July 3, 2009

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Captain America Red, White & Blue

Written by Various Writers, including Paul Dini, Bruce Jones, Paul Pope, Max Allan Collins, Mark Waid, Evan Dorkin, and Dan Jurgens
Illustrated by Various Artists, including Alex Ross, Bruce Timm, Paul Pope, Frank Quietly, Bill Sienkiewicz, Evan Dorkin, Mike Deodato, Stuart Immoden, Dan Jurgens, Bob Layton, Jim Mahfood, and Kevin Maguire (plus cameos by John Romita, Rick Veitch, Sal Buscema, and Mike Zeck)
Marvel

This is an oddball little anthology not unlike the upcoming "Strange Tales" mini-series Marvel is putting out later this year. In honor of something relating to Captain America, Marvel asked a whole host of creators to make short stories about Steve Rogers.

Overall, the quality is very good, if you like short, non-canonical tales that feature something the creator or creators really likes about the subject.

For instance, Dini, Ross, and Jones look to the heroic, American ideal Cap in their stories. They're okay as far as it goes, but it's nothing we haven't seen before. Frank Quietly draws a nice story about Cap visiting someone he served with who recalls how great Cap was and how bad a soldier Steve Rogers was, wishing he could recall the name of the poor solider who never did anything right.

On the other hand, Paul Pope and his collaborator, Nick Bertozzi, give us a world where the Red Skull is the hero, and he uses his evil manipulations on anyone who doubts the ways of evil, even going so far as to play a creepy headmaster in a school. Yet another story uses the idea of Cap being an America standin via ironic, over-the-top comments about communism.

Mark Waid gives us an idea of what Cap may have thought during those years in the ice (a What If tale I'd love to read in a longer version) while Max Allan Collins uses the Englehart Cap as his model for a story where Rogers takes on the conservatives who want to find a communist under every corner. Two other stories show Cap as being part of the "liberal agenda," ranging from racial harmony to making the world a better place.

This just goes to show you how versitile a character he is, depending on the writer. A Chuck
Dixon Cap would be quite different from a Peter David one, and we see a lot of that here. The best part is that when the story is well-done, neither interpretation of Captain America feels wrong.

Of the serious stories, I think "Desecration," by Jeff Jensen and Mike Deodato, is probably the best. Deodato shows his range (doing parody work ala Sergio Aragones and then his patented slick work) and Jensen literally vocalizes what this anthology is all about:

"You're really an amazing literary device, you know? Your symbolic meaning is all in the eye of the beholder."

That's so true, and his complex nature is on full display both within that story (where he must save odious people) and within the rest of the anthology.

Lest you think all the stories are serious, Evan Dorkin draws the cutest Zemo and Skull ever, as they attack France. And Bruce Timm's contribution as artist features Cap against a werewolf. But the best of the oddball stories is Cap and the Falcon in a Blackspotation film. You really do have to see that one to believe it.

Rounding out the anthology is a Cap's history backup by Jurgens (with the artist cameos), and some stories that led to yet another death of Cap. (Man, now that I think of it, why were we all so angry at Brubaker for killing Rogers? It's certainly not a first.) Kevin Maguire gets to show off his chops drawing a good portion of the Marvel U in the final story, with clever dialog amonst all the participants.

I am always inclined towards anthologies, so I will probably like this better than most who read it. But if you're a fan of any of the folks involved, it's definitely worth seeking out. Plus, you know you want to read Blackspoitation Cap. Don't deny it!