Time for some new capsules reviews, this time covering Captain America #698, The Damned #8, Dark Knights Rising: The Wild Hunt #1 and Marvel Two-in-One #3.
Captain America #698 (Marvel Entertainment)
by Mark Waid and Chris Samnee
This is a solid Captain America comic featuring the titular hero inspiring an oppressed people to rise up against tyranny. It depicts him being adaptable in the face of ideological heartbreak. In other words, it’s a quintessential Cap story. That being said, it almost feels a little too formulaic for a Cap comic written by Mark Waid. The writer is clearly taking cues from real-life political discord, telling a story about the potential pitfalls of the government and policy dysfunction in which America finds itself immersed at the moment. Waid’s plot and script are far from subtle; his storytelling is being driven by the issues that concern him, and that’s a solid approach. However, it doesn’t feel particularly fresh. Another storyline about Cap being trapped in a dystopian future — written by Rick remender with art by John Romita Jr. — is still fairly fresh in people’s minds, and this take feels a little familiar. On the other hand, I suspect there’s something of a bait-and-switch in store, and not one that involves time travel or interdimensional portals.
My reason for suspecting as much stems from several of the designs of background characters. Samnee’s depiction of the spoiled elites in this alt future are such caricatures of overindulged privilege that they don’t even seem real or even plausible. they seem like facsimiles, and I can’t help but suspect that that’s exactly what they are — that this is some sort of illusion or facade in which Cap finds himself trapped. It would certainly be a novel development to see the protagonist freed from one trap (the block of ice) only to find himself in another. Given the strength of this creative team, I’m on board with this title for the long haul, but I hope subsequent issues boast the sort of innovation I’ve come to expect when this writer and artist work together. 7/10
The Damned #8 (Oni Press)
by Cullen Bunn & Brian Hurtt
I’ve been enjoying Cullen Bunn and Brian Hurtt’s latest collaboration from the start and I never miss an issue, which should come as no surprise, given that was the case with their work on The Sixth Gun as well. I love the blend of noir crime drama with the occult here, again just as I enjoyed the mix of western action and the supernatural in The Sixth Gun. The Damned is just as entertaining as its older sibling title, but I have to admit it feels as though they’re very similar books. Bunn handles this sort of fare incredibly well, so it’s hard to begrudge him playing to that strength. On the other hand, this doesn’t feel all that different from the previous work. Nevertheless, give them the strength of The Damned, I’m still entertained and pleased. I think what I found most interesting about this story arc, “Prodigal Sons,” are the apparent changes we see in Eddie and Morgan from their time as children to adulthood. Their rough and street-smart attitudes as grown men speak to the incredible trauma they must have undergone since their prim-and-proper upbringing in a world of privilege. It really made me want to learn more about those intervening years, and I hope Bunn takes us down those paths in the future.
Another striking contrast about the protagonist brothers and their childhood incarnation is to be found in their physical portrayals. I love that Morgan, the younger and smaller of the two children, becomes the more physically imposing presence in adulthood. Hurtt also deserves credit for his betrayal of the demonic mobsters, instilling an inhuman look while also bringing something of a blue-collar, grounded simplicity to these supernatural bruisers. Colorist Bill Crabtree makes a vital contribution to the atmosphere of key sequences in the story. The blanched, limited color palette he employs for the scenes set in the Land of the Dead really makes for an eerie, unnatural feel. 8/10
Dark Knights Rising: The Wild Hunt #1 (DC Comics)
by Scott Snyder, Grant Morrison, James Tynion IV, Joshua Williamson, Howard Porter, Jorge Jimenez, Doug Mahnke & Jamie Mendoza
As a long-time DC reader and fan of i’s shared superhero continuities over the decades, there’s a lot for me to love in this latest “DC Metal” one-shot. Detective Chimp. Rex the Wonder Dog. Grant Morrison’s multiverse concepts. A conclave of evil scientists trying to save reality. Disparate characters brought together for a common purpose. I have to admit I was definitely amused, but I must also acknowledge this is an absolute hot mess. I don’t know how the plot arrived at this point, and I’ve been reading just about all of the comics in this crossover event. I’m also getting tired of seeing hero after hero proclaiming their belief in a last ditch attempt at salvation, only to be told by villain after villain that there is no hope. The audience knows there’s hope, because the audience knows there’s more DC comics and superhero yarns to come in the weeks, months and years ahead. There are four writers listed in the credits for this one shot, and it certainly reads as though it was written by committee. There’s a scattered, unfocused quality here, and one would expect greater clarity and focus to come into play as the story nears its conclusion.
Here’s a bit of a quibble: the main event title is called Dark Nights: Metal, whereas this one-shot is titled Dark Knights Rising: The Wild Hunt. Is it Nights or Knights? Either works; pick one. The branding across the board for this event has been muddled and unnecessarily layered.
While the participation of four writers appears to have weakened the comic, the contributions from three different pencillers fortunately didn’t have the same result. Howard Porter, Jorge Jimenez and Doug Mahnke all boast exaggerated and/or intense styles that suit the frenetic and desperate tone of this cosmic action story. Visually, I have to say my favorite elements of this book were those depicting Detective Chimp’s origin, but that’s probably because it was a calmer, less complicated aspect of the story. 5/10
Marvel Two-in-One #3 (Marvel Entertainment)
by Chip Zdarsky & Valerio Schiti
The first thing that struck me about this issue was a disappointing element. After only two issues, we have a fill-in artist. Jim Cheung’s distinct style and crisp linework is nowhere to be found (save for on the regular cover), and instead we get a looser look from artist Valerio Schiti. His storytelling is fairly capable, but it pales in comparison to Cheung’s far more striking style. During the action sequence, Schiti’s style reminded me of the art of Stuart Immonen, and there’s a lot of fun and energy in that scene. The main point of this issue is to delve deeper into a character briefly introduced in the first issue, but since she looks so different here — and acts so differently as well — it made for a couple of confusing moments.
I do enjoy how writer Chip Zdarsky is availing himself of just about any Marvel character in this revived team-up series. Bringing Hercules into the fold is certainly in keeping with the more fun and irreverent leanings of the story, though it also felt oddly random. However, I did find it a bit frustrating that after three issues, the plot really has an advanced all that much. The main antagonist of the story hasn’t even been clearly identified yet. While the slower pace and inclusion of several colorful characters remind me of the longer story arcs from the classic Marvel Two-in-One series, “The Fate of the Four” is really calling for a more focused sense of direction. I’m still enjoying myself, but I’m anxiously awaiting some more concrete developments in the plot. 6/10