Friday, September 18, 2015

'Captain America: White' No. 0 review (flashback)

I'm pleased to say I'm the new owner of the first issue of the loooong awaited CAPTAIN AMERICA: WHITE limited series. But before I post my review of issue 1, check out my thorough review of the very hard-to-find No. 0, which ironically is included at the end of No. 1 — along with those same extras! 

This review was posted on the original online home of Cary's Comics Craze on May 17, 2013:

Most fans know about the home-run trilogy of “color” Marvel Comics limited series by writer Joeph Loeb and his longtime creative partner, artist Tim Sale (DAREDEVIL: YELLOW in 2002, SPIDER-MAN: BLUE in ’03 and HULK: GRAY in ’04).

But I bet many people don’t know or remember they planned a six-issue limited series titled CAPTAIN AMERICA: WHITE, which was to be published in the winter of 2008.

I had heard of WHITE when it was in the planning stages as Loeb did an interview with the now-defunct WIZARD magazine, but I didn’t hear anything more about it afterward.

What happened? Was there a falling-out? A scheduling conflict? Lack of interest?

The idea that the Loeb-Sale duo didn’t have it mostly planned out is unlikely as the preview issue, No. 0 (printed about September 2008) reveals Sale’s sketches and finals inks of all six covers. That’s right — I found the rare issue in a 25-cent long box at POP in Sandusky, Ohio a couple of weeks ago! (In fact, there were three copies so I got one for each of my best friends — how couldn’t I?!?)

Needless to say, I was geeked.

 This 17-page story is a retelling of Bucky Barnes discovering his pal, Steve Rogers, is Captain America and how Cap decides to make Barnes his partner. (“I just kept training you and waited for the word to come from on high. …”)

There’s a definite Batman-and-Robin dynamic to their partnership as cap continually tells Bucky it will only take one “slip-up” to get himself killed and he must listen to Cap’s every word.

Sale’s artwork is as fluid and smooth as ever. His Cap some times is too cartoon-y looking while at other times, it’s spot-on. On the other hand, Sale’s Bucky is consistently superior. At first, I thought the artist’s noir style would be out of place in a World War II story, but it actually works quite well and is complemented by the coloring.

As far as the story (and what could have unfolded in WHITE), I wonder if Cap’s concern, which borders on obsessiveness, about his young partner’s well-being would have been the focus of the rest of the series. That would have been a fitting complement to writer Ed Brubaker’s “Winter Soldier” storyline that was being published at the same time.

Having both stories published about the same time would have helped readers empathize with Rogers being worried about Barnes (as seen in their prime as WWII partners in WHITE) and really hit home how tough it would be for Rogers to realize his partner, whom he thought was dead, not only is alive, but is now a Russian assassin (in “Winter Soldier”). I can’t imagine how Loeb’s story would have conflicted, interfered or negatively impacted what Brubaker was doing with Cap and Barnes in the contemporary times — much less what would have led Marvel to canceling WHITE.

Something tells me WHITE eventually would introduced Peggy Carter and its focus would have shifted to Rogers love for her. Loeb truly could have pulled at readers’ heartstrings (just as he does in YELLOW and even more so in BLUE) as later, in modern times, Rogers mourns the passing of not just Carter, but also Barnes.

That’s a similar motif with two-thirds of the “color trilogy” (with Matt Murdock and Peter Parker looking back — and making an assessment of their first true loves — respectively, Karen Page and Gwen Stacy.) Had WHITE stayed set during WWII (as inferred by Loeb and Sale’s group interview at the end of this preview issue), the story might have focuzed on how the Rogers-Carter relationship complicates and even dirties the Cap-Bucky dynamic.

Of course, this is going on the assumption that Carter would have been introduced at all, making No. 0 an opportune way to “get rid” of how Barnes came to be Bucky.

Either way, I have to assume Loeb’s story would have focused on the Rogers-Barnes relationship in some way, since the rest of the “color trilogy” has a similar theme. (Murdock and Page in YELLOW, Parker and Stacy in BLUE and Bruce Banner and Betty Ross in GRAY).

WHITE has the opportunity to explore how deeply Rogers cares/cared about Barnes — as a person and warrior partner –and influences who Rogers is and what emotional baggage he has as Captain America, just as YELLOW and BLUE do.

Who knows how the story would have unfolded – but this lifelong Caphead would have loved to have read what Loeb sets up to be yet another intriguing character study. Grade: B+

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