fairestcat: Steve Rogers dressed casually in a tank top, holding Captain America's shield (Steve and the shield)
[personal profile] fairestcat posting in [community profile] comics_reviews_etc
I posted this on tumblr and my dw right after issue #2 came out, but it didn't really get any conversation going, I'm hoping to have better luck here.

I loved Ed Brubaker's entire run on Captain America, and so was very nervous when I found out he was leaving the series. Brubaker's run and specifically the Winter Soldier arc was my gateway into the entire non-X-Men side of Marvel comics. I've been reading X-Men stuff for years, but had made the firm decision to not even peek into the rest of the universe for the sake of my wallet. And then I fell in love with Steve Rogers and Bucky Barnes and...yeah. There went that one.

When Rick Remender was announced as the new writer for Cap and interviews and stories started appearing describing the completely different direction he planned to take the series in I became a bit more hopeful, but still decidedly trepidatious.

I think it would have been a mistake for any writer to try and follow Brubaker's run with more stories in that same style. A clean break and new direction makes it easier for readers to evaluate the new series on its own merits, rather than in direct comparison to the Brubaker's issues. I also loved the idea of a more pulp SF take on a Captain America story because, well, I'm a total sucker for that kind of thing.

But I was nervous about that take too, you can't get much further away from Brubaker's gritty, street-level take on the character than to take him into a crazy alternate dimension. And I've always been somewhat hit and miss on Remender's writing. I know a lot of people love his run on Secret Avengers, but I ended up dropping the book from my pull list because I found it muddled and slow-moving and it just wasn't holding my interest. On the other hand, I unreservedly adore John Romita Jr.'s art. Although again, it's about as far away from the great art from Steve Epting, Butch Guice and others that so epitomized Brubaker's run as you could get. So, I was nervous, but intrigued enough to keep Captain America in my subscriptions and give the first couple issues a go.

Issue #1 was a lot of setup, but had some really awesome moments before Steve got kidnapped into Dimension Z.

First we find out that it's Steve's 90th birthday:

Steve: What is it?
Sharon: A colorfully festooned box with a surprise inside. You must have had presents back in ye olden times.
Steve: Fire and the warmth of a wooly mammoth's pelt were gifts enough. But thanks, Sharon, you really shouldn't have.
Sharon: Not every day your boyfriend turns 90.

Then it's revealed that Sharon Carter recently proposed to Steve, and he hasn't answered, but is clearly thinking about saying yes.

Sharon: Okay, distant -- what's bothering you?
Steve: Don't like walking into anything without knowing the likely outcome.
Sharon: Is that why you've been avoiding talking about…us?
Steve: I'll admit, Sharon, your proposal caught me off-guard. In my day it was the man who asked.
Sharon: If I'd waited for you to ask I'd be 90 as well. Even the greatest tactician can't see the future. Life is a risk. I'm not asking you to stop being Captain America… But I'd like to spend my life with Steve Rogers.

Steve: I'll go. We'll talk tonight.
Sharon: Steve, I lo--
Man: C'mon, then. Hurry up.
She's right. I'm disappearing into the uniform. But marriage…might not be so bad. Force me to have a life again. I sometimes forget how to be a normal person. I've been the soldier for so long…might be there's no turning back.

Which, of course, is right when he gets kidnapped into Dimension Z, drugged and injected with something by Armin Zola and then escapes into the night with a rescued newborn baby, who's apparently Zola's son. That right there, friends, is why I love comics. Where else do you get to write a sentence like that with a completely straight face!

I knew for sure I would love this arc when I opened issue #2 on an all-black page that just reads "ONE YEAR LATER."

I LOVE stories that play with time. Time travel, lost in time, frozen in time and woken up in the future, trapped in a dimension where time runs differently, stories that play with time are inherently fascinating to me. (I'm assuming that time is going to turn out to run differently in Dimension Z, since Steve is still appearing in several other monthly comics at the moment.) Part of the appeal of Steve Rogers is that he's a man defined and changed by time. He's a man out of time, and always has been. In WWII he was a fantastic product of futuristic science. In the present he's a fascinating reminder of times and technologies past.

Now in Dimension Z he is even more adrift than ever, out of his comfort zone and out of the familiar in every way possible. He's scruffy, he's battered, he's in a land where none of his skills in observation and navigation work, and the biggest change of them all, the biggest step outside the usual life of Steve Rogers, Captain America? He's a dad. Fighting not just for his own survival, but to protect and care for the little boy, Ian, who trusts him and depends on him and calls him "Papa".

That calm smile of his -- a constant reminder. He's in this situation because of me.
Steve: We'll find food tomorrow. I promise.
Some hard days behind us, but no matter how bad it's been, Ian never flinches. Trusts me to get him through it.

It's a role I never thought to see Steve Rogers in, and in any other setting, in other place, I don't know if it'd be a story that interested me. But within this context, within Dimension Z, it works beautifully. Steve's fought against impossible odds many times, against unspeakable horrors, and villains of every stripe. Dimension Z is weird and challenging and disorienting, but it's not on its own completely divorced from anything Steve's had to face before. But fatherhood, facing as hard and dangerous and treacherous a fight as he's ever had to face while protecting a child, that's what really takes Steve out of his comfort zone and makes this more than just another story of a hero fighting against yet-more-impossible than the last impossible odds.

Ian: I'm scared, Papa.
Steve: Listen to me--we're okay, I'll find a way--

Amidst the wild impossibility of Dimension Z, I appreciated that Remender did not forget about Sharon Carter, and Steve's relationship with her. In this issue we find out what was in that little wrapped box. It's a single bullet, engraved with the word "Diligence."

Nights are the worst. When Ian's sleeping, and no longer in need of constant attention. Leaving me to ponder harsh realities. What happens if I can't find the way home? How long can we keep doing this? Stranded here, fighting forever--

As a gift from Sharon to Steve a bullet is wonderfully complicated and layered with complex and conflicting meanings to unpack. She once, rather famously, shot and seemingly killed him, while brainwashed by Dr. Faustus and the Red Skull. More recently, their relationship was tested when she saved his life by shooting and killing his old friend Dennis Dunphy aka D-Man, who'd himself been brainwashed. Destruction and salvation, all of Steve and Sharon's recent relationship, and in many ways all of Brubaker's run of the series, has hinged on the precarious balance between the two. And "Diligence", is a word that sums up Steve -- sums up Captain America -- but also that fits Sharon Carter too. A woman who's commitment to S.H.I.E.L.D. -- to being a soldier and a hero -- has led her to make some difficult and painful choices.

(I was telling the whole complicated Steve/Sharon saga to my wife earlier and she said, "well, isn't it probably smarter for a superhero to marry someone who's already shot them? It's the superhero world, it'll happen eventually anyway. At least this way it won't be a surprise later.)

The one thing I'm still ambivalent about in the new series is the one thing I thought I would be most excited about when I heard about it in interviews, and that's the flashbacks to Steve's childhood during the depression. Some of Remender's choices in how he portrays Steve's early life ring false for me, and I don't love Romita's art as much in the flashbacks as I do in the present-day segments.

But that's a minor quibble in a series that's otherwise hooked me completely. For all that this book is nothing like the one I first fell in love with, this Steve Rogers very much is. And I'm incredibly excited to see where Remender and Romita take him from here.

Date: 2012-12-30 11:06 pm (UTC)
bethbethbeth: (Avengers Steve in Leather (daxcat79))
From: [personal profile] bethbethbeth
well, isn't it probably smarter for a superhero to marry someone who's already shot them? It's the superhero world, it'll happen eventually anyway. At least this way it won't be a surprise later.

Hahahaha. Ain't that the truth. :)

You know, I bought the first issue when it came out (I've been giving a lot of the Marvel Now! #1's a try) and then - even though I liked it - I let it sit. But this past week, I bought #2 and yeah, Steve as a father: who knew that in the midst of all this alternate dimension weirdness that that would have been the thing that really hooked me.

(btw...could you edit your post to add Remender's name to the end of the subject line? Thanks!)

Date: 2012-12-31 07:05 pm (UTC)
merisunshine36: white rose floating candle (Default)
From: [personal profile] merisunshine36
As a post-Avengers film comics person, I'm actually excited to be getting into things now with so many new series starting--it makes me feel less overwhelmed about playing catch-up.

The shield!baby made me both laugh and 'awwww', and while I'm not much for kid-centric plotlines, seeing Steve fight monsters with a toddler in tow is pretty amusing. I also enjoyed the bit of Steve/Sharon drama, although I very much *did not* enjoy Steve being added to the Children of Abusive Parents club. You'd think being a sickly poor kid would be enough angst, but nooooo.

I'm of two minds on the art. In the flashbacks, people's faces sometimes had a...smooshy? quality that I didn't like. But I adored everything that took place in the Z Dimension, and also really enjoyed how he drew Sharon. I also noticed that Sharon and Sarah had nearly the same hair style. I wonder if that was supposed to be an intentional parallel or if Romita just isn't interested in lady hair :)

Date: 2013-01-19 12:51 pm (UTC)
ellid: (Default)
From: [personal profile] ellid
Well, they say that men always fall in love with women who resemble their mothers....

Date: 2013-01-19 12:49 pm (UTC)
ellid: (Default)
From: [personal profile] ellid
I actually rather like the flashbacks...but man oh man, I wish someone, anyone, would give Romita Jr. a book on historic costume, because Sarah Rogers would *not* have dressed like that in 1926. 1916, entirely possible, but by the 1920s women's costume (even for poor women who couldn't afford to buy more than one or two outfits a year) simply didn't look like that.

Otherwise I'm with you: I'm liking this a *lot*. Steve being a father works surprisingly well.


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