Plot: The US government continues moving forward with its Marvels Project as the Human Torch makes his reappearance, defending Coney Island from an enraged Prince Namor.
Comments: The much praised Captain America team of Brubaker and Epting continue their epic exploration of the secret origins, to borrow a phrase, of the Marvel universe. When the series was first announced many a messageboard was filled with fans complaining about a perceived attempt by Marvel to retcon established continuity. Actually, this series is more in line with History of the DC Universe which came out following the conclusion of Crisis on Infinite Earths with the difference being the latter was told in a more narrative style. The end result is still the same, a set history where all the individual character stories and histories are lined up in order.
The main story in this issue is the first meeting between the Golden Age android Human Torch and Namor the Sub-Mariner, originally shown in comics' first major crossover Marvel Mystery Comics #8-9, in 1940. Brubaker had spent a large portion of the previous two issues getting us to this point. He is very adept at the “man out of his element” plot element from his handling of Captain America the last few years and does well with the character of the Human Torch. He portrays the Human Torch, in his civilian identity of Jim Hammond, of almost being desperate to be as human as his name but at the same time the android seems lost in his life. While working as a police officer in an attempt to atone for destruction he caused after his creation, he has no idea what to do with himself outside of his police uniform. Bru puts a little bit of work into Namor too, once again nailing us with how the Sub-Mariner, at this point in his character anyway, hates the surface world and the atrocities they caused his kingdom, making no distinction between Allies or Axis. The subplots of Nick Fury and the Angel continue while also introducing us to the Ferret. And there is more of Professor Erskine as well, the creator of the super-soldier formula which will bring us to Captain America in future issues of the series.
Steve Epting continues to impress with his style. He has clearly established himself as the artist in the Marvel stable for handling this era. All the praise he received for his Captain America work just continues here. Epting is a craftsman when it comes to layout and details--the research put into establishing the time period is quite evident in every panel. I particularly am drawn to his depiction of the Torch in all his flaming glory,as a sort of fire-engulfed man. Clearly, colorist Dave Stewart has a hand in that imagery also. His darker, somewhat murky style matches up with Epting very well.
The issue is a very good read and the plot of the series continues to move forward. It somewhat suffers because readers are anticipating the appearance and transformation of young Steve Rogers. However, that can be said for most middle issues in a finite series as it is purposely geared towards a conclusion.
As much as I appreciate the recap page in the front of the book, though, this series by its very nature screams for some back matter, be it just a page or two going over the history of the characters in that particular issue or even in what comic certain scenes portrayed in the book originally occurred, much like the Torch/Namor fight. Hopefully, that type of background information will be included in collected editions. Brubaker and Epting continue as one of Marvel's premier teams in this issue and the series should not be missed by any fan of the creators, Captain America or Marvel's Golden Age.
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