Thursday, February 21, 2013

Captain America #4

(w) Rick Remender     (a) John Romita Jr.


It boggles my mind when people tell me they don't like Rick Remender's Captain America. I get that many Cap fans these days are so because of Ed Brubaker's phenomenal run, and I understand the reluctance to get behind a new volume of Captain America that takes the character in the complete opposite direction. What I can't understand is the complete dismissal of the title simply because it doesn't follow the spy thriller format Brubaker made so popular. For the first time in a long time, Captain America is confronting problems he doesn't know how to solve. Even when things looked hopeless, Steve Rogers could always count on his training, his tactical genius, and his overall sense of justice to see him to victory. In Dimension Z, none of these things matter.

Much like how the previous issue leapt a year into the future, Captain America #4 throws readers for a loop by leaping another 11. That full black page with the stark, white "Eleven Years Later" really packs a punch as an issue opener. I let out a rather fawning "Whoa!" to the surprise of my wife sitting beside me. She commented about how rare it was for me to get so into a comic book like that, to exclaim out of sheer excitement.

The revelation at the end of issue three saw Steve Rogers infected by some sort of techno-biological virus that produced Arnim Zola's visage on Steve's stomach, similar to Zola's real face on his own body. So not only has Cap been stuck in a dimension where none of his previous experience helps him in any way, but he's also had a evil consciousness of Arnim Zola chipping away at his soul for over ten years While it's a bit weird that Steve is able to hide a glowing blue face on his torso from his adopted son, Ian, for over a decade, it's more about the idea that hiding this horrible truth represents: Steve is dedicated to protecting Ian from his horrible past.

Remender fleshes out Steve and Ian's relationship this issue, mostly because Ian is finally old enough to have a personality of his own instead of being a precious weight for the Captain as he navigated Zolandia. Now, Cap is training Ian to use the shield, trying to instill good values in the boy, and always looking for a way back to Earth. An in-tact map of the land gives the boys some home in returning home, but that hope raises the bigger issue for Ian: what is home? Now firmly in his early teens, Ian wants to know more than Cap is telling him, and the idea of returning to Earth isn't as desirable to him as it is to Steve, who's actually been there.

Captain America #4 isn't what I expected, but it's everything I wanted. Rick Remender's trademark long-form approach to storytelling means Steve Roger's sojourn to Zolandia isn't going to end any time soon. The first four issues of this series have been a marathon of steadily building up the emotional investment, creating a psycho-weird (a term I just created because no other seemed to describe Dimension Z well enough) reality that tests Cap at every turn, and raises the stakes for Steve and Ian in terms of their relationship and their mission to escape the influence of Zola. Yes, this Captain America is completely different than anything Ed Brubaker wrote in his seminal run. But if you step away from the continuity and just read Remender's Cap as-is, it's one of the most exhilarating, powerful titles to come out of the 'Marvel NOW!' initiative.


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