CAPTAIN AMERICA: TRUTH
Marvel passed along the first issue of TRUTH, the upcoming 6 part mini-series set to recount the earliest days of Captain America. The story concept is that the Super Soldier Serum may have produced Steve Rogers as Captain America, but that it was tested on enlisted black soldiers first. Given the history of Tuskegee, as is pointed out in all the media material, it's not that much of a stretch. It's also why I was willing to give the book a shot, and not just dismiss it as another attempt to be retro-politically correct. (On the other hand, Bill Jemas is quoted in the press release as saying, "we try to create stories that will resonate with the 21st century readers." I'm not entirely sure how a story set 60 years back is going to do that. ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN's update to the mythos I can see. I'm afraid I don't see that with TRUTH, unless wallowing in our past sins is supposed to resonate with me somehow. Generally speaking, it doesn't. I prefer to look forward.)
The media push is on for this book, and everyone is hoping that people from outside the normal comics-reading circles might get their hands on a copy of TRUTH. Part of me is excited at that opportunity, and part of me is concerned that the first issue might not live up to people's expectations. The first issue, written by VIBE magazine editor Robert Morales, isn't much of a story. We're introduced to four black men and the lives they're leading at the start of World War II. My favorite of them is probably Maurice, the affluent Philadelphian whose rich guilt leads him to methods of social crusading that some might consider suicidal. (Speaking of political correctness, there is a cigarette mention in his introductory scene that struck me as being anachronistic.)
The characters are chosen by the author in a smart way, however, to represent different and sometimes conflicting viewpoints on the social scene of the day. The story, which spans between the World's Fair in 1940 and Pearl Harbor at the end of 1941, hasn't even started. Yes, we now know the cast of characters who will make up this title for the next five months, but they haven't done all that much. Everything is in place, though, and hopefully the new readers will be curious enough to want to see the rest of the story in the following months.
The trick isn't in getting people to come into the comic shops. It's in getting them back a month later.
Kyle Baker's art is as wonderful as always. This isn't like his recent graphic novels where the lettering is below the panels. This is a more traditional comic book style, although his storytelling might remind you of Tim Sale's: lots of large panels and stylistic characters, with the coloring playing a large part. (Baker colors the book himself, since he does his art these days on a computer.)
The book is a smart read with nice art. There's not a whole lot to go on right now aside from some character bits, though. I think it'll read a lot better when it's all sitting on a shelf under one cover. The inevitable reprint of this book shortly after the sixth issue might be worth a read. I'll let you know when we get there. Right now, it's a more hesitant recommendation.
IN STORES THIS WEEK
ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN #28 is a bit of an off-format issue. It's a funny story about Peter Parker's problems with juggling high school life and superheroism. When the Rhino is in the city tossing cars around, Peter must respond. The trick is in getting out of school first. With all the people around, how can he blow off fourth period French class, get out the door, and all the way into the city without getting caught?
This is a good jumping-on point for the series if you haven't started reading it yet, and a nice issue for classic Spider-Man readers who maybe aren't interested in this updated series. If any Spider-Man story of the past year will remind you of Stan Lee's Peter Parker, it will be this one.
Writer Brian Bendis gives Peter all the frenzied wit and frustrations that made previous generations fall in love with the character. Mark Bagley's art is right in tune with the story, too, perfectly balancing the story between the drama and the humor.
It's not quite in the same league as ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN #13, but it does stand out in my mind as one of the best single issues of the series to date, even with the somewhat predictable ending.
ULTIMATE X-MEN #22 is also due out this week, from Mark Millar, Adam Kubert, and Danny Miki. Miki obviously had a heavier hand in finishing off the issue than the usual "inking" job he's traditionally credited for, and that is something that shows up on the credits page. The art is a bit scratchier, and has some more line work than a fully penciled job by Kubert might traditionally have. While the layouts are tame by some previous issues' standards, it's still nice stuff to look at. Kubert moves the "camera" around in some inventive ways.
This issue splits the focus between the Brotherhood of Mutants and the X-Men. In the first half, the Brotherhood undergoes its latest exercise: ridding Pakistan of its weaponry and then letting the world know about it. However, some internal squabbling and a new breed of mutants threaten to knock the legs out from under the chair on which the team sits. The second half brings us back to school with the X-Men, as Jean Grey deals with her recent Phoenix-like power surge, Kitty tries to be more active in her schooling, and Cyclops and Wolverine "discuss" Jean Grey. It's a strong character piece, with an interesting twist or two.
SPIDER-MAN: LEGEND OF THE SPIDER-CLAN #1 is the first issue in a new mini-series from writer Kaare Andrews. If you enjoyed his take on the character in the original Mangaverse one shot, you'll definitely want to read this one. It's just as much fun as that book. There's a scene early on between Ben and Peter that had me laughing out loud. It's a classic scene of stupid student and oddball older teacher. Think Mister Miyagi and the Karate Kid with a bigger sense of slapstick.
It's great to see Felicia Hardy added to the cast of characters in the title. She seems to be the forgotten romantic interest of Peter Parker these days. (Sure, there's that whole Kevin Smith mini-series, but when's the last time we saw an issue of that?!?) I'd love to see what Bendis would do with her in the Ultimate title.
The art is by Skottie Young, whose animated style fits in well with what Andrews did on the first go around. It's highly stylistic while still fluid and grabs the eye with every panel. It's a beautiful book to sit back and look at, let alone read. The coloring is perfect, as done by Pat Duke, and leaves very little black on the page. Nearly all the lines are colored in.
The issue is a quick read, but highly entertaining with a strong visual component.
Coming up on Friday: A look through the latest PREVIEWS.
Special thanks to John and Justin, the kindly librarians at Dewey's Comic City in Madison, NJ for the First Look support on the column again this week.
VariousAndSundry.com was updated this weekend with questions of posture, Beat the Geeks strategy, and other wonderment.
More than 400 columns are archived here at CBR and you can get to them from the Pipeline Archive page. They're sorted chronologically. The first 100 columns or so are still available at the Original Pipeline page, a horrifically coded piece of HTML.