Most of Marvel Now’s Solo Avengers titles have taken the titular character out of their respective safety zones (Iron Man is in space, Thor is fighting God-killer on three different planes of time, and Hawkeye is in…well, Hawkeye’s in Brooklyn) and thrust them into bold and exciting new adventures independent of the happenings in the Avengers team books.
Rick Remender and John Romita jr. have taken the reigns of Captain America and did a complete 180, shifting the character from its super-spy-political-intrigue-thriller vibe of Brubaker’s acclaimed run to a slam-bang-sci-fi-rollicking-adventure that will knock your socks off! This book is great.
It opens with Cap saving New York City from the Green Skull, an Eco-terrorist hippie who wants to give the world back to plants…. by killing everybody. After quickly subduing him, Cap races off to meet his girlfriend and SHIELD liaison, Sharon Carter, for his next mission. Oh yeah and it’s actually Cap’s 90th birthday aaaand he’s mulling over a marriage proposal from Sharon while they enter a secret villainous underground subway to investigate its criminal doings. Cap is able to dodge her question by boarding the train as its last passenger, leaving Sharon behind.
As soon as the doors to the train close, the car interior changes from a normal subway car full of humans, to a high-tech transport pod filled with armed aliens, who cuff Cap to the pole and knock him unconscious as the car jumps into a different dimension, heading toward a giant citadel in the midst of a barren rocky land.
Cap awakens in a lab, bound to a metal gurney. Tubes run, from his arms to a tank with an infant afloat in it, pumping the child full of his super soldier enhanced blood. A familiar yet villainous voice over explains to Cap of his planed capture and eventual fate ala James Bond, while an over-sized hypodermic needle on a robotic descends and plunges deep into Cap’s chest. Suddenly recognizing the voice as Arnim Zola (last seen in Brubaker’s run possessed by the Red Skull, and creepily portrayed by Toby Jones in the Captain America movie), Cap breaks free and forcibly removes the needle from his chest. He grabs his shield and flings it Cap-style around Zola’s lab, destroying machinery and the infant’s tube as well. Cap narrowly escapes Zola and his mutates by diving out the window and stealing a passing a spacejet. Arnim’s other child, a girl named Jet Black, comes out amidst the destruction and is told that she will be trained for revenge against the man who killed her brother, and sends the mutates out to capture Captain America; the man who killed his son! Duhn duhn duhnnnn!
Meanwhile a severely injured Cap crashes his stolen spacejet far from the Citadel he escaped from and is barely able to crawl from the wreckage onto the desolate landscape of Dimension Z, and there, nestled safely n the hollow of his shield is the infant son of Zola, with nary a scratch on him. I know!
And this is just the first issue folks!
Remender has managed to pack as much action in a comic as one possibly can, fully immersing Cap in a new dimension (literally) of science-fiction high action not seen in a Captain America book in years. John Romita Jr. and Klaus Janson manage to pull off a beautiful Dark-Kirby rendering that gives the book a classic yet gritty modern look. Just when I think J.R. Jr. has reached the epitome of channeling the King of Comics (have you seen his work on Eternals? World War Hulk? Avengers vs. X men?) he proves me wrong. If Jack Kirby was the King of Comics, then John Romita Jr. is surely the crowned Prince.
When I mentioned Bladerunner in the title, I meant in tone, not subject matter. This is due to the combined talents of Klaus Janson and Dean White who add so much depth with. Janson’s shadowy inks and sharp lines giving depth and detail to JR Jr.’s pencils and a muted yet varied palette by Dean White. White’s colors (ha!) give the book realism, while reflecting the spectrum of colors presented in this harsh alien dimension and the toll it takes on Cap.
The next six issues show Cap spending nearly a decade on the run in Dimension Z. Not just from the native predators that populate the planet (the nearly humanoid Phrox (hunted by Zola for genetic stock), or the flying jellyfish-shark things, or stuff that looks like grass but really is just sensory organs for a giant underground monster or wait until to you see what Zola injected into Cap’s chest in the first issue!… I love this stuff) but from Zola’s mutates who are still hunting him, and conquering any life in Dimension Z for Zola to genetically modify into an army to invade earth.
If this isn’t enough of a threat, a fully grown Jet Black, is after him, seeking revenge. Now an assassin, trained in the art of Tachyon-Fu (what’s Tachyon Fu?? Read the book and find out!) she relentlessly leads an army of warped Captain America mutates through the wasteland looking for the man who killed her brother. Cap is trying to survive all this and at the same protect and raise his adopted son with his ideals, and with the hope of finding the tunnel containing the dimensional portal that can get him back to earth, in time to rally the Avengers against Zola’s invasion.
Amidst all this action and adventure are flashbacks to Steve’s depression era childhood, brought on by his sudden thrust into fatherhood. It’s during these segments we learn an important aspect of Cap’s character and are witness to some of the most female-empowering writing I’ve seen in comics.
Everything Steve Rogers ever learned about being a hero, he learned from his MOTHER. Yes his mom.
His impoverished, abused mother who stood up to a beating from Cap’s drunken lout of a dad and faced him down while protecting a young Steve from his wrath. When ask by little Steve why she didn’t just stay down like he said, she told him you always, always Stand Up. She taught him to protect others. And to keep hope, even in the worst of times, because his father was a good man, who lost hope and that can turn you into a bad man. She ingrained in him a sense of right and wrong and doing good right up to a deathbed lesson on redemption. The toughest woman in the marvel universe is Sarah Rogers. Word.
I look forward to seeing how Remender wraps up the Dimension Z story arc and well as his continued work on this title. With Romita and co., they make a creative team that’s sure to craft a Captain America run worthy of his creators. If you haven’t read Cap for a while, this book is so approachable to new and lapsed readers alike. Cap is an icon and has the weight and potential to carry a book on his on, not drenched in the continuity of crossovers and independent of the baggage of the current event book, and this is the right group of guys to pull it off. Check it out. Have some fun!