Friday, August 04, 2006

Soldiers (Marvel comics)
Captain America #6 When: April, 1997
Why: Rob Liefeld & Jeph Loeb How: Rob Liefeld

The story so far...
Marvel's greatest heroes are believed dead, sacrificing themselves to defeat the menace of Onslaught.
Unbeknownst to those left behind, the heroes habe been trapped in a pocket universe as an instinctive defensive meaure by the immensly powerful mutant child - Franklin Richards.

Now, reliving a strangely similar but warped version of his previous life, Captain America awakes from a dormant sleep as a defunct SHIELD agent.

Emerging in this strange new world reborn, Captain America goes live once more, facing threats older than anyone in this universe can possibly know.

Previous Form:
Marvel versus DC #2: Captain America outfoxes the devestating Bane.
Incredible Hulk #449: As Citizen V, Baron Zemo leads the Thunderbolts against the Hulk.
MODOK and Cable have not yet been featured on Secret Wars on Infinite Earths.

Tale of the tape...
Strength: Cable 4 (Steroid Popper)
Intelligence: MODOK 5 (Professor)
Speed: Captain America 3 (Trained Athlete)
Stamina: Captain America 5 (Marathon Runner)
Agility: Captain America 4 (Gymnast)
Fighting Ability: Captain America 6 (Warrior)
Energy Powers: Cable 4 (Arsenal)

You know, there are actually a few things working against MODOK, before we even arrive at the fact that he's a giant head floating around in some kind of futuristic, cyborg toilet enhancement.

The first problem - he's compensated for his giant headed immobility by allying himself with a guy who wears a pink mask that he took from daddy's closet, and is named Helmut. Second - he's hanging with AIM, who are essentially a non-threatening sprawl of nameless, faceless super scientist drones, who exist for the sole purpose of making evil look goofy as it gets stomped all over by Captain America. With that in mind, it does not bode well for MODOK and his wacky pal, Helmut Zemo.

Update: In all the fun, this update originally asserted the presumption that this was a Heroes Reborn alternate duplicate of the modern day Baron Helmut Zemo. During this event, Helmut was rather prominently featured in the main Marvel Universe in the guise of Citizen V - the leader of villains disguised as heroes: The Thunderbolts. This supports the subsequent understanding that the Baron Zemo featured here is actually Heinrich Zemo - Cap's original WWII nemesis! Please note this correction when proceeding.

Things are partially balanced in this world gone mad, where Rob Liefeld's pencils ensure MODOK, rather than look proportionate next to his super-deformed figures, is actually gargantuan. Actually, I don't remember MODOK ever being so intimidating in battle, nor as a subject to be read.

Cable is a mutant with low level telepathic abilities, military training from a post-apocalyptic future, and big metal cybernetics where diseased limbs once were.
His chief skill in combat is to carry weaponry, armor and shoulder pads that weight twice his bodyweight. When it comes to guns, this guy's futurewares (which are somehow in abundance, despite his residence in the present...) put the Punisher to shame.

So, even despite MODOK's concerning elevation in the supervillain stakes, there are very few scenarios in which Cable would be grossly challenged. On his own, he could probably mow down AIM goons like tin ducks on a motorized rack - call Zemo a daddy's boy - and strip MODOK for parts before a single shell hit the ground.

Oh, and are you dense? Are you retarded or something?
Lest we forget the god damned Captain America!

Honestly, this one's pretty much a case closed scenario...
That's without even getting into the fact that it's only issue six in a series that had SHIELD, the good guys, in an adversarial position at the beginning; and that this is a gratuitous Liefeldian fan service issue, that squeezes his abismal creation [Cable] into the story through the most obtuse means.

What went down...
We enter the fray somewhat disorientated, not by Lifeld's pencils, but rather by virtue of coming in with the action already underway.
Connecting in no way to the previous issue, Captain America stands beside the man called Cable, before a pack of AIM bucketheads, giant MODOK, and Zemo.

Cable doesn't know how he's arrived here, and is curious as to the fact that Captain America is supposed to be dead. As with most of the folks trapped in the Heroes Reborn blue ball, Cap has no recollection of Cable, a trait we all envy.

MODOK takes offense to orders of surrender, apparently prompting Cable to jump qquite high into the air, before he starts shooting his futuristic guns at the bucketheads.

Captain America throws his mighty shield, and clocks a bunch of the yellow jumpsuiters, before following suit with a variety of rampaging fists, dives, shield swings and kicks.

Meanwhile, Carrie Ke... er... I mean, Heroes Reborn girl-Bucky is crowd surfing over the goons, dropping a few fists and kicks whensoever it does suit her.

Now things start to get a little... EXTREME!

Quite literally lording over Cable, MODOK threatens grievous psychic harm.

Cable retorts that in his own world, he's regarded as a pretty decent telepath himself, and proceeds to jump on to MODOK.
Scrambling around MODOK like a bug on a beachball, Cable reaches around to the ample forehead, and starts to probe psychically.

Battling each other within the mind, it seems MODOK is just a bigger psychic target, falling victim, presumably, to the horror of Cable's backstory.

While MODOK sizzles defeat, Cap is managing the army of AIM goons like the one-man army we all know him as.
A few deformed kicks and dives later, and Zemo enters the fray.

The self-professed "Juggernaut of the Fourth Reich" socks it to the American flag, straight across the jaw, but Cap isn't phased. He returns suit, and lays the smackdown with the shield!

To finish Zemo off, he lays down a cermon that should inspire fear in all Golden Age villains who would seek to return: "Whether you ally yourself with A.I.M. or the World Party -- the nightmare called the Nazi Army will NEVER rise again.
America is too strong now. And I share only a hint of her power.

As Cap lays Zemo out for good, Cable arrives as the indesputable fact that, despite all the time travelling/reality jumping knowledge that would contradict his opinion; this must be the original recipe Cap, and not a man from another time or dimension.
This is the one true Captain America. Victorious, as he, Bucky and Cable regroup, only to watch Cable slip away through the timesteam, back to where he belongs. Or at least the next best thing - the Marvel Universe. *snort*

The hammer...
Score one to the anti-registration heroes.Captain America and Cable pick up the victory, with the assist from girl-Bucky!

Jokes aside for a moment, I've got to be honest: I don't hate Rob Liefeld.
He's probably not an artistic force I rate very highly, but honestly, I was never a big mutant reader, so New Mutants/X-Force was lost on me, and I didn't see the appeal in the Image launch. So, really, I haven't had to have a lot to do with the guy.

I think it is irrefutable that the guy has faults.
I have to highlight one such artistic fault here, which actually isn't too jarring in the context of this issue, but is still just a little disturbing from a page-to-dollar ratio.

There are a lot of splash pages.
I'm not talking Bendis and Finch on New Avengers, either. This is... This is pretty bad. This is the kind of thing that would make a pretty compelling argument against the guy from an overall perspective.

Grabbing a random recent purchase, here's how Liefeld's issue compares to a contemporary book written by Allan Heinberg, and pencilled by Jim Cheung:

Young Avengers #12 (2006)
Double page splash: 2
Double page layout: 0
Full page splash: 4
Three quarter splash: 2
Advertising: 4
General layout: 16 (8)
Recap/letters page: 2
Captain America #6 (1997)
Double page splash: 8
Double page layout: 2
Full page splash: 5
Three quarter splash: 2
Advertising: 17
General layout: 6
Recap/letters page: 0

The issue I happened to choose, Young Avengers, should be noted for making very good use of fullpage splashes, and managing to cram a great deal of very cleanly told story telling into each layout. I'm actually exceptionally impressed by YA, which has perhaps an uncommon ratio of splashes, but still puts together a strong story -- AND has a Masked Marvel eight page back-up.

While Liefeld's Captain America reads a fun battle, the ratio of story telling and comic is pretty disgraceful. Ignoring the back-end clogging of previews and in-house advertising, you have six pages dedicated to more traditional panel layouts.
That's utilizing just a quarter of dedicated comic to tell the story, with the rest dedicated solely to very nineties extreme action comic.

As I said earlier, it actually reads pretty well, and isn't overly jarring, but this is a disturbing trait for a comic, and highlights how far comics have come.
Likewise, I should probably commend Marvel for it's efforts to cut back on advertising, which was slowly enveloping publications which just aren't getting any cheaper!

So, what do I have to say about Loeb?
Well, likewise, I don't buy into the Loeb hate. Actually, overall, I probably rate the guy pretty highly on my list of writers, and don't think he should be tarnished by association, just because Liefeld has an exaggerated pencil style, and light reading approach.

The Fight: 4.5 The Issue: 3.5

NEXT: This time around it's Iron Man's turn to team-up with a future ally in the Civil War. I'll give you a clue: he does whatever a spider can!


Anonymous said...


You left a comment on my blog a few days ago concerning MKA, so I visited your blog. Cool stuff man. I used to read comics back in the 80's and there were some great books back then. In fact, Secret Wars was one of the first I read (still never got around to Crisis, but it's been on my list forever). I kinda got out of it all in the late 80's, after Marvel starting abandoning story for cash (IMHO), but I collected Superman in the mid 90's for awhile. Anyway, it was nice to see what's been going on, you've got some good stuff here.

Mike Haseloff said...

Hey, thanks for checking it out!

This is the kinda blog that I'd like to think is geared toward the casual or estranged fan.

A little bit of nostalgia, a little bit of contemporary news, and a bunch of comic enjoying fun!

Missed Crisis on Infinite Earths?
The good news is, you can forget about that. The bad news is, now you've got to check out the newest universal storyarc - Infinite Crisis. :-p