Monday, March 23, 2015

Never give up: Review of 'Captain America: Castaway in Dimension Z' trade paperback

"And you listen close, Steven, you always stand up." — Sarah Rogers 

"A man who loses hope … loses everything." — Steve Rogers' grandfather 

"You promise me no matter what you'll be a good and honorable man, no matter the circumstances. It would kill me to see these hard times change you. You are a good person, Steve. Promise me you'll always keep that intact." — Sarah Rogers 

Those three quotes from flashbacks in the CASTAWAY IN DIMENSION Z storyline obviously shaped the kind of man Steve Rogers became. While I'm bothered to see he came from a home in which his father was a drunkard and physically abusive, it's obvious young Steve Rogers learned a valiant lesson from his victimized mother — and certainly growing up during the Great Depression — about always standing up to evil, never giving up and working toward making the world a better place.

As Captain America, Rogers embodies the never-give-up attitude we fans see in so many of the greatest heroes in any genre. Cap has a stubborn unwillingness of never surrendering in the face of despair, evil, abusive power, the impossible — you name it.

As his mother taught him, he always stands up. No matter the circumstances.

The Star-Spangled Avenger also personifies doing the right thing; these qualities are what I adore about Cap/Rogers.

CASTAWAY IN DIMENSION Z is the first story in the Marvel Now relaunch of the CAPTAIN AMERICA title by the creative team of writer Rick Remender (who continues to kill it in the ALL-NEW CAPTAIN AMERICA), penciler John Romita Jr. (aka "JRJR") and inkers Klaus Janson, Tom Palmer and Scott Hanna. The storyline covers issues 1 through 10 and introduces Arnim Zola's biological son Ian whom Rogers raised while stranded in Dimension Z.

Steve Rogers and Ian Zola "rough it" and fight for their survival
as they are stranded in the wasteland of Dimension Z.
Since Ian is Sam Wilson's partner in ALL-NEW …, I was curious about his background story from CASTAWAY, especially since it's mentioned in the recap at the beginning of all the ALL-NEW … series, featuring Wilson as Cap. With JRJR on pencils and two of my favorite inkers, Janson and Hanna, my curiosity was piqued.

As I mentioned, I figured CASTAWAY would clue me into Ian Zola (who is Nomad in ALL-NEW …), whom Rogers kidnaps from his long-time enemy Arnim Zola and claims as his son while trapped in Dimension Z.

In short, the two CASTAWAY trades are quick reads (as are most contemporary stories). However, it isn't what I'd consider your "typical" Captain America story, even though Remender pulls in themes we know are inherently what makes Cap/Rogers tick.

My first impression, upon flipping through the pages at various bookstores and comic-book conventions, was CASTAWAY is a science-fiction tale which just happens to star Captain America. In fact, by the end of the 10th issue I realized it's another example of Rogers being "a man further out of time" (the title given at the very end of No. 10), which ironically lets fans see that Cap is Cap, no matter the timeline or setting.

Rogers gets bloodied and beaten in ways I've never seen in all my years as a dedicated Caphead. By the time the story wraps up and Cap returns to his own time (where 30 minutes was 10 to 12 years for Cap), Cap is a bloody mess having taken on Ian Zola (whom his father has made believe Rogers is a man who "endangers youth for (his) patriotic endeavors"), his sister Jet Black and Arnim Zola. 

Romita's art and facial expressions — not to mention the blood splatter on Cap's beleagured body — give Rogers' journey to reclaim Ian from Zola and find good in Jet Black a lot of punch. Even with a beard, Rogers has never looked so determined, traumatized or pissed off. All this dymanic art makes the climax one for the ages. The two-page of spread on pages 10 and 11 of issue is a fantastic shot of Cap attacking Zola and is worthy of being a poster.
Sharon Carter has been the love of Captain America's
 life for years — but Steve Rogers still doesn't know
how to flirt with her.

True to his character, Cap never gives up — despite witnessing his adopted son and the live of his life, Sharon Carter, likely being blown to smithereens. Using Carter's plan to detonate Zola's battlestation to avoid the deaths of billions of people in the current time, Cap and Jet Black do just that. By the time Black literally drags Rogers from Dimension Z, where he is determined to somehow save Carter and Ian Zola, Rogers looks as haggard and defeated as one might expect from a man who gave it his all to save billions of lives yet couldn't save the two people he most loves from seemingly dying before his very eyes.

Obviously, Cap's never-give-up philosophy is at the heart of CASTAWAY. He inspires more of Arnim Zola's enraged retribution once Zola realizes Cap took his infant son from his very own lab where Cap had been held captive. Even after Zola commands Black to kill the Star-Spangled Avenger and Zola temporarily twists his son's mind into believing Cap is his enemy, Rogers refuses to give up finding the good that he know is possible in each of the Zola siblings. Grades — Story: B; Art: A-

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