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Captain America: Patriot - The Life and Times of Jeff Mace?

More than once in the past I've spoken of my admiration for Don Rosa's The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck, if simply because the very IDEA of the project, a detailed examination of Scrooge McDuck's life based on clues left in Carl Barks Scrooge comics over a number of years, just seemed so ridiculously silly. Like the worst kind of continuity-obsessed, minutia-concerned comic book storytelling. Of course, Rosa is such a wonderful comic book writer and artist that he turned a concept that could have been terrible and made it into a remarkably well-told epic story (Rosa is so good that he even went back and added in stories set BETWEEN chapters of the original tale and even THOSE issues were good!!! Holy moley!). As impressive as that was, at least Rosa was dealing with the history of one of the greatest 20th Century comic book characters, as told by one of the greatest 20th Century comic book creators.

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So even with the success of The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck, I could not look upon the idea of doing a comic like Captain America: Patriot as a good idea. The Patriot, you see, was a fellow named Jeff Mace who was a costumed vigilante during the Golden Age. He was one of the more popular lower-rung heroes (as in, he wasn't Cap, Torch or Namor). When the Golden Age ended he, like most other heroes, just disappeared. That is, until the mid 1970s, when Marvel brought him back to explain a continuity "problem." The "problem" was that in current Marvel continuity, Captain America had disappeared during World War II. However, Marvel kept doing Captain America comics all the way until the end of the 1940s and then brought him back in the 1950s. So Marvel's solution to the "problem" was to say that three different men had been Captain America after Steve Rogers. Two fellow superheroes and one nutjob (the "Commie Smasher" Cap). Mace was the second hero to take over as Captain America, and according to this take on continuity, it was Mace who starred in all of the late 1940s Captain America comics, the ones featuring Cap's NEW sidekick, Golden Girl.

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So this mini-series, Captain America: Patriot, tells the story of Jeff's early days as the Patriot and then his time as Captain America. Two issues have come out and, well, WOW, what a comic book.

The series is written by Karl Kesel and the artwork is done by Mitch Breitweiser and Bettie Breitweiser (with the latter coloring the former's pencils).

There is so much evident care put into this series that it is just shocking - it elevates what could have been a pointless exercise in continuity "fixing" (here's Jeff Mace doing something we thought Steve Rogers did. Now here's Jeff Mace doing this other thing we thought Steve Rogers did and so on and so on and so on) and makes it into a compelling character piece with absolutely stunning artwork.

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Read on for some sample artwork...

Here's some pages from the beginning of issue #1, where we first see Jeff Mace (and meet his two close friends at the newspaper where he works)...

Here, in #2, we see Jeff in action as Captain America with the rest of the Invaders...

Isn't that artwork from Breitweiser and Breitweiser simply stunning? It compares favorably to such brilliant artists as John Paul Leon and Tommy Lee Edwards. Simply amazing work by the artists.

Kesel's story, meanwhile, is equally impressive in the way that he manages to keep his story completely in tune with the established history of Captain America, but not have the comic be about that at all. If you know about post-World War II Captain America, there's a very memorable moment involving Bucky. That moment takes place in this issue, and I'll tell you, until it happened I had totally forgotten about it, and if I hadn't known about it, I would have thought it was totally just something that Kesel thought worked for the comic, and boy does it work.

Meanwhile, Kesel also addresses a minor Golden Age character, Miss Patriot, and shows the collateral damage that can sometimes happens when you have a change in costume (as well as the damage that happens when your heart does not feel the same way as someone else's).

While the cliffhanger of #2 might draw the most attention, the highlight of issue #2 for me was seeing how Kesel had the Patriot handle the death of a friend of his who, as it turns out, was gay. And more or less OUT. It is an interesting dilemma for Mace - he wants to honor his friend, but does he feel as though he has the right to make political decisions on behalf of Captain America? The solution was inspired and touching. Really nicely handled by Kesel.

So yeah, issue #2 just came out last week, there are two more issues to go. Go get the ones that have come out and get the next two when they are released! It is a well-told story with great artwork! Who doesn't want that?

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