Oh, ye gods, a comic meant to make me laugh that actually accomplished that goal. It’s been a while, good sir, but I’m happy to say that “Who Won’t Wield the Shield” #1 is an irreverent and gloriously inane book that is actually funny. It’s a comic aimed directly at Marvel’s current regime, taking on overly violent comics, the oversaturated nature of Deadpool, and, I guess, the lack of awesome comics by Matt Fraction and Brendan McCarthy? We could always use more of them like the “Doctor America” story included here. It’s not quite a parody of “Captain America,” more a parody of Marvel done in the tradition of “Not Brand Echh.”
The framing story is a bit of insider baseball aimed at the online fanbase, specifically the one on Twitter that follows creators like Matt Fraction, Brian Michael Bendis, Jason Aaron, and Ed Brubaker. But, since I’m one of those fans, I’m not exactly complaining. It introduces Forbush Man as a stone cold killer bought by the Red Skull and wanting revenge against Ed Brubaker for ruining comics with dark stories like the death of Captain America. The other two stories in the book come as comics presented to Forbush Man as examples that Marvel does fun comics.
The first, Fraction and McCarthy’s “Doctor America,” is a Satanic psychedelic take on Captain America’s origin that seems like the Marvel answer to McCarthy’s work in “Solo” #12 where, instead of ‘Ditranko’ being invoked, it’s ‘Ditkirbanko’ and Fraction peppers the story with Nixon references. It’s insane and fragmented, full of allusions and word play. Not quite funny, it is fun as weird takes on other Marvel characters happen, McCarthy continuing his channeling of Steve Ditko in this combination of Doctor Strange and Captain America, complete with a goat boy sidekick that is “way better than Bucky Barnes, because I am a goat that is also a boy.” It’s weird-looking, not at all what you expect from the regular Marvel universe with bright and overwhelming colors. Part an affirmation of fun, stupid, awesome comics, part a mockery, worth the price of admission by itself.
The second story isn’t quite as good, but is still pretty entertaining as we’re introduced to Veapon (swastika that sort of resembles an X), the Golden Age Deadpool! Told in newsreels, Stuart Moore and Joe Quinones tell an amusing story about Woodrow Wilson’s embarrassing nephew who got out of duty in World War I by smoking so many cigars it seemed like mustard gas and is forced to wear a gas mask all of the time as a result. When given the chance to betray his country and become a Super-Soldier, he jumps at it, becoming Veapon (swastika that sort of resembles an X). Quinones’ cartoony style suits the time period of the story and is great at delivering the visual gags, especially Wilson seeing the world as black and white cartoons from the period.
The framing story concludes in a humorous manner, done is a painterly realistic style by Mirco Pierfederici that contrasts well with the cartoony, comic booky art of the other two stories. Some jokes won’t land for readers not up on their knowledge of writers’ internet habits, but the general tone of the book is just right. The issue even ends with a parody of the “Siege” checklist page with some genuinely funny fake comics. The $3.99 price tag may keep some away, but, as I said, it’s worth it for the “Doctor America” story alone and the rest all pretty good, too.
(Check out the art in this book! It’s some good-looking stuff!)