Sunday, January 16, 2005

Captain America #345 - They Don't Make Comics Like This Nowadays...(But is that a BAD thing?)

Here comes the next installment in "You Decide - 2005."

A one "chauncey von buelow" asked for me to do an entry on Captain America #345, and, consarnit, I pledge is a pledge, so as bizarre as it is to review an issue of Captain America from 1988... I will do so.

Captain America #345, written by Mark Gruenwald (38 issues into his 136 issue run on Captain America), drawn by Kieron Dwyer, and inked by Al Milgrom.

Some background (prepare for a lot of "Ughs" to emit out of your mouth when you hear the basic plot) for the issue. Steve Rogers has been asked by the government to stand down as Captain America. He has been replaced by a man named John Walker (yes, he was seriously called John Walker) who now fights as Captain America alongside his partner, Battlestar (originally Bucky, until the writer was informed that Buck was a ethnic slur, and since Bucky was a black man, he got a new codename).

In any event, the new Captain America was going on missions, etc. Meanwhile, Steve Rogers took on a new name and costume, and began to fight crime as The Captain (with his costume remarkably similar to the Captain America outfit). Cap travelled around the country fighting crime alongside his partners Nomad, D-Man (a former wrestler), Nomad's girlfriend, Vagabond and the Falcon.

Steve just recently fought the Serpent Society (including a member named Diamondback who has a crush on Steve) and their new leader, The Viper, who had just had a plot foiled which involved turning the denizens of Washington DC into snakes, including Ronald Reagan!

Meanwhile, a former friend of John Walker announced on TV that the current Captain America was none other than John Walker.

So that gets you caught up to this issue, set right after Cap foiled Viper's plot.

Okay....damn, does this book have a lot of characters in it! The book was being split between the adventures of the new Cap and the adventures of the old Cap, but even then, look at how many characters were featured in this issue (and not little cameos, but serious scenes) on both sides of the action.

Steve Rogers
Falcon
D-Man
Nomad
Vagabond
Diamondback
Sidewinder

on the other side....

John Walker
Battlestar
John Walker's parents
Walker's boss

Cuh-ray-zee.

Anyhow, the split plot finds Steve on the one end deciding to turn himself in because he is suspected of assaulting the President (who was being turned into a snake last issue), while his partners fall apart around him (Vagabond is fancying D-Man, driving Nomad to drink).

And John, not knowing that Steve was turning himself in, was sent to capture Steve, but on the way, find out that some bad guys he fought a few issues earlier had taken his parents hostage!

Up until this point in the comic, this was one of the most convuluted comic you could imagine.

Whole pages were taken up by stuff like Falcon explaining why he had to leave and go back to Harlem....or explaining why Sidewinder was there, and hell, the first TWO pages were basically recap of the last storyline.

There basically was not a single piece of dialogue that did not serve to just give exposition.

Weak, weak stuff.

The art by Dwyer was good, but he did not really have much to draw.

Then, I will admit, the comic takes a turn towards the end.

John aborts his mission to capture Steve to instead try to save his parents. The bad guys force him to surrender, and are prepared to hang him. He breaks loose, and starts kicking bad guy behind before the bad guys, in the ensuing crossfire, riddle his parents with bullets.

At which point John just snaps.

And he start viciously slaughtering the bad guys. Even before that point, he was using a bad guy's body as a human shield to protect him from gunfire. But after that, it goes blood frenzy. I am amazed that this appeard in a 1988 issue of Captain America! It is all captured well by Dwyer, as Cap just slaughters the bad guys....but it is still so freakish.

And, as the issue ends, John has definitely went over the deep end a bit, as he holds his parents' bloody bodies and tells them how everything is going to be all right.

It is funny, because the cover of the issue shows a split...with Steve on one side of the cover and John on the other side.

This is appropriate, as this issue had a major tonal difference.

The first: Standard convuluted superhero comic book.

The second: Crazy, blood frenzy.

Certainly a...different approach.

But not one that I can say that I enjoyed. I guess I have to give Gruenwald credit for going graphic well (which he did well in the Squadron Supreme mini-series), but otherwise, this was not a particularly good comic.

Well, I guess I can toss some questions to you guys...

A. Did you read Gruenwald's Cap?

B. Did you like Gruenwald's Cap?

C. Did you like this particular storyline?

D. Can you believe they actually called a character John Walker (and then had him take an alias later on of Jack Daniels!!!)?

E. If you had to choose between the following to be the art team on Captain America, who would you choose, Kieron Dwyer and Al Milgrom or Steve Epting inking his own pencils?

F. Did you know that, for a period in time, John Byrne was Kieron Dwyer's step-father?

23 Comments:

Blogger Chad said...

Well, it's very 80s, isn't it? Remember when everyone who wasn't Frank Miller or Alan Moore thought that the reason Dark Knight Returns and Watchmen were so interesting to people was the misery and violence?

I did know Kireon Dwyer was John Byrne's stepson. I remember being very uncharitably at one point and saying "Well, it's good to have connections." But I was a teenager. Now, as an adult, I would just think it and not say it.

I read some of Gruenwald's issues of Cap. Not this one, but others. They were okay. pretty much utility-Marvel writing.

1/17/2005 07:51:00 AM  
Blogger Ali Choudhury said...

That was my first issue of Cap.

Bit of a change from Archie Comics, let me tell you.

1/17/2005 06:29:00 PM  
Blogger Brad Curran said...

"Well, it's very 80s, isn't it? Remember when everyone who wasn't Frank Miller or Alan Moore thought that the reason Dark Knight Returns and Watchmen were so interesting to people was the misery and violence?"

I don't see that changing much between then and now. And now, onto Cronin's pop quiz!

A. Did you read Gruenwald's Cap?
Not all of it, but it made up a good year or so of my earliest superhero reading.

B. Did you like Gruenwald's Cap?
I liked what I read. I really liked Diamondback as a character, and still do, so that helped. Streets of Poison was strangely compelling, given how young I was. I mean, Cap was on drugs and beating up Daredevil through half of it. I was pretty much done with it by the time Capwolf showed up, though.

C. Did you like this particular storyline?
This was before my time of reading Grunwald's Cap. It was referenced in a backup or something while I was reading the book, though.

D. Can you believe they actually called a character John Walker (and then had him take an alias later on of Jack Daniels!!!)?
I just wish they'd named Battlestar James Bean. They could have fought that evil Mexican druglord, Jose Cuervo.

E. If you had to choose between the following to be the art team on Captain America, who would you choose, Kieron Dwyer and Al Milgrom or Steve Epting inking his own pencils?
Epting's stuff is pretty, but I can take or leave either of them.

F. Did you know that, for a period in time, John Byrne was Kieron Dwyer's step-father?
Nope. I wonder if Byrne approves of LCD.

1/17/2005 08:32:00 PM  
Blogger Brian Cronin said...

"That was my first issue of Cap.

Bit of a change from Archie Comics, let me tell you."

You aren't chauncey von buelow, are you?

Heh.

As for this being your first issue of Cap...what kind of impression did it leave on you?

Was it a positive one?

Were you intrigued by all the colorful characters inhabiting the pages of the comic?

Did you want to know all their back story?

Did the fact that you DIDN'T know their back stories distracting to you?

1/18/2005 01:39:00 AM  
Blogger Ali Choudhury said...

Not particularly.

American superhero comics just didn't appeal to me until I was in my mid-teens.

Before then I stuck to Asterix, Tintin and Archie.

1/18/2005 04:13:00 AM  
Blogger thetechnocrat said...

Looking back, I like this issue. To me it was one of the pivotal moments in the Psycho Cap saga. Intricate with it's moving along the stories of the title's many supporting characters. I'm not sure why the requestor didn't just tell you to read 332-350 so that this issue wouldn't seem so cramped and confusing.

The unstable new Cap experiences "the straw that breaks the camel's back." He's pushed over the edge by the endless manipulations of the "shadowy background guy" and his parents death. Truly becoming the American Nightmare that he's been set up to be.

Also, you see the true Cap turning himself over because it's the right thing to do & his only option at finding out what The Commission is up to. Rather than fight and run he chooses to sacrifice his freedom to in attempt to get to the bottom of the evil machinations all around him. That's Cap all the way.

I love Mark G!

1/20/2005 05:52:00 PM  
Blogger thetechnocrat said...

Now that my take on the issue is out...
To answer your questions.
A. Did you read Gruenwald's Cap?
Yes

B. Did you like Gruenwald's Cap?
Yes

C. Did you like this particular storyline?
Yes

D. Can you believe they actually called a character John Walker (and then had him take an alias later on of Jack Daniels!!!)?
That was pretty funny. I was young at the time and didn't get it until he became Jack Daniels.

E. If you had to choose between the following to be the art team on Captain America, who would you choose, Kieron Dwyer and Al Milgrom or Steve Epting inking his own pencils?
I'd go with Dwyer & Milgrom right now. His style back then was waaay better than it was when he drew the Avengers v3 issues. I love Epting's new and improved artwork so far, but he's gonna have to churn out a bunch more issues at the same level for me to change my mind.

F. Did you know that, for a period in time, John Byrne was Kieron Dwyer's step-father?
Yes, I used it as a false clue on my X-Men 138 cover in my Guess The Classic Marvel Covers thread.

1/20/2005 05:58:00 PM  
Blogger thetechnocrat said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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