Monday, September 03, 2007

Dark Dawn (Marvel comics)
Captain America #408 When: October 1992
Why: Mark Gruenwald How: Rik Levins

The story so far...
The deadly Nightshade teams with Dredmund, lord of the werewolves, in a sinister scheme to turn the people ofMassachusetts into werewolves -- including the super-soldier himself, Captain America!

Fortunately for him the combined might of he, Man-Wolf John Jameson, Wolfsbane, Wolverine and others sees the day saved, but before Cap can be cured of his lycanthropy there's another shocking surprise in store!

Unbenknownst to he, a secret war is being waged by the evil spirit of Adam Warlock, Magus! Creating sinister doppelgangers of Earth's greatest heroes, Magus sends his shadows out to do battle with their counterparts.
Suffering fatigue of battle and Nightshade's cure, can Cap defeat his dastardly doppelganger, or is it curtains for America's greatest warrior?

Previous Form:
Captain America (#6): Victories over Wolverine, Baron Zemo, Punisher & Mr. Hyde.
Doppelganger: The Magus-born Spidey doppelganger endured beyond Infinity War to defeat Spider-man.

Tale of the tape...
Strength: Captain America 3 (Athlete)
Intelligence: Captain America 4 (Tactician)
Speed: Captain America 4 (Olympian)
Stamina: Captain America 5 (Marathon Man)
Agility: Captain America 4 (Gymnast)
Fighting Ability: Captain America 6 (Warrior)
Energy Powers: Captain America 2 (Projectile)

Okay, I'm really tired, and evil-clone month isn't nearly as exciting as it sounds.
Actually, for those who look back on the nineties with contemporary chagrin, that probably isn't news. It was nice enough for the time, if a little awkward, but lordy, I'm tired, running a little lazy on point, and this just isn't a hook.

So, anyway, as you can see, I've cheaped out on mugshots and rather than poll the doppelganger's strengths I've just served you up the ratings as we see them for Captain America. If you want a reference point to debate the accuracy of these rarely discussed ratings, you can check yourself into school and hunt down the patented scientifically proven Haseloff tape system.

As for the business, well, yeah... Captain America, who has spent the best part of a few months turned into a werewolf, wraps things up by demanding a cure. Werewolf Cap... fighting an evil clone with a jagged (John Walker-esque) shield and a fangy grin... I just... I'm at a loss for words, ten-to-midnight.

Good triumphs over evil. No one sees an evil Captain America on a cover and expects for even a second that he's going to win. Especially not when it's an Infinity War tie-in. It's a little bit ridiculous, a little bit fun.

The Pick: Captain America

What went down...
With the lycanthrop cure administered and effective on John Jameson, Cap lies on Nighshade's table and prepares to receive it himself. Unlucky for him, a mysterious evil doppelganger appears out of thin air!

The evil Captain swats Jameson, sending him sprawling into Nightshade.

The move bumps her hand holding the syringe that contains the cure formula, prodding it by accident into the true Captain America. Despite the unexpected prick, Cap is able to sweep Nightshade off her feet, narrowly avoiding the spike prongs of the dark clone's shield.

Suffering the effects of not only the battle of the wolves, but also now the reversing effects of the serum, Cap goes on the defensive. He's able to defend against the airborne spike-edged shielf of his dark mirror image, but weakened, cannot avoid deflecting it into the path of his allies!

Moonhunter pulls back the recently cured John Jameson, just narrowly avoiding a decapatating meeting between human flesh and mystery metal!

Attending the badly wounded Dredmund, Dr. Druid watches on as the evil Magus clone throttles the weakened Cap-Wolf as he begins to revert into his human form.

Though unable to intervene, the occult Dr. Druid is able to inform Captain America's curiosity, revealing that the evil doppelganger exibits no living energies or human traits -- a mere manifestation of evil!

The news is liberating to the Captain who, as a werewolf, has grappled with the darkness of the animalistic brutality that the transformation incurred. Ever unwilling in this sophisticated age to take a life, the Captain more freely launches his assault against the lifeless mirror image.

With the last of his energy, Captain America launches his legs into the air with the strength of a super-soldier! The move vaults the dark clone into the air, where he finds the blade of his own spike-edged shield that had buried itself in the adjacent wall after being deflected.

The spikes buried into the base of it's skull, the evil Captain America fades away like a ghostly apparition -- as though it were never even there!
"Mondo Spookioso," indeed, Moonhunter!

The hammer...
Proving you can accept no substitutes -- Captain America!

This is, of course, part of the on-going Monday series of posts featuring the villains from the Marvel Ultimate Alliance videogame, still available and expanding across multiple platforms.

Gamers will recall the latter stages of the game where they encounter dark versions of the playable characters in a world reenvisioned by a near omnipotent Dr. Doom. Though not traditional villains, it gives us a chance to take a look at some of the obscure, less important battles featuring heroes from the games, tackling evil versions of other heroes.

With recent entries, [Legends #1], we've been talking a bit about crossovers and their origins, with events like the featured Legends, and the similarities between more recent events like Infinite Crisis. We didn't really bridge out of that into the positives and negatives of crossover events, but I think it's safe to say this particular issue of Captain America is a great example of how an obtuse editorial mandate can really interrupt in a negative way.

No disrespect to Gruenwald, who I was surprised to find hasn't been featured in the Infinite Wars until now, but yeesh. Not many books come to mind where an event has so awkwardly been crammed into a story, and if you scroll back up to the tape and examine the featured panel, you might be able to appreciate that.

I mean, that is literally the extent of the introduction.
The issue opens with a fairly clunky, but no doubt appropriate conclusion to a storyarc that has run over a few issues of Cap, and then absolutely out of nowhere this trailing conclusion is assaulted, conceptually and fictionally, by the presence of this borish, wacky off-shoot from a story that's presumably happening in a galaxy far, far away from Massachussets.

I'm actually going to give Infinity War tie-ins a bit of credit.
As you'll see over the course of this month - because we're not done with them - they're actually a nice enough, one-off bit of fun, and this issue's third-page "suddenly" doesn't do the high concept of evil doppelgangers justice. It just really paints a glaringly obvious picture of how this kind of intrusive editorial storytelling can go horribly wrong.

It reads like Captain America had reached a crossroads. There's an on-going effort to connect this cosmic event to the powers that are going to be involved.
Captain America is one of those key moving parts, in what will eventually unfold into a weird, paranoia driven precursor to the Civil War scenarios, so you want to enlighten readers to that connection. You want to give them a taste of what's to come, but it seems to be done at the expense of a solid ending to a previous story, which perhaps already had it's own shakey merits to begin with.

I'm not going to presume that anything was forced on Gruenwald, but it's a familiar enough name to think this isn't wholely representative of the quality of work that Mark G is capable of. To his credit, he manages to put a slightly better slant on his product with two back-up stories, one in particular that features Crossbones that is tittilating in it's villainous simplicity.

It's a quirky back-up we'll probably see in a quick fix sometime in the future, that features just a scene and vibe almost reminiscent of a seventies martial arts exploitation movie, or something. It's almost a little bit Van Damme-classic.

It's interesting to note that the Nightshade character, who is arrested and taken away by The Jury, has most recently resurfaced as a member of MODOK's 11 in the recent Super Villain Team-Up revamp. You're not getting a lot of backstory out of this entry, but I like to think we can always be a referencial touchstone for you to seek out, and familiarize yourself with all things superhero.

I can't say a lot more about this issue specifically.
It probably represents one of the periods where Captain America was most lacking direction. Cap-Wolf represents substantially less a fond memory than would-be action figure changes like Cosmic-Spidey or Frog-Thor. I think we should be thankful that the character was able to really find purpose and stature worthy of the sixty-years of service, before his untimely assassination in a story that was debatably a spin-off from Civil War. [Captain America #25]

I think even those tired of the Civil War conflict would have to agree, it represents a creatively fruitful and superior model for the crossover story. A method that unfolds organically to reshape the conceptual foundation for the world in which the characters operate, rather than forcing obscure reference onto a story.

The Fight: 3 The Issue: 3.5

[Not at all a great representation of the Infinity War storyline, or the character. From a housekeeping perspective, we've filled in a missing year in our reference tags for the nineties. Yay! Now I need to get some damned sleep...]
NOTE: No stats for Moonhunter, Jameson or Nightshade, who are essentially bystanders. An assist for Dr. Druid on the basis of crucial intelligence.


Billscomics said...

I'm sure the "Infinity War" tie-in was forced by editorial edict, but all the same, the "Cap-Wolf" saga was not Gruenwald's best work.

I greatly prefer the previous summer's "Superia Strategem" storyline, where Cap and Paladin stowaway - in drag - on an all-woman, all-superpowered cruise!

Mike Haseloff said...

Aye, sir!

To this day it's not MODAM that haunts my dreams, but rather the notion that there really is someone out there for everyone -- MODOK included.

They could procreate.

I... I've said too much...