Marvel has never shied away from political commentary in its comics, or in its other media offerings, it seems. Did everyone catch Hydra second-in-command Fitz on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. last week, telling a conference room of fascist operatives to get out there and “make our society great again”? And even if Ms. Marvel couldn’t get Clinton elected, and the company has problems keeping closed-minded agendas out of the very comics that speak to acceptance, the effort has always been there, and, in recent years, creators have been encouraged to address social concerns more than ever before. Regardless, Marvel probably didn’t anticipate the controversy or severe reader backlash after Nick Spencer dropped that bomb in the pages of Steve Rogers: Captain America #1 last year.
Out of context it does sound pretty crazy. Captain America, bastion of freedom and liberty, literally covered in the g-d American flag, reveals that he’s actually been a Hydra sleeper agent all these many years, working to subvert the U.S. from the inside. This is the same Hydra that, depending on your comic book history source, had direct affiliation with the Nazis. So yeah, that seemed bad. But obviously the guy is telling a story, and Nick Spencer, as demonstrated by his work in the Sam Wilson series, is as socially conscious and politically savvy as they come. Let the book run its course, people!
The course has included Red Skull machinations, a sentient cosmic cube named Kobik, and one terribly ominous Ulysses prophecy. It’s been a wild ride thus far. And in this week’s kickoff to Marvel’s major summer event, Secret Empire #0, by Spencer, Rod Reis, and Daniel Acuña, things get even wilder.
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Don’t everybody give up on Vertigo just yet. While we’re all pretty excited about Doom Patrol and the launch of DC’s Young Animal line, DC hasn’t given away all the space on the creator-owned shelf to Image and Dark Horse just yet. Joshua Williamson, who is also currently writing DC’s rebirthed Flash , and veteran artist Jason Shawn Alexander debut Frostbite this week, and it’s a promising book for a once-great imprint sorely in need of a hit.
The series takes place in the post-apocalyptic throes of the New Ice Age, when folks are dealing not only with a scarcity of heat sources, but also a deadly new contagion. “Frostbite” isn’t just something that turns your toes black. Thanks to you meddling scientists, the precious few humans left on earth need to worry about catching a disease that freezes the body from the inside out. And the one woman who may have a cure is being hunted by the aptly named Fuego. Enter Keaton and her crew, hired to transport Victoria Bonham from Mexico City to a secret installation on Alcatraz.
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The Hellblazer prologue issue that came out a few weeks ago was a passable effort at introducing the character, re-establishing him in London, and incorporating him, once again, into the capes n’ tights universe of DC superheroes. Captain Marvel and Wonder Woman felt squeezed in solely to reassure the masses that this was, indeed, a DC book. But in Rebirth Week 14, we get the formal first issue of Oliver and Moritat’s Hellblazer series and, thankfully, assurances that John Constantine will be doing a lot more than matching wits with a demon or road-tripping with his amazing magical pals.
The issue opens in Sarajevo on that very fateful day in the summer of 1914. Two brothers, clearly aware that a Serbian Nationalist is about to murder Archduke Franz Ferdinand, thus setting off “a hundred years of human brutality,” struggle with whether or not they should prevent the assassination.
A century later we catch up with the brothers in present-day Paris, and the mystery deepens. Who or what they are, and which divine pair of eyes they’re trying to hide from, remains to be seen. The stage is set for an intriguing opening storyline that weaves together history, celestial incarnations, and good old-fashioned Biblical-style fratricide. Should be fun.
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At the conclusion of the recent Pleasant Hill event we learned that there was room in the Marvel Universe for three Captain Americas. The most recently anointed Cap, Sam Wilson (formerly known as The Falcon), still carries the shield (and the wings) and has been doing his damnedest to uphold the legacy. The Winter Soldier, Bucky Barnes, who had taken on the role subsequent to the first Civil War, is leading the new Thunderbolts. And Steve Rogers, youthful vigor restored by a sentient Cosmic Cube, has a new shield with a classic design, and a share of the responsibility that comes along with wielding it.
We’ve also learned that there’s room on the comic book shelf for multiple Captain America books. Week 34 of All New All Different Marvel debuts Captain America: Steve Rogers, in which Nick Spencer and Jesus Saiz tackle everything from the Pleasant Hill fallout to the underground swell of Red Skull’s Hydra resurgence. With this first issue, Spencer, who has also been writing the hell out of Captain America: Sam Wilson, may be establishing himself as the Captain America scribe for the 21st century. Sam isn’t the only one living up to a legacy.
An opening action sequence involving a suicide bomber on a train channels classic Joe Simon and Stan Lee bravado, while the goofball villainy of Baron Zemo’s latest recruits is a tip of the cap to Jack Kirby’s later work on Cap’s solo book. The social commentary of Mark Gruenwald and Steve Englehart resonates in Red Skull’s all-too-real rendition of Take Back America, and the final few pages offer up a jaw-dropping plot twist a la Ed Brubaker. No, I’m not spoiling it for you. I do as I’m told.
Continue reading New Comics: Steve Rogers