High Five! Comics

Posts Tagged ‘Captain America

In 1977, Marvel came up with a pretty fantastical (and most likely drug-induced) idea. Comic books are always talking about their multiverses, where somebody at some point did something drastically different and changed that universe’s reality forever. Essentially, the writers wanted to nerd out and ask the big, cringe-worthy-fan-fiction-inducing question: “What if?”

With Uatu the Watcher playing narrator, the writers told tales of what might have been which, considering the breadth of what could be asked with this concept, had a tone that ranged anywhere from goddamn ridiculous to downright grim. Even so, it seems like a huge chunk of issues were dedicated to what would happen if Character X had/had not killed Character Y. Over the years there have been  two regular volumes (followed by many, many series of one-shots, most being event tie-ins), a parody series titled What the–?!, and (although they’d probably deny it outright) inspired the DC Comics Elseworlds imprint.

Considering the almost 200 issues of the series, most of which are pretty terrible (I think there’s a reason nobody who wrote any of the 90’s What If? issues were ever heard from again), it’s hard to figure out what’s actually decent. Man, good thing you got me here to force my opinion on you. TOP FIVE TIME, Y’ALL.

7. What If? Vol 1 #10 (…Jane Foster Had Found the Hammer of Thor?) – Originally, in Journey Into Mystery #83 Donald Blake went on vacation to Norway by himself. Here, he instead takes Jane Foster and she’s with him when he gets attacked by those weird aliens from Saturn. She beats him to finding Mjolnir and transforms into Thordis (which, considering that who Donald Blake is has no bearing on who Thor is, makes no sense). She goes around fighting Loki and more aliens in typical Thor fashion. While Thordis is off creating the Avengers, Blake saves the drowning Sif and falls in love with her. Odin realizes that this is all wrong and gives Mjolnir it to Donald, turning him into Thor. And then this gets all daytime soap opera on us. Poor Jane is now crazy-bummed, losing both the powers of Mjolnir and the man she loves to the Asgardians. Odin decides to fix this by granting Jane goddess status and marrying her, making Jane Foster the stepmother to the man she used to love (seriously, that’s like Lois Lane ending up boning Pa Kent). Yeah, gross.

6. What If? Vol 1 #13 (…Conan the Barbarian Walked the Earth Today?) – Okay, I’ll admit that the only stuff I know about Robert E. Howard’s Conan franchise I learned from that movie where he punches a camel in the face (in other words, I don’t know jack shit). There are three things that make this issue of What If? great to me. First, Roy Thomas and John Buscema, the regular writer and artist on the more mature Savage Sword of Conan title, handle this issue. Second, everybody in the present either mistakes Conan for Sylvester Stallone or Arnold Schwarzenegger (a full four years before the movie, mind you). And lastly, Conan spends his one day in the present beating the shit out of a lady cab driver’s car with his sword, immediately going back to her apartment and fucking her, and foiling an art heist at the Guggenheim. That’s one hell of a day, Conan.

5. What If? Vol 2 #24 (…Wolverine Was Lord of the Vampires?) – Most of the second volume of What If? is just so terribly, terribly 90’s. Every issue seems to either deal with Wolverine or the Punisher and, well, this issue is pretty much about both of ’em. During the fight with Count Dracula from Uncanny X-Men #159, Dracula ends up biting Wolverine, Nightcrawler, Storm, and Colossus who go out and start turning all of the heroes and villains into vampires. Realizing that Doctor Strange is the only one who has the power to stop his horde, Wolverine sets out to kill him and succeeds. Apparently death doesn’t really stall Strange, whose spirit launches Plan B: possessing Frank Castle, giving him the Eye of Agamotto and Cloak of Levitation, and going crazy with garlic grenades and a Super Soaker full of Holy Water. To top off the ridiculousness, this issue got it’s own What If? treatment 13 issues later in the story “…Wolverine Was Lord of the Vampires During Inferno?”

4. What If? Vol 1 #26 (…Captain America Had Been Elected President?) – In Captain America #250, the New Populist Party offered Cap the chance to run for president as a third party candidate and he declined. But what if he’d have run against Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan in the 1980 election and won?  After Cap reveals his secret identity to the world, President Rogers spearheads a massive movement to replace America’s dependency on foreign oil with solar power. He then supplies solar powered weapons to the some revolutionaries in the South American country of San Pedro, hoping to free them from some oppression or whatever. After accepting an invitation by the revolutionaries, it is revealed that their leader is actually Red Skull, who has hacked into the solar energy collecting satellites and turned them into giant laser beams. Cap manages to smash the Red Skull’s controls causing the laser beams to blow them both to bits. Okay, yeah, Captain America’s dead, but look on the bright side! In this reality there was never a President Reagan!

3. What If Jessica Jones Had Joined the Avengers? #1 – Now, this one is just terribly depressing. With Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Gaydos, the men behind ALIAS, handling this issue you know it’s gonna be good. Following her horrific eight months as a slave to the Purple Man, Jessica Jones is asked to join the Avengers, to which she agrees. Rather than working for The Daily Bugle and having a child out of wedlock with Luke Cage, Jessica winds up marrying Captain America and bringing Wanda’s mental breakdown to light before House of M can ever happen. However, what really makes this story great is that instead of being narrated by Uatu, those duties are given to Bendis himself, drawn conversing with a random patron at a diner in New York City while a forlorn looking Jessica Jones dines behind them.

2. What If? Vol 1 #14 (…Sgt. Fury Fought World War Two in Outer Space?) – In this dimension, it turns out that Leonardo DaVinci’s flying machine actually worked and, therefore, humans were waaay more advanced in the field of flight by the time 1941 rolled around. December 7, 1941, Space Station Pearl is attacked by a bunch of kamikaze lizard men. Later on, Nick Fury and Dum Dum Dugan host a conference in the Space Station Midway where it turns out that Baron Strucker has been the admiral of the fleet of space stations the whole time, trying to promote Space Nazism while working with the lizard men. It’s cool though, because Sgt. Fury gets rid of Strucker the same way every badguy in any fight on a spaceship has died: getting flushed out of an airlock. The best part of the story has to be the tagline on the cover: “First Star Wars— Then Battlestar Galactica— And now!!!”

1. What If? Vol 1 #11 (…The Original Marvel Bullpen Had Become the Fantastic Four?) – This is by far one of the goofiest issues of any comic I’ve ever seen, made even stranger considering it was written and drawn by Jack Kirby. A mysterious box shows up at the door of Marvel HQ and is opened by Stan Lee, believing it to be a box of cigars. Instead, it’s a small gamma bomb that douses the whole of the staff with radiation, giving Stan super-stretchy powers, Kirby the rocky skin of the Thing, Sol Brodsky the ability to control fire and fly, and Flo Steinberg (at the time Stan Lee’s secretary, later publisher of Big Apple Comix) the powers of invisiblity. After finding another of the boxes, the foursome meets Namor and discover that the boxes were planted by the Skrulls who plan to take over the world from their new undersea base. Kirby and Namor punch a hole in the base’s hull, defeat the Skrulls, and THE END. So, I guess the big question is how the hell did Jack Kirby draw this with those new big, orange sausage-fingers of his?

20. Kick-Ass – Mark Millar & John Romita Jr.

Any list of the last decade’s top writers would have to include Mark Millar. Famous for his work getting Marvel’s Ultimate Universe off the ground and for horror-satire-mind-f***s like The Unfunnies, Millar had already made his mark by 2008, but it took the creator-owned gem Kick-Ass to cement his name as a true creative juggernaut. Kick-Ass capitalized on that bit in every fan-boy (or fan-girl) that wants to know what it would REALLY feel like to be a hero. Featuring smart dialog, plausible scenarios (mostly) centered around teenage angst, and some of John Romita Jr’s best art to date, readers have been held on the edge of their seats since February 2008 and loved every minute of it. Readers loved it so much in fact, that Millar garnered a Hollywood movie deal for his story before the damned thing was even finished. We at High Five! Comics may sit a little uneasy at the thought of Nick Cage fronting another comic inspired film, but we can’t help but applaud Millar and Romita Jr for the near universal love for this story.

– Maggie

19. Planetary – Warren Ellis

Apparently, to us High Fivers, this was the decade of Warren Ellis. And if there was any book to sum up this decade for Mr. Ellis, it would be Planetary (if not for the fact that it took the whole damn decade for all 27 issues to come out). Basically, it’s about an organization funded by some secret guy called the Fourth Man, doing whatever they can to save the world and record its bizarre history. What I love about Planetary is that most of their adventures involve some sort of literary character (or, if not public domain, and homage to a literary character) in an attempt to, in Warren Ellis’ words, “take everything old and make it new again.” Sherlock Holmes, Godzilla, Doc Savage, and even a character similar to his own Spider Jerusalem pop up to either help or hinder the progress of our heroes.

John Cassaday’s art is compelling; much as his work in Astonishing X-Men, every page is so detailed and beautiful that it’s hard not to get engrossed in every panel. Planetary’s cover art is interesting as well, with each issue done in a different style (with no consistant logo) as a means of fitting in with the subject of the interior story.

Now, I haven’t read (and am slightly wary of) the Planetary/JLA and Planetary/Batman crossover books, so I can’t really attest to whether or not those are awesome (I mean, they’re also penned by Ellis so they gotta be okay at the very least) but, as for the main story, I highly recommend picking it up (and, hey, the last few issues are out in trade form come March).

-Rob

18. Captain America – Ed Brubaker

I don’t want anybody else to ever write for Captain America ever, ever again. I know that seems kinda extreme, but I’m totally fucking serious. Between the constant references to the Golden Age books (so many amazing flashbacks to the days of the Invaders) and the unexpected twists on every other page, Captain America Vol. 5 is one of the most riveting books I’ve ever read. It also ended up being one of the most controversial. In 50 issues, Brubaker managed to bring Bucky Barnes back to life (he’d been confirmed dead since March 1964’s Avengers #4, over 40 years before), kill Steve Rogers (something so extreme that it was front page news here on Earth-Prime), allow Bucky to continue the legacy, and prove that the Red Skull is a fucking dick.

How fitting is it that Brubaker is also the man now resurrecting Steve Rogers in Captain America: Reborn? Granted, yeah, Steve’s only been dead for a few years so it might seem like a bit of a cop out, but even this is gearing up to be a bit of a tearjerker. I only wish that they would have kept Steve Epting as the cover artist for Reborn. Most of his covers during Volume 5 look a little like movie posters for 1960s exploitation films, a few of which even re-use art from Golden Age covers, and I love those damn things.

-Rob

17. WE3 – Grant Morrison

Take Homeward Bound crossed with Philip K Dick, and you have some idea of what WE3 looks like. WE3 is the name of a futuristic killing machine team that consists of a dog, a cat, and a rabbit in robot-enhanced bodies. They were created by the government to be assassins, and are the cutest killing machines you will ever see.  About to be replaced by a newer, larger and more efficient creation, they make their escape from government tyranny. Grant Morrison is often accused of overwriting- making his stories wordier and more detailed than they need to be. In contrast, WE3 is remarkably sparse relying heavily on frequent counterpart Frank Quitely to move the story. Even the dialogue between the animals, which could come off as hokey and “Mr. Ed”-ish in the hands of a lesser writer, make perfect sense here.  Despite the cuddly looking cyborg-animals, this not meant for kids. WE3 is dark, gritty, bloody and despite the look of its premise, very pro-animal rights. Quitely’s artwork is so expressive, especially with the interactions between the animals, it will jerk a tear or two from even the coldest heart. Morrison and artist Frank Quitely succeed at making dystopia warm and humane.

-Hava

16. House of M – Brian Michael Bendis

Cross-over Events are a giant fan-wank. Sometimes you get one that’s fun to read, and sometimes you get one scrawled in KY gel anticipating the collective fanboy  ejaculation. Good or bad, crossovers exist in the world of continuity and rarely tell us anything interesting about the characters involved. What is remarkable about House of M is that for all the continuity mind-f***ing, at the heart of it is a compelling story by Brian Michael Bendis about a father, his two children, and their love for and disappointment in each other. This gut wrenching story was backed by solid character scripts from a notably limited cast. By limiting his cast Bendis opened up House of M to a humanity that most other Events are sorely missing.

-Jonny

“We view the world through our own eyes.” What an obvious statement, and yet not always so intuitive. We love comics, but rarely stop to think of the social and political canvass our beloved characters were painted against.

1941 may have been the most terrifying and uncertain year the Western World has ever seen. This was the year that the Axis Powers went to full scale war with Europe. Germany was invading all of her neighbors. ’41 saw Jews required to wear the Star of David arm bands and was the year Nazi Germany decided to institute concentration camps. Japan invaded French Indo-China and was amassing an army to fly across the Pacific. America was not in the war yet, but everywhere we looked it was becoming apparent we would not weather the storm without bloodshed.

It was in 1941 that Winston Churchill made his famous address to a joint session of congress urging full scale involvement in the European and Asian theatres of war. Winter was also claiming the lives of thousands of Germans as Hitler attempted to take Russia from Stalin. The whole world was realizing that yet another global war was at hand and dreading the long years they knew it would take to achieve peace.

The times also saw a vibrance in creativity in art, fashion, cinema, and music. In 1941 Citizen Kane was released and How Green Was My Valley was a box office hit. Glenn Miller was topping the charts with “Chattanooga Choo Choo” and “A String of Pearls”.

Women’s fashion was conservative as the last dregs of 1920s fashion died out. Men were excited to wear baggy clothes and the zoot suit was returning. For obvious reasons men’s and women’s fashion made prominent use of shoulder pads modeled after military uniforms.

It had been about 15-20 years since cinema had become mainstream entertainment and with the advent of sound in pictures the 1940s began to see remakes of the popular silent films of the 1920s. With this we saw a second age of horror and science fiction at the theatre. Among these famous remakes in 1940 we saw renewed interest in a franchise called The Green Archer. Every week devoted fans would flock to their local theatre to watch a caped Robin Hood-esque man wield his bow and arrows for truth and justice as he diligently worked to stop a murderous band of jewel thieves.

It was in November of this world that the 73rd issue of More Fun Comics debuted the beloved Oliver Queen as The Green Arrow. It seems entirely reasonable in this extraordinarily uncertain time that Americans would reflect back to a percieved time of simplicity and take heart in a world where Truth and Justice were clear, easy, and absolute.

In the same issue America met another classic hero: Aquaman. While all Golden Age comics reflect a desire for simplicity and absolutes, Aquaman demonstrated a different appeal. Arthur Curry didn’t have to be on land with us. He could escape to the sea. His problems were his own. No need to be bogged down with the troubles of the world. Nothing but a vast, silent ocean and friendly sea creatures to entertain and befriend this hero. Despite this option, Aquaman chose to engage the dry land willingly. Perhaps this stemmed from America’s growing realization that Isolatioinsim was truly no longer an option.

Of all the Heroes to debut in 1941 perhaps the most poignant and iconic was Captain America. If Green Arrow and Aquaman demonstrated a desire to escape then it is no surprise the most successful character of 1941 hit the problems of the world head on. When faced with crisis it is only human to spend a few moments reflecting on what might have been, but a testament to the resolve of that generation was embodied in one of comic-doms most epic heroes. Captain America was more than just a simplified equation to solve right and wrong. He was more than escape. Steve Rogers WAS America. He was the strength, the resolve, and the character that Americans were striving to muster so they could persevere through the most difficult time in the history of the world.

Certainly the WWII generation achieved something close to the character we see in Steve Rogers. Whether subsequent generations have is less clear, but what is certain is that even in the 21st century America looks to Captain America and sees in him something noble and admirable. For this we salute the Cap with a raised glass. Most liquor was scarce during the war, but we did have an abundance of rum. Today’s recommended drink is The Hurricane Cocktail.

Allright, so I caught Rorschach in the background the first time around, but I didn’t recognize 1979 Movie Captain America until I re-read “Gifted” today. And I only recognized him because the dude who played the part was signing autographs at Long Beach Comic Con last weekend. Got me thinking, anyone recognize any of the other background folks in this panel? Seems to me that if 2 of the 6 are referencing something, the other 4 might be too. Click to embiggen and get to it!

axmen6cameos

Also, Batwoman cameoed in Cry for Justice #4! I wonder if she was there for a specific reason or if this was just a fun little cameo. We’re pretty sure we saw her chillin’ on a gargoyle eavesdropping on Our Heroes earlier in the book.

katecfj

The absolute best thing about the new Long Beach Comic Con was the MASSIVE artist’s alley, which took up most of the exhibition floor. We picked up a couple of little sketchbooks and went ’round collecting cool sketches from artists we like – some big names, some little ones. Check ’em out (and click to enlarge)!

The Flash and Wonder Woman by Drew Johnson, who pencilled Rucka's Flash/Wonder Woman team-up!

The Flash and Wonder Woman by Drew Johnson, who pencilled Rucka's Flash/Wonder Woman team-up!

Batwoman by Dustin Nyugen, currently working on Streets of Gotham

Batwoman by Dustin Nyugen, currently working on Streets of Gotham

Optimus Prime by Livio Ramondelli, Wildstorm concept artist.

Optimus Prime by Livio Ramondelli, Wildstorm concept artist.

Batgirl by Phillip Tan, currently working on Batman & Robin

Batgirl by Phillip Tan, currently working on Batman & Robin

Baby Beast by J.J. Kirby

Baby Beast by J.J. Kirby

Batwoman by Joel Gomez

Batwoman by Joel Gomez

Detective Chimp, also by Joel Gomez

Detective Chimp, also by Joel Gomez

Martian Manhunter, by Doug Mahnke, currently on Green Lantern

Martian Manhunter, by Doug Mahnke, currently on Green Lantern

Spider-Woman by Ray-Anthony Height

Spider-Woman by Ray-Anthony Height

Captain America by Edward Nuñez Jr.

Captain America by Edward Nuñez Jr.

Spider-Man by Michael O'Hare

Spider-Man by Michael O'Hare

Doctor Fate, also by Michael O'Hare

Doctor Fate, also by Michael O'Hare

Lieam by David Petersen

Lieam by David Petersen

Spider Jerusalem by Darick Robertson

Spider Jerusalem by Darick Robertson

Another Lieam by David Petersen, this one was done at the Comic Vone party on Friday night.

Another Lieam by David Petersen, this one was done at the Comic Vine party on Friday night.

We picked up this awesome sketch of Jughead slugging Galactus at the Comic Vine party, but we don't know who drew it!! Who are you, you mad genius?

We picked up this awesome sketch of Jughead slugging Galactus at the Comic Vine party, but we don't know who drew it!! Who are you, you mad genius?


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