Captain America #10

Rick Remender and John Romita Jr.'s epic ten-issue "Dimension Z" arc comes steamrolling to a tense conclusion in "Captain America" #10 with a couple of surprises, as Cap finally ends his decade-long stay in Arnim Zola's treacherous and despair-ridden realm. It's epic not only with respect to its lengthy duration, but also because the story has followed Steve Rogers through ten very long, dangerous and emotionally trying years of his life. It's left him emotionally changed, which has been touched upon already by Remender in "Uncanny Avengers."

It's all too easy to be glad that this story is over, but not because of its length, which Remender has managed to fill with enough intensity, drama and action to justify a two-hundred page chronicle. No, its end is welcomed because it was also a story full of so much heartbreak, gloomy desolation and endless challenges to Cap's character that the misery and hopelessness practically bled from the pages. Remender has arguably put Cap through the worst tribulations of his life, and Captain America, ever the extraordinary hero, emerges broken but triumphant. If the goal was to remind readers that Steve Rogers is one of the most, if not the most, resilient, heroic and inspirational characters in comics, it has certainly been achieved. It's nonetheless been a very depressing and despondent journey, and a change of scenery is past due.

The "Dimension Z" storyline has faced challenges of its own, aside from its length; Remender's use of Jack Kirby's Arnim Zola character and its atypical setting for a Cap story is a fitting tribute to Kirby's '70s-era work, but it's an era that's not universally appreciated by fans old enough to recall it, and likely unknown entirely to younger fans. Romita's trademark stripped-down style has always been an acquired taste. "Dimension Z" is almost a story that's dared readers to dislike it, but as he has with past issues, Remender delivers another satisfying chapter, and he manages to wrap up this anguishing story on an upbeat and promising note. His post-credits denouement is absolutely wonderful, and it sums up the essence of Captain America's character and how his passionate belief of the American dream can inspire anyone, anywhere; even those in a far-flung dimension.

Acquired taste aside, Romita pulls off the epic, grandiose look that this issue requires with some strong layouts. Few can draw a grizzled, aged and battle-weary Captain America like he can. But the art throughout is not without its problems; Zola's mutates have always looked hastily designed and rendered, and this issue is no different. The battle station that threatens Earth looks like a giant rocket-powered wedding cake. Perhaps worst of all, rather than looking like any kind of real and threatening villain, the regenerated Zola looks more like one of those giant air-powered blow-up air dancers that wave crazily to passers-by of many a used car lot. It's a fair effort overall, but being Romita's final issue of the series, it almost looks like he's as anxious to get out of Dimension Z as Cap is.

Remender puts forth a brilliantly ironic notion that begs to be explored in future issues: that of a Captain America, famous for spending fifty years in ageless hibernation, has now aged ten years in a seeming instant in Earth time. Hopefully, this will be explored, and immediately; readers who might not have cared for or tired of this arc are left with a fascinating premise that should keep them around. Regardless, this issue both nicely caps off the previous storyline and sets up what's next. Whatever one's opinion of "Dimension Z", this is a good issue to check out.

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