Saturday, 11 February 2017

Comic Review: Heroes Reborn Part 4 - Captain America #1-5


Captain America was without doubt the most controversial and outright worst of the Heroes Reborn titles. Before the relaunch Mark Waid had been doing great things with the book, possibly the best for decades at least, so getting Loeb and Liefield in was never going to go down well. It doesn't help that the initial arc basically covers every single Liefield cliche going Repeatedly. To the point that you're wondering if he's doing it on purpose and then remember he's Rob Liefield and he's not up to doing anything on purpose.

The first arc sets up the retconned Heroes Reborn origin for Captain America; his origins and WW2 service are unchanged but at the end of it he challenges President Truman over the use of the A-bomb and ends up getting brainwashed by S.H.I.E.L.D. to think he's just a normal guy. The rise of a neo-Nazi group and the efforts of old comrade Abe Wilson eventually lead to his memory being restored and he's back in action. On paper it's not too bad compared to being frozen in a block of ice unnoticed but it's not great either; the logistics involved are only paid lip service, as are the psychological ramifications.

But then the script is all about lip service. Thrown into this are this universe's introduction to Nick Fury, the new Bucky in the form of a girl named Rikki Barnes whose brother joins up with the neo-Nazis and who talks exactly like Boomer out of X-Force, the origin of the Falcon (still Sam Wilson, the son of the aforementioned Abe) and the neo-Nazi movement involving the Red Skull, Master Man (looking identical to Stryfe here) and Crossbones. One of the weird things about the Heroes Reborn universe was most of the heroes were those brought over from the scrap with Onslaught but their old enemies tended to crop up naturally on the counter-Earth, which was a bit weird. You can hand-wave it by just going "Franklin" like everything else but it makes it all a bit redundant.

In theory this should make for a packed five issues but everything's just rushed through. Conflicts are set up and then rapidly resolved - Cap's pissed at Nick Fury but that rapidly dissipates; Sam wants revenge on Cap for taking over his dad's life but only needs to see him fight once to become a total fanboy; Bucky gets rescued from a missile launch, kicks her brother and lands the job of sidekick; Cap gets over fifty years of his life being lies and goes into combat within a few hours.

This idiotic pace isn't helped by the gigantic amount of splash pages Liefield and Loeb use; typically they just feature Cap posing with a few scant narration boxes scattered around. There are probably five issues of plot in the storyline but it's meted out like punctuation, a frame packed with some underwhelming conflict after ten of Cap standing there.

And while everything else is bad the whole thing is made worse by the art. It's a tired and easy thing to list Liefield's faults but it's inescapable as well. Dodgy anatomy (the small head mounted on a neck that looks like it's wearing a ruff of muscles gets a real workout here), outdated fashions (everyone has wavy eighties hair; Sharon Carter especially looks like she should be draped over a Lamborghini Countach in a Pirelli calendar), a total lack of dynamics (hands out to the side = running, the only kick is a double drop kick), simplistic backgrounds (single blocks of colour, obviously sourced clipart of the US flag) and a range of about two facial expressions - generally mouth open or mouth closed.

All in all it's an absolute shambles even on relative terms.


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