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Thursday, July 14, 2011

Latest Comic Book Reviews (07.14.2011): Red Skull: Incarnate & Captain America #1

Marvel's greatest villain (and Captain America's arch enemy) gets his own origin series and a new #1 starring the Captain of all Captains. I can't be more thrilled sharing my thoughts on both of these incredible titles.

All of my reviews after the jump.

Red Skull: Incarnate
Written by Greg Pak
Art by Mirko Colak
Colors by Matthew Wilson
Cover by David Aja
Published by Marvel Comics

Red Skull is arguably Marvel Comics greatest supervillain. We know him as the Nazi sympathizer who always fought with Captain America with an undeniable thirst and hunger for power - but more importantly, he know him for being a merciless, evil monster who will slaughter anybody who gets in his way.

But we never knew why he was like that. Why he do the things he do and what motivated him to embrace evil and be the personification of evil itself. 

Now, Marvel brings us the story that would answer all those questions. The story of Johann Schmidt, before he became The Red Skull. 

Hiring Greg Pak to write this complicated story was the right choice. Pak wrote the awesome Magneto: Testament (if you haven't read that one, go get it now!) which was the inspiration for this series. But there's a main difference: Magneto: Testament told the story of a boy who was a victim of the war and the Nazi's so it was very easy to sympathize with that character and ultimately understand his beliefs and hatred. 

Red Skull: Incarnate on the other hand, is the opposite. Its a story of a man embracing evil with all his heart. How could someone possibly make this evil incarnate - human - if that's the case then?

Believe it or not, Greg Pak was able to humanize this story as possible that was the result of his extensive study and research on pre-World War II history. His tragic writing is full of emotion and it cleverly guides the reader into the mind of the boy Johann Schmidt, who at this time (in 1932) is an innocent young lad living in an orphanage for wayward children, being constantly beaten by his strict headmaster.

This leads into a scene where Johann is forced to look for an escape from his miserable life, eventually ending up with a dogcatcher who gives him some advice on how to survive in this world, and more importantly, Johann's first meeting with death. 

The build-up to that scene is perfectly executed by Pak, slowly building up the tension then drops the bomb down the end, making a beautifully tragic tale leaving you with the desire to learn more about the title character. Honestly, I want to know Johann more after that last page. I felt sympathy for him. And with that, I could say that Pak was successful in his objective. 

Colak's illustration is brand new to me, and I never really knew this artist no until this comic book. His art is realistic and gorgeous, and though it lacks dynamic in some scenes, he compensates for that with sheer emotion. He was able to elevate Pak's storytelling and draws the script just the way it is. I also applaud him for not being afraid to depict brutality involving animals, and he was able to illustrate those touchy scenes with subtlety. 

David Aja's incredible poster-like cover didn't hurt either in enticing me to pick this up. I love his work on The Immortal Iron Fist, and I'm glad to see his talent being used here. Just look at that cover, and you'll agree with me when I say its a sure candidate for "Cover of the Month".
Overall, great start for this new Red Skull series and I'm sure be looking forward for more in the next 4 issues.


Captain America #1 (2011)
Written by Ed Brubaker
Art by Steve McNiven
Published by Marvel Comics

The effects of Fear Itself definitely rippled thru the entire Marvel Universe, and with the death (again) of Bucky Barnes (aka Captain America II) at the hands of Red Skull's daughter Sin, its almost automatic for the original Star-Spangled Avenger - Steve Rogers - to take the mantle and shield once more.

This leads us to this new number 1 for Cap.

But its no ordinary number 1 issue, because heralding this latest Cap series is mystery-action-thriller specialist Ed Brubaker, who is no stranger to Captain America. Actually, his Cap run last year is regarded as one of the best ever, not just because he revitalized the character, but because he added modern sensibilities to Cap's endearing personality that was something readers haven't seen before.

Now Brubaker does that with this installment, putting Captain America in a complicated love-triangle, showing more of the man rather than the hero, while delivering his patented mystery plot that's beautifully intertwined with the back and forth switches from the past to the present time line (vice versa).

And Brubaker presents this with an ascending voice, slowly building up the pieces , giving a couple of hints here and there but not giving the main gist away, and then hits with a big "BANG!" as he finishes it with a cliffhanger. Now readers are hooked, and will sure pickup the next issue, guaran-damn-teed.

What's amazing is how Brubaker's impeccable storytelling makes all the multiple plot-lines gel together and look seamless for an easy and fun read. Its amazing. His idea of a former friend from Captain America's past coming to kill the shield-wielding avenger raises an awful lot of questions, but it sure makes for an intriguing and engaging plot that could somehow reveal some of Steve Rogers' dark past. Pair that with the love angle I mentioned a while ago, a blockbuster supporting cast of Dum Dum Dugan, Sharon Carter and Nick Fury, and you have a book that's very hard to put down.

Now when it comes to the art, Steve McNiven hits the jackpot here. He draws exceptional faces, something that most artist really do a mediocre job at, and he does it with clean and crisp lines. I know I say that a lot, but that's what I really notice at first in an art - the lines - and the way artists draw everything. Is it sketchy? Dull? That kind of stuff.

With McNiven,  its almost perfect, and I really dig his effort in bringing dynamic scenes mixed with some nice panel arrangements to give that widescreen movie feel.

Justin Ponsor's colors are really well toned on this one, not to bright and not to dark, yet its vibrant and almost everything especially the backgrounds is very well taken care of. Perfect match of pencilling, inking, and coloring = an art experience you don't want to miss, and that's the formula for Captain America #1 - art wise.

Only thing that was not tackled in this issue is Bucky. I know he's dead, but why didn't Cap or anybody mention his name in the funeral scene? But other than that, this issue is damn flawless. Now if only Marvel can do us a favor and make this a bi-monthly series.



  1. So I take this is only going to be released once a month? Thats a shame, I can't wait much longer for the second issue. I am hooked, and this comes from a Captain America novice.

  2. hey there escape,

    yes its going to be a monthly title. and you're completely right, this is a book that caters to both long time Cap fans and new readers alike.