I never thought I’d see the day when I would decide to drop Captain America from my monthly comic book reading list. As I’ve said before, I am a huge fan of the character, and I have not missed an issue of the series since 1989. But I have just gotten weary of Ed Brubaker’s decompressed writing on the main series.
The second Captain America ongoing book has the original numbering but now features a rotating co-star each story arc. I believe that, to tie in with the Avengers movie, Marvel is going through the team membership. Hawkeye was featured in issue #s 629-632, and Iron Man comes on-board next month. Unfortunately, I’ve likewise been underwhelmed by the last few issues of this title.
There are also financial considerations at play here. Right now I can’t really afford to purchase too many comic books. I would much rather save my funds for Erik Larsen’s Savage Dragon and Supreme, and a few other independent titles that I’m enjoying more than the majority of the material from Marvel or DC.
Anyway, what exactly did I think of Captain America & Hawkeye #s 629-632? Well, to be fair, this four issue arc written by Cullen Bunn did have a lot of potential. Cap and Hawkeye are in the San Andreas Mountains, searching for a missing group of environmental activists. The two Avengers come across a government research facility named Damocles which is acting in an extremely secretive manner. Despite a hostile reception from Damocles, Cap and Hawkeye continue their search in the caves underneath the base. There they encounter an army of reanimated dinosaur skeletons, brought back to life by an insidious parasitic life form, one that is seeking to expand its control to living human beings.
Bunn is drawing on some near-forgotten subplots here, specifically material written by Chris Claremont and Bill Mantlo in the early 1980s. Bunn does put it to good use, though, giving those decades-old storylines from Ms. Marvel and ROM Spaceknight an interesting twist. As a fan of the books those plot strands were originally featured in, I enjoyed seeing something unique being done with them. If you’re going to recycle the past, you ought to put a unique spin on things.
The problem with Captain America & Hawkeye is in the execution. We basically get four issues of Cap and Hawkeye fighting Dire Wraith-dinosaur hybrids. The story feels extremely decompressed. It could easily have been told in the space of three issues, rather than four. Conversely, at the exact same time, the readers are given no answers as to the mysteries of what Damocles is really up to, and the identity of their mysterious benefactor. Some of the space that Bunn devoted to the Avengers / dinosaurs slugfests could instead have been utilized to explain what was going on behind the scenes.
Perhaps Bunn is intending to develop this further in upcoming issues of this title. I would not have minded that as much if, again, this opening arc of his had been more tightly plotted. This is the major problem a lot of writers have when it comes to writing for the trade paperback, in that they just do not have enough material to their stories to fill up the space.
I don’t mean to say that this story arc was bad. There was a lot to it that was fun & entertaining. It just needed some serious tightening up in the plotting department.
I did enjoy the artwork by Alessandro Vitti. Admittedly it was at times somewhat unclear as to what was taking place in some of the action sequences. But Vitti’s style was extremely well suited to the horror content of the story. In an arc like this, it makes sense to not have Cap or Hawkeye look too clean-cut, to make them slightly more shadowy & gritty. And I was especially struck by Vitti’s renditions of the dinosaur parasites spawned from the shape-shifting Dire Wraiths. It really captured the gruesome, alien quality of the original Wraiths seen in the pages of ROM Spaceknight.
Captain America & Hawkeye #629 features a beautifully painted cover by Gabriele Del’Otto, while for the next three issues the cover art is from the talented, underrated Patrick Zircher. I’ve enjoyed his work since his days penciling New Warriors.
Right now, I still haven’t decided if I am going to pick up Captain America & Iron Man. It really depends on what else happens to be on sale a month from now and, more importantly, how much money I have in my wallet at that time.
It’s strange, because for a long time I thought Captain America would be the very last comic book series I would ever stop reading. But times change, and so do people, and I guess I’m just more interested in other material right now at this point in my life.