Robot 6

The Fifth Color | Different states of Captain America

Captain America #11

the cover to Captain America #11 by Carlos Pacheco

Everyone needs a little reinvention now and then. It’s human nature to take a look at ourselves and try on a different hat to see if it changes anything. Halloween, cosplay, even just a vacation to another place can be a way to escape the person we are now for the person we could be. Sometimes, the reinvention sticks; after all, none of us is who we were in high school. Sometimes it’s a terrible idea that we can pull ourselves out of, like a bad haircut. Either way, who we are remains essential while the trappings can change for a fresh perspective.

Comic characters need the same thing, much to our chagrin. Some of these heroes have been around for 60 or 70 years, so obviously they can’t be the same people they were in World War II. There have been cultural shifts that practically demand characters change to keep up with the times and standards; we just don’t call characters “Lass” or “Lad” anymore, and Sue Storm’s early Invisible Girl years can be embarrassingly sexist. Comic book characters have to retain their audience, if not attract a new one every generation, and a new costume can go a long way in creating a water mark for when fans started reading a particular title. Most of all, creative teams demand these changes as no one wants to write the same character over and over, year after year, without a chance to make their mark on the hero’s legend. And much like a bad haircut, sometimes these changes don’t go over very well with fans; this still does not change the character at heart.

It can be even more difficult when a comic book character is more than a hero, but a symbol of a country. Rick Remender and John Romita Jr. have brought us 10 issues of a new chapter in Captain America’s life and there has been so much change it might be hard to swallow. Because Ed Brubaker and Steve Epting were so wildly successful with their reinvention eight years ago, we’re having a hard time letting go of what was working for something new and decidedly different. That doesn’t mean it’s a bad haircut to be suffered through; if anything, a reinvention can help fans look at a beloved hero in a new way, just another facet of their history and character.

WARNING: We’ll be talking about the Marvel NOW! run of Captain America and, mostly spoilerly, Captain America #10 where a bunch of stuff happens. Grab your copies and read along!

Remender looks at Captain America in a way that, at heart, isn’t that new at all. Since he pulled Steve Rogers into another dimension, he’s worked on developing very different tests for Cap that aren’t the political thrillers we’ve come to know and love since 2005. Still, the character and his essential traits and conflicts are still there, just as they were under Brubaker’s pen; they’re just being shown in a different landscape. By taking him out of the Marvel Universe and into Dimension X, we’re seeing Steve Rogers in a strange morality sandbox where anything is possible. Wide swaths of subjugated aliens? Sure! Infinite cloning vats run by a madman? Why not? Some sort of cruel apocalyptic landscape to suffer and struggle through? It all adds to the sense of isolation that hones in on Cap’s strengths and weaknesses as if he was under a microscope.

from Captain America #10 by John Romita Jr.Remender is sort of kicking the tires on his new series, so to speak, putting Captain America under extreme pressure by stripping him of everything but his moral core and never-say-die attitude. No Avengers to rally, no resources to gather or intelligence to rely on, just a man at his core beliefs. Very aptly, Remender noted with CBR that Steve Rogers’ story shouldn’t start with Hitler and the War, but the foundations that made his ascension to Super-Soldier status possible.

That helps unearth and really refocuses what drives this guy. It shows how big a part of the American dream he actually is. One generation later, the son of immigrants is the standard for their new nation. That’s pretty wonderful, and I really wanted to draw that out and refocus on it. Because that to me is the character, an embodiment of the American dream.

In Dimension X, Steve Rogers got a taste of a life he didn’t know he wanted only to have it ripped away from him. The very notion of compassion was challenged as Zola dramatically debated it with his children and Captain America tried to instill the virtue in the young and the downtrodden. Family was brought up in a way that I don’t think has ever been tested for a man most likely brought up to strive for such; after all, post-World War II the American Dream was considered a family, kids and a house in the suburbs. Dimension X was a microscope right into the heart of Steve Rogers, less the symbol of America and more the man at its current core. Obviously, there is no story without strife and all of these things that Captain America has gotten a taste for are cruelly ripped away from him. Ian, the boy he raised as his own and passed on his values to, is corrupted and killed. Sharon Carter, the woman who had been to his rescue through his own death, rebirth and beyond, puts down Zola at the possible cost of her own life. (Brief side note: if you actually believe Sharon Carter is Dead dead, I have a bridge in Brooklyn I’d like to sell you; if anything, this ‘death’ leaves her some room for reinvention as well) As he escapes Dimension X, Rick Remender’s test of Cap’s character continues.

I always consider solo books different worlds from the team titles and guest star spots in other books. One, this saves my brain the impossible task of trying to read everything to keep anything straight and two, it makes the solo titles all the more precious. In Captain America, we can take the time to really study Steve Rogers without and without of his great heroics. We can hone in with that microscope and find out what makes him tick without the contamination of event book theatrics or other characters vying for the spotlight. Remender’s take on the Sentinel of Liberty might differ wildly from what came before and, confusingly enough, what’s going on elsewhere, but that doesn’t make any of those interpretations wrong or more correct than the others. It just makes them another state in a larger country.

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11 Comments

Remender’s take on Captain America is a pastiche of Jack Kirby’s return to the character in his first volume circa 200. Kirby’s whacky take, at the time, was also not well received because Cap had been written in a similar fashion to Brubaker beforehand. See, nothing is really that original anymore.

Still, I haven’t exactly hated Remender’s run, but like many things Marvel and DC are doing these days, they drag it out way too long. Cap has been my favourite character for 38 yrs but I find that I’m buying the book more out of loyalty than interest at the moment. Still, I have hopes that Remender will be able to recharge this book after this disappointing arc. I’m in to deep to ever leave the title, but personally I find Dynamite Comics titles like the Shadow more compelling these days.

I have loved Captain America for years but Remender is just a terrible fit for this book. Once again he does nothing new has Sharon show up for no reason other then to “kill” her off and go back to his standered of sad angst ridden hero trying to fight all his emotional pain.

I hate to say it but Remender is just a one demionsial writer and his Captain America has been terrible after a decent start he dropped the ball and now we are stuck with a story he has told a hundred times before with Venom and the Punisher.

After a few years out of comics, Brubaker’s Cap got me going to the store again. It was an awesome run.

And that run of Frankencastle got me loving the work of Remender – that fight with Daken where Frank gets hacked to pieces; who knew what would follow? I never bought a Venom book and never would have bought one if his name wasn’t in it (early issues of Tony Moore didn’t hurt). I’ll admit that I wanted this Cap arc to end a little sooner, but I really liked it. Captain America is one of those characters that can work in all sorts of stories, and RR gave me a story I wasn’t expecting. I’m certainly looking forward to what’s next – especially his return to some creator owned books like Black Science.

And wasn’t it Dimension Z? Like Zola?

Hate to be a bugger here but… It’s Dimension “Z”.

No wrong or right interpretation, yes. Every loyal writing can always enrich the character.
E.g: The next arc about Cap A and Nuke.
Jason Aaron wrote their encounter in Ultimate Captain America (2011).
Remender’s approach to the 616 encounter will be different. The comparison between both stories can be an interesting wrinkle to Cap’s mythology.

I loved Brubaker’s Cap, but I gotta say I was getting pretty bored with it towards the end – from the Reborn mini and on…And it actually felt like Brubaker was feeling he’d taken the character as far as he could go, too. So yeah, I liked Remender’s different direction a great deal. It felt fresh and kept me coming back. I’ll stick with it for a while.

I agree with Z-Ram. I loved the Bru run but he jumped the shark with REBORN (A time bullet? Really?) and I was ready for something different. I don’t get too worked up about my comic books anymore and look at this Remender run too as something similar to Kirby’s mid 70s run. It isn’t being defined by the quality though but more from just being such a radical turn from the previous era. That isn’t always a bad thing.

Captain America is my all-time favorite character but I think Remender’s run in Dimension Z was too long. That said I have no problems with what Marvel is currently doing with the character outside of the TERRIBLE redesign of his costume. To get rid of the classic elements for updating purposes is okay but this amalgamation of Ultimate Cap/Movie Cap/Joe Quesada Doesn’t Think Kirby’s Design Is Any Good with a chin strap and knee pads looks as dumb as Superman in armor. Yet they kept the John Cassaday bird feather chainmail. Please make him look more like a superhero in comic book rather than a “real life” character after Infinity is over.

Brubaker’s Cap is overrated.

Just sayin’.

“Everyone needs a little reinvention now and then. It’s human nature to take a look at ourselves and try on a different hat to see if it changes anything.”

I disagree with this. I disagree with the article. I disagree that great characters who have been around for decades suddenly need “reinvention” or new costumes or new origins or new personalities, etc. I disagree with anybody who thinks decades-old characters should be reinvented for each new generation.

What I believe is, the reason the great characters have been around for decades (before some knucklehead decided they need changing) is because the creators GOT IT RIGHT the first time. I don’t believe Captain America, or Superman, would even be around at all today if their early editors had allowed their artists to alter their appearance like they do today.

Sticking with those two examples, Cap and Supes — and limiting the discussion to costume changes — their costumes were perfect for the first 65 years or so, and now all of a sudden they need to be revised by Jim Lee or somebody? Chin straps? Get out a here with that stuff.

The original costumes were based on the larger than life heroes of the day: circus performers. Younger generations barely know what a circus is. They identify with real military uniforms and hollywood spectacle now. To attempt to keep the characters relavent, Marvel has attempted to bring the characters up-to-date. They haven’t really succeded because no one draws them consistently. Why were old costumes more succesful? They were more economic and editors held artist to the model sheet. The less-is-more principle of good design wins out over more-detail-is-better principle every time. But modern management bends to the whims of superstar artists a) who want it the way their egos tell them it should be or B) can only draw it the way their photo reference material will allow them to.

I’ve read online where posters complain about Marvel’s “House Style”. There was never really any House Style other than the characters were drawn on-model. You can’t look at a Buscema comic and say that it looks like Kirby or Adams or Kane or Romita from back in the day. It seems that somewhere along the line this myth (maybe started online?) about drawing something on-model equals holding the artist back. Unfortunately, being a consistent, reliable pro nowadays gets you called a “hack” by a lot of people on the internet. I’ve seen interviews with Tom Brevoort saying that comics have to evolve with the times but what happens when that evolution involves dwindling sales?

If you’re a Hollywood producer and you can’t get past Captain America’s swashbuckler boots, whatever. But if you produce comic books and you can’t get past them, find a new job.

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