Adi Granov and Andy Diggle’s “Captain America: Living Legend” #1 spans several decades and gives a peek at both a modern Steve Rogers as well as a younger Cap near the end of World War II, and also a sequence in between featuring the series’ eventual presumptive villain. The fate of this character, as well as the full relevance of this middle sequence, isn’t revealed in this introductory issue, giving readers a basic enough reason to pick up the next.
Besides that and this issue’s good looks, though, the debut issue doesn’t have many strengths. Granov and Diggle’s premise, centering on an uneasy former Soviet ally of Cap during the war, is solid enough, but Diggle’s script is unremarkable and doesn’t deliver any kind of real thrill or excitement. The dialogue has no flair, and while not derivative or cliched, lacks any kind of unique flavor. Russian soldiers fight for the motherland, Soviet agents speak of Orwellian-type revision of past events, and even Cap himself talks with a cold kind of detachment. The events behind the dialogue move along with the same kind emotionless demeanor, unfolding as though they’re adapted from a high school textbook. A joint squadron of American and Soviet allied forces headed by Captain America rooting out Nazi entrenchments should be far more exciting.
Believability is stretched pretty thin right from the issue’s opening sequence, as illustrated by Cap’s shield slicing the top clean off of a Panzer tank; apparently, the steel in this Nazi tank was stretched pretty thin, too. It’s rather surprising that Cap even made it this far in the war if he made a habit of storming enemy strongholds and engaging in discussion before fully neutralizing and securing the scene, like he does early on here. Fortunately for Cap, the defiant Nazi soldier in this sequence only had the sense to shoot a Russian soldier in the chest, when he could have shot Cap in the head.
Granov, at least, turns in a beautiful looking set of pages, although at times some of his facial shots and character poses look stiff or static. However, this can be largely overlooked in comparison to Granov’s stronger elements, such as the full-page illustration that introduces Captain America into the story, with Cap in bright red, white, and blue against a gray, wintery landscape. His cover is another striking image of Cap, but the addition of shadowy, grainy Soviet soldiers in the foreground with the title logo of “Captain America Living Legend” above sends a confusing message, implying that Cap is a living legend because he commands Russian troops. It also evokes erroneous assumptions (brainwashing, a what-if story) about the issue’s content to anyone who didn’t know it beforehand.
Perhaps the remaining issues will live up to the name of the comic, but so far Granov only makes Captain America look like a living legend; he and Diggle do little to prove it.