Captain America #3

by Eric Halloran on January 29, 2013

World-building is undoubtedly a very freeing exercise for artists and writers, and while in some cases, such as with Remender and Romita’s Captain America, they are still tasked with managing characters from the Marvel U, the opportunity to explore a new realm built from scratch surely presents a great opportunity to flex their creative muscle. Unfortunately, it’s also easy to miss the mark by trying to bring something strange-but-familiar enough to make readers care about all the aspects of the story that make it unique.


Captain America #3 suffers because too much story is being forced into the pages. This problem reared its head in issue #2, where an ocean of black ink was spent to tell us that it’s now a year into Captain America’s traverse in Dimension Z. Cap gets us up to speed quick, but surviving in a strange wilderness by himself might have made for an interesting story all its own. As a fan of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road I would invite a slower paced survival story in this world, but that’s not the story Remender wanted to tell so it will have to serve as backstory.


But there’s no shortage of backstory that does make the cut. Starting with a flashback that gives us insight into the villain is a fine beginning– Arnim’s dealing with the legacy of his father as much as Steve Rogers’ younger self is forced to live with the ignominy of his own father, which is a serviceable parallel, but otherwise both flashbacks hurt more than they help, this time. In the first and second issue, Steve’s mother is a presence who’s influence in who he became as a man is insightful. Romita’s art this time around feels out of place as the heads on the children are oversized and cartoonish, undermining the message.Otherwise Romita's art is good - save for some perspective issues with a paining Cap is working on in one scene. Cap looks suitably worn down and rugged, the world looks alien and weird.


More damaging to the story is the opening pages of the book that deal with Arnim’s experiments. Is there another way to illustrate he’s a mad scientist without clichéd jars filled with green liquid and cobbled together animal hybrids? We live in a post Human Caterpillar world, where it wasn’t good enough for that crazy German scientist to just attach one person’s mouth to another person’s anus, he did it a second time because he’s that crazy and disgusting. The envelope has already been pushed, Arnim – attaching your servant’s head to her Doberman pinscher just looks silly.


I am not advocating for more gore or gross outs, that’s not what we’re being offered in Dimension Z so it’s not necessary element to flesh out. If we’re supposed to see the graduation of Arnim from amateur veterinarian to cyborg genetic code master as being impressive, I am not buying it. This is a case where showing less, teasing more would have instilled mystery into Arnim’s origin and created suspense. Sometimes it is ok to let the viewers imagination put the pieces together. Jaws would have been a totally different movie if the mechanical shark hadn't malfunctioned, causing so much of the film to be shot with the great white not seen, or from the shark's p.o.v. instead.


The supporting cast in Dimension Z is also lacking – a few notes of Zofjor being a tyrant finds Cap sowing seeds of revolution and democracy in the only friend he’s got on this alien world, getting him killed in the process. While it is very American to tell other citizens how they should run their lives, as a parallel to young Steve Rogers being so idealistic as to take on a gang of boys picking on a small fry like himself falls flat. Captain America has already shown us that he knows how to pick his battles, and that he’s already learned that brute force isn’t always going to win the day.   


Speaking loud enough for Zofjor to  hear his suggestion for insurrection is something I’d expect from Groo, not Cap, and because we hardly know about this alien civilization yet it’s more of a “Whoops” than a great cause for outcry. It certainly isn’t the measured, untrusting movement of a man who’s had to survive on his own for a year as a castaway in Dimension Z, all while caring for an infant.


This experience should change Cap in some way, but so far the only changes that have come have been inorganic and forced, and unfortunately we can’t blame it all on Zola’s science experiments. I have to admit, though, Zola’s surprise at the end of the issue is a step up a human head onto a dog’s body.

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