Friday, July 04, 2008

Out of Time: Part 5 (Marvel)
Captain America #5 When: May 2005
Why: Ed Brubaker How: Michael Lark

The Story So Far...
The mysterious murder of Red Skull serves as a bizarre precursor to the unravelling of history within the memories of Steve Rogers; known to the world as Captain America!

Cap finds himself distracted by the pursuit of truth as he begins suffering flashbacks to key events in his long history, each changed ever so slightly. The distractions prove so severe they nearly cost the hero his life, when Crossbones emerges to attack after the Captain investigates the desecrated graves of his allies from the Second World War.

Nick Fury: Director of SHIELD uncovers clues that lead to a rogue Soviet General, Aleksander Lukin. Cap's history folds back on him once more when Lukin is revealed as director of an international company called Kronas Industries. Named after a Russian village destroyed by the Red Skull, Cap recalls the battle to save it, accompanied by Lukin's mentor, Colonel Vasily Karpov...

Tale of the Tape...
ARTWORK: ???ARTWORK: Steve EptingStrength: Master Man 6 (Invincible)
Intelligence: Red Skull 5 (Genius)
Speed: Sub-Mariner 4 (Olympian)
Stamina: Sub-Mariner 5 (Marathon)
Agility: Captain America 4 (Gymnast)
Fighting Ability: Captain America 6 (Warrior)
Energy Power: Human Torch 6 (Mass Destruction)

- The Invaders are: Captain America, Human Torch, Sub-Mariner, Toro, Bucky.

The Invaders were the premiere superhuman line of defense of the Allied Nations during the Second World War. Their membership was captained by the combined forces of; Captain America, Namor, the Sub-Mariner, the Human Torch, Toro, Bucky, and several other recruits, such as Union Jack, Whizzer, Spitfire, and Blazing Skull.

The Invaders were chiefly positioned to defend the world from the threat of the Nazi Party and their many superpowered machinations and allies. This struggle against tyranny would extend to the modern era, with many of the Invaders roster enduring through time by means of science, magic, and mutation.
Their legacy endures into the modern age, where the team is reunited on occasion to undertaker varying missions, such as; the liberation of Mazikhandar.

- The National Socialist German Workers Party, better known as the Nazi Party, was founded in the shadow of the first World War, in 1919. The party was built on the principle of philosophically uniting Germany free of social, economical, or ethnic division. Criteria for this homogeny was dependent on interpretations of the perfect Aryan race, and diffentiated from other movements by emphasising inclusion of the social middle classes.

A young German corporal, Adolf Hitler, was ordered to investigate the group, entering into political debate during his stay. This led to his invitation into the Party, and eventual ascension as it's iconic leader in 1933, appointed by Chancellor Paul von Hindenburg.

Hitler's fascinations were diverse and bizarre, including experimentation with elements scientific and occult. Attempts to recreate the famed Super-Soldier serum developed by Dr. Abraham Erskine for the United States of America resulted in Master Man: a frail American of German descent who was embued with powers far exceeding his American counterpart; Captain America. Master Man, Red Skull, and Warrior Woman represent the Third Reich's superhuman champions.

The Math: The Invaders Ranking: Captain America (#8)

What Went Down...
In the dying months of 1942 the Nazis had burrowed deep into the Soviet landscape, accompanied by Hilfswillige; Russian soldiers forced or willing to fight for the Nazi movement. Stalin's forces had plans to trap their enemies in the frost of a Russian winter, but word of a German super-weapon draws the intervention of the Invaders, who join the Russians to investigate.

The Invaders descend on Kronas, a northern village held by the Nazis.
Their scout, the diminutive teen, Bucky Barnes, leads the charge, evading defensive measures armed with but a knife. He swiftly and silently eliminates the frontline of the Nazi guard, clearing the way for his companions.

RUN! SEAN BEAN'S GONE NAZI AND IS ON THE LOOSE!A trigger-happy Russian alerts the camp to the incursion, raising the alarm to not only the Nazi soldiers, but also their dormant super-soldier: Master Man!

On the ground, Captain America gives the order to Karpov and his men to protect the villagers, launching a personal assault against the Nazi soldiers. Like a one man army, Captain America successfully fronts a group of five soldiers, armed only with his shield and determination!

Meanwhile, in the skies above, the supermen do battle!
Sub-Mariner meets Master Man in aerial combat, appearing evenly matched with the Nazi super-soldier. The Human Torch and Toro do their best to tip the balance, but their flames threaten the Atlantean more than Master Man.

Bucky joins the Captain as he maneuvers his way across the compound in search of the German secret weapon. A congregation of Nazi guards makes finding the weapon easy, and despite their impressive numbers, Cap is able to defend the duo with his shield, leaving Bucky free to blow the machine gunners away with a grenade!

The young soldier proves hasty in his approach when a crackling, green energy bolt blasts through the wall of the village hut, leaving Bucky to narrowly avoid death, saved only by the intervention of his seasoned mentor!

Captain America and Bucky have but mere moments to survey the carnage wrought by the strange energy beam, before the onslaught of successive blasts begin to reach out like tendrils of death! The beams zig-zag across the battlefield, destroying poperty and soldier indescriminately!

Through the burning wreckage Cap spies his arch-nemesis, the Red Skull, manning the controls of the Nazi super weapon. He points the barrel with little regard for the lives of Americans, Russians, or even his own German soldiers!

The spreading flames threaten to ravage the small village, forcing the Torch and Toro to abandon their battle with Master Man to attempt to curb the damage. They do their best to absorb flames and melt the snow to rain, but it provides little relief. Leaving the super weapon to self-destruct, the Red Skull makes an escape with the Master Man, knowing full well that the Invaders will stay to fight the losing battle to save Kronas.

The Hammer...
This was such a tough one to call I was forced to convene with the judges! I was about ready to call this a draw, and maybe it's just July Fourth patriotism, but I've been forced to declade the Invaders the victors, by points! [Namor, Human Torch, and Toro only pick-up the assist!]

Those scoring along at home might like to note: while Master Man and Red Skull escaped after the former fought Sub-Mariner (and co.) to a stalemate; they were the representing exceptions of the Nazi Party, who suffered mass casualties in the exchange.
That, ladies and gentlemen, is good housekeeping!

Those of you displaced in time will be happy to join us in our indulgence of the July 4 pseudo-meme! While the Infinite Wars bares no special affinity for apple pie, we would be remiss to pass up the opportunity to discuss the thorough whacking of Germans. Nazis, I mean.

One has to exercise a little self-awareness and acknowledge that, on most outings with Ed Brubaker, we've had a consistent underlying theme of negativity. While I'm reluctant to retract any previously described acronyms or reactionary redefinition - I do feel compelled to balance the scales!
[EDITOR'S NOTE: Lazy Brubaker Syndrome; not to be confused with "IBS"]

Blogging boffins have flocked to Brubaker's work on Captain America, declaring it one of the most significant Marvel comics of the decade for it's contrivances, and it's sense of lasting consequence. While the reinvigoration of Cap's blood feud with the Red Skull has benefitted from the tempered urbana of it's presentation, it's the 'inconsequential' superheroics that have inspired my joy!

Flashbacks to WWII add a sense of disorientation and context to certain key components of Brubaker's stories, but ultimately, the deviation as it's seen in this issue is pure indulgence of the superhero medium -- and I love it!

Credit where credit's due: as is the case with early issues in most Brubaker series, the economy of story remains bouyant. Relevant insights delivered are mostly present to give weight to certain key characters in the story. Included is the vaguely Magneto-esque birth of Aleksander Lukin, punctuated by a single panel at the end of the conflict, while other beats deliberately emphasise the history of Captain America's relationships with Bucky and Red Skull (at the expense of any elaboration on Sub-Mariner or the Torches).

Recent history has taught us to resent this kind of revisionist history, but the number of writers making competent and measured efforts is growing! Geoff Johns remains the master of the clean-up, but Brubaker deserves a lot of credit for his many flashbacks that allude to a more grounded and belieable War-era history for Captain America. The sad truth for many of these characters is that their past does not reflect what we like to think of them in the modern era.

As someone who has not enjoyed Steve Epting's critically acclaimed work, it was a joy to read an issue dedicated to secondary artist, Michael Lark! The artist; whose contributions defined the worming flashbacks of the first year; provides his trademarked style of curiously squared and sometimes incomplete lines, which cast the illusion of reality far more efficiently than you might imagine.

Full credit goes to colorist, Frank D'Armata, whose allergy-inducing palette for present day scenes have been a major contributor to [my] depreciation of Epting's series pencils. Muted blues and greys have a softed gradient in the flashbacks, making them much less aggravating, and benefit from the clean juxtaposition of Russia's snowy whites. D'Armata shines with bold colour pops in scenes depicting the red of the Red Skull bursting amidst the glowing flames of Kronas' misfortune.

As with many golden age reboots there's nothing especially retro about the artistic presentation of these stories. Even so, there's a certain timeless quality to the pages, in spite of the prevelance of the Larks of today's popular comics.
It works! Especially when one remembers these are the beginnings of the golden age revival for Bucky: a character who, until this story, had enjoyed the rare honor of being a superhero left dead for decades. It makes for a solid start, leading in to an era of Bucky Barnes as the new Captain America, something we're disappointed to have been unable to feature on the site.

I can't tell you anything about this issue that you won't be able to see for yourself. I can, however, enjoy documenting a scene that might have been lost amidst the headline-grabbing exploits of a series that may have enjoyed acclaim for everything but the strengths of what it really brings. I just wish Brubaker could maintain the kind of energy these first storyarcs bring. Aquela é a vida da maneira é!

The Fight: 4.5 The Issue: 5

Something missing from your Fourth of July? Don't get caught out next year! Remember Captain America's last great adventures with a trade paperback from Amazon! By using purchase links provided on the site, you help sponsor the future of the Infinite Wars, which is the patriotic thing to do! Check out the entire range of reviewed and recommended reads in the Infinite Wars Gift Shoppe!

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