Tag Archives: Marvel

Toy Biz Sneak Attack Flip ‘n Trap Red Skull Figure Review

90’s toys are my weakness. They aren’t good in terms of sculpt, paint, articulation, accessories, or scale, especially by today’s standards, but something about them always makes me excited. I think it’s just the nostalgia that comes with them- hell, 90’s toys were MY toys. Yeah, I grew up in the 80’s and I played with toys of the time, but 90’s toys were the ones I started collecting. They’ll always have a special place in my heart because of that, regardless of how stupid they usually are.

Case in point: Flip ‘n Trap Red Skull. Continue reading

Funko POP! Vinyl Captain America: Civil War 4-Pack In-Hand Photos

Check out some in-hand photos of the new POP! Vinyl Civil War 4-Pack which includes Spider-Man, Hawkeye, and keychain miniatures of Captain America and Iron Man.

I haven’t been taking my POP figures out of the packages, so I apologize for the lack of variety, but these guys are definitely worth adding to a collection. Now all we’re missing is Vision, who I hope we get wearing a sweater. Make it happen, Funko!

Captain America #100 Review

Printed in 1968, Captain America #100 was Cap’s first solo title in the modern Marvel Age. It concludes a story started back in Tales of Suspense #97 and features some of Cap’s soon-to-be iconic supporting characters, like the insidious Baron Zemo (well, sorta) and Agent 13, in addition to Avengers’ regular, the Black Panther and classic Marvel mainstay, the Sub-Mariner. Another solid book from the Stan Lee/Jack Kirby powerhouse that helped define Marvel in 60’s, Cap #100 gets it’s numbering from its predecessor, Tales of Suspense, which, ever since 1964’s ToS #59, had featured two stories in every issue- one for Iron Man and one for Cap. When the book hit issue #99, Marvel announced that starting the next month Iron Man would be moving to his own monthly title (The Invincible Iron Man #1) and Cap would be taking over Tales of Suspense, which changed it’s title but kept the original numbering.

While Cap’s life in the Marvel Universe started back in Avengers #4, this, in many ways, was a breakthrough book for the character and would go on to be one of Marvel’s longest running titles. So sit back and we’ll take a look at just how this classic book stands the test of time.


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Captain America #100

“This Monster Unmasked!”

Released: April 1968

Writer: Stan “The Man” Lee

Penciler: Jack “King” Kirby

Inker: Syd Shores

Letterer: Artie Simek

Editor: Stan Lee


The book opens up with a three page recap of Cap’s modern day “origin”. For those not in the know, Steve Rogers was frozen in ice at the end of World War II and remained a Cap-cicle for two decades (or more, depending on which timeline you’ve walked into). He spent that time being revered as a demigod by an Inuit tribe who discovered him, until one day an angry Namor, the Sub-Mariner, King of Atlantis, attacked the village and hurled the frozen figure into the ocean, where it was later discovered by the fledgling super-team, The Avengers!

Cap comes to in present day (with the help of Black Panther) and realizes that he has just had a flashback to when he was first found in ice (including remembering the parts he was frozen for) due to being knocked unconscious by Baron Zemo’s dastardly ray gun! It’s a ham-fisted way to shoehorn in the character’s intro, and the best part of the entire comic is the caption that follows:

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Stan Lee practically tells the reader “Yeah, we just threw this in here for recap purposes. It has no bearing on the story. Carry on.” Man, the things you could get away with in the Silver Age of comics. I guess, since the book was intended for kids, it was a necessary evil, but still, funny as anything I’ve ever seen. Especially the part about thanking himself for letting himself do the recap.

The action begins to unfold immediately following the intro scene and really doesn’t stop. We get caught up to speed pretty quickly on Cap’s current situation in which he and Panther are surrounded by Baron Zemo and his soldiers with no escape in sight! Zemo orders his newest recruit, a woman named Agent 13 Irma Kruhl, to shoot Cap and prove her loyalty to the evil empire. Agent 13 (she’s undercover, kids!) is hesitating, despite her orders to infiltrate Zemo’s organization and destroy his orbiting Death Ray at any cost. Seems that all her S.H.I.E.L.D. training is no match for her love for the Living Legend of World War II, who just can’t seem to recognize her even though she’s only disguised in a pair of glasses and a hat. Cap probably thinks she’s Kim Basinger portraying Vicki Vale- I know I sure did.

Suddenly Black Panther jumps into the frame, knocking Cap aside just as Agent 13 fires, causing her to “miss” (though Cap would point out that he notices she didn’t actually aim at him, but rather a few inches above his head). Instead of firing again, something that Cap thinks is odd, “Irma” turns to Zemo and says, “Meh, this isn’t important. Let’s go look at your satellite laser instead. We can always kill the super heroes later. What could possibly go wrong?” And you know what? Zemo agrees! Because why not?

So, as you would imagine, Zemo inexplicably escorts “Irma” over to his control station and after a brief explanation of how the machine works, including a “Without this control station my device would be useless.” part, the undercover agent blows the entire console to a fiery nothingness. Just as Zemo orders his men to kill the woman, Cap and Panther jump into action in classic astounding Kirby style.

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When I was younger I never really appreciated just how freaking amazing a panel like this was. Just glorious.

During the brawl, Agent 13’s glasses fall off and her hat is lost in the fray, allowing Cap to now recognize the woman who spared his life just moments ago. You know, the woman he loves. Who he has never seen before with a different hair style. I guess. Yeah, yeah. It’s for kids, I get it. Even still…really?!?

With all our heroes on the same side again, and the mission a success, our courageous trio starts to fight off the endless waves of purple-headed goons at Zemo’s disposal in an attempt to escape the villain’s sinister HQ. Agent 13, being a good S.H.I.E.L.D. agent, resigns herself to a satisfying death since she completed her goal, but Cap ins’t too keen on letting things end this way. He urges the group to move on in typical inspirational Cap fashion.

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The odds are against our heroes, though, as the white and purple goon squad closes in on them, cornering them in a room with no way out. Well, unless you count the giant air duct they climb into. Cap snags 13’s pistol and fires backwards to keep the hordes of evil at bay (and hopefully stifling all the critics who say “Captain America doesn’t use guns!”) giving the three enough time to escape. However, their exit route takes them directly into a room containing what Zemo refers to as “The Ultimate Bodyguard”- the dreaded Destructon!

The massive mechanical menace gets the drop on the Panther, knocking him down in one brutal blow but Cap quickly steps in to turn the monster’s attention away from the downed Wakandan. The Detructon proves to be stronger than Captain America anticipated, however, swatting him aside with a powerful uppercut. Black Panther springs back into battle and he and Agent 13 take a turn at trying to down the robotic beast. Though unsuccessful, it does give Cap enough time to notice some small metal studs on the android’s torso. SOMEHOW he concludes that those nodes must be the controls, and hunch pays off. By destroying one of them, he manages to shut down the Destructon, which is great in moving the story forward, I’m just not sure how he thought it was going to work. I mean, Destructon is a giant robot of Kirby design, and those things are always covered in all sorts of useless yet elaborate embellishments. Hell, this guy has those very same studs on it’s back and it’s legs, but a single punch to one of the torso ones takes the bot out of commission. Lucky play, Cap.

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As the Destructon drops, Zemo and his militia burst into the room. The criminal leader is enraged that his prized (but flawed) weapon was defeated and orders his men to open fire to finish off the heroes, but he’s standing a bit too close to Cap, who acts fast to grab the villain and unmask him. Yes, unmask Zemo. See, Cap continues his astounding observations and notices that Zemo’s mask sits loosely on his face- something that couldn’t happen to the real Zemo since the mask should be glued in place due to his accidental exposure to the experimental Adhesive X. Given Cap’s track record of game-changing scrutiny this entire issue, it’s even more puzzling that he couldn’t recognize Agent 13 earlier.

Thanks to Cap’s clever eye, the man in charge is revealed to be Zemo’s former pilot, who was present the day the actual Zemo died and decided to disguise himself as his fallen employer to carry on the Nazi’s dark work. This actually might help to explain why Zemo was so freaking dumb earlier in the issue. Or at least that’s what I’m going to say.

Outraged that they were tricked into following a false-Zemo, his henchmen open fire, killing the pilot before anyone can react. Black Panther orders them to lay down their arms, revealing that he is King T’Challa of Wakanda, and with his army moving in on the compound, he announces that they’re all under arrest. He offers them all a fair trial if they surrender, and they agree, mainly because they have no reason to fight without someone to pay them, which makes it somewhat confusing since they just killed a guy while claiming they only serve Zemo, but then allude to only working for Zemo because he paid them. Fickle bunch.

With “Zemo’s” sinister plan unraveled and our heroes safely out of harm’s way, the story concludes as S.H.I.E.L.D. destroys the now useless Death Ray. Cap, Agent 13, and T’Challa fly off into the sunset as Cap offers T’Challa his old spot on The Avengers before making the statement, “So long as freedom may be threatened–Captain America must follow his destiny–wherever it may lead!”

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Obviously this book has some iffy parts- mostly surrounding Cap’s abnormal deductive abilities, but it’s still a great read. The Lee/Kirby freight train starts moving and keeps a speedy pace throughout the entire thing with plenty of twists and action, and, although it comes a different era of comics, it doesn’t feel all that different from something you would read today.

Captain America: Steve Rogers #1 Ranty, Spoiler-filled Review

You all know why we’re here. You know what I’m going to talk about. Let’s get it out of the way.

SPOILERS!!!!!!!

Steve Rogers has secretly been a HYDRA operative since he was 6 years old.

Now, instead of ranting about how stupid an idea this is, I want to remind everyone that there is NO WAY this is going to stick. It’s just a brainless gimmick to grab attention, and will likely be the product of a cosmic cube or some other such nonsense. That having been said, it still ruins what is an otherwise good issue.

So with that out of the way, let’s get right down to it.


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Captain America: Steve Rogers #1

Writer: Nick “Look at Me!” Spencer

Artist: Jesus “This Book’s Real Savior” Saiz


The book opens up in 1926, (almost 20 years BEFORE the creation of HYDRA…this is probably important) with a flashback scene of an “always portrayed in flashbacks as a stinking drunk” Joseph Rogers getting angry about some trivial thing and turning to beat Sarah, as was tradition for the Rogers family back then. To be fair, it was the 20’s. I think it was ok to do horrible things to people you loved in those days. Anyway, a random woman intervenes, beating down Joseph and sending him running off while she introduces herself to Sarah and her young son, Steve. The entire scene is set in sepia tones and grayscale, except for highlights done in red. RED, people. Pay attention. I tend to think Jesus Saiz is choosing his colors very specifically.

Jump forward to present day, where Steve is doing his best to beat down a HYDRA cell with Sharon Carter and Rick Jones back at HQ helping out with logistics. Steve is narrating and right away something seems a bit off. Not in his character, that is still 100% on point (and something Spencer seems to be an expert on), but rather something is amiss with some of the facts, though I’ll dive into that with a little more depth later.

Steve’s narration is key in setting the scene for introducing the new HYDRA- now led by the Red Skull (just like in the movies!). This HYDRA is recruiting everyday people who have had a rough life. People who, like Robbie Dean Tomlin, Steve’s target, might have drug problems, or come from broken homes, or are just lost and looking for someone to blame for their bad luck. The Skull is taking full opportunity of these misfortunes and uses it to promote his hate speeches and scapegoating. Yep, that’s right. The Red Skull has just officially turned HYDRA into the Nazi party (draw your own similarities between this and the current political climate in the US- I’m staying out of that one).

We learn that Robbie is strapped with a bomb, and despite Rick working hard to separate his car from the rest of the train, Steve doesn’t want Robbie to give his life for a misled cause. Again, very Steve. Instead of letting the poor kid roll down the tracks to his death, Steve decides to try and reason with him. His plea falls on deaf ears though, as Robbie is so broken by life that he triggers the bomb and blows himself up for what amounts to nothing. There’s something really unsettling about his face when he does it, too. Saiz is killing it with the art.

During the train incident we also learn that Steve has a field team in the way of Free Spirit and Jack Flag, proving yet again that Spencer is the reincarnation of Mark Gruenwald. I’m not complaining, just noting.

Steve is very shaken by the kid killing himself, and in a tender scene between he and a very wrinkly Sharon (poor Sharon) he states that this new HYDRA has gotten under his skin. He also reveals that he’s a bit rusty, since he, for whatever reason, doesn’t feel right in his new/old body. “I used to look in the mirror and not recognize the ninety-year old, and now I don’t recognize THIS— especially when I’m moving. It’s got me…out of sorts“. Take that on face value if you will, but I believe that means a bit more. Subtext- it’s real.

That scene leads to more flashback and then an incredible scene with Rick, Jack Flag and Free Spirit swapping Cap stories. It’s things like this that make the stupid revelation at the end of the book more of a gut-punch. You want to ignore it, but since the rest of the book is so well done you just can’t. Sigh, I’m really trying not to rant about it.

When we get back to Steve and Sharon, they are meeting with the ever-infuriating Maria Hill, who drops her own bomb on our heroes- S.H.I.E.L.D. has found Zemo. See, Zemo went missing after the whole Pleasant Hill situation that went down a few months back and he’s been towing Erik Selvig along with him (hostage style, not buddy comedy style). Since then he’s been hearing all about Red Skull’s new HYDRA and, to be honest, he’s not liking it one bit. Seems he believes that HYDRA is more than just, as he puts it, “…some street gang of poorly-educated layabouts blowing themselves to bits…”. He claims responsibility for making HYDRA the exceptional organization it was (why does no one give Strucker his due credit?) and starts to assemble a new version of the Masters of Evil to take down the Skull and reclaim HYDRA.

The entire scene with Zemo gathering his new “followers” is hilarious and has a Venture Bros. vibe to it that is signature Spencer. The comedy is disrupted by Steve’s team (The Liberty Crew? Team Stripes?) who break in and just start to tear apart the new Masters, though it hardly seems a challenge. During the fight Steve contradicts himself on a single page by shouting both “Eyes on the leader! Zemo will use the fight as a distraction!” followed almost immediately by Jack asking if Steve needs help chasing after Zemo and Steve responding, “No! Focus on these three! Zemo’s mine!” Not sure what to make of that, but it just seems like something thrown in to set up the next couple pages at the expense of the momentum that was already in place.

As Zemo tries to escape in his jet (which comes complete with a “Captive Selvig” action figure), Steve hitches a ride and proceeds to beat the tar out of him. This is really where the entire story goes downhill. This entire review I’ve been pointing out things that I PRAY will be important to explaining the absolute garbage that plays out over the next 4 pages.

I’m not going to lie- at this point I’m likely to start ranting. Feel free to stop reading if you want- this might not be pretty.

So Jack Flag jumps on board to clock Zemo, who has gained the upper hand on Steve. But instead of being met with gratitude, Steve throws the poor guy out of the cargo door, presumably to his death. A very “WTF?!” moment to be sure, but it’s immediately followed by one last flashback that shows Ms. Sinclair (SINclair. THAT HAS TO MEAN SOMETHING! DOESN’T IT?!?!) handing a f***ing HYDRA pamphlet to Sarah Rogers, who passes the ominous looking Skull-Emblazoned paper to her 6 year old son! It’s immediately followed by the most perverse image I’ve seen in a Cap comic in years- Captain America saying “Hail HYDRA.”

Yes. That.

Again, like I said earlier, I assume that this will be a “The Skull used the Cosmic Cube to re-write Steve’s history” in a similar fashion to the “Snap” Wilson nonsense from so long ago. Actually, I’m hoping, praying and begging. I outlined a whole bunch of inconsistencies between the Steve in this issue and the Steve we’ve all grown to admire. Little things he’s said, small things that I’m interpreting as hints- it’s all there, and hopefully not just because I want to see it. Hell, I’m even taking the one good Remender moment, the “Always stand up” that Steve learned from his mother, as proof that this history is different. Sarah Roger taught Steve to fight back, not HYDRA. Never HYDRA. NEVER.

The thing that really bugs me here, more than the stupid and inexcusable twist, is that after everything I’ve seen, I KNOW Spencer is capable of better writing. This ending is just shock for the sake of shock. That’s it. It’s not story-driven, it’s not organic, it’s just bludgeoning, attention-grabbing stupidity. And it’s worsened by Spencer and editor Tom Brevoort fueling the fire on social media and news sites just to gain attention. The rest of the story, hell the entire book, is great. It’s as if Spencer completely understands the characters but has no respect for them. Like the freaking scientists in Jurassic Park- he realized he could but never stopped to think if he should. I hope Jack Flag eats Spencer while he’s on the toilet.

There’s way more I could say about this issue, like how Spencer still wrote Steve as a good guy, despite the fact that he’s (now) a villain (and whatever crazy connotation that comes with), but I think I’ll limit my rage for now. Feel free to head over to his Twitter account if you want to see more.

Ok, so now that I’ve gotten that out of my system, let me say that while I don’t like the twist or the direction the story seems to be heading (I didn’t sign up for evil Steve… Stevil?) the rest of the book is the same solid stuff we’ve been getting from Spencer. However, to me at least, CA:Steve #1 suffers from some of the same problems as the second Star Wars Trilogy- it doesn’t just ruin itself with a bad ending and stupid, out of nowhere revelations, but it retroactively harms the entire franchise. I can see pieces in place to fix things, but only time will tell if those are imaginary concoctions perceived by a desperate fan who is trying to make sense of a heartbreaking betrayal.  Even if it’s a brief story, it’s going to take a while to repair the damage Nick Spencer has done to Cap’s credibility.

Captain America: Steve Rogers Free Comic Book Day One Shot Spoiler-heavy Review

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Captain America: Steve Rogers FCBD One Shot

Writer: Nick Spencer

Artist: Jesus Saiz


This year’s Free Comic Book Day (FCBD) was last Saturday (it’s always the first Saturday in May, kids! Go read a comic!) featured our first real look at the new Cap book starting this month. Helmed by Captain America: Sam Wilson writer Nick Spencer, with art by Cap-newcomer Jesus Saiz, Captain America: Steve Rogers is shaping up to be a great new outing for the Star-Spangled Avenger.

The book opens up after the events of Pleasant Hill, and presumably after Captain America: Sam Wilson #9, with my beloved Sharon Carter no longer Agent 13, but now a Commander (of, I’m guessing, S.H.I.E.L.D.?), addressing the recent uprising of HYDRA activity. Sharon explains to a bunch of suits at a Senate hearing that HYDRA, the once organized, well-funded group of terrorists, has now devolved into a group of men with little training who seem to resort to guerilla tactics and target civilian areas with the express intent to breed fear and confusion.

Allow me to explain- in one of his first undertakings as the new/old/current/co Captain America, Sam Wilson, basically ran a gauntlet of HYDRA leaders until finally dismantling the terrorist organization. HYDRA was all but a terrible memory until the events of Pleasant Hill, a super-prison run by S.H.I.E.L.D., which resulted in the release of some of the world’s most dangerous individuals, including The Red Skull, Crossbones, and Sin. The three decided to rebuild HYDRA as less of a cult-like military unit and more like a group of fanatical extremists. They immediately began recruiting White Supremacists, Neo-Nazis, and anyone that believed in the Skull’s ideals of disorder, chaos and hate.

Back at the hearing in Washington D.C., Sharon is asked about an incident in Graz, Austria that happened one week ago. One thing I’ve realized that Nick Spencer LOVES to do in his stories is out-of-order storytelling. This has been used several times throughout his short run on CA:Sam, where he will start you at a point in the story AFTER the big event, and then have some character explain what happened while we see it through a flashback. Think “Invasion of the Body Snatchers”. Yeah, I know. I just made myself feel old with that reference. Anyway, it’s not a bad way to tell a story, I just felt the need to point out how often he’s been doing it.

So flashback to one week ago in Graz where Steve, fully suited up in his new uniform (and looking badass!), is taking out a small HYDRA cell and attempting to get information about an upcoming attack. He muscles some info out of one of the HYDRA goons, and while it happens completely off-screen, we are meant to believe that Cap got kind of rough with the guy. That should be nothing shocking since we’ve seen him do this before, but certainly FEELS different because Steve isn’t just throwing down with some clown in a green costume- this is a normal looking dude. Which makes sense for the “new” HYDRA, but I miss the green. I’m also a little confused as to why this guy was all “You’re Captain America! A hero! You won’t kill me!”, since we’ve all seen Steve throw HYDRA agents off trains and jets. Yeah, Cap isn’t a trigger-happy nutjob like a certain Skull-chested madman, but he does what he needs to in order to protect people. I guess the newly reformed HYDRA couldn’t afford a “Know Your Enemy” training video.

Steve sends the information he gathers to Sharon, who is in some sort of S.H.I.E.L.D. HQ along with Rick Jones, former secret informative known as “The Whisperer”, who then relay that info to Sam Wilson, Co-Captain America, and his partner, the Falcon. Sam and Falcon quickly and entertainingly take out the HYDRA operation, narrowly saving the city from a bomb, but while the celebration starts, Sharon receives word that another bomb, one that our heroes knew nothing about, has gone off killing twelve people. Obviously HYDRA is more organized than everyone thinks.

Jump back to present day Washington D.C. and Sharon explaining the mission to the Senate, who sees her explanation as simple excuses for botching the mission. Steve steps in, interrupting a blowhard Senator and launching into a 2-page speech to rally the troops against HYDRA. Jesus Saiz uses some great imagery of the Senators in a “hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil” pose while Steve explains that they aren’t in the meeting to find blame, but rather to figure out what to do about the new HYDRA, something that Steve refers to as a spreading virus. If I haven’t said it recently, let me just say that I am crazy excited to have Steve Rogers back in Cap-mode. I know everyone in the Marvel U seems to think that “the world needs Captain America”, and while that may be partially true, what I think the world really always needs is Steve Rogers.

Steve urges the Senate to make a formal declaration of war against HYDRA, and turn the tables by taking the fight to them. A great idea, but also one that the Red Skull seems to have not only anticipated, but was counting on. How this will play out remains to be seen in a few weeks when Captain America: Steve Rogers #1 hit stands. If this first story is any indication, Spencer and Saiz have a well-crafted book planned for us. Spencer continues to tap his expert knowledge of the characters he’s writing to deliver unique dialogue and perspective from each one, maintaining that delicate balance between serious and funny. Saiz’s art is outstanding, and compliments Spencer’s story nicely with action scenes that are coherent and flowing without being overly complex. And I absolutely love the way he draws Steve.

Overall, the FCBD issue of Captain America is a great introduction to a new chapter in Captain America history.

 

Captain America: Sam Wilson #9 Spoiler Heavy Review

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Captain America: Sam Wilson #9

Writer: Nick Spencer

Artist: Angel Unzueta


With the events of Pleasant Hill behind him, Sam Wilson is prepared to march forward as Captain America. But with the return of Steve Rogers, the original Captain America, the question on everyone’s mind is whether or not the world is ready for two Caps, and that very topic is the focus of this month’s issue.

The book opens up like all of the recent issues- with way too much recapping. Now I get that there are people that need to be caught up to speed, but each issue gives us a full (and usually entertaining) recap on the first page via some clever “Twitter” posts. These “tweets” (as the younger folk tell me such things are called) do a fine job on their own without having to then take the next three pages to say the same thing with more lengthy narration.

Despite the recap pages growing in number like (insert clever metaphor here), I have to admit that they really don’t slow down the story, which starts up right away with a smug Maria Hill almost bragging about how she and S.H.I.E.L.D. aren’t getting held accountable for the Super-Prison breakout that took place just a short time ago. This time the argument that ensues ends not in Steve and Sam on opposite sides of the fence, but rather the two agreeing that something needs to be done to ensure justice is served. Steve moves like a district attorney, deciding that he and Sam need to build their case against Hill before acting. The first step to that, of course, would be finding Kobik, the sentient Cosmic Cube who was both the cause of and solution to the catastrophe that was Pleasant Hill- a plan Sam reluctantly agrees to.

I’m glad the Sam/Steve feud has been resolved so quickly, because I love seeing the two of them together again. Sam’s emotional nature pairs well with Steve’s level-headed leadership, which is why the two have always been a great team. They just always seem to balance each other out.

After sparring with the always delightful Misty Knight, Sam heads to a grand ol’ “Welcome Back” press conference for Steve, but not before revealing to her that he is a bit worried about being unnecessary once the original man is back in the stars and stripes. Even though it was his idea (something he conceived during the Pleasant Hill fiasco) he still has every right to be concerned, I mean, we’re talking about THE Steve Rogers, here.

And boy, does our man of the hour sure look spiffy in his new uniform. It has sort a MCU vibe to it, which is fine because a) that’s a great look, and b) Sam, with some modifications, is already wearing a version of the classic comic uniform. Still not entirely sold on the triangle shield, but we’ll see how I feel after I’ve seen it in action.

That’s not something you’ll see in this book, though, because despite Steve’s triumphant return, this is still Sam’s book, and Nick Spencer manages to keep it that way. Which, considering that this is THE Steve Rogers, is impressive.

Steve reunites with his old pal, D-Man, who doesn’t hesitate to run past Cap to give Cap (this could get confusing) a big hug, and he also meets Joaquin, the new Falcon, before taking the stage. Joaquin is great as always, delivering what is easily the best line in the entire book: “What’s up, Captain Establishment? You’re looking awfully white this afternoon, sir.” But, see, what’s outstanding about Joaquin is that he’s a young kid with an attitude, yet all his snarky joking aside he’s a very respectful character who genuinely seems star-struck when actually meeting Steve. And I mean, who wouldn’t be? This is THE Steve Rogers we’re talking about. Okay, I’ll stop with that now.

While Steve is rallying the troops in classic Cap fashion, and people are celebrating the return of THE Steve Ro…right, sorry. Anyway, Sam is standing off-stage watching and wondering how he could possibly compare to his partner when a fabulous deus ex machina gives him the opportunity to show a nation of people who pretty much hate him just what the new Cap (wait, current Cap? Co-Cap?) can do. A mercenary called Chance crashes the event and tries to kill Steve, but is stopped by Sam in an ensuing air battle. It’s the one big action scene of the book and flows nicely thanks to art by new Cap headliner Angel Unzueta, and while the man can obviously draw a solid piece of action, something about the way he draws faces bugs me. I think it may be that there are some panels where people have no teeth when they have their mouths open. Yeah, I get that it’s true to life, but it just looks a bit odd to me. Anyway, moving on.

The crowd witnesses the spectacular feat and cheers Sam on as Steve proclaims, “Ladies and gentlemen- Captain America!”

Sam is loving the spotlight, but it’s short-lived as Chance, while being taken away by the police, reveals that his attack was provoked by the Pleasant Hill incident. Turns out that while Sam and Steve are trying to quietly build a case against Maria Hill, the rest of the world, or at least those who know about the incident, believe that the Avengers are just helping them cover things up. For a guy like Chance, a guy who was there and experienced things first-hand, this is not acceptable in the least. It’s one of those reality vs. perception things that can’t be resolved easily.

This revelation eats at Sam, keeping him from being able to sleep, even though he has the beautiful Misty in the bed calling him back (go Sam!). Sam admits that he isn’t use to compromise and that he has a feeling that things are about to get worse before they get better.

Interesting note- Sam likes to stand naked in front of large, coverless windows. Make of that what you will.

This month’s issue ends like all good issues do- giving us an ever so slight glimpse into what’s coming next, which in this case appears to be even more Gruenwald-flavored treats. I don’t know how I feel about that, though, because I’m still sitting here waiting for something new, and while I personally haven’t seen Americop in a while, I don’t have the same gleeful attachment to him (them, now) as I did with the Serpent Society. We’ll see what happens next month when the story unfolds.

Until then, go see Captain America: Civil War!

Captain America: Civil War Spoiler-free Review

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Captain America: Civil War has officially been released in theaters across America, and I, of course, grabbed a pair of tickets to see the very first screening I could find. My wife and I went decked out in geek-gear: me in Cap socks and shirt, and her in a Spider-Gwen hoodie that I’m convinced she plans on being buried in. We arrived at the theater early Thursday night and just watched in delight as people came out by the dozens to show their support for the First Avenger with t-shirts, jackets, hats, and all manner of Cap garb. Hell, one girl was wearing a full on Cap onesie. I’d say it looked ridiculous but I’m just being jealous- I wish I’d have thought to do that.

After two and a half hours of intense action, thought-provoking story and some serious twists that I did not see coming (and a few I did) I left the theater last night feeling somewhat conflicted- what I had just seen was probably the best Avengers movie to date, and I should have been jumping up and down with excitement, but instead I couldn’t help but feel a tad disappointed. I mean, following up a movie like Captain America: The Winter Soldier is a tough task. I constantly go back to it as the prime example of a movie doing everything right, and as a result any movie that isn’t so spot-on is a let down.

That’s not to say Civil War was a let down, don’t misunderstand me- from a cinematic standpoint this was a solid, entertaining movie. My wife, a casual Marvel fan and devout Cap-reader, absolutely loved it, and even if I didn’t think it was quite as strong as Winter Soldier, I still had a blast. The movie has all the working parts to make it the summer blockbuster it is, mixing serious issues with outlandish but brilliant fight scenes all interspersed with laugh-out-loud humor (thanks mostly to our friendly neighborhood Spider-Man). The story moves along at a fast pace, which works both for and against it as it has a lot to set up in a short period of time, leaving the first act a little rushed, but working flawlessly for the second and third acts. And while it does have a few too many moving parts, it does a much better job of focusing on the “right now” than Avengers: Age of Ultron did, which seemed more interested in setting up the next slew of Marvel movies than paying attention to its own story.

Also like the previous Avengers movies, Civil War is crammed full of superheroes who need to battle for screen time. However, unlike AoU, every character present serves the plot in one way or another despite having over a dozen costumed heroes running around. Joe and Anthony Russo do an outstanding job keeping us engaged in our familiar faces while simultaneously introducing some new friends along the way, assuring us that the next two Avengers movies are in good hands. This is one of the movie’s greatest strengths- being able to juggle so many characters without having anyone feel forced in or left out, but it’s also one of my biggest issues with the movie. With a so many characters pulled from all over the MCU, Civil War is as much a sequel to Avengers as it is to Captain America, maybe even more so.

A great deal of the film’s time is spent reminding us about Sokovia and the events that took place in AoU, even so much as to be the driving force behind many of the character’s motivations. Now, I have no problem with the Avengers, and if this movie had been titled Avengers: Civil War, I would probably feel very different about it, but I wanted to see a sequel to The Winter Soldier. Despite wrapping up the plot started in that movie, not enough time was devoted to developing Cap’s supporting cast (Falcon, Sharon, Crossbones) so the film could make room for the Avengers team members like Vision and Scarlet Witch (though Zemo is a truly spectacular villain worthy of his legacy).

So in that respect, I was disappointed with Civil War. Not because of what it was, but because of what it wasn’t. It’s a fun, action-packed Avengers movie that’s sure to please fans of the MCU, but Captain America fans may feel a little underwhelmed that it wasn’t quite the Cap movie we wanted.