Uncanny X-Men #3 – Review

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by Etienne Paul, CMRO Editor

Written by Cullen Bunn with Art by Greg Land, Jay Leisten and Nolan Woodard

Published February 2016

Uncanny X-Men 003 aSynopsis – In their quest to save the mutant healers from the ravages of ‘The Riders’ Magneto has to get his hands dirty.

I am starting to really like this series and that is surprising because I was quite on the fence at first. They have an interesting team that has been pulled together by circumstance rather than by any innate connection between them and that leads to all manner of conflicts.

This is actually quite a dream team up, both in the comic and in the real world. Cullen Bunn is on the cusp of becoming one of Marvels mainstay writers and having an X-team in his hands is a really exciting prospect. On the other hand Greg Land has a terrible reputation, however it has been completely unfounded so far in this series. Gone are the long lingering looks at full frontal female nudity* and in are wide thin panels that focus on the characters faces. However his reputation for ‘copying’ seems deminished in this series as the faces are all character appropriate and very consistent.

This is for me, a perfect anti-hero X-Men series; Magneto doing anything he can to get the job done, a tormented Creed trying to go straight and Psylocke acting as the conscience and heart of the team. Given Elizabeth’s ‘chequered’ past you can understand why having her as the teams conscience makes this quite an entertaining prospect.

What I really appreciate here is the ‘reality’ of what is going on, Magneto is not pulling his punches, he quite literally rips a man in half on panel in this issue. I like it when comics do that and we are not left with the bad guys licking their wounds and running away with the heroes shaking their fists at them as they go. This is the sort of effect that you would get if you put together an arch angel, psychic assassin, master of magnetism and a caged animal into one team; carnage, death and destruction.

This is definitely my favourite X-Men book in print at the moment, although given how few of them there are currently around, that is not as big a compliment as it used to be. I want more of the same and if the epilogue to this issue is followed up on, then it looks like things can only get better.

Story – 9/10
Art – 9/10

* Obviously not actual nudity, but when they are in skin tight costumes, its merely the colouring that gives us the illusion of clothing…

Future Imperfect #5 Review

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by Charlie Brooks, CMRO Contributing Writer

Future Imperfect

Issue #5

Written by Peter David with Art by Greg Land, Jay Leisten and Nolan Woodard

Published: October 2015

Future Imperfect #5Future Imperfect #5 wraps up the look into the Maestro’s part of the Secret Wars world as well as his reign in Dystopia. The story is a little simplistic but does provide a lot of action and entertainment, not to mention a fun twist ending.

Confronted by the Ancient One who happens to be a century-old Rick Jones, the Maestro finds, much to his surprise, that there is no test or battle awaiting him in order to get access to the Destroyer. Instead, Rick just hands over access to the god-killing robot. There’s just one catch – Doom is on the way to deal with the intruder.

Before Doom heads into battle against the Maestro, the big green guy enters the Destroyer. The result is a pretty cool redesign as we get a mashup of the Maestro and the Destroyer, ready to stomp Doom out of existence. And, surprisingly, that’s exactly how the battle goes – combined with the Destroyer’s might, the Maestro easily outmatches Doom. However, there is a twist.

I’m not going to give away the twist ending, but suffice to say that Doom isn’t as dead as he initially seems to be. That shouldn’t really be much of a surprise – nobody was going to kill the guy in a side book.

What I will say about the twist is that it is entertaining to an extent. On the other hand, it’s the type of twist that yanks the carpet out from under the readers, since we have to go through several pages before finding out that we haven’t really been seeing what’s happening.

One thing that definitely does bother me about this issue is the fact that the gang who have followed the Maestro on his quest, the folks who just watched a friend die in battle, just sort of walk away at the end of the story. These are people who were willing to try to overthrow Doom, but then they just cut bait and leave. Admittedly, they do get some degree of what they want, since the Maestro is no longer in their home of Dystopia, but it still feels like there should be some follow-up that isn’t happening there.

So where does this unexpected ending leave the Future Imperfect miniseries? Well, first of all, it’s a far cry from the original in terms of impact. Truly classic stories usually tell us something about ourselves. The original provided us with a nightmare scenario – imagine that you are destined to become a reflection of the worst aspects inside you. What would you do to stop that?

By comparison, this new Future Imperfect miniseries doesn’t tell us all that much, except maybe a well-worn parable about the dangers of hubris. This is not a story that people will be coming back to decades down the line. However, it is a tale that is entertaining as a whole. As long as you go into the series realizing that you’re about to invest $20 in an event comic that, due to the nature of tie-ins in the industry, won’t have any major impact on the actual event, you should be fine.

In the end, Future Imperfect #5 caps off a fun but ultimately imperfect miniseries. It’s good entertainment for what it is, but it’s a far cry from the deep and impactful tale that it takes its name from.

Future Imperfect #4 Review

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by Charlie Brooks, CMRO Contributing Writer

Future Imperfect

Issue #4

Written by Peter David with Art by Greg Land, Jay Leisten and Nolan Woodard

Published: September 2015

Future Imperfect #4Future Imperfect #4 highlights both the strong points and the few weak points that I think Peter David has as a writer. Make no mistake – he’s one of the top guys in the industry today. However, even the best have their flaws.

This issue is notable in that it’s one of the few times we’ve seen the Maestro as the protagonist rather than the antagonist. Sure, it’s all a part of his plan for universal domination, but he’s the one pushing the plot forward now instead of the obstacle the heroes must overcome.

The strengths of this issue are in the dialogue and character interaction. One specific great moment includes the Thing almost walking off the mission because the Maestro is foolish enough to believe that he can outwit Doom.

To take on Doom and conquer the universe, the Maestro needs the Destroyer. This is actually the second time he’s gone for the thing – he had previously used it to take on the Hulk in Peter David’s late 1990’s run. This time he’s got to go through Thor’s old foe Ulik, and boy does he ever.

The fight between the Maestro and Ulik is brutal and quick, with the Maestro dominating from start to finish. You could make an argument that the protagonist of the story shouldn’t be so invulnerable, but it also doesn’t make a lot of sense for the Maestro to have much trouble against a Hulk-level foe when he’s proven himself time and again to be stronger and more dangerous than previous incarnations of the Hulk.

Moreover, it’s necessary for the Maestro to trash his foes like this, because he’s being built up as the one guy who can take on Doom. That means he’s got to be formidable enough that he might be able to defeat the creator of the Secret Wars universe. So essentially, this issue is taking the necessary step of showing the Maestro as the number two baddie in all of creation.

One of the few real weaknesses of Peter David’s writing style, in my opinion, is his reliance on continuity that alienates some readers. We see this on display near the end of the issue as we meet old man Rick Jones from the Future Imperfect timeline. His appearance is handled as a cliffhanger, and it’s a big one to long-time Hulk fans. I do question, however, whether people who are less familiar with the original Future Imperfect story from the 1990’s would have any reaction other than, “Who’s the old guy?”

The ending may seem to be a bit anticlimactic for people who don’t know what old man Rick Jones looks like, but otherwise this is a solid issue. There’s not much drama to the fight, but it does go a long way toward establishing the ultimate confrontation, which will be the Maestro taking on a Doom with god-like powers.

Uncanny Inhumans #4 Review

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by Etienne Paul, CMRO Editor

Uncanny Inhumans

Issue #4

Written by Charles Soule with Art by Steve McNiven, Jay Leisten and Sunny Gho

Published January 2016

Uncanny Inhumans (2015-) 004-000 aSynopsis – Kang has a vendetta against the Inhumans, so if you are a time travelling megalomaniac the only way to get even is to make sure they never even existed.

In general, I hate time travel stories; I hate it when something goes wrong, everyone dies and then someone goes back in time and fixes it and suddenly everything is all right. However there is a caveat with that, and that is Kang. For some bizarre reason when he is involved time travel stories do not become maguffins pulled out at the last minute to save the day. I think it is because to him time is linear, it is his time line that we follow; it just so happens that that time line jumps in and out of history at will. In much the same way I don’t hate Doctor Who because, despite time being the integral concept in all those stories, they do not use time to fix problems, merely to set up the story.

So, in case you missed it, this story is all about time travel and Kang taking Black Bolts ‘unhatched’ son back to the very first inhuman king to teach him how to use his powers; the ultimate end to his plan, to use the offspring of the Inhuman royal family to eradicate them throughout history. It is a plan that only a mad man could come up with and it is also a completely gigantic plot hole that you can march an army through. All Kang has to do is go back in time to when the Inhumans were created by the Kree and mess with their lab results, and all his problems will go away permanently.

But never mind, I try not to let massive plot holes mess with my enjoyment of Marvel properties, otherwise I would hate most of the films they produced. And to be fair, Kang is an evil time travelling mad man who is clearly bored with his existence and enjoys making his life more difficult, so in that respect this is not quite as far out there as it would seem.

This series has absolutely incredible art, it is one of the few book where the cover is exactly indicative of what you are going to find inside; in fact I could go as far to say that the art inside the book is better than the cover, which is a rare trait only shared with Thor God of Thunder from 2015. I know that sales of this book really are not high, but they should be, for me it is definitely one of the premier Marvel titles now. Frankly its only flaw is the inclusion of Jonny Storm, but I wonder if a ‘word in his ear’ might end that permanently soon.

Story – 8/10 (lost a couple of marks for the plot hole)
Art – 10/10

Future Imperfect #2 Review

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by Charlie Brooks, CMRO Contributing Writer

Future Imperfect

Issue #2

Written by Peter David with Art by Greg Land, Jay Leisten and Nolan Woodard

Published: July 2015

Future Imperfect #2Dr. Doom may have created a brave new multiverse, but as we find out in Future Imperfect #2, the Hulk and the Thing are still a main event. The fight also ends in about as predictable a format as one can imagine, with poor Ben Grimm getting clobbered again.

Well, that’s not entirely true. See, the Thing in Dystopia isn’t Ben Grimm. Instead, it’s Thunderbolt Ross.

Personally, I’m happy that Ross isn’t the Red Hulk here, although I’m not sure turning him into the Thing was really all that necessary. Yes, there is a certain iconic nature to the Hulk fighting the Thing, but disassociating the puny rock-man from Ben Grimm is like presenting us with a Superman that isn’t Clark Kent.

Aside from my misgivings on that point, the issue focuses first of the origin of this new Thing (which is basically just the Fantastic Four’s origin but with Glenn Talbot and Thunderbolt Ross sitting in the place of the traditional foursome), then moves into a massive battle that has all the power and impact that you’d expect out of these two super-strong bitter enemies.

For the second issue in a row, the art is pretty solid. There are certain points where Greg Land’s flaws shine through, but overall his pencils work pretty well. The colors are terrific, giving us a real sense of the wasteland that Dystopia is even when the barren landscape isn’t featured on panel.

Unfortunately, there isn’t a lot else going on here. It seems like in an older era, this whole fight would be done after about four or five pages. Instead, we get a lot of splash pages and very little story, which can be a bit much for a book that costs $3.99.

On the bright side, the end of the issue is something that catches the audience’s attention – the Maestro is interested in more than just squashing a rebellion. He actually wants to recruit those rebels in an attempt to take down Doctor Doom and become the ruler of this Battleworld. That motivation, combined with the glimpses of the upcoming Contest of Champions series which features the Maestro in a major role, adds some intrigue to the coming issues. And with Peter David at the helm, the story is almost certainly going to have a pay-off.

In the end, Future Imperfect #2 is a decent action piece, but I don’t know that it provides enough entertainment to justify the cover price. However, the story is good enough so far to give a little benefit of the doubt, especially considering Peter David’s reputation and his ability to spin excellent and intriguing plots. It’s very likely that this series will continue to be one of the best things coming out of the Secret Wars event.

Future Imperfect #1 Review

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by Charlie Brooks, CMRO Contributing Writer

Future Imperfect

Issue #1

Written by Peter David with Art by Greg Land, Jay Leisten and Nolan Woodard

Published: June 2015

Future Imperfect #1Marvel’s “Secret Wars” event is all about drawing upon the strength of the great stories of the past, and there are few Hulk stories greater than Future Imperfect. This two-issue miniseries featured a reverse-Terminator scenario where the Hulk was pulled into the future to face off against his evil alternate self, the Maestro. In a frightening and powerful story, we got to see the Hulk face his worst nightmare: a future where he becomes the monster everybody says he is.

It’s natural to want to go back to that well, and who better to do it than the guy who wrote the original series and who spent more than a decade telling classic Hulk stories? Peter David is back with Future Imperfect #1, which brings back the Maestro’s Dystopia with one important change: there’s no Hulk here to try to break the evil ruler’s grip on civilization.

There is a resistance, led by Rick Jones’ descendant Janis, who is a welcome sight who had previously fallen off the face of Marvel Earth when Peter David quit the Hulk’s main book more than a decade and a half ago. We don’t learnt too much about the rebellion, though, because most of their time is spent with the Maestro crashing the party and smashing everybody in sight.

The Maestro manages to show off his brains to infiltrate the rebel base, and it almost seems too easy. Without giving up too much about his plan, it’s important to note that this is a thinking Hulk – one with Bruce Banner’s intelligence and the ability to transform back and forth at will. Despite that, most people who see the Hulk see a powerful green monster who loves to smash – who would expect subterfuge from a guy like that? By using this perception, the Maestro is able to make the infiltration seem easy, but it never seems unbelievable to the audience.

Peter David has a certain writing style that you either love or hate. However, since he is the creator of the Maestro, he’s also very comfortable with the character’s voice. He shows us a deadly, intelligent, and murderous Hulk that can be truly frightening, and he slides into the writing style he established for this character more than 20 years ago with practised ease.

On the art end, we’ve got Greg Land doing the pencils, which is a far cry from the terrific work that George Perez did on the original miniseries in the 90s. Although I’m no big fan of Land’s work, he seems to have picked up his game for this series. There are a few panels where a character’s expression is obviously traced from somewhere else (which is the main critique of Land), but for the most part the art works well and provides a good feel not only for the setting but also for characters like Janis who have a well-defined look from previous stories.

The bulk of Future Imperfect #1 is spent setting up a fight between the Maestro and this universe’s version of the Thing, but this is a well-paced opening issue that introduces the setting very well without relying on clumsy narration or exposition.

Whenever Peter David gets writing a version of the Hulk, it’s very much worth checking out. Future Imperfect #1 sets the stage very effectively and gives hope that this is going to be one of the better miniseries to come out of “Secret Wars.”

Uncanny X-Men #2 Review

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by Etienne Paul, CMRO Editor

Uncanny X-Men

Issue #2

Written by Cullen Bunn with Art by Greg Land, Jay Leisten and Nolan Woodard

Published January 2016

Uncanny X-Men (2016-) 002-000 aSynopsis – Magneto is starting to regret leaving that healing mutant to die, but his death has revealed a pattern of murders in the community, with Elixir and Triage next in the the firing line.

Uncanny X-Men has always been ‘my’ X-Men. I am not sure entirely why that is (and Astonishing briefly stole the show,) but the team that turns up in this comic always seems to ‘click’ for me. In recent years it has always been the darker, more ‘adult’ team, which may have helped. This new series does not disappoint in this regard and death, destruction and mayhem are certainly close at hand.

Pretty much every character in this series ranks up there as either a long term member, or recent joinee, to my list of favourite X-Men; even Sabertooth has grown on me. In fact as much as I hated AXIS, it did two good things; Superior Iron Man and the non-one dimensional Sabertooth.*

This book is the perfect example of my theory as to why Marvel has improved so much in recent years. They are slowly but surely doing away with the concept of ‘villains’ and have moved everyone onto their own moral scale. In reality no one thinks of themselves as the ‘bad guy’ they are always the hero of their own story and the best book are written with that in mind. It has meant that Magneto and Mystique are not always going to be antagonists and for that matter Cyclops and Captain America are certainly no longer always protagonists. This series brings together one of the more ‘edgy’ teams who are on the slide in terms of their moral standpoint, but that does not mean they are ‘bad’ merely that they will resort to any measures necessary to safeguard the mutant population.

We still are in the dark as to where this series is going, but the writing is fantastic, Greg Lands art appears to be less ‘scripted’ than usual and is so much more engaging for it. There are so many unanswered questions in this story, none more so than how did they all end up together, but also what happened to Angel and just whose side is Mystique really on?

Story – 9/10
Art – 9/10

* Even still, it doesn’t mean that that series was worth any more than as use for emergency toilet paper.

 

 

 

Spider-Woman #2 Review

by Etienne Paul, CMRO Contributing Writer

Spider-Woman

Issue #2

Written by Dennis Hopeless, Art by Greg Land, Jay Leisten & Frank D’Armata

Published: February 2015

Spider-Woman #2

I think it is a real shame that Greg Land has gotten the reputation that he has because his artwork is for the most part utterly stunning. This will not become a rant on how he produces his art (honest) because frankly I do not care how the work gets on the page, everyone has their own method, it is not even like what he does is particularly unique. If you are interested, do a search for Disney tracing and you will find examples of how they both recycled their older work (Eg parts of Robin Hood are traced from Snow White) and that they used rotoscoping from real life footage to create the people in Snow White. So what Greg does is practically industry standard. However whereas Disney managed to trace Snow White and dancing Dwarfs and turn them into a fox Maid Marian and dancing pigs, Greg manages to put the same female face onto every darn character.

If you take all the parts of this book where the characters have their masks on (Silk and Jessica) then this book looks utterly amazing. However part way through ‘Jessica’ takes her mask off (sort of, it’s a spoiler so I am not going to tell you exactly what that means) and I was immediately struck by how little it looked like her in other books, but also, how familiar it was. A little bit of research and I realise why it looked so familiar; she has the identical face to the White Panther over in the 2013/14 Mighty Avengers that he did, just with a slightly different skin tone. What makes matters worse is that by the end of the book Silk has her mask off as well, and apart from in one panel where she looks Asian, they look identical other than the hair colour.

I hate this being a recurring issue every time I review a book by Land, because other than this niggling issue the rest of the book is quite simply stunning. From the cover to the back page, the landscapes, ships, Victorian costumes and the near naked female form (because every female spider has to wear a spray on costume, it’s practically a law…) everything about this book shouts out to be looked at and examined. In fact if the art was less stunning then my issue with it would probably stand out less because I would not be lingering over it so much.

Anyway, enough of my schizophrenic love/hate opinion of the art, it is the story that really makes this book. More to the point, it is the story of Spider-Verse. It is simply one of the best constructed storylines I have read in recent years, and to keep the consistency up across multiple books, most of which are not being written by the same person is astounding. I know that many people hate being forced to read tie in books, but if there was a storyline that deserved it, this is the one. Apart from the people who genuinely cannot afford to read all the extra books (and for them my answer is wait a few months and read everything for one fixed price on Marvel Unlimited) then I think most people’s issues with cross-over-tie-ins is that comic companies stick that tag on books because on one panel of one page people mention something happening in the main series, and you feel cheated. All the Spider-Verse books are important, even the team up and introductory series and this one is practically vital to the story. I am sure there will be a quick catch up in the Amazing Spider-Man about the information in this book, but it is so much better read in the full format with the build up to it.

In this book both Spider-Woman and Silk are alone in an Inheritors world, but surprising things are happening beyond the normal odd behaviour of cannibalistic cloned freaks. Rather than being chased and eaten, Jessica is finding that she is both revered and respected in this dimension, which appears to freak her out far more than people trying to kill her. This book is continuing the rift that we have seen forming between the Inheritors in subtle ways in previous books. It is quite clever because it is not being done in the usual cackling evil power crazed way where everyone starts to scheme and plot against the other evil people in a way to turn them from an invincible force to an unruly rabble; what they are doing here is showing that they are each individuals and in much the same way as other very powerful people, it is going to their heads and coming out in some quite perverse ways.

I will be really interested to see what Dennis does with this book after Spider-Verse is over. That will be the real key to this series. Right now it has a huge following because of how good this series is, but when it is on its own having to forge a path for itself, then we will see how this progresses. Right now, I love this book, even with my reservation over the art and I really hope this is a long term series as Spider-Woman has been long overdue her owns series again.

Spider-Woman #1 Review

by Etienne Paul, CMRO Contributing Writer

Spider-Woman

Issue #1

Written by Dennis Hopeless, Art by Greg Land, Jay Leisten & Frank D’Armata

Published: January 2015

Spider-Woman #1

This book sums up all the reasons why I love Marvel as a company, even if I have a few issues with their recent choice of Event comic. Marvel have their A-List characters, so many in fact that they just bumped one off in an effort to boost their sales. They also have a pantheon of B-listers, all capable of holding their own comic, at least for a few arcs and if the MCU has any say in the matter, able to hold down their own film franchise. What Marvel has that no other comic publisher does is a legion of C-listers each with their own following, fully constructed backstory and the possibility to make that leap to the fore, at least for a while.

I am sure I will get hate mail for calling Spider-Woman ‘C-list’ but when you consider the pecking order of Spider characters you have Peter Parker way out in front as probably the best known Marvel character of all time, then underneath that you have characters like Venom and in recent years both the Scarlet Spider and Miles Morales with significant ongoing series. Then we have Jessica Drew who despite a lot of appearances in other comics has not held down her own book since 1983; even Mary Jane has had her own title in 2006 as well as Spider-Girl in the same year. Heck, Carnage has had 5 limited series with his name on the cover since 2004 and a 6th one just starting with AXIS. By comparison Jessica is practically Z-list, only ever seen in the company of others.

I am not trying to poke fun at the character, but to explain why I love the company and the concept so much – Marvel has this gigantic strength in depth that even monoliths like DC do not have. Sure Batman sells 100,000 copies every month, but once you get past the top 20 books it is all Marvel. Sure they do not have a Batman, or a Super-Man, but that means that everyone else gets a chance to be the hero and there is time in the release calendar for characters like this.

I am never convinced about an ongoing series being launched by an event comic, in this case Spider-Verse, nor for that matter do I think it does them any favours when the event comes a couple of issues in (like it did to the X-Men comic with Battle of the Atom). The reason being that you have no idea what the book will be about when the event ends and the legion of people who bought it for the event fade away leaving it looking like a sinking ship despite the fact it is merely returning to a normal level. This comic is no different, after reading it I have no idea what this book will be like when Spider-Verse ends, this could easily have been one of the anthology titles, like Edge of Spider-Verse, which told stories exactly like this about lesser known characters and how they tied in. To be honest, I am not even sure if this is meant to be a solo title long term; is it going to be a testing ground for all the female Spiders that survive the Inheritors and will it become Jessica Drew and her amazing friends?

In that vein this book stars Jessica, but Silk is the one that steals the show. While I am certain this book is supposed to be solely about Jessica, it is the ending that makes me question. In solo titles, unlike team books, it tends to be told much from a first person perspective as you follow the lead character around, but 3 pages from the end we simply leave her behind and follow Silk as she sulks her way into yet another disaster.

If you are not following Spider-Verse and simply want to pick this up it does a good job of letting you into the story. It is not too complicated and all you really need to know is that a family of creatures called ‘Inheritors’ is out to eat as many ‘Spiders’ as they can from across all dimensions. Coming together for mutual protection they have all ended up on Earth 003 which is a safe haven and from there they reach out trying to gather as many other dimensional clones as they can and seek a way to kill their hunters who so far seem to be invulnerable.

There are many disparagers of Greg Land, a quick internet search will lead you to many sites dedicated to his artistic talents, or depending on your perspective, his lack thereof. I have made jokes about it in the past and I do not care to go there again, but I wish to make judgement on a case by case basis. Therefore in that light all I can say is – this book is beautiful. The first panel of the first page is probably the worst of the entire book as Greg does not make the best of their lizard like riding beasts and for some reason it seems a bit out of focus, from there on this is a true feast for the eyes. One thing Greg can defiantly draw is pretty naked women and while no one in this book is ‘technically’ naked what we are taking about are a bunch of women with the ‘spray on’ style of costume and he does exactly what is asked of him. Yes there are a few facial expressions where they are supposed to be talking, but it appears they are trying to swallow a cucumber, but I will forgive those as this book is quite simply immaculate to look at in every other way.

So despite not having a clue what this book will feel like long term this is about as good a start as I could possibly ask for. It does help that I think Spider-Verse is about the most well constructed Event comic I have ever read and this does tint my appreciation for this comic. For me this is everything I want in a new comic; a character I am less familiar with, given a chance to show us why we should care about her, drawn by someone who makes everything look as perfect as possible, with stunning colour work as well and the promise of more to come.

Captain America #4 Review

by Dylan Duarte, CMRO Contributing Writer

Captain America

Issue #4

Written by Ed Brubaker, Art by Steve McNiven & Jay Leisten

Published: January 2012

Ever since Ed Brubaker took over the Captain America series, it’s been one of my favorite books and I’ve just grown to love Cap as a character. Brubaker took over the character for the series’ fifth relaunch and now, unless there’s something I’m missing, we’re onto number six.

Captain America, both the series and the character, has always been a little less whimsical than his comic book counterparts. That isn’t to say he doesn’t dabble in the fantastical – after all, his archenemy red skull has a red skull for a face – but he always seems to return to his roots of punching gun-toting henchman right in the face.

In American Dreamers, the first story arc of the sixth relaunch, Cap leaves his comfort zone – both figuratively and literally. The story deals with Jimmy Jupiter, a young boy who, during World War II, helped the allies by using his ability to open an alternate reality known as the Land of Nowhere. Jupiter, now a catatonic old man, is kidnapped by Hydra, who use his ability for nefarious purposes – starting with trapping Captain America in this other world.

Although Cap is now in a bizarre alternate reality, this issue is still a little less crazy than those before it, when we had the new Queen Hydra, Bravo Baron Zemo, and the Ameridroid, complete with Lyle Dekker’s mind trapped inside. Sheesh.

In the real world, Nick Fury, Sharon Carter, Falcon, and Dum Dum Dugan are trying to track down Hydra and Johnny Jupiter, while in the Land of Nowhere, Captain America is confronted by his old ally Bravo in a fantastic scene. It’s all coming to a head with the conclusion scheduled for the next issue and the action is ramping up nicely. This arc had a few rough spots where it just got too convoluted, but with Ameridroid out of the picture, Brubaker can focus on the new Hydra and Cap’s struggle with Bravo. Baron Zemo is still an odd inclusion and his purpose hasn’t been made entirely clear, so hopefully Brubaker can tie that up along with the rest of the story.