Captain America and Bucky #620 (Marvel Worldwide)
by Ed Brubaker, Marc Andreyko & Chris Samnee
I dropped this title a short while back when it was called just Captain America, right after the “Trial of Captain America” storyline. I’d lost interest in the book, because I felt the espionage/intrigue series that Brubaker had been writing for so long had slowly changed into a straightforward super-hero comic. I’ve returned to the series not for the new direction and historical backdrop, but rather because of how it looks. I’m a big fan of Chris Samnee’s artwork and have been since he illustrated the latter part of The Mighty from DC. Samnee doesn’t disappoint here. In fact, he seems to have stepped things up, offering smoother lines and greater detail in his comic art. It’s still quite attractive, and his original style still shines through. I hope he doesn’t abandon the simpler approach in his work completely, as it serves as the foundation of his compelling artwork. Samnee maintains a dark atmosphere throughout this issue, which works with the focus of the story, which is the pain that Bucky tries to hide and heal with violence. I’m a bit puzzled as to why Ed Guinness provides the artwork for the regular-edition cover, as his bombastic, cartoony style runs contrary to the tone of the contents.
This issue doesn’t feature a story so much as a character study. The title of the series tells us all we need to know about the plot here; we know Bucky is going to become Cap’s sidekick. So our focus instead is directed to what makes Bucky tick. I found the dichotomy in his makeup — a happy-go-lucky facade that’s in keeping with his classic sidekick portrayal, serving as a means to hide the simmering rage underneath — to be well-realized and convincing. Setting the story in the Second World War definitely capitalizes on the subject matter of the Captain America movie, and this introduction to the comic-book Bucky will help new readers to catch up on the differences between different incarnations of the character. Of course, one of the problems with it is that the dramatic tension is lacking, as the reader knows the title characters’ future fates. Fortunately, some strong characterization is enough to get me to come back to see what the creators have in store for future issues. 7/10
Damaged #1 (Radical Comics)
by David Lapham & Leonardo Manco
I didn’t think I’d care much for this comic book. Like many other Radical Comics offerings, it’s presented as a springboard for the big-screen treatment. The credits here listed Avatar star Sam Worthington as the executive producer of the comic (that’s not a publishing term), and Michael and John Schwarz as the creators of property. Fortunately, respected and skilled crime-comics writer David Lapham is the one responsible for the script. As I began reading, I worried that what we had here was a Deathwish/Punisher kind of thing, a violence-laden celebration of the anti-hero. Not my thing. To my surprise and pleasure, by the end of the issue, the brutal and bloodthirsty vigilante is actually portrayed as the antagonist. The focus shifts away from him to a pair of cops, one an experienced but ultimately dejected leader of a special task force, and the other a young, brash and idealistic cop who’s been hand-picked to replace the former. Capt. Frank Lincoln is a particularly well-realized character, and I like that despite all of the injustice he’s witnessed in his career, he still finds the notion of vengeance to be distasteful.
Leonardo Manco’s gritty, dark style is a nice choice for this crime drama, and I was pleased to get a chance to sample his work again. It’s much cleaner and more defined in Damaged than past projects, such as the Westerns he’s done, which boasted rough, loose linework that worked well with the subject matter. Here, there’s more of a painted look at play, which is in keeping with the general house style for Radical titles. Again, as with the script, it was Frank’s depiction in the artwork that I enjoyed the most about Manco’s effort on Damaged. He also does a great job with the backgrounds. There’s a sense that the events are unfolding in real places, making it easier to commit to the plot and premise. 7/10
DC Retroactive: Wonder Woman – The ’70s #1 (DC Comics)
by Dennis O’Neil, J. Bone & Dick Giordano
You know what impressed me the most about this unusual retro/reprint comic book? I’m exposing my inner grammar geek/copy editor, but I was most impressed with the proper use of an apostrophe in the title of this publication (as shown in the indicia on the final page). Too often, people write “the 70’s” when referring to a decade, which is, of course, wrong. Sorry, pet peeve. One of many. As for the main story, featuring new work from longtime writer Dennis O’Neil and somewhat newer artist J. Bone, I was disappointed, much to my surprise. Bone’s artwork isn’t at all what I expected. I found the title character to be quite unattractive and misshapen at times. the action unfolds awkwardly throughout the story, and Wonder Woman’s age seems to be in a constant state of flux. But the real problem with the new material is O’Neil’s plot. It’s all over the place and makes absolutely no sense. You know there’s a major problem when even the characters are pointing out issues with the story at the end. Instead of offering a story reflecting the 1970s, O’Neil instead offers something that’s far campier, much more Golden Age or Silver Age in tone than something from the burgeoning days of the Bronze Age of comics.
Fortunately, the reprint story that marks the second half of this one-shot is much stronger than the new material. The plot makes much more sense, for one thing. I had no idea that private eye Jonny Double was a supporting character during Wonder Woman’s powerless period in the ’70s. Some chauvinism is apparent in this story (Diana Prince once owned a dress shop?), but overall, the character is depicted as a strong female lead. I love the Indiana Jones vibe to the story. The reprinted piece also serves as a great showcase for the work of the late Dick Giordano’s art. His depiction of Diana is wholly feminine but hardly ever gratuitous; there’s a fleeting panty shot that’s out of place, but generally, the artist doesn’t go for the cheesecake shots at all. The only significant shortcoming of the artwork is the fact that Giordano’s backgrounds are lacking. My only real problem with this reprint selection is the fact that it’s not a self-contained story. A cliffhanger? Really? With no hint as to Jonny Double’s fate? 4/10
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