In anticipation of “Captain America: Civil War’s” release, Marvel Comics has put together a prelude of sorts in “Captain America: Road to War” #1 by Will Corona Pilgrim and Andrea Di Vito, which finds the new Avengers assembling to combat a leftover consequence stemming from “Avengers: Age of Ultron.” In fact, Pilgrim’s story reads more like a belated epilogue to that film than it does a prelude to the conflict within the team; everyone seems to be getting along well enough, including Captain America and Tony Stark, and whatever leads to “Civil War’s” conflict is clearly saved for the upcoming movie. As the comic’s title indicates, Cap is the star of this story, but the story itself feels relatively shallow and pedestrian.
Even so, it starts out strongly enough; Pilgrim structures the opening to introduce readers to the new Avengers, which welcomes readers with some insight on these characters. This approach gives Di Vito a chance to show off his talents with a series of pinup-style pages, which provide clean, clear renderings of each new recruit. Oddly, though, it’s Natasha’s observations — rather than Steve’s — that Pilgrim delivers, which gives the approachable introduction a bit of a skewed perspective. Di Vito’s thicker lines combined with the rich tones of colorist Laura Villari make for an attractive lead-in, but — once the overview is done — both the script and layouts fall into mediocrity, delivering little in the way of character interaction, plot or excitement.
Cap’s brief chat with Tony is mundane and almost pointless; Tony has only a small part in this story, and their conversation foreshadows nothing of any consequence. Steve and Natasha do most of the sparring and chatting throughout, but Cap doesn’t have much to say to anyone else. War Machine, Scarlet Witch, Falcon and the Vision are merely passengers in the back of the quinjet while Cap and Natasha play Uber driver and get them to their destination. The dialogue throughout is competent and serves the story, but its flat and straightforward nature carries no kind of style or flair. There’s no confident, inspirational speech from Cap, no zingers from Tony and no chippy banter during the battle; if not for Di Vito’s faithful likenesses, readers probably wouldn’t realize these are supposed to be the same versions of the characters played by Chris Evans and Robert Downey Jr.
While Di Vito’s individual panels are impressive enough, his choreography and logic fall short. There’s little panel-to-panel continuity, and the battle sequence looks more like a series of pictures in a photo album; he captures key moments, but doesn’t connect one moment to another. The disjointedness takes away from what little teamwork Pilgrim is able to evoke in his script; a well-aimed slinging of Cap’s shield is a logical preamble to a subsequent move by Wanda, for example, but Pilgrim doesn’t connect these actions. The resulting battle comes across as a series of various individual attempts to take down a convincingly powerful menace that all fail until someone’s attempt finally works. Ron Lim and Guru-eFX’s cover, followed by Di Vito’s initial pages, are the artistic highlight of the issue.
As the story comes to a close, Cap makes a statement about how the sum of the team is greater than its parts, but Pilgrim’s story does nothing to show that, leaving only the echo of a hollow cliche. “Captain America: Road to War” #1 delivers a lightweight, twenty-two-page story plus a reprint of “Tales of Suspense” #58, but the content is just too light to justify the price or time.