Yeah, we're a little silly about our fireworks here in Utah. Try explaining to a cranky hotel guest from Kansas why there are fireworks waking him up on the 16th of July. Super fun, I tell ya.
Here at Longbox Junk, we celebrate Fireworks Month. . .er. . .July. . .by shining the spotlight on the star-spangled super-soldier. The shield-slingin' Avenger. The man who loves nothing more than punchin' some Ratzis.
What we have here is a four issue series from a sort of odd time in Captain America continuity. You see, everyone thought Cap had been assassinated at the end of Civil War, so the newly-resurrected Bucky Barnes (AKA The Winter Soldier) took it upon himself to become Captain America to redeem his past crimes and honor his mentor. It was a GREAT story!
But then Captain America came back. . .because Marvel didn't have the guts to follow through with the dramatic storytelling opportunities presented by Captain America actually being killed.
Turns out he wasn't dead, but trapped in time and fighting his way back to the present day. Which meant that after jumping through some hilarious and convoluted hoops to bring back Steve Rogers, there were now TWO Captain Americas and Marvel couldn't quite decide what to do.
So they started running self-contained mini-series (like the one at hand) that were part of the (then) current volume numbering, but were also categorized as their own separate series. . .a bit confusing for online collection tracker sites. To make it a bit worse, Marvel ALSO decided to shift from volume 5 numbering to volume 1 "legacy" numbering right in the middle of it all. Yay.
Things just sort of drifted with Captain America for almost 2 years (22 issues) with out of continuity teamup stories like this one, one shots, and flashback tales before Marvel finally got around to trying to fix their mess. . .by shuffling Cap through SIX new volumes. And here we are today.
ANYWAY. . .
Enough about Marvel mistreating one of my favorite superheroes.
Let's get into this series. . .which promises some dinosaur punching, if the covers are to be believed.
CAPTAIN AMERICA AND HAWKEYE
Captain America (Vol. 5/1) #629-632
SCRIPTS: Cullen Bunn
PENCILS: Alessandro Vitti (with Matteo Buffagni issue 631)
INKS: Alessandro Vitti (with Matteo Buffagni issue 631)
COVER: Gabriele Dell’otto
Captain America and Hawkeye travel to New Mexico to investigate the disappearance of a large environmentalist group. They are attacked by the security forces of the top secret Damocles Research Facility. We are introduced to Kashmir Vennema, the Director of Operations. They were also looking for the missing group when they encountered the Avengers during their mission.
At the research facility, Cap and Hawkeye learn that there are a number of classified U.S. Military research projects being carried out. But their attention is directed to a lab where a Doctor Henry Reese is examining a strange, mutated creature. The Avengers are shocked to learn that it was once a human. One of Damocles' security contractors that had gone missing not long before.
Learning that the facility had been attacked several times by the twisted creatures, Cap and Hawkeye immediately order the Director to show them to the source of the attacks, a storage room that has a gaping hole leading down into the earth.
As they explore the dark tunnels beneath the research facility, it isn't long before Cap and Hawkeye are attacked by a strange dinosaur-like creature. As they fight for their lives in the cramped tunnels, they see that they are battling against some kind of symbiote that has animated a dinosaur skeleton!
They win the battle, but the fight makes too much noise, and before long, our heroes find themselves surrounded by a large group of the mysterious symbiote/ dinosaur creatures. . .
To be continued.
Yep. . .the covers to this series promised dinosaur punchin' and we have quickly commenced to punchin' dinosaurs in the very first issue. Sure, there were a few pages of setup, but yeah. . .mostly dinosaur punchin'. I have the feeling that this might have been the easiest money Cullen Bunn ever made.
I do like the gritty art style Allesandro Vitti brings to this series. Cap and Hawkeye look like a couple of rough and tumble guys you do NOT want to mess with, and I like the look. The art is a little dodgy during talking head scenes, but Vitti definitely scores points when it comes to action.
COVER: Patrick Zircher
We start right where we left off, and get TEN uninterrupted pages of sweet dinosaur punchin'!
Captain America and Hawkeye hold their own against a horde of weird dino-creatures until Cap is finally overwhelmed and dragged down a tunnel before Hawkeye can give chase!
Shifting scenes back to the Damocles Research Facility, we find Director Vennema and Dr. Reese arguing about the possibility of Captain America and Hawkeye interfering with their project for their "real" employers. . .obviously something stinks about the whole thing.
A distracted Dr. Reese is taken over by the symbiote hibernating in the seemingly dead body of their former security head. The creature pursues Director Vennema through the lab, but she finally manages to kill it. She doesn't care so much about losing Dr. Reese as she's pleased to have been able to test the "Hybrid" in an actual combat situation.
IN THE MEANTIME. . .
We switch back to the tunnels below and follow Cap as he discovers that the well-known supervillain Stegron is behind some (but not all) of the strange goings-on beneath Damocles.
Stegron explains that he's been trying to use his science/magic to resurrect an ancient lost race of dinosaur-like beings called Saurons who lived in a long-lost city that existed there long before mankind walked the earth. Unfortunately, his efforts have been somehow warped and only partly successful.
Cap tells Stegron he doesn't care WHAT'S going on. He's there to end it and it's time for some more star-spangled dinosaur punchin'! We don't see the fight, but what we DO see is Hawkeye searching for Captain America and finding a twisted creature carrying Cap's shield. . .OH NO!
To be continued.
Roughly half of this issue is dinosaur punchin'. Don't get me wrong. . .it's some mighty FINE looking dinosaur punchin' thanks to the fantastic action artwork of Allesandro Vitti. But Cullen Bunn DOES add a little bit more to the narrative by throwing in Stegron and showing that the Damocles facility isn't as innocent as they first seemed.
I actually like the back and forth banter between Cap and Hawkeye. The Grizzled Veteran vs. The Young Buck is definitely a well-worn narrative path, but it's pretty enjoyable reading the push and tug between Cap wanting to use careful tactics and Hawkeye just wanting to jump in. All in all, a pretty fun issue.
COVER: Patrick Zircher
First there was CapWolf. . .Now meet DINOCAP!
A battle between Hawkeye and a dino-symbiote-possessed Captain America ensues. As they fight, Hawkeye discovers that Cap is only partly taken over and uses a sonic arrow to help Cap throw off the creature. The gambit works and the pair of heroes begin dino-punchin' their way through resurrected Saurons toward Stegron's laboratory.
When the Avengers confront Stegron, he insists that he's not their enemy, and that he wants to help them. Cap and Hawkeye reluctantly hear him out. It seems that the symbiote-like creatures twisting the once-peaceful Saurons into deadly killers are actually beings from another world. . .Dire Wraiths! Worse, there is a Dire Wraith Queen that had been in long hibernation and has finally risen to lead the Wraiths.
Stegron wants to cleanse the infected Saurons as badly as the Avengers do. As the three of them are attacked by Dire Wraith infected children of the missing environmentalist group, Stegron insists that Cap and Hawkeye make a run for the surface while he holds the attackers off for them.
Unless they can make it on time, the Dire Wraiths may find a way to spread to the surface world again!
When the Avengers make it topside, they catch Director Vennma in the act of trying to escape with the Dire Wraith-infected corpse of Doctor Reese. A confrontation with her Damocles security forces is interrupted by the appearance of a massive Dire Wraith infected dino-snake creature breaking through the landing pad to the surface!
IT'S THE DIRE WRAITH QUEEN!!
To be concluded.
An unexpected callout to one of my favorite Bronze Age Marvel comics. . .ROM! And here I was thinking the symbiotes were just going to be your typical Venom/Carnage-style Marvel Brand Symbiotes™.
Nicely done, Cullen Bunn. Very nicely done!
Besides the Dire Wraiths showing up out of nowhere like a long-lost memory from the Bronze Age of comics, I also liked DinoCap. Too bad we didn't get much of him. Too bad anybody who hasn't read this mini-series (or this review) will even know DinoCap existed. I salute you, DinoCap! You were gone too soon. . .
LET'S FINISH THIS THING!
COVER: Patrick Zircher
IT ALL ENDS HERE!
As the gigantic Wraith Queen bursts through to the surface, Cap and Hawkeye immediately try to keep the Damocles security forces back, even though they were just getting ready to attack the heroes last issue. Stegron joins the battle as the mutated Dire Wraith-possessed environmentalists swarm the security forces.
Captain America comes up with a desperate plan to ram the Avengers Quinjet into the Wraith Queen, but she destroys the jet before he can, leading to Plan B. . .DINOSAUR PUNCHIN'!
While Cap punches dinosaurs and gets the security forces to safety, Hawkeye uses sonic arrows to drive the symbiotes off of the possessed environmentalists and save Stegron, who he orders to help Captain America with his science/magic. Stegron protests that there's nothing he can do against the wraiths.
Hawkeye remembers that Stegron can bring dinosaurs to life from the smallest bone sample. He comes up with a crazy plan. . .so crazy that it might just work!
Captain America engages the Dire Wraith Queen, but his shield and best Sunday Dino-Punch aren't doing much good. Stegron joins the battle, and doesn't really do much good. . .just like he said. Even so, he and Captain America fight together while Hawkeye rushes back into the laboratory to quickly fashion some arrowheads from samples of dinosaur bones he had seen during their earlier tour. . .
Hawkeye shoots the enraged Dire Wraith Queen with three dinosaur bone arrows and tells Stegron to use his powers! But Stegron loses his scepter as the Wraith Queen tries to crush him with her tentacles.
Captain America grabs the scepter and uses it! Three fully-grown dinosaurs form inside of the Wraith Queen, tearing her apart as the giant creatures burst through her body! THE HEROES WIN! YAY!!
After cleaning up the remaining wraith-possessed Saurons and Environmentalists, Cap and Hawkeye take a breather. Hawkeye is happy with how things turned out, but Cap is bothered by Vennema and Stegron being missing loose ends. Speaking of which. . .
DEEP IN THE TUNNELS BENEATH THE RUINED DAMOCLES FACILITY.
We get a one page epilogue. Stegron has retreated back underground to the ancient Sauron city to stew in his failure and regret. Vennema appears out of nowhere, offering Stegron a vial of some unknown substance. . .promising him that what is in there will make his dreams come true.
It's an all-out action-packed dino-punchin' finale! The good guys win the day and everything is wrapped up in a nice, neat ending that doesn't even come close to affecting continuity in any way. . .except for that cliffhanger ending. An ending that, as far as I can tell, was never followed up on.
As a matter of fact, when I tried looking up what happened next, I discovered that only ONE source on Stegron even MENTIONS this story, let alone what happened afterwards. From what I can see, he just went back to being a Spider-Man villain after his short heroic turn here, and the mysterious vial stayed right here in that single panel I scanned above.
Oh well. I guess it was still some silly, fun, dinosaur punchin'. Let's just leave it at that.
They say not to judge a book by its cover. And that saying is particularly true with comic books, which often have covers that don't have ANYTHING to do with the story inside. . .especially in this modern age of multiple variant covers for almost every issue out.
BUT. . .
When it comes to THIS little forgotten miniseries, what you see on the cover is exactly what you get. Captain America and Hawkeye fighting dinosaurs. . .and a lot of it. This whole story is little more than a framework for page after page of Cap and Hawkeye punching, shooting, and shield-slinging their way through mutated dinosaur creatures.
Is that a bad thing? Not really. Not EVERY comic has to be an introspective and wordy masterpiece. . .an eloquent reflection of the writer's feelings about the world around him. Sometimes you just want to see superheroes punch dinosaurs! Why not?
What story there IS does a fine job of setting up the next round of dino-punching. I liked the back and forth banter between veteran soldier Captain America and brash up-and-comer Hawkeye. It's a well-worn path, but it's well-worn in the first place because it works.
I was also pleasantly surprised to see the Dire Wraiths rear their ugly alien heads in this series. ROM was one of my favorite comics when I was a kid (And yeah. . .I had an actual ROM action figure. It sort of sucked. The comics were better.) but the Dire Wraiths were something I had all but forgotten about. Honestly, the Dire Wraiths coming back from Bronze Age limbo for a few issues was the part I liked best about the story.
But truthfully, Cullen Bunn didn't have much to do here. He just built the framework and artist Alessandro Vitti did the heavy work of making this extremely simple story a feast for the eyes!
Page after page of dark, brutal, and somewhat exaggerated art fills the four issues of this series and drives it forward. Simply put, each page is a visual treat! Vitti's dark and twisted art is really what makes this series worth a read at all.
Vitti's style is a little dodgy when it comes to characters standing around and talking, but when it comes to action, he brings it, and brings it hard!
Overall, I can recommend this series as a fun little dinosaur-punchin' Captain America team-up adventure. If you're looking for a deep story or commentary on society, this ain't it. It's dinosaur punchin'.
There's some fun banter, a surprising villain, and some tasty artwork, but beyond that, it's little more than a quick, fun read that you'll probably forget not long after you're done. And you know what? Sometimes that's just fine.
Up Next. . .
Maybe I can get another Captain America entry done before July ends.
Let's find out!
Be there or be square.