ďTwo Americas: ConclusionĒ
Writer: Christopher Priest
Artist: Bart Sears
Let me see if Iíve got it (it always takes a while to figure out Priest scripts, and itís always worth it). The fake Captain America is the product of another failed super-soldier attempt. The macguffins of the secret virus and drug smuggling, that attracted the reporter Leila to Cuba and led to her rescue by Cap and Falc, were both just excuses to bring this nefarious wannabe out into the open, so that Cap could end his threat.
Close enough, anyway. That false cap, with his dark hair and over-inked costume, has been an interesting contrast to Steve Rogers all along. Like everyone else these days, Priest feels the need to probe just what Captain America stands for at this point. Is he only spouting naÔve jingoism, a relic of a long-gone era? When the enemies arenít clear and our methods arenít sound, when our leaders arenít trustworthy and our friends arenít sure, just what moral authority does Cap serve?
Thatís the meta-challenge of dealing with the character. The intra-textual challenge is that Cap is an established figure in the Marvel universe, closer even than Thor to the Superman archetype. Weíve seen him in action for years; heís led the Avengers more often than not. We know what we expect of him, or at least what weíd never want to see him do. Ultimate Cap runs right up to those boundaries and kicks them in the face, but this Cap has a different set of expectations.
I suppose ultimately it comes down to our need for trust, for belief. For someone, at least, to behave as if the world were a better place, as if trust and loyalty and allegiance and bravery still meant something, were still real possibilities. Cap is a symbol, and as such heís allowed to be better-than, even if itís corny. Even if itís hard to believe. This story makes almost the same point as this weekís Avengers, that heroes live in a rarified world unsullied by the depravities of mundane humans, even when they try their best to help. Itís a bit more subtle and thought-provoking about it, but then itís Priest, not Austen.
Bart Searsís art has been at odds with this story from the start. I really donít get what heís doing here; heís hardly the ideal collaborator to Priestís particular blend of gritty spandex that Sal Velluto was. These stylized flamingos, all over-muscled elongated limbs, barely seem to exist in a real world at all. His penchant for full-page figures, outside the panels, is a terrible way of conveying character interaction. Weíre supposed to get a sense that everyone on the page is in the room together, but we donít where, or whoís seeing what. Itís a kind of psychic sense of space that doesnít suit the story at all.
He also underplays important dramatic points. When Shield Agent Morales is taken out, itís in a small panel in silhouette. Only dialogue later letís us know that her injuries were grave.
Sears does well enough by the pre-powered ďsuper-spook,Ē selling the sequence of his chequered history as a government guinea pig well enough. And I think Iím supposed to get from the final page a sense that Wanda Maximoff has gone undercover as a janitor within the Cuban crime family (i.e., the other half of the story left to resolve), but from the two static figures flanking the page itís really a stretch of a guess.
News that a new artist is coming on board is very promising, as Priestís grasp of these characters (maybe he can pick up the pieces of Avengers once Bendis is finished?) is as entertainingly sound as ever.
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