(p) John Romita Jr.
Over the last eight years, Ed Brubaker's phenomenal take on the Sentinel of Liberty has been a golden standard for how to interpret a character that had become somewhat superfluous in the modern era of comic books (think Superman circa 1980). Steve Rogers' alter-ego stood for ideals and beliefs that were in short supply in the early 21st century, yet Brubaker managed to find a place for the spiritual successor of the American Spirit amidst growing dissonance the world over.
Now, Rick Remender is at the helm, and he's bringing a whole new Cap' to 'Marvel NOW!'
Remender's been focusing a lot of his efforts recently on team-based titles such as Uncanny X-Force, Secret Avengers, and the new Uncanny Avengers. It wouldn't be out of the ordinary he had a little trouble tackling a solo series. Fortunately, Remender is not one to rest on his laurels, and Captain America #1 is some of the most fun I've had with the Captain in quite some time. Not to downplay Brubaker's talent, but the 'secret agent' direction of his run was less 'fun' than it was captivating and intriguing. Remender, however, is reminding readers that Steve Rogers is a person, not just a symbol or an idea.
Personifying Captain America wasn't high on Brubaker's priority list during his tenure with Steve Rogers -- the Captain's uniform and mindset rarely went missing over the past eight years (not counting when Steve wasn't Captain America anymore), which made it difficult to consider Rogers as a normal person instead of an Energizer Superhero who never stops. Here in Captain America #1, Remender starts things off with a look at Steve Rogers' childhood in a scene that could be called 'ground zero' for Rogers' general attitude of perseverance and dedication. It's a sequence that makes you cringe and feel confidence at the same time...it's something I've never seen done before.
Next, after a quick bout with C-list villain Green Skull (an eco-terrorist bent on over-vegetating the Earth and kill all humans), Rogers meets up with his girlfriend, S.H.I.E.L.D. liaison Sharon Carter. Remender deftly handles the transition from battlefield solider to romantic knucklehead by making the sequence as unsubtle as possible. In Captain America's world, he can parachute into the middle of Manhattan and hand of an international terrorist over to the NYPD, he can just show up in his spectacle of a uniform to meet his love interest, and he can become Steve Rogers at the drop of a hat.
Of course, the main promotional pull for Captain America has been the shift in narrative tone from 'super spy' to 'sci-fi adventure', and it's not quite as big of a jump as most would expect. Before Brubaker made Rogers the character he is today, Captain America used to fight aliens and invaders from parallel dimensions and the such. Remender is bringing the Captain back to this paradigm. Arnim Zola has also been heavily promoted as integral to the first arc of Remender's Captain America. What hasn't been touted as much, is the connection between Zola and Dimension Z, the parallel world that Rogers gets sucked into while on a routine fact-gathering mission. Near the end of Captain America #1, Zola reveals that it's HIS dimension called Zolandia. At least, that's what I took away from the scene. How or why this dimension is called Zolandia is still anyone's guess, but at this point, it doesn't matter. Many writers have difficulty introducing new plot elements without it seeming unfinished or broken (see Green Arrow #14 out a few weeks ago), but Remender manages to pull it off with style.
Rick Remender has a lot of ideas for Captain America. In one issue, he's taken Steve Rogers out of the gritty darkness of the spy game, thrown readers some integral and telling character history, and introduced a whole new chapter in the Captain's life. He's stuck in an alternate dimension that's populated by Arnim Zola's mutated creatures and he's got no way to get back home. John Romita Jr's pencilling gets mixed reviews, usually, but here, it's spot on and works perfectly with Remender's more cheeky style. I've never read Captain America on a regular basis. Captain America #1 by Rick Remender is going to change that.