"Captain America" #1 from Rick Remender and John Romita Jr. with Klaus Janson doesn't so much walk away from Ed Brubaker's defining run on the character over the past seven years as it does leap frog it. There was obviously no point in trying to ape Brubaker at his A game, so instead Remender swerves Cap back toward his pulpier roots. This issue begins a strange tale that sees the Sentinel of Liberty fight the Green Skull and get embroiled with Arnim Zola in Dimension Z.
The opening sequence flashes back to Steve Rogers as a child. We view his parents arguing and quickly understand that his mother formed a large base for the values building that would generate the hero Steve will become. This scene punches emotionally and is a great character statement. We then see Cap fighting with the Green Skull: a hippie, rhetoric-spouting version of the Red Skull. There's no backstory or context, readers are dropped into this fight in media res. Blasting right into the story is a great statement of intent for Remender's take on this series. He warps ideas, make the action intense and plans some serious fun.
The direction slows down to show Steve and Sharon Carter. Their relationship is established while the details of the next case from S.H.I.E.L.D. are laid out. It is obviously important for the narrative that Steve moves onto the next assignment, but it the issue dips a little as things feel rushed. Steve ends up on an unknown train travelling an ancient unused line destined for who knows where. Once Steve arrives in Dimension Z, Remender rapidly demonstrates through story and scope the build-up was worth it, but it still feels rushed.
Steve's Cap uniform and shield are kept ridiculously close by while he's held captive, he is able to find and steal an enemy jet in a handful of panels, and the enemy doesn't check for a body when they really should. They feel like plot holes but they're really just the basic elements being glossed over -- and a reminder that the reader sometimes has to accept the shorthand of a comic. It robs certain moments of depth, but also allows us to get to other richer moments. It's the Catch 22 of the 20-page comic book.
The final pages of this issue set up an interesting hook to this opening arc. While it's not a wholly original idea (readers have seen Daredevil in a very similar position before), it is a great situation to see Remender explore. The concepts raised could offer up similar themes to be addressed that he handled so well in "Uncanny X-Force." Remender is a master at making his bombastic superhero romps grounded in realism. Hopefully he does the same here.
John Romita Jr. and Klaus Janson are a great fit for the vibe Remender lays down. Romita's character style is just left of realistic while still emotive and completely effective during action scenes. He knows how to world build -- Dimension Z comes to life and Arnim Zola's lab and henchmen are insanely cool and inventive. The book was always going to look great and unique, but Dean White's colors on the top make this a delight to behold. White doesn't make obvious choices and his depth of layering brings an array of elements to life. White elevates the visuals of "Captain America" #1 to something else entirely and is the reason this book will truly stand out.
"Captain America" #1 is a great creative change for Marvel NOW! because it isn't just more of the same. After years of being a spy, Remender turns Captain America back into a superhero. The results look to be over the top but with a lot of heart heart. Although there are faults with this issue, there are also so many things done well. There's a character at the core but he's surrounded by a whacked-out scenario -- a juxtaposition Remender uses to brilliant ends.