Current Reviews


Captain America #12

Posted: Wednesday, April 16, 2003
By: Jason Cornwell

Writer: John Ney Rieber & Chuck Austen
Artist: Jae Lee

Publisher: Marvel Comics

The book opens in the rundown Brooklyn neighborhood that Captain America has taken to calling home, as we see him take some time to lecture a young man about showing the American flag it's proper respect. We then see Cap receives a package from the U.S. Army that looks like it's spent the past 50 years bouncing around the postal system. We then look in on the undersea kingdom of Lemuria, where we find a man with an artificial left arm making plans to "interrogate" Captain America about an event from the past. We then jump back about a decade, as we see a group of mercenaries have targeted an research lab in the frozen wastelands of the north, but we see Namor is also on the scene, and he offers up a warning that this group should drop everything they've stolen and run away if they value their lives. However, as Namor moves in to attack he happens to spot the body of Captain America frozen in the ice, and after he partially frees the body from the ice, we see his attention is drawn back to the thieves who are trying to get away with their stolen goods. What follows in a fairly confusing battle, where Captain America comes to, and ends up fighting to save the lives of the thieves who Namor was busy tearing apart. In the end both men are caught unaware by an explosive device that the thieves had left behind to cover their tracks.

There are times when a writer can successfully insert elements into a character's past that work quite well (e.g. Mary Jane knowing Peter was Spider-Man all along, Wolverine had bone claws under the metal), and then feel like a writer simply making a change to make a change (e.g. Spider-Man: Chapter One). Now this issue tells us that Captain America was involved in a battle with Namor before he was discovered by the Avengers, and this battle involves some overly complex plot involving severed hands & the undersea warrior race, the Lemurians. Now perhaps the follow-up issue will act to clarify this story a little more than this opening issue, as I found it a little difficult to get too involved in the material, when it did such a poor job of telling us exactly what we're supposed to be seeing. Now normally I would lay the blame at the feet of the artist, as it's their job to insure the material that is written is clearly detailed for the readers, but Jae Lee can hardly be blamed when the story itself seems bound & determined to be as unrevealing as this opening chapter proved to be. I have no problem with a story developing a mystery that needs to be resolved, but it wouldn't hurt to actually know the question we're supposed to be seeking the answers to.

I will credit this issue for managing to convey the confusion & trauma that one would expect Captain America to suffer after he escape his icy prison, as there's a fairly engaging little description that accompanies the sequence where we see his body adjusts to it's newly unfrozen state. I'll also credit the book for managing to play up Namor's less than heroic attitude at this stage of the game, as while it's clear that he respects Captain America from the time spent as allies during World War II, we see he's also not above lumping Captain America into the same category that he views the entire surface world, when he dismisses his former ally as a mindless tool. Now the writing does get a little overblown, as Namor details his theory about why Captain America is defending this man, and in spite of his hatred, the scene where Namor chops a man's hand off with the shield was a bit much. Still I do like the underlying mystery that is offered up in the text recap page that opens this issue, as the idea that Captain America was knowingly left frozen in the ice does make for a rather interesting moral quandary, as the logic behind this decision does have a degree of credibility to it that keeps me from dismissing the idea outright. I've also always been curious to learn what Captain America thought of what was done to end the war.

It's a bit disappointing when an artist whose work I respect gets saddled with a story that is ill-suited to their talent. I mean Jae Lee is a wonderful artist who can bring so much to a book when he's given the right type of story. Much like Bill Sienkiewicz & Tom Mandrake, Jae Lee is an artist who excels at conveying a sense of danger, as one is left feeling that there is great danger lurking in those heavy shadows. Now the harsh climate where most of this action plays out is fairly nicely detailed, as it's very easy to believe the cold & extreme conditions play a factor, especially during the sequence where Captain America awakens. There's also a nice sense of impending doom as we see Namor advancing on the villains, and the panel where Namor uses the shield to hack off a man's hand is a truly shocking visual. However, the scene where Namor & Captain America come to blows doesn't really hold up all that well, as Jae Lee has never been an artist who really excels at delivering action sequences, but rather he's more of big impact visual artist, such as the page where the self-destruct device is activated. I do want to make mention of the cover though, as this is a great looking piece of art, though I'm starting to dislike the cover logo, as it doesn't convey any real impact.

Final Word:
An issue that doesn't really seem to know what it's trying to accomplish, as while it looks to be trying to insert an untold chapter into Captain America's past, the simple fact of the matter is that it never really manages to establish why this encounter had to occur at this stage of Captain America's career. I mean I like the idea that Captain America might've been left in his frozen state due to his likely objection to the plan to drop the nuclear bombs on Japan, but this issue appears to have next to nothing to do with that idea, as instead it focuses its energies on a vague plot involving the removal of an artificial hand from research facility that appears to be under the protection of a murderous Namor. Now I enjoyed how the book described Captain America's early moments after he emerged from the ice, and I'm always game for a tussle between Namor & Captain America, but this issue's untold chapter is far too obtuse & unfocused in what it's trying to show us for me to draw much entertainment from it.

What did you think of this book?
Have your say at the Line of Fire Forum!