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  • atom | Male | Utah

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

July 2024




Longbox Junk - Marvel Team-Up #128

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Welcome to Longbox Junk! It's the place to find all the comic reviews you never wanted!

It's still July, and it's still HOT!
Here in Utah (on the 26th of July), the fireworks are finally winding down, and that means that my yearly Longbox Junk spotlight on Captain America is ALSO winding down. . .but I'm not done just yet!
Let's crank up the Longbox Junk time machine for a short hop back to 1983.  There we will find Captain America teaming up with Spider-Man to tackle not only a verminous villain, but also to weather the stormy seas of LOVE!
Ready? Let's do it!


Marvel (1983)

COVER: Eliot R. Brown
SCRIPT: J.M. DeMatteis
PENCILS: Kerry Gammill
INKS: Mike Esposito
Marvel put out a few of these composite photo covers (DC did a few as well).  They ARE unusual and interesting for what they are, but truthfully I've never really liked them.  The use of live models for this one just makes it even worse than the others.  
It's cool that they tried something different and I realize that there's actually a collecting niche for these covers, and that there are people who really dig them, but I think that they were reaching beyond the grasp of available technology, and it didn't come out great. . .in MY humble opinion.
 Let's get inside!
We begin our tale with a trip to the fair, following Peter Parker and Steve Rogers as they try to enjoy a bit of time off from being superheroes.  Unfortunately Peter isn't having much fun.  He's a bit torn about falling in love with a criminal (Black Cat) and what that means for him as a hero. His friends Mia and Roger try, but they don't have much luck cheering Peter up.

Steve Rogers ALSO isn't having as much fun as he should be.  His girlfriend Bernie is excited to be spending time with Steve away from him being Captain America, but Steve is reluctant to completely commit.  His last relationship (with Sharon Carter, agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.) ended in death and disaster.  He doesn't want a repeat of the same happening to him again.

Pete and Steve run into each other as they wander through the fair, they know each other from work at the Daily Bugle (where Steve had worked doing some illustrations in the recent past), but not as Spider-Man and Captain America.  Pete, Steve, and company decide to join up and enjoy the fair together.
BUT. . .
Their fun is soon interrupted by a swarm of rats sweeping through the fair! Pete's Spidey-Sense alerts him to danger!
The rats are quickly joined by a feral pack of dogs, led by a twisted creature. . .half man and half rat!
Steve recognizes the man-rat as Vermin.  An unfortunate victim of Baron Zemo's experiments in a Mexican castle.  A normal man whose brutal and evil nature was brought to the fore by mad science!
Vermin and his minions begin to wreak havoc through the fair.
Both knowing this is a job for a super hero, Pete and Steve tell their loved ones to leave, and then rush to find a place to change into their "business clothes".  Both of them find a nearby men's room, quickly change, and then run into each other as they head into battle! They immediately decide to team up to take down Vermin and his minions.
And the battle is joined! It's not an easy fight, but eventually Cap and Spidey gain the upper hand.  Vermin and his minions retreat and vanish before the heroes can give chase. 
 In the aftermath of the fight, an agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. shows up on the scene. . .Gail Runciter.  She and Captain America had been at odds over her actions during Cap's assault on Zemo's Mexican castle recently.  Cap's reaction to her interference had been overly-strong.  They agree to talk it out.
At Gail's nearby apartment, she and Cap have a heart to heart talk.  They come to terms over their conflict, but then Cap is surprised when Gail reveals that she has feelings for Cap. . .strong feelings that have nothing to do with their work together.
Cap is surprised to realize that he also has feelings toward Gail.  Feelings that definitely conflict with his growing relationship with Bernie.  The two of them have a moment, but Cap resists the temptation  and leaves to sort things out in his head.
Peter arrives back at his apartment to find Mia waiting alone for him.  Her boyfriend Roger has left and she stayed to make sure Peter was okay after the commotion at the fair.  As Mia tends to Peter's wounds, he begins to wonder what it would be like to be with her. . .a normal woman. . .no super-hero/villain drama.  
The two of them begin to have a little moment of their own. . .a moment that is interrupted by a news bulletin about Vermin taking over a nearby grocery store!  Peter leaves his feeling behind for the moment and quickly rushes a confused Mia out of his apartment.  It's back to work as Spider-Man!

As Spidey swings into action and arrives at the grocery store, Captain America also arrives on the scene, having also heard the bulletin.  The two of them agree to team up again and finish what was started earlier at the fair.  
The two of them head in, even though it's an obvious trap.  Spidey's Spider-Sense kicks in and warns of Vermin's ambush, and then it's ON!
As Cap and Spidey battle vermin, they both find themselves distracted and making little mistakes that they shouldn't.  They both realize that their moments of temptation are weighing on them more than they thought and affecting them in ways they don't like.
But despite the distractions, both Spidey and Cap shake it off and manage to finally win the day!
The heroes leave Vermin to the authorities and head out together to discuss what happened. . .
As the two heroes relax on a nearby rooftop, they talk about how maybe they were off their game a little bit because they saw something of themselves in Vermin. . .something neither of them liked very much.
Cap and Spidey say their farewells and head back to those who love them, both heroes putting their moments of temptation behind them as lessons learned.  All's well that ends well.
The End. 
THIS is the kind of comic book that brings me right back to my Bronze Age childhood.  It's full of action, has a splash of drama, and is generally somewhat silly and forgettable.  But over all of that, it's FUN.  It's Captain America and Spider-Man teaming up to beat down a villain.  The outcome is never in doubt.  You KNOW the heroes are going to save the day.  It's just good old Bronze Age fun!
That said, J.M. DeMatteis DOES add a little depth to the story by focusing not only on Cap and Spidey, but ALSO Pete and Steve as they resist temptation and ponder what it means to be in love as a superhero.  
DeMatteis was the writer on the mainline Captain America title at the time, and from the few issues I have of this period in Cap's history, it seems he was wanting to more fully explore Captain America's "secret" identity of Steve Rogers than other writers before.  I like that he carried that through to this seemingly inconsequential team-up issue and made it more than a punch-fest.
On the art side, Kerry Gammill provides some solid work that even has a few pretty great moments. . .my favorite is the page I scanned above where Cap and Spidey are both using the same men's room stalls to change in without realizing it.  A great, funny moment!  His scenes of Spidey swinging through the city are also very nicely done.


Like I said in my review of Captain America and Hawkeye, not every comic has to be a masterpiece.  Sometimes you just want to have some forgettable fun with some colorful superheroes.  That describes THIS comic perfectly.  
It's not the greatest comic story ever written. . .but it doesn't have to be.  It's not the greatest art I've ever seen. . .but it doesn't have to be.  It's not the most memorable comic in my collection. . .but it doesn't have to be.  It's just a quick, fun read, full of Bronze Age memories for those who happened to be there at the time.
I can certainly recommend this issue to any fan of Spider-Man or Captain America (or Bronze Age superhero comics in general) as a fun little team-up comic with just a splash of "secret identity" drama.  
As far as I can tell, it's never been collected, so you'll have to read it online or find the actual issue in a back issue bin (like I did. . .for TWO lousy dollars).  But if you're looking for some good old Bronze Age superhero fun, go ahead and grab this one if you spot it.  It's a nice little nugget of Longbox Junk.
Up Next. . .
A few weeks ago I picked up a half-dozen of Marvel's Indiana Jones comics at a yard sale. How about we take a look inside one and see what's going on? 
Be there or be square!

- read more

Welcome to Longbox Junk, where I write comic reviews that nobody asked me to!

It's July!  It's friggin' HOT!
 And if you live in Utah like I do, the fireworks go ALL month long!
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.  
I'm talking about CAPTAIN AMERICA!
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. 
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.


Marvel (2012)

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.
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! 
OH MY!!!

To be concluded.
Dire Wraiths? 
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. . .

COVER: Patrick Zircher
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. . .
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. 
The End.
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.

- read more

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!

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

As usual, during the summer things get a little crazy in my corner of the world.  I do these Longbox Junk reviews in my spare time at work, and since that work is managing a hotel, that spare time is kind of sparse during the height of the tourist travel season.  What I'm trying to say is that I apologize for the random delays this blog experiences during summer.
Since I was delayed even more than usual during July and only managed to get out one Captain America review, I thought "Why not just spotlight some Cap in August?" and here we are!
I've had the first issue of the series at hand for several years (bought for that great cover), but have never been able to completely read the story until recently when I came across the rest of the issues in a box of comics at the flea market.
So we've got a story about Captain America meeting Black Panther for the first time during WWII, with Nick Fury and His Howling Commandos in the mix.  Sounds like a good time, right?  Let's find out!




SCRIPT: Reginald Hudlin
PENCILS: Denys Cowan
INKS: Klaus Jansen
COLORS: Pete Pantazis
COVER: Denys Cowan & Klaus Jansen
I like this one a lot!  I'm not normally a fan of Denys Cowan's sketchy art style, but there's a dynamic feel to this cover that can't be denied. It showcases the two main characters in a couple of great hero poses and has an explosive background that really makes the whole cover pop.  This one's a winner!
As World War II rages, the elite commando unit known as "The Howlers", led by the tough as nails Sgt. Nick Fury, encounters the Allies' new secret weapon for the first time. . .the brightly clad super-soldier called Captain America!
In Berlin.  Adolf Hitler's scientists have discovered what they believe is the solution to creating an intercontinental guided missile capable of hitting the United States from Europe. . .a rare metal known as Vibranium that is only known to come from one place, the mysterious African nation of Wakanda.  Hitler places Baron Von Strucker in command of the important mission to retrieve the Vibranium from Africa.
Meanwhile, the Howlers are assigned to back up Captain America on a secret mission to (You guessed it) find out what Von Strucker and his men are searching for in Africa.  Shortly after arriving, Cap discovers the grisly remains of a squad of Germans who have been slaughtered.  He finds himself surrounded by Wakandan warriors and confronting their masked leader. . .the Black Panther. . .and being told to go home.  
Captain America demands answers from Black Panther.  He is told the Germans are there to steal the Vibranium from Wakanda for their missiles.  Panther will not allow them OR the Americans to have the metal for their weapons.  Outraged by the Wakandan leader's blunt refusal to share the secret of Vibranium with the allies, Captain America and Black Panther fight while the captive Howlers look on.
In the meantime, at Von Strucker's nearby hidden base, he is informed of the death of his advance scouts.  As he considers how to proceed, he is surprised to learn that Hitler has sent another special agent to Africa to ensure the vital mission does not fail. . .The Red Skull!
To be continued. . .
Okay, not a bad start.  It's mostly setup to get Sgt. Fury and the Howlers together with Captain America and in Africa, but I DO love a good wartime Captain America story, and having the Howlers as supporting cast (The story is actually told from one of their perspectives. . .Gabe, the Howlers' African American musician) is definitely a great addition!
Black Panther doesn't really come into the story until the issue is almost done. . .and then just for a bit of obligatory "Heroes Fight Until They Realize They Need To Work Together".  It's a well-worn comic book team-up path, but it works here.  It's wartime and Wakanda knows they have something that will be used to kill millions, whether in the hands of the Axis OR Allies.  Therefore, the Black Panther seen so far is blunt and ready to fight. . .not the heroic and thoughtful warrior/diplomat he is usually presented as. 
On the art side of things, I mentioned in my look at the cover that I don't really enjoy Denys Cowan's sketchy art style.  He's one of those artists with a unique style that has evolved over the years.  In my humble opinion, it hasn't evolved for the better. 
He made a name for himself on The Question and I really liked his work there, but over time, his art has become sketchy and more impressionistic.  I don't think he was the best choice of artists for this fairly straightforward war story. His comic-noir style is much more suited for stories as vague and rough around the edges as his art.
The colors are also a bit of a problem, as far as the art goes.  The whole comic is presented in a very washed-out and muted way, with bright splashes of color here and there to set things off a bit.  It all comes off as somewhat dull and is pretty muddy in places. . .especially scenes where Captain America isn't there to lend a little burst of red and blue.  It's not really a great choice for a Captain America comic, in my humble opinion.

Overall, the story here is good.  It's a simple and straightforward setup to get all the characters in Africa for a wartime adventure featuring Captain America, Black Panther, Nick Fury (and His Howling Commandos), Baron Strucker, and Red Skull.  There's plenty of action and adventure to be found, as well as an ending introducing Red Skull to the scenario that makes me want to jump right into the next issue.  In other words, a solid comic book team-up story so far.
Unfortunately, the art is distracting and sketchy, made worse by an extremely muted coloring style, so the story as a whole suffers a bit. . .but not enough for me to call it bad.  Another artist could have bumped this up a notch or two from where it sits right now at "pretty good".
SCRIPT: Reginald Hudlin
PENCILS: Denys Cowan
INKS: Klaus Jansen
COLORS: Pete Pantazis
COVER: Denys Cowan & Klaus Jansen
I like the dirty white background on this one a lot, and it's pretty dynamic, but it lacks the force and power of the first issue's cover.  Cap's face is also a little strange.  It's not a BAD cover, it's just not a GREAT cover.  
After Black Panther and Captain America finish fighting, the Americans are invited into Wakanda, where Cap and Panther talk terms for a cooperative effort against the invading Germans.  Nick Fury isn't so sure that Panther can be trusted, so he puts one of his men (Gabe) onto the mission of trying to learn more.  Fury assures Gabe that he's got the job because he's the best man for it.  Gabe knows that it's really because he's the only black man in the Howlers.
In the meantime, Baron Strucker plans an attack on the Wakandan capital using all the forces at his disposal. . .five full regiments.  But the Red Skull demands that no more than one regiment be used, causing Strucker to doubt the sanity of his new commander.
Later, as the Germans attack, the Howlers are kept prisoner for their own safety as Captain America and Black Panther rush to the defense of the city.  The German tanks are disabled by strange Wakandan devices called "Panther's Teeth", forcing the Germans into a brutal hand to hand battle at the city gates, where they are easily driven back by Captain America, Black Panther, and the Dora Milaje (Wakanda's all-female royal bodyguards).
After the German retreat, we learn that the underpowered attack force was merely a test of Wakanda's defenses, and that the Red Skull has not arrived alone.  With him are some of Germany's own superpowered "heroes". . .Master Man, Warrior Woman, and Armless Tiger Man.  Now armed with the knowledge he wanted about Wakanda's high-tech defense systems, Red Skull plots a devastating attack with the German superhumans in the lead. 
To be continued. . .
Most of this issue was action, focusing on the battle between the Wakandans and Germans at the city gate, but there were a few interesting moments in between.
Nick Fury tapping Gabe to try and spy on the Wakandans because he's black, as well as conversation between Black Panther and Captain America about how America fights for the rights of people overseas while oppressing their own citizens at home, lends a bit of depth to what is otherwise a pretty straightforward military action story sprinkled with a bit of superhero seasoning.
Another interesting little bit to the story in this issue informed me about something I'd been wondering about in the first issue, which was how Black Panther met up with Captain America in WWII in the first place.  I chalked it up to this being a "Marvel Knights" series, most of which had a sort of strange relationship with established Marvel continuity. . .not quite "What If?" stories, but not quite standard "Marvel Universe" either.  
It's revealed (by showing his sons with their mother during the German attack) that the Black Panther in THIS story is actually T'Challa's (the "current" Black Panther) grandfather.  Which explains why this version of Black Panther is more direct and brutal than the one I'm used to reading.
Unfortunately, Denys Cowan's art remains the weak point of this otherwise solid wartime superhero story.  His sketchy style and the muted color palette just aren't a great fit for this series at all.  

Overall, this issue is pretty solid when it comes to the story.  Lots of action backed up by some interesting commentary on race that doesn't come off as preachy or forced.  I just wish they had tapped another artist for this project.  Cowan's art is perfectly fine in the right setting, but this isn't that setting.
SCRIPT: Reginald Hudlin
PENCILS: Denys Cowan
INKS: Tom Palmer
COLORS: Pete Pantazis
COVER: Denys Cowan & Sandu Florea
This one's a bit of a mess.  It's cluttered and the coloring is pretty muddy. It's okay, I guess, but this isn't really the kind of cover that makes me want to buy a comic book. Let's get inside. . .
In the aftermath of the failed German attack (last issue), we find Nick Fury changing Gabe's secret mission from just spying on the Wakandans to discovering the location of Wakanda's Vibranium, with the intention of denying it to the Germans and delivering it to the Allies.  Gabe is conflicted, but assures Fury that he'll do his job.
Meanwhile, in the German camp, we learn that in addition to the three German superhumans, Red Skull has also allied himself with the brutal leader of a tribe that has long been rivals of  neighboring Wakanda, The White Gorilla.  His team now complete, Red Skull plots the destruction of Wakanda.
Back in Wakanda, Gabe manages to bluff his way into the Vibranium mine, but as he gathers information for Fury, Wakanda comes under surprise attack by Master Man and Warrior Woman, attacking from the air and easily breaking through Wakanda's defenses!
At the Royal Palace, Captain America confronts Warrior Woman and White Gorilla while Gabe faces the powerful Master Man at the Vibranium mine.  Black Panther crashes an airplane into Master Man as the German superhuman tears through the mine's defenders.
Elsewhere, Nick Fury and the rest of the Howlers are searching for the hidden German base.  They discover it, but are confronted by Red Skull piloting a gigantic combat robot!
Meanwhile, back at the Palace, Captain America battles White Gorilla while Black Panther's sons try to escape, only for one of them to be captured by Armless Tiger Man, who demands Captain America surrender or he will kill the young Prince.
To be concluded. . .
Another pretty solid issue that leans more into action than story, but with a few small diversions here and there.  I like the side story of Gabe being conflicted over following Fury's orders as he learns more about Wakanda and sees a thriving kingdom of free blacks and knowing he's been given the mission just because he's a black man.  
It's an interesting commentary on race that is presented naturally as part of the story and doesn't feel forced. . .of COURSE Fury is going to give his only black guy the mission to infiltrate Wakanda.  He doesn't even think twice.  Gabe knows he's being used just because he's black, but he's loyal to the commander who gave him a chance to prove himself that not many other black men in the 1940's were given.  It doesn't take up much page space, but I like this story sort of simmering in the background.
The rest of the issue is okay.  I can see it sort of sliding down into comic book cliche action territory, especially when Red Skull jumps into action driving a giant Ratzi robot.  Giant Robot Punching is probably my LEAST favorite comic book trope, and I'm a bit disappointed to see it telegraphed that there's going to be plenty of Giant Robot Punching in what's sure to be a slam-bang finale.  
I know I keep going on about the art on this series, but it's really the worst part of the whole thing.  The sketchy art style of Denys Cowan just isn't a good fit, and that's especially clear in this issue.  The closer we get to the end, the more sketchy the art gets.  It looks like maybe Cowan was being rushed a bit.  The muted and washed out color scheme just adds to the sort of messy look of this comic.

Overall, even though the story is obviously starting to slide down into what surely will be a pretty standard comic book superhero punch-fest finale (including a dose of good old-fashioned Giant Robot Punching), there are some surprisingly interesting character moments hidden in the background story of a soldier conflicted by being used for his race.
The artwork remains consistently disappointing, and maybe even a little worse as the story heads into the final issue.  A different artist could have definitely taken this tale up a few notches.
SCRIPT: Reginald Hudlin
PENCILS: Denys Cowan
INKS: Tom Palmer & Sandu Florea
COLORS: Pete Pantazis
COVER: Denys Cowan &Sandu Florea
We come full circle back to a great cover to finish things off after two "okay" covers in the middle of the set.  It's dynamic, it showcases the two title heroes very nicely, and the explosive background highlights everything in a great way.  It's just a well done superhero comic cover all around.
Continuing from last issue, as Gabe tries to survive the attack on the Vibranium mine, he manages to steal a piece of the rare metal.  In the meantime, Nick Fury and the Howlers fight for their lives against Red Skull and his giant robot.
Gabe manages to escape the mine by a secret passage leading to the Wakandan Royal Palace, where he saves Prince T'Chaka by shooting Armless Tiger Man in the head.  Captain America arrives on the scene just a little too late.  He and Gabe decide to team up to find out where the Red Skull is.  In the Vibranium mine, Black Panther easily defeats both Master Man AND Warrior Woman, using some sort of poison on his gauntlets.  
Back in the jungle, The Howlers realize their weapons are useless against Red Skull, and they retreat into the German camp, accidentally running into Baron Strucker's tent.  A tense standoff between Fury and Strucker is interrupted by Red Skull bursting back onto the scene.
As Gabe, Captain America, and Black Panther fly a plane toward the German camp to assist the Howlers, Gabe is shocked when Black Panther offers him Wakandan citizenship in gratitude for saving his son and conducting himself with honor while a guest of Wakanda.  Gabe tells him he needs to think on it.
Arriving at the German base, Cap and Panther find the Howlers in desperate need of aid.  They jump into battle and GIANT ROBOT PUNCHIN' COMMENCES!!  
After defeating Red Skull, Strucker surrenders.  Black Panther lets him and his defeated men go, but with a warning that if another German is even seen near Wakanda, they will join the Allies and Black Panther will personally go to Berlin and kill his way to the top of the command chain.
At the end of it all, Gabe declines Panther's offer of citizenship. . .telling him that there's still fighting left to be done in Europe.  On the other hand, he also lies to Nick Fury. . .telling him that he wasn't able to find any information on the Vibranium.  
In a short epilogue, we see Nick Fury at a mission debriefing being asked his opinion of Captain America.  Nick was impressed by Cap's fighting ability, but not so much by his unwillingness to help find Wakanda's vibranium.  He suggests that the army train a partner for Cap who is willing to get his hands dirty if the mission calls for it.
The End.
Yep. . .Giant Robot Punching.  Easily one of the most abused tropes in comic books.  One of the main reasons I don't read many mainstream superhero titles.  There's ALWAYS going to be a robot (giant or otherwise) being punched in at least one issue of ANY mainstream superhero comic.  Don't try to prove me wrong.  You can't.
Giant Robot Punching aside, this was a slam-bang all action (well, until the end) finale to this story.  I liked that even through all the fight scenes, the writer still managed to slip in bits of the underlying story of Gabe's personal conflict. . .ending with him deciding to just let things stay the way they are.  A cop-out?  It can be seen that way. But I prefer to think of it being a simple man keeping things simple.  If that means maintaining a crappy status quo, then that's what it means.  
I have to give credit to the writer for being able to provide a thought-provoking commentary on race inside a story about superheroes punching Ratzis in Africa.  It was unexpected and nicely done.
The art actually seemed to improve a bit in this issue.  I chalk it up to the addition of a new inker.  Whatever was the cause, it's unfortunate that it came in the final issue.  A definite case of "Too little, too late" in my humble opinion.  But at least they managed to tame Cowan's sketchy and vague pencils enough to be a noticeable improvement over previous issues.  The muted color palette remains a real weak point, though.  Not much an inker can do about that.

Overall, a solid piece of almost non-stop superhero action that takes a little bit of time to reflect on a conflicted soldier caught up in it all.  It's a good finish to the story.  Too bad the art remains disappointing, despite showing a bit of improvement.


There you have it.  Captain America and Black Panther meeting for the first time in the middle of WWII.  For Captain America fans, you get a Cap that's still a little "green", proving himself in battle.  For Black Panther fans, you get a look at a brutal wartime Panther in T'Challa's grandfather.  And then you've got Nick Fury and his Howling Commandos doing what they do best.  Mix them together in an unusual WWII African setting and you have a pretty darn good little superhero war story.
The artist wasn't the best choice, and there's a trip down the extremely well-worn comic path of giant robot punching, but that's not enough to keep this story down.  It's enough to knock it down a notch or two, but all in all, I can recommend Flags of Our Fathers to any fan of Captain America, Black Panther, or WWII comics in general.  Give it a try.  It's a pretty good read.  
Up Next. . .
It's still EXTREMELY busy at work, so I think I'll hit a few one-shots until things settle down a bit. I've picked up some fantastic Flea Market bargains this past month, so maybe some tasty Retro-Reviews.
Be there or be square!

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Longbox Junk - What If? #44

1249 views • Aug 2, '21 • (0) Comments


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

Despite getting a late start on things due to a family medical emergency and things being super hectic at work (I manage a hotel and I think the only way to make people stay at home THIS year would be an actual apocalypse of some sort), it's July and I can't let July pass by without shining the Longbox Junk spotlight on some Captain America!
SO. . .
Let's jump into the Longbox Junk paper time machine and set the dial for a short trip back in time to the edge of the Bronze Age. . .the year 1984!  The comic at hand is one of the final issues (#44 out of 47) of Marvel's What If? anthology series, which explored what would happen if the stories of familiar characters were changed in some small way. 
What If? is right up there in the top ten of my all-time favorite Bronze Age comic series.  I've always enjoyed tales of alternate history AND this series is a who's who of Marvel's Bronze Age talent, so what's not to like?  Even better, if you're a Longbox Junker such as myself, the issues are fairly easy to come by, with only a few being "valuable" enough to be priced out of the bargain bin. 
But enough introduction!  Let's jump into this comic that asks the question, "What if Captain America were not revived until today?" With "today" meaning 1984, of course.  Ready?  Let's do it!  

WHAT IF? #44

Marvel (1984)

SCRIPT:  Peter Gillis
PENCILS: Sal Buscema
INKS: Dave Simons
COVER: Bill Sienkiewicz
Now THERE'S a Bronze Age beauty if I've ever seen one!  Classic Captain America rendered in impeccable detail by the one and only Bill Sienkiewicz!  This is one of my favorite covers from the whole What If? run, and it has taken several turns up on the "Wall O' Covers" in my office at work. It's just a great piece of comic art, period.  Let's get inside! 
We begin our tale as the Avengers pursue Namor. . .but unlike OUR world, the Sub-Mariner eludes them and they give up the chase before discovering the body of Captain America suspended in ice since the end of WWII.
Years later, without the binding influence of Captain America to keep them together, the Avengers decide to disband.  A political tensions worldwide rise, we see a mysterious man in a government base release Captain America and Bucky from some sort of laboratory where they were being kept in suspended animation!
Although the two heroes are confused as to how exactly they got where they are, they know they have a purpose. . .to restore order to the increasingly lawless nation!  And so we see them in action shortly after their revival taking down a group of armed bank robbers.  It is during this scene that we begin to realize something is. . .off.  Cap and Bucky seem to be much more ruthless and brutal than we know the heroes to usually be.
In the months to follow, Cap and Bucky take down all manner of criminals, proving themselves as heroes in the eyes of America. . .but all the while keeping a secret.  They are actually the replacement "Captain America and Bucky" from the 1950's, forced into suspended animation by the government when they felt there was no longer a use for them.  
Then one day, a representative from a far right wing political group approaches Cap and Bucky, letting them know that their group is aware of their secret, but wants to enlist their help promoting their political cause.  The two heroes agree.
In the months to come, Captain America and Bucky use their status as patriotic superheroes to push a hardline anti-communist/ anti-immigrant candidate to the top of the polls, all the while quashing rumors of their true identities.  
After sweeping the election with Captain America's support, Senator Chadwick quickly begins to enact anti-immigrant and racist legislation, including a national identity card. . .
Protests soon begin to turn to riots, including one where a sniper attempts to kill Captain America!  Emergency powers force martial law across the nation, leading to more and deadlier confrontations between government forces and protestors. . .
We move forward in time several years.  A U.S. submarine on patrol finds something strange. . .a man frozen in ice!  After thawing out the mysterious figure, he revives and fights the sailors, believing them to be Nazis.  The Captain of the sub realizes that they've just discovered the REAL Captain America!
When the sub returns to port in Brooklyn, the Captain sneaks Captain America off the boat and takes him on a tour of New York.  Cap is horrified to see the city is in the grip of an armed occupation, with armed soldiers wearing the insignia of Captain America. . .the "Sentinels of Liberty". . .everywhere!
The Submarine Skipper takes Captain America to see a contact with ties to the Underground. . .J. Jonah Jameson.  With Jameson's assistance, Cap and the Skipper are able to cross the heavily-guarded barrier known as the Harlem Wall.  Cap is disgusted by the poverty-stricken despair found in the racially-segregated ghetto Harlem has become.
Deep in the Harlem ghetto, the submarine skipper introduces Cap to the underground resistance movement, led by General Nick Fury, Spider-Man, and Snap Wilson (AKA the Falcon).  At first he is suspected of being an infiltrator, but after Cap talks to Fury about their time fighting WWII, he is accepted into their ranks as they prepare for a major operation against the "America First Party" during their National Convention, soon to be held in New York City.
Elsewhere, we find the imposter Captain America meeting with the leaders of criminal organizations that have infiltrated the government, and we learn of their plans for complete control of the United States. . .as well as his support for their plans as long as they at least pretend to align with his insanely unbending anti-communist ideals.
Shortly thereafter, the scene shifts to Madison Square Garden, where the America First Party is holding a huge, heavily-guarded rally to finally cement their complete political control of the United States.  The underground infiltrates the stadium and then attacks as the imposter Captain America makes his speech!

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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.

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Longbox Junk - Marvel Fanfare #18

1957 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!

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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!

- read more

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!

- read more

Welcome back to Longbox Junk, home of comic reviews nobody ever asked for!

Once again, my apologies for the longer than usual gap between entries this time of year.  As a hotel manager, the summer tourist season takes a pretty severe cut into my comic readin' and reviewin' since I do these at work in my down time.

As you can see from the title, this time out we're going to take a look at another handful of Captain America one-shots from my collection.  The first part turned out pretty good. . .with 3 out of 4 being well worth hunting down in the bargain bin and 1 being. . .okay. 

- read more

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