Thursday, March 20

In the funnybooks: Cap, Herc, and Secret Invasion

New comics hit the racks yesterday, and it was a light week for yours truly. I only picked up three new books, two of which are personal favorites. One brought a startling revelation, another featured a brawl between two gods, and the third continued the build-up to Marvel's big Secret Invasion event to come.

Captain America #36 was the newest installment in Ed Brubaker's excellent series, and continued to deliver as usual. Bucky Barnes, the new Cap, again proves his mettle in combat at the issue's front end. The fight's climax features a nice moment when Bucky takes out villain Crossbones, against whom he had already demonstrated that his methods differ from those of his predecessor (hint: offensive weapons are involved).

Though successful while fighting, Bucky struggles when he tries to act in Cap's role as a force for good; he makes his public debut while attempting, and failing, to calm a riot. Obviously, Bucky has a long way to go before the achieving the esteem of Steve Rogers. The issue's final pages feature a reveal I won't spoil here, but it's been getting play all over the place online -- I'll just say that it casts doubt on everything we know about the assassination of Rogers, and his possible future return.

I'm struck by how consistent the art is in this book despite the three artists regularly drawing it -- this issue is split between Butch Guice and Mike Perkins, and I'm honestly not sure I would have noticed if not for the credits. Looking forward to the next issue as the Red Skull's plan continues to unfold.

Greg Pak and Fred Van Lente's Incredible Hercules #115 continued the book's unexpected rise to the top of the stack, bringing the funny and masterfully mixing superhero antics with mythology. This issue picks up where the last left off, with whiz kid Amadeus Cho on the verge of bringing down international police force SHIELD while Hercules tries to stop him and fend off Ares, the "GOD OF #%*&IN' WAR."

Cho cripples SHIELD for a while, including the Negative Zone prison, but the big fun here was the brawl between Herc and Ares -- it's eight pages of awesome. Khoi Pham's art was scratchy for my tastes, but I'll be darned if it wasn't fun to follow -- I mean, Ares throws a missile in Herc's face. The ending did strike me as a bit anticlimactic, but does set up the book for the coming war with the Skrulls.

Along with those books I'm fond of, I also read through Brian Reed and Lee Weeks's Captain Marvel #4. Not a character I'm terribly interested in, but this series has come to be tied closely to Secret Invasion. In fact, it's difficult to discuss without spoilers to spare. In short, Captain Marvel confronts a Skrull prisoner and is given reason to doubt his own identity. Is he himself, or a sleeper agent?

His doubts lead him to seek out the Church of Hala, who have come to worship him, and assist them in their supposed humanitarian efforts. He goes a little nutty along the way, and Tony Stark sends Ms. Marvel to confront him. She does so aided by some special hardware, and events push Captain Marvel away where he'll be in the finale of the mini-series. Certainly a book that has been a bit under the radar, and may have been promoted too little because of its content's relation to Marvel's summer crossover. Captain Marvel's surprising return during last year's Civil War certainly may not have been all it seemed.

I didn't pick up any new DC books, but did fish Paul Kupperberg and Howard Chaykin's World of Krypton limited series (1979) and Steve Gerber and Gene Colan's Phantom Zone mini-series (1982) from the back issues. A little vintage Superman never hurt anybody.

The full list of March 26 solicitations is available from Diamond.


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