Sunday, April 18, 2010

Captain America and the Falcon: The Swine

What I try to do with reviews at this Bookshelf blog is keep it simple and spoiler-free, and let you know whether I'd recommend you pick up a copy of what I just read. Seems to work okay. This time, a brief review of Captain America and the Falcon: The Swine (Marvel, 2006)

From 1976-1977, Jack Kirby was back writing and drawing Marvel's Captain America & the Falcon, but by the end of his run, he was pretty clearly bored of having to include the Falcon in the stories, and so this third collection, which wraps up the run, mostly sidetracks that character so that Cap can get involved in a very lengthy storyline that is occasionally tiresome but mostly quite satisfyingly bugnuts.

This was the period where I think Kirby was plateauing, still making comics which were revelatory in one way or another but with sometimes heavy disclaimers. The goonish caricatures of some of the villains instantly took me out of the story, but not half as much as this must-be-seen-to-be-believed pinstripe suit that Cap wears in his civilian identity. I'm not sure whether the problem came from Kirby using 1930s reference for the fashion, or the colorist attacking it with stripes so wide that it looks like Cap's advertising chewing gum.

The storylines, however, are so engaging and over the top that most people will probably overlook Kirby's power beginning to fade a little. Over the course of eight issues, Cap gets abducted by a crazy South American dictator who's been buying guardian monsters from an insane scientist called Arnim Zola who keeps his face on a video screen on his chest, and who is bankrolled by the Red Skull, the supervillain that even all the other supervillains hate, because he's a Nazi. If you can't even count on Dr. Doom or Magneto to back you up in attacking the X-Men, you really are a scumbag.

Speaking of Magneto, he turns up in a bonus story, having recruited a really pathetic new Brotherhood of Evil Mutants with such awe-deflating names as "Peeper" and "Lifter." It's not a really notable chapter in Magneto's story, but it's pretty amusing watching Cap find novel ways to thrash all of their butts.

This is not Kirby at his best. Even compared to the stories in the first in this three-volume series, this feels a little uninspired and slow. On the other hand, darned if I can think of a Marvel Comic in the last four years to be half as entertaining and wild as this. Recommended with some reservations.

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