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  • atom | Male | Utah

"I have a lot of issues. . ."

I write comic book reviews that NOBODY has ever asked for!

May 2024




Welcome to Longbox Junk! It's the place to find comic book reviews you never even knew you wanted.

It's July! That most patriotic month of the year. . .if you happen to live in the United States, that is.  If you don't it's just hot.  That's it. Hot.  Well, it's hot here in the states too, but July is ALSO the month to celebrate all things red, white and blue!
I like to consider myself a proud American. A real life nephew of my Uncle Sam. A lover of baseball, hot dogs and apple pie. Yeah, yeah. . .I drive a KIA.  BUT I BOUGHT IT IN AMERICA, SO THERE!
ANYWAY. . . 
If you don't mind indulging me in a little bit of flag waving here at Longbox Junk, I have a tradition where I spend the month of July looking at some comics featuring that star-spangled Super Soldier, the one and only (okay, there's actually 5 or 6 of them) CAPTAIN AMERICA!
So stand up, true believers! Put your hand on your heart and say it with me. . .
Or don't.
Captain America. Let's do it!



Marvel (1981)

COVER: Frank Miller / Joe Rubenstein (inks)
SCRIPT: David Michelinie
PENCILS: Gene Colan
INKS: Dave Simons
Now THAT'S a cover that catches the eye! A great example of prime Frank Miller before he went insane with his scratchy art he puts out today.  It's a beauty. Just a wonderful portrait of the star-spangled shield slinger. . .perfectly framed by the bright yellow star contrasting with the stark black (which makes finding this issue in decent condition a bit difficult) background.  I LOVE this cover.
If you're a fan of Captain America, how can you NOT love this cover? Let's get inside!
We begin our tale at night in New York bay, with Captain America silently swimming toward a Coast Guard cutter that has been hijacked by the villainous Constrictor and his henchmen.  They have demanded a ransom of ten million dollars or they will turn the cutter's guns onto the World Trade Center.  
Captain America isn't there to pay a ransom.
Stealthily boarding the ship, Cap easily deals with Constrictor's henchmen on deck and goes hunting for their leader.  It isn't long before he finds Constrictor in the wheelhouse, and Captain America leaps into battle!
Constrictor isn't much of a match for Cap.  As the battle turns against him, Constrictor shouts for his remaining men to fire the cannon!  But before they are able to do so, the ship rocks with an explosion.  
Both Cap and Constrictor are confused by the explosion.  It wasn't part of either of their plans.  But Cap figures he can sort it out later and finishes beating Constrictor down and then turning him in to the police.
As Cap leaves the scene, little does he know that the entire incident was being filmed by a mysterious crew of men.  It seems that there was a third, unknown, player on the board that night. . .
Later, we follow the mysterious red van that the unknown film crew was in earlier that night.  It drives to a secluded mansion.  We are introduced to its driver, one Kenneth Hanson. . .ex-soldier, ex-mercenary, ex-many-things, but currently the right hand man of a reclusive multi-millionaire.
We follow Hanson as he makes his way through the dank, dusty, and unkept corridors of the mansion.  He enters the only clean room in the mansion. . .filled with high-tech computer equipment and video screens.  We are then introduced to the master of the mansion (and of Hanson), one Samson Scythe.
As Hanson feeds Scythe intravenously, they discuss another "project" scheduled for the following day.
We begin by following Steve Rogers in an amusing little side story where he fails a job interview because he declines the. . .er. . .amorous advances of a female executive who just can't resist.
And then we shift scenes uptown to the Hearth Club, a swanky restaurant where prominent New York crime boss Carlo Ferrini is celebrating his birthday along with his most trusted Lieutenants.  The party comes to an abrupt and "shocking" end when Ferrini is electrocuted while cutting into a turkey!
As chaos ensues and Ferrini's men quickly blame rival crime boss Sean Gamble of the dirty deed, we see that the whole incident is being filmed by hidden cameras and greatly enjoyed by the mysterious Mr. Scythe at his mansion.
Shifting scenes again, we find ourselves at Manhattan's Eleventh Police Precinct, where Captain America has answered a call to meet Lt. Powell. . .a detective Cap works with on occasion. 
 In Powell's office, Cap is introduced to Sean Gamble and filled in on the details of the Ferrini assassination earlier that day. Powell, Gamble, and Cap all agree that even if Gamble wasn't behind the hit, there will probably be retaliation.  
Cap offers Gamble a deal, his personal protection in exchange for Gamble allowing himself to be bait to draw out the killer.  Gamble agrees.

We follow Captain America over the next three days as he stealthily follows Gamble during his routine throughout the city.  There's no sign of the killer and Cap is about ready to give up, thinking that maybe they're on the wrong track.
Cap finally senses a trap as Gamble steps into an elevator! Rushing into action, Cap narrowly saves the crime boss from falling into an elevator shaft with deadly spikes at the bottom.  Cap almost falls victim to the trap himself as we see Mr. Scythe watching from hidden cameras with great interest.
In the aftermath, Captain America and Lt. Powell discuss their next move. Cap is now convinced that there's something more going on than a simple gang war situation, and he's going to find out what!
At the same time, we see that Mr. Scythe has now become interested in Captain America and is now plotting against the superhero that ruined his "entertainment". . .
While on a date in Central Park with his neighbor, Steve Rogers overhears a report on the radio about a nearby bank robbery in progress.  He makes an excuse to ditch his date and Captain America quickly makes it to the scene of the crime!
Cap makes easy work of the robbers, but one of them gets away. . .one that we learn is none other than Mr. Scythe's right hand man, Hanson.  Hanson leads Cap on a merry chase through the streets that ends up with Cap following him into the back of a parked semi-truck.
Unfortunately for Cap, it's a trap!  As he is overpowered by a gang of waiting men, Mr. Scythe himself makes an appearance.  The wheelchair-bound millionaire asks Captain America to stop interfering in his affairs.  After all, the only ones he kills are criminals.
Cap, of course, laughs in Scythe's face.  Scythe ignores the mockery and we get a flashback origin story of the reclusive killer. . .born rich and a world traveler at a young age, he soon tired of just about everything.  He joined the military and gained a for death during Vietnam.
But after the war, he found himself once again bored by literally everything. . .
He became a recluse, even being so bored by food that he was fed intravenously.  Nothing interested him at all. . .until he met Hanson.  Hanson began filming murders he committed, which are now the only things that make Scythe feel anything as he watches them from his mansion.  
Scythe is in control of a huge network of operatives and spies that find criminal victims for his viewing pleasure as they are killed.  Hanson tries to convince Captain America that they aren't that much different in wanting to rid New York of crime.  Captain America disagrees.
Prepared for Cap's reaction, Scythe tells him that he now wants to watch the death of a superhero, and that Captain America will come to his mansion to die, or Scythe will put into action a plan to kill police officers. . .the deaths of which will all be on Captain America's conscience.
Unable to prevent Scythe and Hanson from escaping, Cap decides to take the madman up on his offer and end his killing once and for all.  And so we find ourselves following Captain America later that night as he stealthily infiltrates the mansion grounds, only to be greeted by a gloating Scythe via hidden video screen.
Having lost the element of surprise, Cap finds himself fighting a pack of robotic dogs and handily defeating them before making his way into the mansion itself, where Scythe continually taunts the hero as he braves the madman's traps. . .

First, a room that fills with gold dust. . .
And then, a deadly sonic assault. . .
Before finally discovering Scythe's control room and bursting in to confront the madman and his assistant, Hanson!
As Cap rushes in to battle, Hanson fires a flamethrower at the attacking hero despite Cap shouting that he's an idiot that will set the whole place ablaze.  And yeah. . .Hanson sets the whole place ablaze.
As the mansion begins burning around them, Scythe falls out of his wheelchair and desperately crawls across the floor to a fire extinguisher. . .but as he does so, he catches sight of one of his video screens.  On it is himself, on fire.  Scythe is so entranced by watching himself die that it's too late for Cap to do anything for him.  
Cap grabs Hanson and rushes from the burning mansion, saving the henchman's life as the mansion collapses behind them.  Outside, Cap fills Lt. Powell in on what's happened as firemen try to douse the flaming mansion.
Powell is relieved that Cap has rid New York of a serial killer, but there's still a gang war to consider.  Cap agrees, but tells Powell it can wait until tomorrow.  He's had enough for one night.

The End. 
Alrighty then, there it is.  A nice little one-off Captain America story.  Let's break it on down!
So what we basically have here is a pretty good Batman story.
Seriously.  If you replace Captain America with Batman and Lt. Powell with Jim Gordon, nothing changes in this story.  It's a Batman story.  Now, I didn't say it was a BAD story, it's just a little odd to see a Captain America story follow this kind of storyline that would normally be seen in something like Detective Comics.
I don't have too many Captain America comics from the early 80's, so I can't say for sure if Marvel was trying to go a more grounded and street crime oriented direction in general with Cap at the time, but I just find it interesting to see a Batman story in my Captain America comic.  
But like I said, it's not a BAD story at all.  It's not the best Batman. . .er. . .Captain America story I've ever read, but it's well-written and pretty engaging.  There's nothing huge going on here, basically Captain America following clues to a hidden killer and taking him down. 
It's a decent read, maybe a little darker than one would expect from a Captain America story, but not dark enough to call it grim. . .except maybe the part about Scythe watching himself burn to death. THAT'S pretty dark.
On the art side of things, it's hard to go wrong with prolific Bronze Age legend Gene Colan on the job.  This isn't really his BEST work (That would probably be on Tomb of Dracula), but I've never seen anything I didn't like from Colan and this is no exception.  His gritty pencils are perfect for a grounded and dark story like this one.


Overall, I liked this quite a bit.  It's an unusual Captain America story in that it's dark and grounded in the criminal element of New York and human madness with only a passing glance at supervillains (a few panels of Constrictor in the prologue) and the fantastic (a couple of panels of robot dogs later on). Not what I would usually expect in a (late) Bronze Age Captain America comic.
If you're looking for a good single-issue Captain America story, then here you go.  It's not anything world-changing, but it's a solid story with good art and a very nice cover.  It's just a nice little piece of Longbox Junk.  If you're a Captain America fan, grab it if you spot it (I bought it for the cover alone, why not?)  It shouldn't set you back much.  From what I can see, it looks like this one is pretty much ignored by specu-collectors.
Up Next. . .
I got this one out in pretty good time!  
It's still July, so why not more Captain America?
Be there or be square!

- read more

Welcome back to Longbox Junk, where the opinions are free and if you don't like 'em you get a full refund!

July isn't quite over yet, so there's still time for a little more flag wavin' Captain America Longbox Junk. If you don't like a bit of "AMERICA $%&# YEAH!" in your comics for whatever reason, I can dig it. Just be sure to come back next month for whatever I pull out next. Fair?

The comic at hand is one of a series of seven Captain America one shots that came out through 2008 - 2010 under the collective banner of "Captain America - Theater of War". They tell single issue tales that cover a variety of time periods, styles and stories. . .everything from straight up WWII action to Captain America as the embodiment of the American Spirit. Most of them are good. A few are great. A couple are awful. This is one of the good ones.

It's Captain America vs. Ratzi flying saucers! Let's do it!

Marvel (2008) 

SCRIPT: Daniel & Charles Knauf
PENCILS: Mitch Breitweiser
COVER: Mitch Breitweiser

Cap's face is a little strange, but I really like the feeling of motion coming from this cover! The eerie greenish tone gives a nice retro sci-fi feel to the action. Not the greatest Captain America cover in my collection, but still very nice. Let's get inside! 

We begin our tale in 1944, flying over Southern Poland as Captain America ponders the mission at hand. . .meeting with a member of the Polish Resistance, who will guide Cap to a secret Ratzi base where they have supposedly invented some sort of anti-gravity aircraft. From there, he'll extract a Ratzi scientist who wants to defect with the anti-gravity secrets and then blow the base sky high. In other words. . .just another day for America's Super Soldier.

Unfortunately, Cap's thoughts are interrupted as his plane is attacked by mysterious saucer-shaped aircraft. It's a little sooner than expected, but Cap's officially on the clock!

On the ground after escaping the crashing bomber, Cap avoids Ratzi patrols as he makes his way to the rendezvous with the Polish agent. . .

Cap and Lior (the Polish Agent) Make their way to the secret Ratzi base, working their way through a junkyard of downed aircraft. . .proof of the effectiveness of Hitler's newest weapon. Upon arrival, the team's recon of the base gives Cap his first look at the imposing commander of the facility's SS guards. . .a giant of a man called "Der Metzger", The Butcher, who is rumored to have lost an eye fighting a bear with his bare hands.

Their recon also reveals Jewish prisoners, who Lior informs Cap are forced to not only work on building the base, but are also used for horrible experiments inside. Cap changes the mission on the spot to include rescuing the prisoners.

Unfortunately, Cap's plans are interrupted as their position is discovered and the base's guards attack, supported by the Ratzi saucers! Captain America puts up a good fight, but they are quickly overwhelmed, with Lior killed and Cap taken prisoner. . .

Cap regains consciousness strapped to a table with Der Metzger and a Ratzi scientist examining him. They inform their prisoner that the whole operation was a trap. They intercepted the defecting scientist's communication and Lior was a double agent. The true prize was the Ratzi capture of America's Super Soldier! Cap is taken to a cell after being told that experiments on him would begin the next day.

But Captain America isn't just going to sit in a cell and wait for Ratzis to experiment on him! After discovering that the man in the cell next to him is Fleischer, the Ratzi scientist he was sent to retrieve, Cap decides that the mission is still on and is going just fine.

Using his enhanced strength and a bit of trickery, Cap breaks the two of them free, retrieves his equipment, and then plans a coordinated attack with Fleischer, with the scientist destroying the saucer's power source while Cap rescues the Jewish prisoners. Afterwards, joining up to escape before Cap destroys the base. Simple, right? What could go wrong?

As the base's alarms go off, Captain America begins fighting his way toward the Jewish prisoners, causing as much commotion as he can in order to give Fleischer time to sabotage the saucer's power source. . .

Unfortunately, Fleischer's efforts weren't quite quick enough, and Cap is attacked by the Ratzi saucers! Using all of his skills, he manages to disable the attacking aircraft.

Cap sees that Der Metzger has captured Fleischer as he escaped the Ratzi base. Metzger mocks the American hero, telling him that in order to save Doctor Fleischer, Cap will have to go through him. Captain America wastes no time in taking up the giant Ratzi's challenge!

A brutal one-on-one battle ensues, with Captain America barely managing to hold his own against the giant Ratzi commander. . .but eventually, Cap's grit and determination wins the day and Der Metzger is defeated!

But as Cap and Fleischer make their escape, Metzger summons the last of his strength and shoots the defecting scientist in the back, making sure the allies will never learn the secret of anti-gravity!

But Metzger's victory is a hollow one as Cap frees the Jewish prisoners and they make their escape while the Ratzi commander is engulfed in the flames of the exploding base.

In the end, Cap didn't get the scientist out of Poland, but he freed some prisoners, destroyed a secret base, and beat a smug SS Commander half to death. All in all, it was a decent day. The End.


Not bad! Not bad at all! I really liked this story. I've said it before and I'll say it again. . .One Shots are my favorite kind of comic because there's nowhere for the creative team to hide. They have one and ONLY one issue to tell a complete story. There are a LOT of bad one shots out there where the creative team fails the test. This isn't one of them.

The story itself is an extremely simple framework. . .Captain America vs Ratzi Flying Saucers. But in that simplicity the creative team delivers in a big way, giving the reader a modern-day throwback to the Golden Age "Point Captain America at the target and let him go" sort of stories. It's not very deep, but it IS fun!

Sometimes you want your Captain America stories to delve a little into the deeper meaning of him being a symbol of a flawed nation. . .but sometimes you just want Cap to punch some Ratzis. This is definitely a Ratzi-Punchin' story and a pretty good one at that!

I think the thing that I liked most about the writing here was the characterization of Captain America himself. It's a grittier version that still paints him as a true hero (changing his mission mid-stream to include rescuing prisoners), but also gives us a good dose of his Lower East Side roots by showing Cap as someone willing to break a few eggs to make an omelet. In this story, he even carries a gun in a few scenes and isn't afraid to use it.

This Captain America actually reminds me a lot of Marvel's "Ultimate" version of Captain America. I happen to be a fan of Ultimate Captain America, so to me that's a good thing. If you didn't like Marvel's Ultimate take on their characters, you might not get as much out of this story as I did.

But writing is only half of the equation in comic books.

Fortunately, the art side of the creative team holds up their end of the effort very nicely, with Mitch Breitweiser delivering one great-looking comic! Just LOOK at that picture of Cap at the end, above. I'd LOVE to have a poster of that full-pager! His dark and gritty style perfectly matches the grittier take on Captain America that the story gives us. It's a style that I enjoy a lot. . .detailed and realistic, but at the same time dark and sketchy. It's the sort of style that reminds me of Tommy Lee Edwards or Butch Guice, two of my favorite artists.


Overall, this is a great little Captain America story! The creative team delivers a nugget of Longbox Junk gold with a modern throwback Ratzi-Punchin' adventure featuring a gritty, cocky Captain America and some very nice artwork that makes every page of this one shot a feast for the eyes. This one issue gives me almost everything I could ever want in a short Captain America story!

If you're a Captain America fan looking for a good story, then this one is definitely for you! Grab it from the bargain bin if you should spot it. I come across all of the "Theater of War" series of one shots pretty often while Longbox Junkin', so it shouldn't be too hard to find. It's also been collected in trade and is available on ComiXology, if that's more your lane.

BUT. . .

If you're not a fan of Marvel's Ultimate version of Captain America, then this might not be your cup of tea. This really reads like a story of Ultimate Cap, and Bucky isn't anywhere to be seen, so even though it isn't advertised as an "Ultimate" story, I'm thinking that's what the writers had in mind when they did this, especially since the Ultimate line was still going strong at the time. I might be wrong. I often am.

Up Next. . .

Well, that's it for July. Time to stop wavin' the flag.

So what's next? Hmmmmmm. . . .

You know what? It's been a while since I did some "Retro Reviews".
I think I'll dust off the Longbox Junk time machine and check out some of the older comics in my collection. Yeah. . .Retro Reviews! Let's do it!

Be there or be square.

- read more

Longbox Junk - Marvel Fanfare #18

1936 views • Jul 20, '20 • (0) Comments

Welcome back to Longbox Junk, the place to find comic book reviews you never asked for!

So it's still July, and I'm still wavin' the flag a bit because I'm a guy who likes to wave the flag a bit in July.  Don't read too much into it.  It just means I'm looking at some Captain America comics this month.  If you don't like a little "AMERICA, #$%&, YEAH!" in your comics. . .fair enough.  Come back next month and I'll be on some other random tangent.

This time out, I'm taking a look at a strange little relic from the edge of the Bronze Age.  A 1985 Captain America story from the Marvel Anthology series, Marvel Fanfare.

Marvel Fanfare is sort of an interesting series.  It was intended to appeal directly to comic collectors by being sold in the direct market only and featuring non-code-approved stand-alone stories by a wide range of comic talent.  It was printed on glossy paper usually reserved for comic covers of the time, without ads,  and cost more than twice the price of the average comic in 1982 ($1.50 compared to .60).

I've pulled a handful of these comics from the bargain bins over the years, and I'm always impressed by the quality of both the physical presentation of the comic and what's inside.  But in an ironic twist, a comic series designed specifically to appeal to collectors is basically 60 issues of Longbox Junk, as far as collector "value" goes.

The stories from Marvel Fanfare have been reprinted in various collections, and there is a collected trade of the first seven issues as well.  But THIS story seems never to have been reprinted anywhere else for some reason.  A bit strange, considering this is the only Captain America story illustrated by Frank Miller.


It's Captain America vs. Homegrown Terrorism tucked away in a random issue of a somewhat interesting experiment in targeting comics directly at collectors.  Let's do it!


Marvel (1985)

SCRIPT: Roger Stern
PENCILS: Frank Miller
COVER: Frank Miller
In general, I like Frank Miller's earlier art quite a bit more than his later stuff, but this cover just isn't doing it for me.  It feels like it SHOULD be great, but the execution of this piece is lacking.  Cap's face is a bit strange. . .maybe it's the lazy eye?  Now you can't unsee it, right? His hand is also a bit odd.  The thumb looks like it's detached. There are certainly worse covers than this one out there, but overall it's just pretty disappointing.  Let's get inside.
Our story begins in Brooklyn at the scene of a raging fire.  Captain America has come to assist in saving lives, then joins the grateful firefighters as they battle the blaze. . .
Later, talking with the Chief of Police, Cap learns that the fire was just one of a series set by an arson ring attempting to extort the city.  A note signed "We The People" demands six million dollars or six more fires will be set.  Captain America immediately declares that the arsonists WILL be caught.
That night, Cap wastes no time in working his way through the seedier parts of the city, following a trail of clues gained from thugs and lowlifes along the way until he finally ends up on the docks at the hideout of a low-level crime boss called "Injun Joe".
After fighting his way through Joe's henchmen, Cap's trail of clues comes to a dead end when he interrogates Joe and discovers that nobody in the criminal underworld knows who "We The People" are. 
The next day, we are introduced to Hal Brady, just your average everyday working man who ALSO happens to be the leader of a group of frustrated average everyday working men that are behind the string of fires.  They believe that the government is robbing them of their fair share of the American Dream and have turned to extreme methods to protest. 
When Hal reveals that their next target is a nursing home, one of his followers tries to leave the group, but Hal forces him back at gunpoint.
That same night, at Sunset Manor nursing home, Cap once again joins the firefighters of Brooklyn as they battle yet another blaze set by "We The People".  Cap rushes into the burning building to save a woman who was left behind, but despite the hero's best efforts, she dies from smoke inhalation.  Cap's frustration at losing her makes him all the more determined to find the arsonists and make them pay. A fireman gives Cap a new clue to follow with a badge found the scene of the fire. . .
Quickly following up on the badge found at the fire, Cap confronts a police officer named Don who confesses that he's part of "We The People", and that he was at the fire, but tried to leave and was forced to be part of it.  Cap gets the name and location of the group's leader and tells Don to turn himself in to the authorities. . .
Cap rushes to Hal's home and forces him to take Cap to "We The People's" Headquarters at the "Knights of Brooklyn" fraternity club.  Cap confronts the rest of the group and Hal tries to explain their reasons for setting fires. . .they blame welfare recipients for their being denied what they "deserve" through their hard work.  Cap ain't having any of that nonsense!
Determined that he'll never go to prison, Hal ignites a stack of gas cans, killing himself and setting the building ablaze.  Cap rescues the rest of the terrified men as the building burns, but then runs back in. . .
Moments later, Cap emerges from the blazing inferno carrying the American flag from the meeting hall, risking his life to save Old Glory from the flames! He informs the gathered arsonists that nothing comes free in America but hope.  Bless America. . .The End.
Well now.  That was. . .interesting. 

Like I said in the introduction, I'm a flag wavin' kind of guy and I don't mind a little "AMERICA $%&# YEAH!" in my comics, but this was pretty darn close to the line where patriotism becomes nationalism.  I can sort of understand why this story has never been reprinted anywhere. 

Okay, it's not a BAD story.  Let's get that straight.  It's well-written and illustrated, and it's a decent little tale as far as the framework of it goes. . .but the amount of American flag draped over that framework is enough to make even a conservative Marine Corps veteran like myself take a step back and raise an eyebrow at it.  It's just a little too preachy and "in your face" for my taste.


While the story may have a mild whiff of jingoism to it, Frank Miller's art is great!  Miller's earlier art has a heavy John Byrne influence to it and in this story you can definitely see it on full display. . .especially in images like the one of Captain America saving the flag from the burning building.  I like the traditional style and sharp, clean lines Miller gives us here a lot.  


It's a strange little relic tucked away in a strange little place.  It's not a bad story, but if you are even a LITTLE left of center politically, you'll probably want to steer clear of this one because it is so "AMERICA %$#@ YEAH!" that even a conservative guy like me found it a bit much.  
The star of the show here is Frank Miller's artwork.  If you're a fan of Miller's and want to check out some of his more traditional Byrne-influenced art on his only Captain America story, then definitely pick this one up.  It's never been reprinted, so you'll have to hit the bargain bins or ebay to find it.  Even ComiXology skips this issue entirely in their digital collection of Marvel Fanfare.
Up Next. . .
I think there's still time in July to squeeze in another Captain America entry.
Not sure which one, though.  I've got three or four in mind to choose from.
Be there or be square!

- read more

Comic Book Realm. . .I love ya.  But your word filter is a pain in my rear sometimes, especially in a review of a WWII comic with lots of N-azis in it.  Oh well. . .guess I'll have to go back through and change them all to Ratzis (with credit to my grandpa - RIP- because that's what he always called them).

Welcome back to Longbox Junk, where the comics are cheap and the opinions are free!

I'm continuing my flag-wavin' month of July theme with another Captain America one shot.  We started off with a mild bit of social justice (and there's nothin' wrong with a little of that), but this time out we get Cap in his full on wartime Ratzi-Punchin' mode.

Captain America was MADE to punch Ratzis and in this one, punch Ratzis he does. So fair warning: If you don't like Ratzi Punchin' stories, you might want to skip this one. . .but if you do, then travel back to the days of WWII with me for a look at Captain America's first field combat test.

Does everything go as planned? What do YOU think?

Let's do it!



Marvel (2011)

SCRIPT: Brian Clevinger
PENCILS: Gurihiru
COVER: Gurihiru
I REALLY like this cover!  It has a sharp and clean "animated" look to it and I'm sort of a sucker for Cap in a more rugged combat gear look for his early adventures.  His costume under the G.I. gear is an unusual look, but a good one.  The screaming eagle on Cap's arm IS just a touch too much "AMERICA, $%#@ YEAH!", but since I'm a flag wavin' kind of guy and it's July, I'll just chuckle and give it a pass.
Our story begins in Germany, 1942.  We are introduced to a highly-skilled four man Special Forces team in the middle of a covert operation. . .
Later, at headquarters, the team is informed that they will be taking a secret weapon out for a test run.  That secret weapon is America's new super-soldier, who has completed his military training but has never been tested under actual combat conditions.  The team reluctantly accepts their orders and begin planning their next mission. . .
Not long thereafter, the team (as well as their unwanted new member) parachute behind enemy lines into Germany for what seems to be a simple mission. . .blow up an unguarded bridge.  The veteran close-knit team relegate their Super-Soldier to lookout duty as they prepare to accomplish the easy mission at hand. . .
Unfortunately, the unguarded bridge is a trap!  Ratzi Panzers take the unit by surprise!  As the Germans take the team prisoner, Captain America springs into action, providing them with a distraction that enables them to escape and take control of one of the Ratzi tanks. . .
Between the team with their captured tank and Cap's attacks, the German unit is quickly subdued.  Unfortunately, their victory is short-lived as Ratzi reinforcements arrive in the form of a gigantic super tank commanded by Baron Von Strucker. . .evil Ratzi scientist and weapon master. 
The unit is captured and imprisoned in Von Strucker's headquarters at Hexenhammer Castle, where Von Strucker and his partner, Doctor Schmidt, are intrigued by the seemingly indestructible shield and strange uniform of their new prisoner. . .
But as the two Ratzi scientists prepare to interrogate their unusual prisoner, the team breaks out of captivity and fight their way to the heart of the castle.  Schmidt leaves Von Strucker in charge of recapturing the prisoners as he flees to the secret laboratory with Captain America in pursuit. . .
As Captain America confronts Schmidt in the laboratory, the scientist reveals that he knows about the American Super-Soldier program and who Captain America is, and that he has dosed himself with the Super-Soldier serum he had been working on for Germany. . .enhancing his strength enough to fight Captain America on equal terms. . .
A brutal hand to hand battle ensues between the two Super-Soldiers, and it seems that Schmidt has gained the upper hand. . .but then something goes wrong and he begins to writhe in pain, burning from the inside!  As a horrified Captain America watches, Schmidt's skin burns away and the skeletal figure collapses. . .
With Schmidt defeated, Cap returns to his team, who have been recaptured by Baron Von Strucker and his men.  Jumping to the attack, it isn't long before they escape again. . .rushing to leave the castle before the explosives planted by Cap in the laboratory go off. . .
As the team make their escape from the exploding castle, they don't see that Dr. Schmidt is still alive.  Instead, they congratulate their new team member on a job well done. . .even if it wasn't exactly the job they set out to do. 
The End. . .or is it?
All right, all right. . .not bad!  You know, sometimes you just want a fun comic with some action and adventure that doesn't get too deep.  This one shot delivers just that in a big way!

The story is simple, with a tried and true "capture and escape" plotline mixed in with some "new guy joins the team and has to prove himself" character building along the way.  But it's well written, with a lot of humor. . .I liked the running gag that Steve Rogers hadn't been named Captain America yet, so nobody knows what to call him. . .and snappy dialogue that moves the story along at such a quick pace that even for a double-sized 48 page one shot, it ends before you really want it to, and end up wanting more.

Between the snappy, humorous writing and the crisp art style (more on that in a minute), what I see MOST in this comic is something that could EASILY be translated into an animated movie or series!  Now that's something I'd really love to see. . .an animated series focused on a very inexperienced Captain America learning the ropes with a gang of goofy veterans.  The Ratzi imagery would likely be pretty problematic, though.  Still. . .it's a nice thought, and that thought is a testament to the solid foundation laid down here making me want more adventures set in Cap's early career.

So let's talk about the art a bit.

As you can see from the scans above, this comic has a pretty unusual art style that really took me by surprise by how much I liked it. It's crisp and clean, with minimal backgrounds and a mild anime influence lending it a very fluid sense of movement and exaggerated facial expressions that REALLY make it seem like one is reading something based on an animated series like the Batman Adventures comics.  Is it the best comic art I've ever seen?  Not even close. . .but it DOES give this comic a really fun feel.


Overall, what we have here is a comic that can be described with one word: FUN.  Like I said at the beginning of the review, sometimes you just want a little fun in your comics and this one delivers big time!
The story is extremely simple and is one you've seen already many a time, but it's well-written, humorous, and moves at a snappy pace.  The art is clean, crisp, and extremely cinematic.  The two come together perfectly to give the reader a fast-paced story long on action and humor and short on depth and drama. 
Yeah. . .there's Ratzis , but here they're more stock movie villains than depraved white supremacists.  Basically they're punching bags for the best Ratzi Puncher in comics. . .Captain America.  So like I said in the introduction, if you DON'T like Ratzi Punchin' stories, you'll probably want to skip this one.  On the other hand, if you're just looking for a fun comic with a few chuckles and some good old fashioned Ratzi Punchin' then definitely keep your eye out for this great little nugget of Longbox Junk gold.
Up Next. . .
It's still July, so MORE Captain America!
Let's step back a few decades to 1985 for a tale of Captain America fighting home-grown terrorism. It's Marvel Fanfare #18. . .straight from the dollar box with a mighty patriotic punch!
Be there or be square!

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Welcome back to Longbox Junk, where comics are worth more than money.  That's my way of saying that if someone broke into my house to steal my comic collection, they'd find it more trouble on their back hauling them out than what the job would be worth  . . .BUT I DIGRESS!

I've said it before, and I'll say it again. . .I'm a sort of patriotic guy.  I come from a long line of military men, and as a proud veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps myself, I tend to be a bit of a flag waver and I ain't ashamed to admit it. And with times the way they are, maybe we need to wave the flag just a little.

Wait! Wait. . .don't go!  I'm not gonna get political.  I'm just introducing the Longbox Junk "theme" for July!  It's Captain America, okay? I'm going to be looking at some Captain America comics through this month. 

BUT. . .

It IS Captain America, so if you aren't the kind to tolerate a little "AMERICA, %$#& YEAH!" in your funny books, then maybe you might want to skip the next few posts. But come back in August!

Okay, everyone in that's staying in?

Let's start this off by stepping outside of the usual Longbox Junk bargain bin finds with a little something brand new and on the shelves right now.

DC gets a bit of flak for squeezing every possible drop out of their seminal "Watchmen" series by constantly trying to add to something that doesn't really need anything added to it. But never let it be said that Marvel isn't just as guilty of the exact same thing with their own critically acclaimed series, "Marvels".

What we have here is the first of a new series of one shots trying to capitalize on what little magic is left in Kurt Busiek and Alex Ross' masterwork of seeing superheroes through the eyes of the common man.

The series is called "Marvels Snapshots", and the first one out of the gate features Captain America (and The Falcon) in a continuation of Jack Kirby's 1970's "Madbomb" storyline. . .the first issue of which (Captain America #193 from 1976) got a a fine Longbox Junk Retro Review  HERE .

SO. . .

We've got a one shot walking the tightrope of adding to a fan favorite series that doesn't really need anything added to it AND trying to continue a classic Bronze Age story from one of the giants of the comic world.  It's got some work cut out for it.  Let's take a look!



MARVEL (2020)

SCRIPT:  Mark Russell
PENCILS: Ramon Perez
COVER: Alex Ross

Marvels was the series that put superstar artist Alex Ross on the mainstream map, so it's a good call in my book getting him on board to do the covers of the "Snapshots" one shots.

As far as the cover itself, it's a great portrait shot of Cap painted in Ross' trademark hyper-detailed and realistic style.  I love the determination in Cap's eyes and the grim set of his jaw!  I don't know who's about to get punched, but I can see by the look on Cap's face that they definitely deserve it.  Alex Ross is a fantastic visual storyteller and in this simple shot of Cap getting ready to deliver a New York Special, there's a story being told.

It's not the greatest Captain America cover ever, but this is definitely worthy of a turn up on the rotating "Wall O' Covers" in my office at work.  Let's get inside and see what else is going on here.
Felix Waterhouse is a teenager living in a poor South Bronx neighborhood.  Extremely gifted with electronics, he's working in his father's television repair shop and trying to earn enough money to escape poverty and go to college.


The Madbomb attack hits Manhattan.  Felix's neighborhood is on the edge of the attack, but it is still devastated by the ensuing riots before Captain America manages to destroy the device causing people to go mad and attack each other.

In the aftermath of the Madbomb attack (during which Felix's mother kills his little brother), life returns to normal for most of the city.  The superheroes of New York turn their attention to new threats as the city begins to rebuild.
Unfortunately, conditions in Felix's neighborhood only get worse as the devastation of the Madbomb causes businesses to leave and gangs to move into the blocks of  abandoned and burnt out buildings.  Crime is rampant and even worse, loss of business at the T.V. repair shop means that Felix has to spend his college savings just to keep his family going.
Things are looking bleaker and bleaker for Felix until one day a mysterious man comes into the shop with a strange offer. . .he represents an organization interested in Felix's talents with electronics and will give him a good job, as well as pay for his college education.  The catch is that the organization he represents is A.I.M.  A well-known part of the villainous Hydra!
Felix declines at first, but as he sees repairs being made to the wealthier sections of the city while neighborhoods like his are ignored, he decides to take the man up on his offer.  He is taken to an elaborate secret research base hidden beneath Manhattan to begin his new life.
Felix quickly fits in with his new A.I.M. colleagues and his extraordinary talents with electronics gain the attention of his superiors.  Because of this, he is one day taken to the most restricted level to assist with problems plaguing an ultra-secret project.  When he arrives, Felix is amazed to see that A.I.M. is trying to build a massive Madbomb of their own!
As he joins the Madbomb project, Felix slowly begins to realize that by helping to create a weapon of mass destruction, his talents aren't helping make a better future for anyone, and that his whole life is now built on lies.  He decides to sabotage the Madbomb, but is caught in the act.
After Felix is informed that he knows too much and has to die, he desperately activates a pulse meant to destroy the Madbomb, but his unfinished device is stronger than he expected and the resulting effect is enough to attract the attention of Captain America, The Falcon, and Iron Man, who quickly make their way to the hidden A.I.M. base and attack!
During the battle, the Madbomb is destroyed and Felix is rescued by the superheroes.  He informs them that he is the one who disabled the bomb and Iron Man is impressed by the young man's technical know-how.  A few days later, Felix is surprised to receive a job offer from Stark Industries.  
In the end, Captain America and The Falcon help with the long-overdue reconstruction of Felix's devastated neighborhood after realizing that simply defeating a problem and then ignoring what comes afterward doesn't solve anything and sometimes makes things worse. 
Lesson taught.  Lesson learned.  The end.
What we have here is less of a Captain America story and more of a Felix Waterhouse story. . .which is a little disappointing right out of the gate considering the giant picture of Captain America on the cover and the fact that this is sold as a Captain America story.

SO. . .

Let's look at this from the angle of it being the story of a young man seduced by Hydra with Captain America and friends in a supporting role.  On THAT side of the coin, it's not a bad story.  I do like the way that it looks into the aftermath of the original Madbomb attack from Captain America #193, so as an epilogue to "Madbomb" I think this story actually does a good job.

Felix is a pretty interesting character. Seeing him put his morals aside to try to make things better, realizing that he's been seduced by lies, and finally trying to make things right is a pretty good character arc.  Yeah, it's been done before and done better, but sometimes a little "If it ain't broke, don't fix it" is okay if it's done well.  Here, it's done well.

The story DOES get a little preachy toward the end as we get a healthy dose of "Superhero is forced to realize that the little people count too" moralizing.  It's not QUITE to the point of being cringeworthy, but it's pretty close to that edge.

So this story works as a sequel to Madbomb that digs in and takes a close look at the consequences of the original 1976 story from the perspective of one individual. . .but as a "Marvels" expansion, not so much.

The story of Marvels is rooted in an ordinary man's lifetime of observing Godlike beings around him without his really understanding them.  Here, the ordinary man understands MORE than the heroes.  It sort of defeats the whole point of Marvels in that these are extraordinary beings in the world of ordinary people when the ordinary person is ALSO the extraordinary in this story.

Marvels put the reader in the shoes of an ordinary person.  It made us feel the awe and wonder of seeing a man fly, or throw a car.  This story has none of the magic of Marvels and makes Captain America feel small and unimpressive as a teenager teaches him a lesson.  Maybe it was the writer's intention to make Captain America seem small instead of the powerful force rushing through an ordinary world he appeared as in Marvels. . .

I said at the top that I wasn't going to get political, but it seems to me like Captain America being humbled by a black teenager about what parts of the city got repaired first after an attack has a definite whiff of recent social justice trends to it.  It makes Captain America less of a hero and more of a representative of "privilege".  This perspective might not sit well with some readers.


In my introduction I said that this one shot had some pretty heavy work cut out for it.  Not only is it expected to add to a fan favorite story that doesn't really need anything added to it, but it ALSO is trying to be an epilogue to ANOTHER fan favorite story.
As an epilogue to "Madbomb" it works pretty well as it tells a story set in the aftermath of the original attack and after the heroes turn their attention elsewhere.  It has an interesting main character and follows a pretty good arc for a one issue story.
BUT. . .
As a "Marvels" supplement, it doesn't stick the landing.  Where Marvels is a timeless story about the awe and wonder of superhumans in the ordinary world, THIS story is firmly rooted in this particular moment in time by reducing Captain America to a representative of "privilege" that needs to be taught a lesson in social justice by the teenage protagonist.
It's not a BAD story.  But it certainly won't sit well with many Captain America fans that prefer to see the Star Spangled Avenger painted in a more heroic light.  If you are one of those fans. . .I'd say steer clear.  But if you are of the mind that there's some room in your superhero stories for a little social justice agenda, then definitely check this one out.  
Up Next. . .
More Captain America!
Steve Rogers is America's only "Super Soldier", but he hasn't been tested in the field yet.  Join me as I take a look at the story of Captain America's first N azi-Bustin' combat mission in 2011's Captain America: Fighting Avenger one shot.  SPOILER: Everything goes wrong!
Be there or be square!

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Retro Review - Cloak and Dagger

5237 views • Feb 5, '19 • (2) Comments

Welcome to another "Retro Review" edition of Longbox Junk!  

Once again, I step outside of my usual bargain bin finds to take a closer look at a comic from my collection that might be considered more "valuable" than most of what I own and give the internet a classic comic review that NOBODY ever asked me for.

This time out, I think I've really outdone myself on the "Review that nobody ever asked me for" front, in that I believe that this will be the only review of this comic that has EVER been done. . .and I'll take a safe bet that there probably won't be another one. 

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Retro Reviews - Captain America #193

4905 views • Aug 8, '18 • (0) Comments



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I originally thought that Theater of War was a mini-series until I took a closer look at them and realized that they are actually a collection of one-shots under a single title, with the only things tying them together being Captain America and a similar cover frame.  They cover a variety of times and concepts. . .everything from straight up WWII action to Captain America as the embodiement of the American Spirit.  Let's get into it!


-I'm not entirely sure of how these are supposed to be ordered, but snce they are pretty much unrelated with no overarcing story, I'm just going in alphabetical order. . .

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