I write comic book reviews that NOBODY has ever asked for!
Welcome back to Longbox Junk, home of comic reviews nobody ever asked for! Once again, my apologies for summertime delays.
I've admitted before that I'm not a very big fan of what many think of as traditional comic book superheroes. . .the "capes and tights" crowd, in other words. I like my heroes to be a bit more "grounded", even if they ARE inhabiting a comic book world. Lone Ranger, Zorro, Jonah Hex, Tarzan, Green Hornet, Rocketeer, The Spirit, Sgt. Rock, The Shadow. . .THOSE are the kind of heroes that I love.
BUT. . .
That's not to say I don't like more traditional comic superheroes at all. A good story is a good story, as far as I'm concerned. As a matter of fact, one of my all-time favorite comic characters in general happens to be of the "capes and tights" variety (well, tights anyway): The one and only Star-Spangled Avenger. . .CAPTAIN AMERICA!
So. . .
This being July, why not wave the flag a bit here in Longbox Junk? I have a pretty good handful of Captain America one-shots in my collection. . .let's take a look, shall we? We shall!
BATMAN & CAPTAIN AMERICA
SCRIPTS: John Byrne
PENCILS: John Byrne
COVER: John Byrne
What we have here is not only a Captain America team-up, but an intercompany Marvel/DC crossover with my OTHER favorite "traditional" superhero. . .the one and only Dark Knight Detective, BATMAN! It's an out-of-continuity "Elseworlds" tale set in 1945 during the superhero-filled comic book version of WWII. Let's take a look!
First, the cover. There's our heroes front and center, and you can tell from their smiling faces that (despite being put out in the 90's) this isn't going to be some grim-n-gritty affair. . .there's gonna be some Nazi punchin'! I really like this cover a lot. Captain America is especially nice. Moving on!
The Story goes like this:
Batman and Captain America cross paths in Gotham when Cap is pulled from the war in Europe and sent stateside for a secret mission. . .to find out if Bruce Wayne is behind attempts to steal a powerful new weapon code named "The Gotham Project". After discovering each other's secret identities, the two heroes team up and track down the actual culprits. . .Joker and Red Skull, who are also working together.
In an action-packed finale in the skies over the Atlantic Ocean, Batman and Captain America fight to prevent Red Skull from dropping the world's first atomic bomb on Washington D.C., and with the unexpected help of The Joker, barely manage to save the day.
I have to say that I REALLY enjoyed this comic! Not only does it star two of my favorite superheroes, but it's written in such a fun and engaging way that I had a big smile on my face reading it.
This is not the grim and driven "Is he a hero or is he a psychopath?" Batman. This is not the sad and introspective "Can I still be a symbol of THIS America?" Captain America. You can find THOSE gloomy guys in new comics on the stands every Wednesday. No. . .THIS is The Caped Crusader and The Star Spangled Avenger!
This is a rollicking Silver Age throwback adventure where Batman calls Robin "Chum" and Captain America can't help smiling as he punches Nazis. This is an adventure where Joker switches sides when he discovers he's actually working with Red Skull because Joker may be a Criminal Lunatic, but he's an AMERICAN Criminal Lunatic!
John Byrne knocks it out of the park in a big way on this one, walking the tightrope of making it Silver Age fun without making it Silver Age silly. It's just a great story and most of all, it's FUN. It's like a breath of fresh air after reading the gloomy and sad adventures of Captain America and Batman currently on the stands.
The art is as much a fun Silver Age throwback as the writing. Byrne has truly outdone himself in perfectly merging art and story with comic full of bold and colorful action that's just as much fun to look at as it is to read.
A special mention goes to the fantastic, detailed full-pager of the 1940's Batcave! Does it get any better than that? In my humble opinion, I say no!
Bottom Line: If you are a fan of classic Captain America or Batman, you need to have this comic. As I said above, it's like a breath of fresh air after reading the sad and gloomy adventures of Batman and Captain America currently on the stands. It's FUN. Sometimes you just want your comics to be fun. John Byrne delivers on that in a big way. This comic is like a shining nugget of Longbox Junk gold and I highly recommend it.
BONUS: There's a Sgt. Rock and Easy Company/ Captain America crossover cameo in the first part of this comic before Cap is called to Gotham that's almost worth the price of admission alone!
A great start. NEXT!
CAPTAIN AMERICA AND THE INVADERS
SCRIPTS: Roy Thomas
PENCILS: Jerry Ordway
COVER: Jerry Ordway
So what we have here is another Captain America WWII team-up, this time out with the Golden Age Human Torch and Namor. . .but it's before they became the Invaders, and the "Team-up" is really more like "Crossing paths without realizing it", so actually this is sort of a Invaders"Prequel" that's set very early in Cap's career before America entered the comic book version of WWII and he was still punching Nazi spies and saboteurs stateside. It's nice FRESH Longbox Junk that just came out this month and is still on the shelves. Let's take a look!
First, the cover. Hmmm. . .it's. . .okay. I like the whole "America, Hell Yeah!" feel of it, but the execution seems off. Cap looks a little strange, especially in the face and legs, and looks more like he's posing than running through fire carrying Old Glory. I see now. . .THAT'S the problem. It's an action scene that has no feeling of motion. It's okay. . .not good, not bad. . .just okay. Moving on!
The Story goes like this:
March, 1941. With the world at war and America trying to stay out of the fighting, the newly-created Captain America is detailed to safeguard President Roosevelt during a fishing trip to the Bahamas as his first major assignment.
Little does Cap or his superiors know, but a German U-Boat carrying Baron Zemo and a squad of Nazi Stormtroopers is ALSO headed to the Bahamas, intending to kidnap the abdicated King of England (Edward, now Duke of Windsor and Governor of The Bahamas) in order to force him to sit on the throne of a defeated England as Hitler's puppet king.
Luckily for both Roosevelt (the fishing trip is a cover for a clandestine meeting between the President and Duke of Windsor) and Edward, not only is a disguised Captain America on the scene, but also ANOTHER disguised U.S. "Special Agent", Jim Hammond. . .otherwise known as the Human Torch.
Working together without realizing it, Cap and the Torch defeat Zemo and send the remaining Nazi Stormtroopers into a hasty retreat aboard their U-Boat, only for them to encounter yet a THIRD agent that destroys the fleeing sub. . .the mysterious Namor, The Sub-Mariner!
Hmmm. . .okay. A pretty simple story about Captain America foiling a Nazi plan with the help of some allies he's not really aware of (he suspects there's something going on with "seaman" Jim Hammond, but is completely ignorant of Namor). It's not a bad little story at all. Nothing spectacular or even very memorable about it, but it's a decently-written tale of the sort that gets read once then goes into the longbox to be forgotten.
The problem here is the art. Jerry Ordway is much better known for his DC work, and I've always found his style to be very workmanlike and somewhat plain. Unfortunately, this comic is no exception, and is possibly even a bit worse than what I would usually expect from Ordway. For such an action-packed story, the art is pretty stiff and utterly unremarkable. Like the cover, the action seems more posed than dynamic. . .
That and Cap just looks strange through the whole comic from cover to end. Really the only time the art hits the somewhat high bar of "Good" is during Namor's underwater scenes, and even those look stiff. . .
This is out on the shelves right now and, in my humble opinion, if you are anything less than a Captain America completionist you can safely save yourself five bucks by skipping this one. It has a forgettable story and stiff, workmanlike art. Unless you pick up one of the variants, even the cover isn't worth it. It's not a BAD comic. . .but it's not really what I'd call good, either. It's certainly not worth the five bucks Marvel is asking for it. If you're curious, grab it from the bargain bin where the unsold copies will inevitably land. Don't pay cover price.
A bit of a disappointment. NEXT!
CAPTAIN AMERICA AND NAMOR
(Captain America Vol. 1 #635.1)
SCRIPTS: Cullen Bunn
PENCILS: Will Conrad
COVER: Stuart Immonen
What we have here is our third WWII Captain America team-up story in a row! This time out, teaming up with Namor against the threat of some of that special brand of creepy Nazi Magic/Science that deserves plenty of superheroic punching!
This issue is actually part of the ongoing Captain America series at the time (Vol. 5), but came in at a time when there were TWO Captain Americas and Marvel was trying to decide what to do, so they split up the regular series into smaller, separately-titled arcs (Captain America and Bucky, Captain America and Hawkeye, Captain America and Black Widow, and so on) that were team-ups with other characters.
So this is a separate story (as are all the Captain America And [insert name here] stories of the time), even though it's got an issue number. Got all that? Okay. . .let's do this!
First, the cover. It's a great cover! I've always been skeptical about how overpowered Namor is, and especially cringe at his seemingly random ability to fly (Why the $%&@ should an underwater character be able to fly? WHY?), but this cover is so nicely done that I don't really mind it showcasing everything I dislike about Namor at all. The colors, the composition, the details on that tank. . .all outstanding. Stuart Immonen does a great job on this one. Moving along!
The story goes like this:
France, 1942. Captain America encounters Namor after a botched parachute jump that lands Cap miles away from his own unit. He joins forces with the Sub-Mariner against a unit of Hitler's Occult Specialists, The Thule Society. . .who are attempting to harness the destructive power of an ancient Lemurian artifact.
In flashbacks during the battle, we see that Namor was given the information about the Thule's plans by a mysterious organization calling itself "The Covenant". He accepts their information, but declines their offer to join them.
After a brutal battle, Captain America and Namor emerge victorious. Namor destroys the artifact that the Thule Society were using. . .letting Captain America know that it holds the power to win the war easily, but at the expense of the Atlantean people (their souls are used to power the artifact).
At the end, it is shown later that The Covenant has recovered the artifact and pieced it back together, and that they have imprisoned Atlantians that they intend to use to unlock its terrible power, as well as one of the Nazi Thule scientists Namor thought he had killed. . .
Not a bad story at all. Not great, mind you. . .it's mostly an extended battle scene broken up with flashbacks. . .but it's well-written and moves along at a snappy pace.
It's actually more of a Namor story than a Captain America story, but that's fine. Namor is one of those characters that has the kind of overbearing attitude that can shine in the hands of a good writer. . .sort of like Doctor Doom. This writer handles Namor well, having him throw dry-witted verbal burns on pretty much everyone who speaks to him. Namor's dialogue is probably the best thing about this comic, and is really what elevates this one-shot beyond a simple "Nazi Punchin' Team-Up"
I really liked the art on this one as well. Unlike the stiff and posed-looking Ordway art on the previous one-shot, the art here is dynamic and fluid, shown from interesting perspectives, and generally just making every page great to look at. I like the more realistic and grounded modern comic interpretations of WWII Captain America we've gotten since the first Captain America movie, and this artist hits that perfect balance between super-hero and ground soldier that I like. . .
I mentioned in the intro to this comic that I'm not a huge fan of Namor in general because his power set just seems sort of random. . .especially his ability to fly. That said, between the great dialogue from the writer and the detailed, powerful art, this one shot delivers a version of Namor that I liked a lot. Don't get me wrong. . . I'm still not a fan, but this story is definitely a winner. And not for nothin' but Captain America in this issue hits all the great "WWII Nazi Bustin' Cap" points that I could want from a good wartime Captain America story too.
Definitely pick this one up if you should spot it in the bargain bin.
And last but (hopefully) not least. . .
CAPTAIN AMERICA/ NICK FURY
THE OTHERWORLD WAR
SCRIPTS: Peter Hogan
PENCILS: Leonardo Manco
COVER: Leonardo Manco
And here we have ANOTHER WWII Captain America team-up, making this first one shot batch 4 for 4! I don't mind, though. I love seeing Cap back in his prime wartime Nazi-Punchin' days. This time out, he's teaming up with Sgt. Fury and His Howling Commandos for a magic-filled adventure in the otherworldly realm of the Dread Dormammu! Let's do it!
First, the cover. Leonardo Manco is one of my favorite comic artists and he doesn't disappoint here! I really like Cap's heroic face and stance compared to Fury's no-nonsense look. Manco's Red Skull is about one of the nastiest (in a good way) versions I've seen. The one thing I don't like is Cap's strange gloves (which are the same through the whole comic). I like how Manco puts his own flavor onto familiar characters, but those gloves are pretty bad. Moving along!
The story goes like this:
Sgt. Nick Fury and his Howling Commandos accidentally cross paths with Captain America and Bucky when they both gain information that a secret flight with a deadly new weapon is due to depart from a hidden airfield. The stakes are raised when the Red Skull's involvement is revealed.
Bucky and Cap disappear into a strange portal of light while chasing Red Skull and trying to capture the weapon, which is a mystic amulet stolen from Tibet. . .the Eye of Agamotto (of Dr. Strange fame a few decades in the future). The Nazi's were also holding a priest, who is revealed to be The Ancient One. He sends Fury and his team into the portal after Cap and Bucky.
On the other side of the portal is a strange, magical world unlike anything Cap or Fury has ever seen. Captain America manages to grab the amulet from Red Skull, but during their escape, Bucky is wounded during a battle with gigantic creatures and Cap leaves him in a cave while he gets help.
Elsewhere, Fury and the Howlers make their way toward the sound of fighting, gaining directions and information from a village of strange, alien beings. In the meantime, the ruler of the realm. . .none other than the Dread Dormammu. . .has struck an uneasy alliance with Red Skull in exchange for his assistance in gaining back the Amulet.
Red Skull takes Bucky captive and offers his life in exchange for the Amulet. With the help of The Ancient One's magical trickery and some good bluffing on the part of Fury and Captain America, the heroes manage to escape Dormammu's realm with both Bucky and the Amulet. Back on Earth, The Ancient One erases everyone's memories of the whole incident. . .leaving it as a forgotten chapter of WWII.
Well. . .Allrighty, then.
Captain America and Nick Fury in another dimension going up against the Dread Dormammu? It actually reads better than it looks like it would. As a matter of fact, I really liked this story! Like the Captain America/ Namor one shot above, this is actually more of a Sgt. Fury story than a Captain America story. . .with just a dash of Dr. Strange thrown in for good measure.
That said, like the Cap/Namor issue, I don't really mind Captain America being a secondary character here. I'm not a big fan of Fury and The Howling Commandos in general. When it comes to war comics, I've always been drawn more toward DC because of their more Anti-War stance. Fury and The Howlers always seemed to glorify war in a very "Comic Booky" way.
But HERE (even though this is a jaunt through a very "comic booky" situation), the writer makes Fury and Company gritty and readable, without making them TOO dark. I like this version of the characters a lot more than I normally would.
Captain America is pretty much there to heroically punch things and Bucky serves his usual Golden Age role of getting injured or captured (in this case, both). So their roles are definitely second fiddle and not quite as well-written as Fury's. That's not to say they're written badly. They're just supporting characters in their own story.
Overall, this whole thing moves along at a very quick, very readable pace. It's not the greatest comic story I've ever read by a long shot, but it's also a long way away from the worst. It sort of sits in the middle of the scale as something that's not a particularly memorable story, but it IS a pretty fun story. . .so that gains it a few extra points in my book.
BUT. . .
What REALLY takes this story up a notch is 63 glorious pages of fantastic Leonardo Manco artwork! I mentioned above that Manco is one of my favorite artists and every single panel of every single page of this comic is feast for the eyes for a fan such as myself. If you're NOT a fan of Manco's dark and gritty, sorta spiky art style, then you probably won't get as much out of this as I did, but to ME, the art alone is pretty much worth picking this one up.
I really like Manco's unusual panel layouts, and he thrives when given mystical or otherworldy subjects to work with. After seeing this comic, I REALLY wish he could have done a Doctor Strange ongoing series. I mean. . .just look at THIS!
Like I said above in my review of the Batman/Captain America crossover. . .sometimes you just want your comic books to be FUN. Well, this is a fun comic book! It's basically a fast-paced, unusual story that sold pretty well when it came out, but is now pretty much forgotten. It's never been reprinted and there's barely any reviews. . .in other words, Longbox Junk. That said, it's FUN Longbox Junk backed up by some stunning artwork. In other words, it's a good read that's nice to look at that can be found pretty easily in the bargain bin. . .so definitely pick it up if you spot it!
So there you have it. A decent handful of Captain America One Shots. Overall, not a bad bunch. Bahama's Triangle was a bit disappointing, but even so it's not COMPLETELY bad. . .just. . .not great. The other three are all good bargain bin picks, with Batman/ Captain America being the best of the bunch and definitely worth hunting down.
Up Next. . .
MORE Captain America One Shots!
*waves flag* Awwwwwwwwww. . .YEAH!
Be there or be square!
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