain America comic where the writer isn’t afraid to be unabashedly liberal. Brubaker always keeps it on the back burner a little, like he’s not willing to alienate. Waid is willing to alienate. This issue might feature Molina’s best art so far, only because at one point I thought they might have brought someone else—someone competent onto the book. They haven’t, but for a few pages it seems like they do. Waid’s updating of Cap’s origin, if updating is what he’s doing here (it’s still not clear), leaves him far more alone in the present … Continue reading Captain America: Man out of Time 4 (April 2011)

Captain America: Man out of Time 3 (March 2011)

Once again, Waid broaches a really interesting possibility for Man out of Time—Cap going back in time to WWII via Reed Richards’s time machine prototype, but then he closes it down again. Sure, it’s kind of cool to see Cap and Tony hanging out and the Martin Luther King Jr. stuff is excellent (I imagine it enraged a number of Marvel readers… oh, wait, I’m sure this series sold like crap). But Waid’s playing it really safe. He’s just setting the groundwork for what’s basically a movie template. He’s giving readers a modern Cap origin retelling—a good one—but it feels … Continue reading Captain America: Man out of Time 3 (March 2011)

Captain America: Man out of Time 2 (February 2011)

I hate how I dull so quickly to bad art. Molina hasn’t gotten any better, but because I know what to expect (what not to expect, more like), I’m comfortable. This issue gets a lot more traditional. It’s not about Cap moving through time, it’s a retelling of him waking up; this time it’s when Obama’s President and Rick Jones has a gang of cyber-buddies helping him track supervillains. I’m not sure the Rick Jones and his Internet flunkies works though… Waid should have used Twitter. So, in other words, it’s not the awesome thing I thought it would be … Continue reading Captain America: Man out of Time 2 (February 2011)

Captain America: Man out of Time 1 (January 2011)

Molina’s artwork is truly hideous. It’s goofy and bulky and… it’s indescribably awful. The crisp coloring doesn’t help either. That complaint made, Man out of Time is actually pretty interesting. Waid makes a serious goof with Cap dictating a report to his superior in his head during his first encounter with the Avengers, but otherwise… huh. I had no idea what to expect going into the series, but the first issue suggests it’s Cap unbound in time, moving from point to point; Waid’s dealing with the character primarily as an icon. The issue opens with him and Bucky and Bucky’s … Continue reading Captain America: Man out of Time 1 (January 2011)

Marvel Team-Up 146 (October 1984)

Oh, those young toughs, how dare they break up a date between Peter Parker and… Jack Monroe (Nomad). Seriously, they’re on a date. They meet in an alley, beat up some threatening toughs, then head to see Rio Bravo together. All while Nomad is supposed to be delivering art to Steve Rogers. Unfortunately, it’s a star crossed romance, with Taskmasker showing up to train a bunch of gangs to fight superheroes. So Spidey and Nomad have to break it up. The writing is occasionally weak, but it’s some of the better stuff I’ve read from Burkett. While it’s a complete … Continue reading Marvel Team-Up 146 (October 1984)

Steve Rogers: Super-Soldier 4 (December 2010)

Well, thanks for the heads up guys, I thought you were being artsy with the hologram shield, a little Googling reveals it’s an energy shield… which makes no sense, since if it’s implanted in Steve’s hand, unless it’s grafted to the bone, getting de-powered last issue would probably have effected his physiology. But whatever. The last issue has some issues. Like why do I like the android who sacrifices herself for Steve as a love interest more than Sharon Carter–not to mention Eaglesham. It’s like he and Brubaker’s take on Steve Rogers is cross purpose. Eaglesham draws him like an … Continue reading Steve Rogers: Super-Soldier 4 (December 2010)