Monday, December 5, 2016

'Captain America' by Dan Jurgens Vol. 2

I recently have found another iconic take on Captain America. It only took me 17 years to discover it.

Capheads, if you see any of the trade paperbacks featuring the stories and art by Dan Jurgens, I'd recommend you get it. I did at one of the conventions I attended … and of course, life being what it is — and my pile of to-be-read trades being what they are, CAPTAIN AMERICA BY DAN JURGENS VOL. 2 sat for a while in my bedroom before I read it.

And when I did, I was pleased with how much I enjoyed the story and the art. Jurgens' art is what attracted me to this trade in the first place. This shouldn't have surprised me since the first time I encountered Jurgens he was handling of part of the comicdom's other most noble superhero, Superman. That was 25-plus years ago during the "Death of Superman," "Funeral for a Friend" and "Reign of Supermen" storylines, but regardless, Jurgens' storytelling and art made an impression that stuck with me.

Jurgens draws Captain America with the physique I most associate with the Star-Spangled Avenger: Broad shoulders, big muscles (without being ridiculously large) and a handsome Steve Rogers with a cleft chin. And when Cap moves, it's with a fluidity appropriate to the only successful result of the Super Soldier Serum. (More on that later!)

Jurgens' version of Cap — and his art in general — reminds me of John Byrne and Mike Zeck, with a hint of Norm Breyfogle. That's also true when it comes to Dum Dum Dugan and Sharon Carter.

Walden Wong does an admirable job inking Jurgens' pencils (CAPTAIN AMERICA No. 35) and the same goes for Art Thibert (issues 36 and 37). There should be no surprise that legendary inker Bob Layton, the man singlehandedly responsible for designing "my" Iron Man from the Bronze Age, really makes Jurgens' art shine in the remaining issues (Nos. 38-44).

It should be noted that Dave Ross is the guest penciller in issue 43 (again inked by man Layton) and in issue 44, Jurgens is credited with doing "pencil art" while Layton does double-duty of inking and art. Only a fanatical follower will notice any difference, although that being said, your neighborhood-friendly blogger and fanboy could tell Layton's inks are a bit darker and slightly heavier in issue 44.

My biggest gripe with this trade is the unnecessary inclusion of CAPTAIN AMERICA ANNUAL 2000 (not written by Jurgens) and issue 36, which is part of a Marvel Comics crossover storyline at the time called "Maximum Security." Each issue interrupts the story featuring Protocide, whom A.I.M. has made believe that Cap sabotaged the Super Soldier Serum experiment. The truth is soldier Clinton McIntyre was a prime physical example who agreed to take the SSS to avoid a firing a squad — but it didn't have the necessary additives to be successful.

The subplot is Rogers dating defense attorney Connie Ferrari (what a great last name!). Like clichés from issues in the Golden Age of Comics, Rogers regularly leaves Ferrari to do his Captain America thing — and/or to undergo a SHIELD mission — using the lamest excuses, of course. But somehow despite how smart Ferrari is, she doesn't figure out her lover and Cap are one and the same person until Cap tells her he's "the one person you can trust." (Why can't superheroes know they should never, ever repeat something what they said to their loved one when they're off-duty?! SMH…) 

Needless to say, Ferrari is pissed Rogers kept his dual identity a secret from her. She tells him she might not be ready to commit to a relationship with "a super cop" or Avengers — and not surprisingly, she chickens out and leaves Rogers via "Dear John" letter. It's a horrible cliché — one we fans have seen far too much in comics and movies and on TV — but Jurgens and Layton deliver great anxiety and loss in the last two pages. Rogers rushes home from a fight with Taskmaster (still one of my favorite villains — and very underrated and underappreciated!) to find the handwritten letter he doesn't need to read.

Grades — Story: B; Art: A

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