This week, the Marvel Rundown looks at a relatively back-to-basics relaunch in Captain America #1. This review is SPOILER-LITE, so scroll down for the Rapid Rundown for some Spoiler-Free reviews of Loki, Uncanny Spider-Man, and more.

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Captain America #1Captain America #1

Writer: J. Michael Straczynski
Artist: Jesus Saiz
Colorist: Matt Hollingsworth
Letterer: Joe Caramagna

Captain America has felt a little… aimless in the past few years, hasn’t he? His recent batch of writers have tangled themselves into stories that focus more on the symbol than the man himself. Which, granted, has its time and place — Ta-Nehisi Coates started off on the right foot on that approach, but his run fizzled out and didn’t live up to the promise of its opening arc.

Enter J. Michael Straczynski, returning Marvel writer responsible for some beloved/derided Spider-Man stories, who clearly aims to ask the serious questions like: what’s Steve’s living situation? What does he get up to? What exactly happened to him in the years between his mother’s death and enlisting in the army? They’re all genuinely interesting questions and I’m surprisingly excited to see what comes next!

Joining Straczynski is Jesús Saiz — fresh off of an amazing Punisher run with Jason Aaron, and seemingly primed to take on one of Marvel’s flashship characters. There’s a little less action in this than the typical Saiz book, but I admired his character work here and Matt Hollingsworth’s colours round out the visuals nicely. Saiz deftly jumps between the present day and the pre-World War II flashbacks with ease. His costuming is good, his sense of place even better, and he can quickly dip his toe into the comic book craziness with weird metal lizards scaling buildings, and floating rid mist demons invading people’s bodies. I’m jazzed to see what else he’ll be getting up to in this series!

This is a relatively plotless look at Steve’s life; it’s mostly removed from his Avengers routine, but makes one things clear — he’s a pillar of his community, both in his personal and superhero lives. What would anyone do without him? He buys his apartment building — what’s a new take on a character without them buying their building to provide affordable housing? — and gets to work on renovating it when one of his neighbours/tenants asks him a question which I had never considered before, one that unlocked a whole new aspect of the character for me: “How did you survive?” That’s regarding what happened to him after his mother died; such a simple but interesting question!

Verdict: This is an absolute BUY for me. Newer fans of the character can get in on the ground floor of what may be a really interesting story for the character, and I think older fans can rest easy as this isn’t one of those deep examinations of the character as a symbol! To boot, the art is gorgeous and I’m excited to see what else Saiz brings to the table.

Rapid Rundown!

  • Guardians of the Galaxy #6
    • Guardians of the Galaxy from the writing team of Collin Kelly and Jackson Lanzig has been a confounding reading experience. For five issues, we’ve gotten vague references to tragic events that wiped out the previous status quo. The mystery box angle has prevented the characters from having any meaningful conversation or interaction. This issue finally provides some answers but does so through a series of narrations that rush past big moments. Instead, these revelations are raised and forgotten in the following panel. What we are left with are hints of what would have made a compelling story in its own right. The truth of Groot’s fate in particular is a missed opportunity. This is despite the stylish art from guest penciler Alex Lins and colorist KJ Diaz. They offer fragmented layouts that reflect the script’s disjointed narration. Cory Petit’s letters help keep the wild layouts readable. On its own merits, this first arc from Kelly and Lanzig has managed to be entertaining despite the frustrations. But that this series of strange storytelling decisions, that withheld the most interesting details, culminated with a textbook case of “telling-not-showing” is a real letdown. With cards out on the table, we can hope for a more straightforward and emotionally resonant kind of storytelling that is only hinted at here. —TR
  • Loki #4
    • This whole miniseries has been a fascinating character study, and it’s one strengthened by the many different versions of Loki we’ve seen in recent years. Dan Watters taps into the great evolution this God of Stories (or maybe it’s Lies?) has gone through, and shows that while Loki may have good intentions, his actions frequently leave unintended consequences. Sure, he may have done his best to stop Bullseye in this issue, but the carnage they’ve left behind doesn’t help anyone. Germán Peralta has done a great job of capturing the unique landscapes throughout this series, with some wonderfully bizarre creatures and aliens. Along with colors from Mike Spicer and letters by Travis Lanham, this has been a great looking book to check out month to month. The end of this series leaves some interesting threads behind that make me wonder how soon it’ll be till we see this changed god again… —CB
  • Predator Vs. Wolverine #1
    • If you’ve never seen any of the previous Predator movies all you need to know is that for centuries Earth has been a hunting ground for technologically advanced aliens who live for the hunt. If you have seen them and specifically liked the Hulu movie Prey, then you’ll like what writer Benjamin Percy and artists Ken LashleyGreg LandJay Leisten (inks), and Andrea Di Vito serve up, using the convention of different artists for different points in everyone’s favorite furry Canadian’s life, Percy makes Wolverine the prey in this century-long hunt and for the Preadator it seems personal. Well-paced and strategically placed in Logan’s life, the action is solid and an engaging mixing of everything you would want in a Preadtor story along with everything you would expect from an untold tale of Wolverine. –GC3
  • Uncanny Spider-Man #1
    • Conceptually, I think this comic is a long-time Marvel fan’s dream, at least for someone of my ahem generation. It’s a book that mashes X-Men and Spider-Man together. Honestly, just seeing the word Uncanny beside Spider-Man tickled the part of my brain that stores my memories of reading comics when I was a pre-teen in the late 90s. But at the same time, this is also a strong book within the context of the current line, building on the ongoing character exploration of Nightcrawler while giving us a good reason for the aforementioned Spider-Man, X-Men mash-up…to survive within the new NO MUTANTS ON EARTH status quo, Nightcrawler must pose as a Spider-Man, someone to whom the public generally has a favorable opinion (at least more so than mutants). In this first issue, we see the full potential of the idea, with appearances by classic Spider-Man villains, and a truly hilarious sequence in which Nightcrawler tries his hand at Peter Parker’s trademark quips. I had a great time with this one, and I’m happy to recommend it. The creative team is Si Spurrier, Lee Garbett, Matt Milla, and Joe Caramagna. ZQ

Next week, the Ultimate Invasion comes to an end!