Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale are masters of the cliffhanger in their “Captain American: White” miniseries. Each issue has had a strong final page, and “Captain America: White” #3 is no exception to that rule. While the final image is strong, however, the bulk of the comic is only about half as exciting.
Part of the problem is that the cliffhanger from last issue was so strong the follow-through just couldn’t live up to it. Captain America, Bucky, Fury and company defeat the German soldiers quickly at the start of the issue, so that it ultimately neuters them as ever having been a threat. There seems to be more effort in going up against the undercover French resistance fighters a little later in the issue, but even then Captain America and company are depicted as such powerhouses that Loeb strips any sort of tension from the proceedings of the comic.
On the other hand, Sale’s art is just gorgeous, making his return from a long absence from comics that much more of relief. He continues to show off his exceptional skill here, with thick inks that swirl and slide across the page with the greatest of ease. He’s good with shifts of perspective here; something as simple as the overhead image of the Germans tied up to the trees looks great, in part because it’s simply an angle we rarely see and also because it does such a good job of showing us the scope and number of soldiers. Add in the care on the little details, like the stretching of shadows across the snowy ground or the slight dusting of flakes on the tress, and it’s perfectly composed. Dave Stewart’s colors work beautifully over Sale’s inks, too; they take Sale’s textures and accentuate them, adding subtle shades and depth. By the time we get to that final page, it’s breathtaking. Ironically, the one piece of art that doesn’t look so great is the one that the most people will see first, and that’s the sketchy, blocky cover. On the other hand, the title/credits page is so beautifully put together it’s an almost instant salve.
“Captain America: White” #3 looks fantastic, but the story is starting to flag a bit. With the miniseries poised to enter its second half, hopefully things will pick up a bit. If nothing else, this is a comic that will remind you how poorer the comics industry is when Sale isn’t contributing to it.