Editor's Note: Captain America Theater of War: America First! arrives in stores tomorrow, December 24.
Plot: It's the 1950's and the "Red Menace" scare is at its peak, and whilst Steve Rogers is "dead" that doesn't mean there isn't a Captain America.
Review: I was a big fan of the first in this series of standalone Cap stories. It was an action packed tale ripped straight from the serials of old. Steve Rogers vs Nazi Flying Saucers. What wasn't to like?
So I was of mixed feelings when I cracked open the latest in the series. 50's America? Russian villains? No Steve Rogers?
But it works.
This is not the Cap we know or are used to seeing. This is a somewhat harder and darker Cap for what was a dark time in American politics. For many, Steve Rogers personifies the American spirit and ideal. His replacement seems to be all about the mission. A single mindedness that we know will later blossom into madness: Root out and destroy Communist influence, no matter what it takes.
Cap seemingly shares this sentiment with another major character in the book, Senator McMurphy. It's not hard to figure out the real life basis of the Senator and his probing witch hunts. It's these very public witch hunts that bring Cap to publicly condemn the Senator which propels the plot forward to its conclusion.
As I mentioned, I was reticent about a Cap that wasn't Steve Rogers (I know Brubaker is doing it but Steve's presence is all over that book). But the difference in the two men's outlook makes for interesting reading.
Would Steve Rogers hit a lady (Russian spy or not)? Determination and devotion to the mission are what this Cap is all about. There's an excellent action sequence involving Cap, a jet-pack and an escaping Russian plane that embodies this beautifully. It's a perfectly executed scene by Chaykin, and by the end of it we get the feeling that this Cap isn't Steve Rogers. But he might just be the right Cap for this time period. Would Steve Rogers have made similar choices? Could he have fought a Cold War with its shades of grey and faceless double crossing enemies?
The story also sees an appearance by Nick Fury whose low opinion of the current Cap makes for some tense scenes between the two. As the story progresses, a reluctant alliance forms between them.
Chaykin's art for me is always hit and miss, love or hate. His action sequences can blow you away and then on the next page his anatomy can look slightly off, pulling the reader out of the story. Love or hate his art though, Chaykin is a consummate storyteller. His pacing and panel layouts are second to none, and that's no different here. His action scenes are dynamic and leap right off the page, ably assisted by Edgar Delgado on colours. Letterer Dave Lanpher also makes a mark by adding Cyrillic to the Russian characters speech bubbles.
Ultimately though my enjoyment of the first in the series and Chaykin's inconsistent art takes the edge off what is overall a great Captain America story.
As a side-note, the issue also includes a reprint covering two tales from the 50's featuring the Cap and Bucky of the time.
Final Word: A different Cap for a different time. Despite some missteps on the art, this is still a good standalone Cap story from Chaykin.
Howard Chaykin forces Steve Rogers out of retirement when the "Great Red Tide" corrupts U.S. soil from within and turns the tables on Captain America. Because I wasn't impressed with the first go around of the Theater of War series, I was really hoping Chaykin would change my outlook with his take on Cap's past. Unfortunately, the title fell in the same mediocre territory as the Knaufs' Operation: Zero Point.
Unlike the Knaufs' German filled dialogue balloons, Chaykin opted for the Cyrillic-esque English alphabet. This was something that really bothered me in the last book and I was happy to see Chaykin make his book completely readable all the way through.
I also enjoyed Chaykin's edgier Captain America, taking crap from no one and blowing up anyone in the way of freedom, showing that the cordial Cap can only take so much before being pushed to his limit, especially when you're trying to discredit his name. Although Chaykin's storyline was nothing revolutionary, it was well thought out and executed. It could've used a few more twists and turns in there rather than such a straightforward approach, but it still read well either way.
My biggest complaint is the book's art. I know that Chaykin has been in the industry a long time, but I just couldn't click with his style. A lot of the faces and action scenes just seemed off to me, as well as some of the anatomy. I tried to really delve into the art, but I just couldn't love it. Thankfully the storyline and dialogue moved me along as I glanced through most of the panels. I would by no means hold this work against Chaykin's long-standing career; maybe his style just isn't for me (please stop typing hate mail now.)
Overall, the book was cohesive and well executed, even if not to my particular liking. If you're a Chaykin fan or if you read the last issue and want to keep going with the series then I suggest you pick up this issue.
What did you think of this book?
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