Marvel Comics hits their seventieth anniversary this year and, unlike their cross-town competition’s preference to ignore milestones of this nature, they plan to celebrate it. “Captain America Comics 70th Anniversary Special” kicks off the festivities for Marvel (formerly known as “Timely” during the era being celebrated). While this issue may fly under the radar for most, with a hefty price tag and an apparent lack of relevance, as it is not an “X-title” crossover issue of variant etch-a-sketch version, it carries a very strong message that is still relevant in today’s Marvel Universe. In this book, that message comes to us from James Robinson through the thoughts of Cap’s sidekick, Bucky.
Robinson, the guru of all things Golden Age, delivers a Cap story that, surprisingly, features very little of the star-spangled Avenger in his star-spangledness. Robinson writes a patriotically obsessed, 98-pound-weakling Steve Rogers, offering insight into the mind of the man who would one day be hailed as a super-soldier. Robinson’s writing takes the strengths of Golden Age storytelling and presents it to a modern audience, telling a straight-forward story of heroism and valiance. The issue summarizes the final pieces that lead to Rogers’ involvement in the super soldier program.
Similarly, Martin brings a stunningly sharp economic quality of line that at once seems both modern and Golden. His Cap is buff and heroic, his Steve Rogers frail and skeletal. The detail added in is less an attempt at photorealism as it is photo-realistic impressionism. Martin implies shapes and textures without having to render every feather, pebble, or scratch. When he chooses to render those details, however, it makes his work all the more impressive.
This issue is rounded out with a reprinting of Captain America’s adventures from the true Golden Age. As the world of 2009 sits on the precipice of another baseball season, Marvel presents “Captain America: Death Loads the Bases” by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby from the 1941 comic “Captain America Comics” #7. It’s an interesting marriage of tales presented here. This story plays less to the man behind the mask and more to the scare of the era. For fans needing a fix of the Steve Rogers Captain America, this combination of the Simon and Kirby reprint and Robinson’s pre-origin reprisal might just fill the gap. After all, as Bucky says in this story, “the thing that makes Captain America great is Steve Rogers.”
Maybe this 70th Anniversary celebration is leading somewhere or setting the stage for things to come, as teased in an advertisement in this book. A black page bearing a star and the single word “July” has already caused a bit of a stir. Maybe this 70th Anniversary comic is just good reading. Either way, at least Marvel knows how they should try to celebrate milestones. This issue, however, could have done with more Captain America for the cover price.