Shiny Shelf

Captain America #1

By Eddie Robson on 30 November 2004

WARNING! Contains spoilers!

Having just jumped off ‘Catwoman’, a ship which may well sink without him (three months of Scott Morse – just kill me now), Ed Brubaker has found himself another title to re-launch.

From this first issue it’s hard to gauge what, if anything, will define Brubaker’s ‘Captain America’. Under his watch Catwoman was repositioned as a crime-fighter with a more relativistic view of morality, contrasting with Batman’s black-and-white approach, and she was given a cooler costume – all of which made her a more worthwhile character to read on a monthly basis.

Cap does not seem set for this kind of makeover, but he remains a problematic character to write and those problems need to be addressed if this relaunch is going to work. It’s pretty much impossible to write a straightforward Captain America story where he just does heroic things and resolves some problem. Brubaker says that he doesn’t want to do overtly political stories, but Cap is by his very nature a politicised character.

Only a naive writer would attempt to write this comic without considering what Cap’s words and deeds might mean in a wider sense. The character represents America, but whose America? That of the flag-waving triumphalists? The angsting liberals? The disenfranchised? Should he reflect an ideal version of America or be a commentary on how it seems to the author(s)?

Whoever you aim this comic at, other readers will be disappointed and probably quite angry. No other comics character suffers this problem, or at least not to the same extent. I’d prefer to see him written as a complex character at odds with himself, trying to work out what his role is in the world – but I’m conscious of imposing my own views on what Brubaker has written.

Here, Cap seems very much like a loner. This is a predictable and understandable reaction to recent events in ‘The Avengers’, but a presentation of how Captain America reacts to trauma is liable to be read as a representation of how America reacts to trauma. We’re shown a flashback of some recent Cap action, where he is criticised for his heavy-handed approach to a terrorist situation.

Later, Cap indicates that he feels stuck in the past (he continues to dream about W.W.II), and hints that he’d like to be involved in the space programme (and hence leave the knotty problems of the world behind). The atmosphere of bleak uncertainty is emphasised in Steve Epting’s art, with shadows cutting across almost every frame.

Most notably, Brubaker kills off the Red Skull in this issue. I hope this move won’t be reversed. The Skull is a Nazi villain who is not allowed to be a Nazi any longer. This leaves him a generic opponent with no distinctive use or appeal . Assuming that the Skull stays dead, this signals that Brubaker intends to move ‘Captain America’ onward. The precise direction will hopefully become apparent soon.

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By Eddie Robson

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