cyclonus_the_warrior's Marvel Masterworks: Captain America #1 - Volume 1 review

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The star spangled Avenger ventures solo.

Captain America aka Steve Rogers take his turn guarding the Avengers Mansion while the team goes their separate ways for the moment. Meanwhile, a gang decides it’s time to take over the mansion while Cap is on guard duty due to him physically being the weakest of the team. -summary

Captain America was brought back into Marvel Comics continuity in 1964 through the pages of Avengers in issue # 4; due to his growing popularity it would take Stan Lee a mere six months to give the Sentinel of Liberty some type of a series. However, Cap didn’t get his own series at that moment. Instead, he shared the title Tales of Suspense with fellow Avenger Iron Man, as they embarked on their own separate adventures. This TPB collects only Captain America’s stories across Tales of Suspense issues 59 – 81. For those whom are interested, Iron Man’s stories are collected in his own Marvel Masterworks TPB’s.

It’s no doubt in my mind that Stan Lee enjoyed writing Spider-Man more than any of his creations in the early 60’s; but Captain America didn’t get the short end of the stick all that much. Very early in the series Stan Lee shows us what separates him from the rest of his mighty team. The first story takes place with a local gang hoping to take over the Avengers Mansion, and Lee’s development of Cap begins right away. It’s true that he’s the weakest of his team, but his fighting ability and strategy appears second to none. Cap was born for battle, and he was born to motivate those around him and these first batch of stories are proof of this.

In the middle portion of the book we’re treated to a long WWII flashback as Cap encounters his oldest and greatest enemy the Red Skull. This story arc was a nice change of pace, because it actually told something of a story and it put that repetitive feel on hold. The Red Skull is built up very well as a threat, as he’s eventually able to brainwash Cap in doing his bidding; to include, even Hitler himself is afraid of the Red Skull. While some of the stories suffer from some annoying dialog at times, mainly due to how out of date they feel. The action makes up in small ways.

The book picks up pace yet again and works into a much better and memorable storyline in the Captain America mythos titled, The Final Sleep. It appears that the Red Skull prepared a doomsday scenario to take place 20 years later in case the Nazi’s lost WWII. Captain America remembers their encounter and sets off to put a stop to whatever his arch-nemesis had planned. The reader will also be treated to the first team up between Cap and Nick Fury, to include Cap’s first encounter with the French mercenary Batroc the Leaper.

While I enjoyed plenty of these stories; the dated dialog and repetitive feel were the biggest issues. I had to take plenty of breaks reading this because it just felt like the wheels were spinning, and I simply wanted better action and more interesting villains. Captain America, like Thor in the early 60’s lacked the colorful and bizarre rogue’s gallery of Spider-Man, in addition they also lacked his overall charisma; but Captain America reads a lot better than a good portion of the early 60’s Marvel stories.

Jack Kirby, John Romita, and several others share writing duties. The artwork is pretty intense during most of the action segments. The Sleeper story was packed with destruction, and the fight with Batroc was indeed the best here; there was plenty of imagination and excitement to be found.

Overall, Marvel Masterworks: Captain America read a lot better than I thought it would. It definitely had its rough moments yet at times it made up for this. As a hardcore comic fan I would say that my time wasn’t wasted giving these older stories a look, but I can imagine some modern fans not really feeling this old writing style. My recommendation is to give the second book a try over this one, since it reads slightly better with some awesome action. Captain America and Batroc’s confrontations among others in that book are worth the price of admission alone.

Pros: 2nd half of the book is pretty exciting

Cons: Some good development, but takes some time to get going

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