Saturday, July 2, 2011
Rebirth (Gruenwald Year 10, Waid Year 1)
Finally staggered to the end of writer Mark Gruenwald's ten year run on Captain America! By the end of it Cap was on his last legs too. Dying due to the breakdown of the super soldier formula, Cap spent his last day on Earth checking in on the soon to be disgarded Gruenwald era cast, then went upstairs to bed to get some rest. When the Avengers went to check on him, he had vanished.
And that's when the Mark Waid era starts! Cap is saved by his old enemy the Red Skull (using a cure the Skull had stolen from Suprema a few issues earlier) so that Cap can fulfill the mission he was born for- killing Adolf Hitler! It seems that the Skull trapped Hitler (who had been appearing in Marvel Comics for years under the name Hate-Monger) in an all-powerful cosmic cube. Unfortunately, Hitler has begun to take control of the cube, and he's pretty pissed at the Skull. The Skull decides to take no chances and ally himelf with Cap in a quest that he hopes will ultimately result in the Skull regaining control of the cube. Also allied with the Skull- Cap's dead girlfriend Sharon Carter- former agent of SHIELD!
It turns out rather than dying, Sharon had actually been cut loose by the government behind enemy lines for some reason. After a couple of years working as a mercenary (and believing herself to have been abandoned by Cap) she's returned with a very bad attitude. She's still basically a good guy (allied with the Skull merely to prevent Hitler from turning the world into a Nazi wonderland) but now she plays much rougher, and is a lot angrier.
This is also pretty entertaining stuff. With Waid writing (fairly early in his comics career) the book jumps ahead stylistically thirty ears... or more. The book goes from being a 1970s DC comic to a 21st century Marvel book. Thought balloons and narration boxes largely disappear. Cap gets a harder edge, and stories move briskly like a good action movie. Cap is still Cap, but it's a lot easier to believe that he spent a couple of years at the front in World War II.
Sadly, Waid's first run on the book was cut short when Marvel had the opportunity to hand the book to some big names in the industry. Perhaps that explains the general weakness of Waid's second arc. Cap was accused of leaking government secrets (perhaps unwillingly), and since President Clinton didn't have the heart to put him on trial, he was sent into exile instead... where he could more easily leak more government secrets. (Huh.)
In any event, Waid was pushed aside after only a year, in favor of a new vision of the book so crappy I'm not sure I can bring myself to write about it-- the "Heroes Reborn" era.
(Below: Mark Waid introduces himself in the Cap letterspage)