Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Captain America Eulogies

Sadly, when I thought I had finally encountered the last mildew damage in my comic book collection, I as wrong. Here are more mini-obituaries, this time from my Captain America collection.

Captain America and the Falcon #203 (Nov. 1976). “Alamo II”. Grade: A-. Jack Kirby's pencils are not at their best; some of the figures are way off in proportion, even for Jack. The Falcon being brainwashed by insane scientists always struck me as too dark for this title. And yet, we get Texas Jack as a great, one-time sidekick; a terrific plot that mixes sci-fi and western genres; and, just as rare in Cap's book, we see him beating the bad guys by outsmarting them. I bought this issue just a few years ago, but it had a sequel in Marvel Team-Up that was the first issue I ever owned of Marvel Team-Up back in '76.

Captain America and the Falcon #204 (Dec. 1976). “Unburied One”. Grade: B. The best stuff here is Cap having to decide if he should retire to be with Sharon Carter or not. And there is a nice build-up of dramatic tension to the show-down next issue. The Falcon is still brainwashed, though (bleh), and the super-zombie is just...weird. Why does SHIELD think he's from the future again? I just read it and I don't get that part.

Captain America and the Falcon #205 (Jan. 1977). “Argon Walks the Earth”. Grade: B-. The opening is pretty effective, following through with last issue's cliffhanger promise of a shock. Argon does look pretty shocking when we see how he's changed this issue. Now the super-zombie is suddenly super-talkative and sounds just like a hundred of Stan Lee's villains. Is that intentional?

Captain America #247 (July 1980). “By the Dawn's Early Light!”. Grade: A+. Man, is it hard giving up the Stern/Byrne classic run on this title! Stern's mastery of Marvel continuity has seldom been matched and Joe Rubinstein brings out the best in anyone he inks. Even without Rubinstein, Byrne makes it all look so easy.

Captain America #248 (Aug 1980). “Death, Where Is Thy Sting?” Grade: A+. Even pursuing a fleeing Dragon Man for half an issue is exciting in these guys' hands. And the showdown with Machinesmith is remarkable for its surprise twist ending.

Captain America #251 (Nov. 1980). “Mercenary and the Madman.” Grade: A++. A two-page origin recap, the return of Batroc the Leaper and Mister Hyde – better handled than ever, Steve Rogers with stubble (a Byrne technique to humanize characters he would re-use with Mr. Fantastic and Superman later), more of Bernie, and a great cliffhanger!

Captain America #252 (Dec. 1980). “Cold Fire!” Grade: A+. Stern wisely leaves Mr. Hyde unstoppable by both Cap and Batroc, setting the stage for Hyde to be a much bigger menace when he next faces Spider-Man. Batroc is just too much fun. And the bonus feature reminding us about the not-seen-enough supporting great it would have been to see Stern stay on longer and develop them all more. Poor Bernie! J.M. DeMatteis tried to use her well when he took over, but he was never Roger Stern.

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