Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The Classics - Captain America #113

So what's the big deal about Captain America dying? This issue (cover dated May 1969) was all about his death and funeral.

Of course, in those days these stories were resolved a bit faster.

This issue was written and drawn by the legendary Jim Steranko and inked by the talented Tom Palmer, and it picks up from the shock ending of the previous issue, wherein Cap is gunned down in a hail of bullets while jumping into the Hudson River.

Officials recover Cap's uniform (riddled with bullet holes) and a Steve Rogers mask (similarly riddled). Steve had recently revealed his secret identity, and as a result he and Rick Jones (who had taken up the role of Bucky) were ambushed by an army of Hydra agents.

We meet the woman behind Cap's death, the sexy and mysterious Madame Hydra, as she plots a trap for the Avengers and Nick Fury at Cap's funeral. I believe that was one of the few times Steranko drew the Avengers, and I particularly enjoyed his version of Thor.

(Excuse the spoilers that follow - but nothing here should come as a surprise.) Of course, just when thinks look hopeless, Captain America roars onto the scene, hurling his body into the fray as his high-tech motorcycle crashes into Hydra's agents.

What follows is a series of pin-up worthy action shots of Cap looking heroic and invincible as he tackles an army of bad guys. The wrap-up to the story is a stunning display of artistry.

As I have written before, I'm a huge fan of Steranko's work - both art and story. This issue wrapped up his short run on this comic and was his swan song on superhero continuity work for Marvel, although he would go on to supply a horror and romance story, a number of covers, spot illustrations and other projects.

It was the end of an era, and while I've enjoyed his other projects, including the two volumes of The History of Comics and the Comixscene / Mediascene / Prevue magazine, it's a shame his comics work is so rare.

His run in comics was relatively short - a few years on Nick Fury, Agent of SHIELD, a few issues of X-Men and Captain America, and that's about it - but thanks to his storytelling and his sense of graphic design being incorporated into stunning artwork, his effect is still being felt on the industry today - and there are only a handful of creators who fit that category.

It was great fun re-reading this issue today - with a fast-paced adventure story and incredible art, it deserves the title of "classic."

Grade: A



Anonymous said...

Jim Steranko and Neal Adams came into prominence about the same time, but with a big difference.
Adam's hyper-real style begat a legion of Adams imitators, some good, some not so much.
Steranko hit the industry like a
nuclear bomb and his work attracted
a legion of fans...but as far as I
know, no artist attempted to follow
in Steranko's footsteps! His art was so distinct and unique, he was
inimitable! His legacy is built upon a handful of stories, which are just as fresh and exciting today as when they were published!

Sam Kujava

Chuck said...

Sam, I agree. I think a few artists tried to imitate Steranko - Paul Gulacy and Barry Smith, for example - but most who did quickly moved on to creating their own styles. No doubt it was just too difficult to try to match Steranko's style.

Kyle said...

Great stuff Chuck... years ago I found a couple "Special Edition" reprints that collected this as well as a bunch of other Steranko Cap issues, these were my first introduction to Steranko... They also had a lot of great non-Cap reprints in there as well...

Chuck said...

Kyle, I had the originals and I still picked up those reprints - great stuff!

Nate said...

Pretty awesome cover.

Chuck said...

Nate, I forgot to mention that. Not only is it a great cover, but the colors are unlike any other cover in memory. Amazing work.