"Chapter 1: Denial"
Writer: Jeph Loeb, J. Michael Straczynski (concept)
Artists: Leinil Yu, Dave McCaig (colours / digital inks)
Publisher: Marvel Comics
If Marvel is going to milk the death of Captain America as their latest big event, they could do a lot worse than this comic. Examining the impact of Cap's death through a miniseries which is loosely based around the five stages of grief of the Kübler-Ross model, this first issue casts Wolverine as the man who doesn't believe that Cap is really dead. It's a logical choice, as Logan's background gives him plenty of reasons to be paranoid, and he voices concerns about Cap's death and possible alternative explanations for the event which will echo the thoughts of many fans who hold out hope that Steve Rogers was been cloned or replaced by one of Nick Fury's Life Model Decoys prior to his death in Captain America #25. This issue puts those notions to rest, exploring the conspiracy theories but ultimate rejecting them with a final confirmation (via Wolverine's heightened senses) that the body on the S.H.I.E.L.D. helicarrier is indeed that of the original Captain America. It's a canny move to address these fan concerns in such a head-on manner, and it adds extra weight to the overall storyline about Cap's death by shutting down all of the fan speculation in an attempt to make people focus on the story as it's being presented, rather than the possible ways in which it might be undone by future writers.
The story of this issue is fairly interesting but ultimately very straightforward, seeing Wolverine team up with Daredevil and Dr. Strange to infiltrate the helicarrier and interrogate Crossbones, one of the shooters involved in Cap's assassination. However, the pencils of New Avengers artist Leinil Yu really bring it to life, making each moment (even the cliché hero-attacks-hero scene) feel original and exciting. The raw power of certain characters really comes through Yu's vibrant linework, and he's adept at creating the foreboding, dark atmosphere that Loeb's script often calls for - especially towards the end of the book. As in New Avengers, Yu's Wolverine is a particular highlight, but he also pulls off a suitably gritty Daredevil and the creepy pair of Iron Man/Hank Pym here too.
Yes, there's not really any good reason for this story to exist other than to sell a few comics off the back of the latest big event in the Marvel Universe, and yes, some elements of the story seem contrived and ill-fitting (such as the Winter Soldier's early guest-appearance, or Daredevil being invited on Wolverine's mission instead of a telepathic X-Man who could have served a similar function more effectively), but this comic rises above those shortcomings to produce a tale which is fairly entertaining in its own right. I look forward to seeing how the series progresses, as the concentration on a different character each issue with a rotating art team promises to keep things fresh and interesting. My only real concern is whether Loeb can draw the different stories together with a coherent common focus, but we'll see how that goes.
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