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Captain America #12 By Matt Martin
Marvel Comics – Chuck Austen, John Ney Rieber (w); Jae Lee (a)
I’ve made the joke several times in my store that, when dealing with old comic books produced in an unknown time period, there’s a sure-fire to at least tell if a Republican president was in office at the time. Because, inevitably, there seems to spring forth a wealth of stories about governmental misdeeds and cover-ups, more so, it seems, than when a Democrat is in charge of the country. So now, with a Republican in the White House again, apparently Captain America needs to battle shady government dealings once more.
The issue begins with some standard patriotic fare, Captain America attempting to explain to a child why he should respect the American flag, but finding himself unable to speak the words necessary for the task. Then a gorgeous series of panels is ruined by a vague, clichéd monologue in which Cap, for the umpteenth time in his career, questions his loyalty to the American military that created him.
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The story then shifts perspective, moving on to an unnamed villain who narrates a flashback sequence for his daughter regarding why she must assist him in capturing and interrogating Captain America. The explanation, in a nutshell, is that while working in the Arctic, the villain discovered some sort of Atlantian burial ground and began dissecting the frozen corpse for government-funded research. Enraged at the desecration of sacred ground, Namor emerges from the deep and stomps toward the lab. En route, he encounters the frozen Captain America, lost since World War II. Freeing his former comrade-in-arms, Namor proceeds to tear the research facility apart, but is prevented from killing all those present when the newly revived (but incoherent) Cap stumbles onto the scene. The “twist,” predictably, is that the scientists are not Nazis, but agents of the American government.
And here’s my complaint: last week in my review of Action Comics #802, I said that I felt that the concept of superheroes defending America from terrorism had simply grown tiresome. Well, the idea that the American government is complicit with terrorist organizations is every bit as overdone.
So while this issue doesn’t necessarily address the issue of terrorism (though previous issues, in a typically heavy-handed manner, have), it does feel the need to ramble on, both in the summary page and in Captain America’s dialogue, about agents of the U.S. government who “hide behind it” (it being the flag) “to do unspeakable things.”
To be perfectly honest, this is just one of those times where I read a book and say to myself, “I’ve seen this done before and done better.” There’s absolutely no reason to pick Captain America up, as the subject matter that it treats has been handled more articulately, more appropriately and more originally. Rieber’s run has, thus far, not added a blessed thing to the Captain America mythos. Thankfully, it’s coming to a close soon. The only positive aspect of the book is the art, where Jae Lee’s moody artwork is unfortunately overshadowed by Rieber’s story, which is about as subtle as a sledgehammer.