Current Reviews


Captain America #5

Posted: Tuesday, October 15, 2002
By: Jason Cornwell

Writer: John Ney Rieber
Artist: John Cassaday

Publisher: Marvel Comics

The book opens with a crowd gathered for a Fourth of July firework show finding their attention diverted by Captain America's struggle against a group of terrorists. As the see Captain America blown off the dam into the water far below we move in closer, as we see the terrorist have gathered at the base of the dam looking for Cap's body. What they find instead is a fighting mad shield slinger, and in short order Captain America has laid out all but one of his attackers. However, the last attacker decides to rob Captain America of his victory, by activating the mysterious dog-tag technology that is worn around the necks of all the terrorists, and soon every single one of the unconscious attackers lies dead. We then see Nick Fury arrives on the scene, and given the device that killed these people is S.H.I.E.L.D. technology, Captain America has some very pointed remarks about whether S.H.I.E.L.D. is suffering from a right hand not knowing what the left hand is doing mentality. We then see Captain America takes off toward Dresden, Germany to follow up his investigation of this terrorist cell, but he arrives to find a rather unwelcome surprise is waiting for him.

I'm all for a book that plays up the idea that Captain America is a fighting machine, and I realize that John Ney Rieber is appealing to the idea that our hero is finding himself in a world where even trusted allies like Nick Fury can't be trusted. However, this issue gets far too caught up in the idea that Captain America is the calm in the storm, that it forgets that the primary job of any story is to entertain. I mean yes the action sequences in this book are gorgeous thanks to the art, and Captain America is presented as a force to be reckoned with. However five issues into this new series, and I'm still waiting for the challenge that tests our hero. I mean we've seen him rescue a town from a terrorist threat, expose his secret identity to the world & declare war on an entire terrorist organization, but the book almost feels too self-assured that no matter what Captain America is doing, not only will he emerge as the winner, but he'll come up smelling like roses. The only time I saw a crack in his armor was when he found himself fighting the children, and even this encounter lost it's edge when Captain America's sheer heroism inspired one of the children to lay down his weapon.

John Ney Rieber's writing also never really takes us into the character's head, as while it's entirely plausible that the only thoughts on Captain America's mind while he's engaging the enemy is the battle itself, the book presents him as almost to mechanical in his thinking. I mean he's been injured, so the internal thoughts we're treated to tell us that he's in pain, but he'll dismiss the pain and keep fighting. We also have Captain America questioning Nick Fury's loyalty, and the dialogue during this scene utterly fails to deliver the importance of this scene. If nothing else at least give Nick Fury something to say in his defense, as it's completely out of character for Nick Fury to simply stand in silence, while Captain America calls him a sell out. I realize that the idea of this scene is to show us that even good men can stand behind bad causes, and not recognize that they're doing more harm than good, but it's very easy to cast Captain America as the bastion of truth when everything he says either goes unchallenged, or is responded to by the almost incoherent ramblings of a mad terrorist. Now Captain America makes some good points, and I have little doubt that he's in the right, but it would be nice to see the other side at least have a voice to challenge him.

John Cassaday's work is a sight to behold, and it's a shame his run on this title is soon coming to an end, as I'd gladly accept this book as a bimonthly title if it meant he would stay on as this book's regular artist. I mean his art has a nice sense of realism to it, as the page where we see the crowd reacting to Captain America's plunge off the side of the dam, is a great piece of art. However, where John Cassaday really puts his stamp on this title is during the action sequences, as when that shield leaves Captain America's hand, and carves a path through the gathered villains, I don't think there's been another artist on this book who has made this scene look so darn impressive. There's also the tooth dislodging left hook, and the shot where Captain America stands over the unconscious bodies, while one of the villains reaches for a gun. The shot of the bodies a couple pages later is also quite chilling, as the red lights of the high-tech devices around their necks make it clear that they are all dead. There's also the equally disturbing shot of what Captain America sees when he looks at the city of Dresden, and the final panel of this issue is a nice understated shot guaranteed to bring me back for the next issue.

Final Word:
It's a bit difficult to know what to make of this book, as there are sections of the issue when the writing is truly inspired, and the art of John Cassaday is absolutely gorgeous. On the other side of the equation though I do have my doubts about this title, as this opening story is far more interested in presenting ideals, and casting Captain America as the only white hat in a sea of compromised morals, and outright fanaticism. Now there's nothing particularly wrong with this take on the character, and as I mentioned above there are moments in this issue where John Ney Rieber delivers a wonderful Captain America (e.g. his conversation with the remaining terrorist). However, it's a bit difficult to get too excited by a story where the threats are dismissed with such ease, and when Captain America's the only character who seems to be allowed to present his ideas. I mean if nothing else let Nick Fury defend himself.

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