Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Captain America: Reborn #1 Review

Written by Ed Brubaker
Art by Bryan Hitch

Before I start tearing into this comic, know that I'm holding it to the ridiculously lofty standards of the actual Captain America comic that this story is picking up the threads from. It's also a comic that has received a large amount of hype and Marvel has invested a fair amount of time promoting as what I assume is their replacement for a big summer event for the year.

My little disclaimer out of the way, just what the hell was this? Are there two Ed Brubakers working for Marvel? This can't be the same writer that has been working on what has been quite possibly the best comic of the past five years or so, can it? This, this just can't be the same guy. It can't.

We've gone from a psuedo realistic comic, set in its own little bubble in the Marvel Universe with a core cast of characters and recurring villains and side characters that dove tail in and out of the story as need be, all in an organic nature, to this...thing. This issue featuers multiple, clunky narratives, magic time travel guns, a time travel resurrection plot that is just one big rip off of Slaughterhouse Five (or Lost for those that view television as the be all and end all of original ideas) and a bunch of new characters, most of whom have never even appeared in Brubaker's Captain America before, showing up to give boring, Wikipedia regurgitating recaps of past events and numerous other inconsistencies that just have me shaking my head over how big a train wreck this return of Steve Rogers is turning out to be.

The biggest problem I have with the issue is the afforementioned magic gun and time travel bullets or whatever they are. I was hoping, praying even, that Sharon Carter's dreams of Cap's return and the magic gun were just that, dreams. Unfortunately, they were not. They're actually going forward with the ridiculous retcon (and I can't see it as anything else) that the gun Sharon used to kill Captain America was some kind of hybrid Dr Doom time travel platform gun that fired bullets that somehow trapped Steve Rogers in the timestream.

This retcons the tragic and uncharacteristically real (or as a real as superhero deaths get) death of Steve Rogers on the stairs of a courthouse defending his principles and being the hero that he's always been and turns it into one big joke. Why would you even try and play this up in the mass media the way they did? This is something they make fun of comic books and their readers for when people try to defend the medium. It's ridiculous and one of the worst things I've ever read. I really can't see how this is from the same Ed Brubaker that's been writing the series all along. It's like some back door he pitched to Marvel to undo it that he thought would never be used and it's not being thrown back at him. I hope it's Marvel forcing him to do this because it's like he took everything he built over the past few years and just blew it up in our faces.

Another major problem with the issue is the art. I never thought I'd be saying this about Bryan Hitch, but his art is terrible here. It's rushed, sloppy and looks unfinished. Outside of the odd splashpage or random panel, this is far worse than anything he's been doing on Fantastic Four, where he was going for the looser and less detailed artwork in favour of a faster pace. There's also a definite feeling of deja vu with every second face looking almost identical to other people in the story or people from his Fantastic Four, which also came out this week. That said, it's not the worst art you'll ever see, but open your Ultimates or Authority or even Fantastic Four and you can see for yourself that this is far from the quality you'd expect from Hitch and, compared to Epting, Guice and Ross on the Captain America monthly, this just doesn't cut it for me.

Finally, as I'm just too animated over this series and borderline fanboy nerd rage here, I want to talk about the Captain America in time sequences. Many compared it to Lost's use of time travel, but it's much more like Slaughterhouse Five (great book, grab it for like $7 on Amazon or $10-15 at a bookstore) than Lost.

The basics of it is that Steve Rogers is trapped outside of time. I assume he actually died when he was shot, but he's not really dead in the traditional sense as he can experience any part of his life at any point in time and in any order. One moment he's dying, another he's at Normandy and yet another he can be reliving his time as a child. Actually, reliving is the wrong term as he's not dead and is actually alive and that is still the first time he is experiencing that moment, despite already knowing about it. Time just does not apply to him in the typical sense. At least, that's my understanding of what's happening to him so far.

To be truthful, I have no problem with reliving Cap's life and telling a great little retrospective tale celebrating the living (dead?) legend, but that is not what this story is about. This is about magic time bullets and stupid comic book physics to bring a character back from the dead and have an event about it. Go reread Captain America and just try and tell me that this series follows up on anything from it in a similar manner. It's like the switch from Thunderbolts to that Fight Club nonsense or as drastic (but no where near as entertaining) a switch up as X-Men to Morrison's New X-Men. It's like we threw the entire theme and feel of the book out the window.

Verdict - Avoid It. Unless you absolutely need to know why Steve Rogers is coming back or just want to continue the story from Captain America, I see no reason to pick this book up and would not recommend it to anyone looking for a continuation of what was going on in Captain America. Unless something drastic happens, I may even end up dropping both Reborn and the monthly Captain America over this.

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