Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Weird(cool) Panels: Castaway Cap in Dimension Z

On my WonderCon action item list was to pick up some Captain America from the recent 2012 run by Rick Remender and John Romita, Jr.  After all the blah blah blah about Brubaker's turn (brought back Bucky and had Cap get killed by a sniper, lazyyyyyy), which blew no wind up my skirt, it was interesting to see Cap was getting sent to an alternate dimension in a total change of pace.  Thanks to the massive success of The Winter Soldier, Cap comics were everywhere and I picked up the first 10 issues in hardcover graphic novel and single issue format for cheap.  I'm not sure where things stand in the Steve Rogers/Captain America universe as I haven't read comics regularly in about 10 years.  Here, we see Steve still with Sharon Carter who apparently has proposed to him.  For whatever reason, Steve is still written as kind of a straight arrow goofball when he should be the Robert Redford of comic books; a complex brooder disguised as a handsome movie star.  Things get going quickly as Rogers is teleported to Dimension Z where old villain with a giant face in his chest Arnim Zola has created his own world, killing and experimenting on the local native race, the Phorx.

Zola is looking to exploit the Super Soldier serum running through Cap's veins to augment his two children but the mighty Avenger escapes, taking Zola's son with him.  Dubbing the boy Ian, Cap and new son travel the harsh alien wasteland.  In between foraging for food, (Cap cooks soup in his shield!) and fighting with decapitation happy lizard/dinosaur looking aliens, 10 years pass before Cap finally figures out a way to get back home.  The issues read extremely fast and I breezed through the first 5 issues in one sitting.  Remender and Romita, Jr. do a solid job of telling an offbeat saga which shows Captain America's determination to stand up and be a good man while defending those who cannot defend themselves.  All of the alien world action is inter-cut with flashbacks from Steve's  childhood which expand on his father being an abusive alcoholic and the passing of his mother.  In my memory, most of his childhood is only given a panel's glance or fleeting line of dialog but here, Steve's history is really opened up and helps set up his current mindset in fighting Zola and taking care of Ian.

Romita Jr's art is equal parts snappy, explosive and grungy.  That was one of my main peeves with Brubaker's run, regular artist Steve Epstein's art tries to be pseudo real and just came off as boring.  There was no zip or POW! to anything.  Thank 9/11 and the X-Men movie for making comics go dark but end of the day this is a guy who survived a science experiment and fought through World War II in a flag colored outfit carrying a big metal wok on his arm, so let's try to keep it fun, entertaining AND educational, shall we?  Since Cap has been stuck in Dimension Z for so long, his costume is falling apart and his appearance gets a bit mangy with long hair, beard and proverbial bloodied face from battle.  Romita's art has an innocent, cartoonish quality with big eyes and smooth cheeks on the children and va va voom curves on the females which juxtaposes nicely with some big action scenes, explosions and alien creature mayhem.  One thing that kind of bothered me was the ever changing size of Cap's shield.  But in an unusual device, it always seems to be smaller than you'd expect, almost coming off like he's holding a Frisbee on his arm.

While it's been a fun read, Captain America escaping Dimension Z isn't enough to get me back into comics regularly, especially at $4 bucks a pop per issue.  That's why conventions are great, you can catch up on just about any series and not be at the whim of a dying business nickel and diming you.  The comic book industry is adapting to new technology though as advertisements and promos for free digital issues are everywhere inside the issues.  But until I can get a tablet the size of a comic book, I'll stick to the real thing.

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