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‘Captain America: Avenger, Hero, Icon’ (review)

Written by Rich Johnson
Published by Universe


Let’s get one thing straight up front. Captain America has been my absolute favorite Marvel character for more than half a century!

The new book, Captain America: Avenger, Hero, Icon by Rich Johnson offers a kind of guide to the best Cap stories out there.

And therein lies the problem.

Not sure if these were the author’s personal choices or if these were handed to him by corporate Marvel because they were readily available at your local comics shop in collected form.

That’s what this really is, of course—a catalog of other stuff you can buy.

Now Rich Johnson is a veteran industry insider and he knows this stuff and yet his text reads like puff piece PR pretty much all the way through.

He calls Rick Jones a “man” when Cap meets him but he was a teenager. He speculates that Madame Hydra was a child of the Russian Revolution which would have made her first appearance pretty darn sexy for a woman in her 60s! Or was he talking about the early 1990s fall of the Soviet Union, in which case we’d need our continuity implants spelled out a bit more?

What really nails it though is when he writes about Jack Kirby’s return for the Bicentennial and calls the still controversial run, “Kirby at his best,” referring to his “awesome dialogue.” Jack’s comics dialogue was certainly unique but I doubt even its staunchest defenders would call it awesome.

Most of the story arcs discussed really are some of the best but with more than 80 years’ worth from which to choose, it seems more than a little top-heavy with stories from the 2000s. Sure, we get some 1970s Englehart and Steranko, but where’s Kirby’s original Cosmic Cube saga? The Sleepers? “Death Be Not Proud” from the Avengers? The fan-favorite return of the racist 1950s Cap and Bucky? The Invaders?

So, yeah, in the end, I’m left with the distinct impression that this entire book is little more than a nicely illustrated $50 cash-grab catalog for new Cap fans to buy more Cap merchandise.

The Captain America I’ve known for all these decades wouldn’t like that at all.



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