Every day this year, I will be examining the first pages of random comics. Today’s page is from Captain America (volume 4, according to the indicia, although I don’t know if Marvel counts the 1940s iteration) #2, which was published by Marvel and is cover dated July 2002. Enjoy!
This is the second issue of John Ney Rieber’s wildly controversial “Captain America fights terrorists” arc, which I bought solely for John Cassaday’s artwork and didn’t really enjoy too much. Doesn’t Cap kill the terrorist at the end, and that made everyone go a bit squirrelly? Chime in – it’s been years since I’ve read this, and the Internet is no help whatsoever. Fancy that!
Anyway, Rieber is awfully earnest on this page, isn’t he? “Terror’s not a four-dollar knife. Or an envelope of powdered death.” Man, that’s something, isn’t it? I’m not sure who, after 11 September 2001, thought that terror was anything but “blind hate,” but Rieber wants to make it clear that, yes, it is. The first panel makes no sense, as the narrator implores the person to “sleep … while you can” even though it’s clear that the young lady is already awake, but we do get the nice turn of phrase with the newspaper “lying” on the front porch, “lying” about terror. See how you can turn a clever phrase if you know that the correct word is “lying” instead of “laying”? English is just awesome that way.
Cassaday, for me, is the real draw, because Rieber is unrelenting like this with the verbiage throughout this arc. Cassaday (along with everyone’s favorite colorist, Mr. Dave Stewart) does a fine job with this page. In Panel 1, the words on the left begin to move us over to the right, where the woman is silhouetted in the window. If you think it’s accidental that she’s framed by a warm glow of a morning sun, implying goodness, before the black-clad terrorist grabs her, well, you should probably think again! Panel 2 is a nice, simple image – it’s both mundane and cleverly done, point-of-view-wise, as we get a bisected panel that adds a tiny bit of excitement to a drawing of a woman leaning on her elbows watching a coffee pot fill with water. It’s a well-balanced panel, as well, which is always interesting. Rieber brings up the newspaper, so of course Cassaday has to show the woman reaching for it, as this also allows the movement of Panels 3 and 4 to be more obvious – in the static images, she’s not moving, but because we see part of her bending over in Panel 3, the backward tug in Panel 4 feels more violent – we fill in the blanks, which we may not have done had Cassaday not shown her bending over. Despite the fact that Panel 3 feels a bit gratuitous, it does serve a purpose, making Panel 4 more unexpected and sudden. Panel 5 is done well, too – the narration is closest to the bad guy, so the “burning in a stranger’s eyes” is linked very nicely to the first thing we see, which is the stranger’s eye. Cassaday keeps the eye of the bad guy on the same plane as the eyes of his victim, so that even though they’re not looking into each other’s eyes, the reader can link the two of them and compare the calmness in the bad guy’s eye and the fear in the woman’s eyes. The shadow cuts across the woman’s face and places the terrorist in complete darkness, visually finishing the panel and the page. Of course, the woman is looking the “wrong” way to lead us to the next page, but her placement on the right side of the panel means that we finish there, while the hand of the bad guy helps move us over. We don’t see what happens to her on the next page, because we go right to Cap talking to Nick Fury, but we can certainly infer what’s going to happen to her.
There’s not really a lot to write about this page, because it really does suffer from the decompression style of modern comics. Rieber doesn’t really give us any useful information, while Cassaday does manage to tell a decent story on one page that’s ultimately pointless, as Nick gives Cap the run-down on the very next few pages. It’s a pretty page, and if you’re just picking this up and wonder if you should keep reading, I don’t think there’s anything here that will keep you from it, but that doesn’t change the fact that we don’t really learn too much about the story arc from this page, and ultimately, it’s kind of a waste. Such is the way the world works, though, isn’t it?
Next: Another of Bill Reed’s favorites! Can the world handle so many??? Find another of his favorites buried in the archives!