Friday, July 29, 2011

Captain America: Rebirth #1

I keep a list of the new comic-related periodicals and books that I intend to purchase when they arrive in stores. When I was checking this list a week or two before this book shipped, I was completely confused. "What is Captain America: Rebirth?" I asked, "and why did I add it to the list as something I should think about buying?"

To answer my own question, Captain America: Rebirth #1 is a collection of old Silver Age Cap stories by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, recolored and linked via a new framing sequence. The fabulousness of the Lee/Kirby material is not in question - the only question is whether you need it in this form. To which I reply no, but it's a cheap sampler if you don't own any of them.

I am not opposed to modern coloring techniques on old comics. Quite frankly, such an approach made much of Marvel Comics #1 from 1939 bearable to me. However, the advances mean that it's a lot more complex than just picking colors. That's why I can say I wasn't crazy about the coloring on the Cap origin, but was OK with the rest of the reprints. Different colorists, different styles.

As for the framing sequence, Karl Kesel is back, and no, you aren't the only one to notice I seem to buy a lot of comics that he has a hand in producing. The framing story is a nice idea, but it suffers considerably from the fact that World War II ended over 60 years ago. Now, I realize WWII will always be a part of the Cap mythos, and that is how it should be. My credulity suffers when we bring in all these other, seemingly unrelated people to tie into the war.

The fact that Kesel has to make Cap's co-star in the framing story the great-granddaughter of the military brass who serves as the topic of discussion really underscores this point. The generational distance really lessens the impact for me. She's still worried about something her great-grandfather did? People are still talking about it over 60 years later? Really? It was kinda pushing it to make this sort of thing work by the 1990s, and sadly, it will only get worse as time marches on. I have joked in the past that, as far as modern comics are concerned, World War II will ALWAYS be "twenty years ago". I sometimes think there is more truth to that than I fully grasp.

The reprints included are one of the main culprits of this mindset, because they are such crackling good yarns of WWII as written and drawn in the 1960s. The origins of both Captain America and the Red Skull are on display, and are wonderful examples of storytelling. The Silver Age Cap series is among my faves from Sixties Marvel, and these examples are as good a reason as any to plunk down five for this book.

It's a good book. The coloring is hit and miss for me, but isn't too distracting. And despite my quibbling, Kesel's framing sequence is professional and sets a proper tone for the reprints being showcased. I hope I'm not being too picky above, since it's a nicely-drawn and written batch of pages. I just have a lot of trouble getting over that particular hurdle.

Captain America: Rebirth #1 should still be on sale from your friendly neighborhood funnybook dealer.

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