The sixth volume in “Essential Captain America” contains one of the biggest shifts in tone in the history of the series, as Jack Kirby’s breakneck, action-packed, often off-kilter adventures, co-featuring the Falcon, give way to an introspective series where Cap ponders his origins, mostly without the help of his longtime partner.
The trade collection starts with issue #206, the “Swine” storyline, in which Cap is kidnapped by a brutal Central American strongman, and the Falcon must rescue him. The idea-a-minute storyline features Arnim Zola, secret SHIELD facilities and runs at full throttle throughout. Cap faces off against Magneto in Annualk #4, collected here, which features the pair each battling for the future of a tiny mutant. There are just so many ideas busting out here that with a little dialogue tweak, these could be Grant Morrison comics.
When the Kirby run comes to an end, perhaps feeling no one could top the madness of the run, the tone shifts abruptly. In a fill-in issue (#215) by Roy Thomas, Cap ponders his origins and his place in the world. Issue #216 features a reprint of the “Strange Tales” issue that was a tryout for the return of Captain America. Thomas and the underrated Don Glut introduce the SHIELD super-agents in the next issue, who Falcon takes over training, marking his lessening appearances in the Captain America title. Over the next several issues, under various writers, Cap battles the evil “Corporation” and searches for his origins, finding out info about his parents that was later removed from continuity.
Even though these issues jump around stylistically – and some of them are probably better forgotten – I really enjoyed reading the Cap comics from this era of my childhood. The Kirby ones, especially, crackle with energy, and while Cap gets a bit mopey later on, and characters drop in and out of the storyline as writers come and go, I still had fun reading them. Sal Buscema’s art is possibly at its peak in the issues included here. Writers included Steve Gerber, Peter Gillis, Roger McKenzie and Roger Stern.
The book collects Captain America 206-230, as well as Annual #4 and Incredible Hulk #232.
Also read this week:
Captain America #100-102: Captain America gets his own title, continuing from Tales of Suspense, as Captain America and Black Panther take on a quasi-Baron Zemo. By Stan Lee and Jack Kirby.
Showcase: Batman and the Outsiders: Collecting Batman and the Outsiders 1-19, Brave and Bold #200, and New Teen Titans #16. Mike W. Barr and Jim Aparo are the creative team for most of this Showcase, which collects the very popular Batman series from the 1980s.
- Matt Price
Comics read in 2011: 429. Still to go: 1582.
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