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Ultimate Captain America Annual #1

Posted: Tuesday, November 4, 2008
By: Jon Judy

Jeph Loeb
Rafa Sandoval, Marko Djurdjevic
Marvel Comics
This comic book is about three things. First, it is about explaining part of the climax of Ultimates 3, in which we learned that the character we thought was Black Panther was actually Captain America.

Second, it is about Black Panther, revealing his origin and the emotional issues therein. BP has been forced out of his home -- by the "good" guys! -- and this is our chance to learn who he is and how that experience has affected him.

Third, it is about Steve Rogers, and how, although he is a soldier, he will defy his orders in order to do the right thing.

So the question then becomes how well the book addresses those things, and the answer is not well at all. One out of three may make for a great batting average, but it makes for a pretty mediocre comic book.

Do we learn why Steve was posing as BP? Yes, yes we do. Check.

Do we learn how BP became BP, and get to know him as a character? Well, no, not really, or at least we are not told that information in an interesting and engaging way.

In a nutshell, and trying not to get too spoilerish, we learn that young BP went on a dangerous quest, a tradition among his people, and was seriously injured in the process.

However, we do not see him before this quest -- do not see how badly he wants to succeed in it, or see how afraid he is, or see how is father and brother react to his obsession. No, by the time we see BP he is mute, the victim of a panther attack, so he -- literally and figuratively -- never actually speaks for himself. We learn the facts of what happened to BP, but don't know why we should care. OK, sure, it's sad that he has been abducted and can not see his father and his brother, but sad stuff happens to people all the time. Why should we care more about this person than any other?

Well at least we get to see his abduction, the fear in his eyes as he realizes he can't go home again, the horrific pain he suffered during the torturous scientific experiments to which he was subjected -- oh, wait, we don't see that at all. Again, we are told it happened, but it's all off panel. Well, hey, we at least see BPís reunion with his father, something that was really satisfying because we got to see their relationship before their separation, so now we are really pulling for them to be reunited. Oh, wait, thatís right, we never see them together before BPís accident and abduction, and we never see them after his return, either. All of these events occurring off-panel might be forgivable if we had some pre-existing reasons to care about Ultimate BP, but we don't, and so we are being denied the most important parts of his story.

How about Cap? We get to see him wrestle with the moral conundrum -- either be a bad soldier or be a bad person -- he faces, right? And we get an emotionally satisfying confrontation between him and Fury? And we see how difficult it was to be around Jan all that time and not be able to talk to her -- or fight with her or whatever -- right? Oh, again, no, we donít. We donít see any of that.

Well, to be fair, they couldnít give us any such conflict resolution with Cap and Fury, because Fury is off in another universe right now, because, you know, pseudo-sci-fi plot trappings are so much more important than developing your characters and giving readers a chance to emotionally connect to them.

Sandovalís art is great -- so the book looks nice -- but this book is all plot with no character and no emotional entry point. OK, so thereís this guy who misses his home and this other guy who wants to help him go back there. So what?

On the plus side, there are lots of pages with people hitting each other.



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