Sunday, December 18, 2016

Paneled Goods: Captain America Epic Collection Volume 12

How was your Thanksgiving? Hopefully you had time to kick back and relax. My original plans were to basically eat and drink a bunch while catching up on movies in the theater but I got sick like a loser. Instead of venturing out to Happy Hour or the multiplex, I spent most of my long weekend napping, reading and online shopping. I did manage to hit Pulp Fiction on Friday as they have a giant store filled with discount graphic novels and comics. Marvel has begun releasing Epic Collections, full color runs of their most iconic titles. While on my quick trip across America, I stopped into Des Moines, Iowa to see some friends who were holding my comic book collection from Ohio and sadly did not find my cache of Captain America! Maybe it's in some different boxes but I had a sizeable run from the 60's through the 2000's. I did find the Cap cache of toys and trinkets though. Anyways, coming back to California without my stack of comics, I wanted to see what Pulp Fiction had and ended up with Volume 12 from 1985-1986 with issues #302 through #317.

These Epic Collections are quite nice, full color with some supplemental material like Letters to the Editor, corresponding Annuals or sketches and concept art. Paul Neary does most of the art with clean pencils, detailed backgrounds and a kinetic style supplemented by a chipper pastiche of smiles while editor Mark Gruenwald officially takes over writing as he feels like he's got a grasp on our Star Spangled Avenger. We get some excellent character snapshots with staples like Jack Monroe's Nomad trying to get out of the shadow of Cap, fiance Bernie Rosenthal losing her job and questioning her future with Steve. Our boy is all over the place here, hard charging and idealistic. One issue he randomly goes to Britain after being hit with some crazy psychic bolt to team up with Captain Britain to fight a contemporary of Merlin, you know from King Arthur, like you does. In another he rails against his ad agency editor about advertising putting possessions over people. Which is good though because it leads him to drawing for Marvel Comics, on Captain America! In a bit of meta-hilarity, we learn that Avengers butler Jarvis provides basic stories to Marvel and signs off, another revenue stream and positive exposure, I guess. Thanks to Jarvis we also learn that Captain America's favorite post workout repast is a GRILLED AMERICAN CHEESE SAMMICH AND GLASS OF MILK. Holy shoot, time to get Captain America YOKED.

Later on Cap runs into the Serpent Society who have formed an organized mercenary squad to carry out all your criminal or murder-centric needs. Our favorite flying head MODOK is sadly their quarry and is taken out. Later, Steve ends up with a million bucks from Army back pay and instead of using it on himself or his lady, decides to start up his national hotline. Through and through we see his relationship with Bernie deteriorating because come on, Cap's gotta fight the good fight, but it's still sad when she up and leaves him for law school, putting their engagement in limbo (psst, they don't make it). It's great to have the issues in full color but I miss seeing the ads from regular issues so you can get a context of the era. There's a funny inclusion of readers writing in, freaking out about a panel where Cap's nose is missing a line so it looks like he doesn't have one? I honestly didn't notice it and thought the schnoz was outlined plenty but whatever.

In addition to Gruenwald and Neary, these issues would not be possible without the contributions of Michael Carlin, Roger Stern, Frank Miller, Josef Rubinstein, Dennis Janke, Al Williamson, Jim Massara, Howard Mackie, Michael Higgins, Lynn Varley, Ken Feduniewicz, Al Milgrom, Jim Novak and Diana Albers.

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