Page 45 Review by Stephen
"Ninety percent of the casualties of World War I were soldiers, fraulein. But half of the people who died in World War II were civilians."
"Half of sixty-one million. I know what I'm fighting for. I don't want to see World War III."
No. I think we can all agree that a great many more than 50% of casualties during and since 9/11 have been civilian. My best guess? 95%.
For me the first third of this graphic novel is the best work of Cassady's career so far. He put so much thought into the pacing and compositions which are far from melodramatic. They're stark and even solemn at times, with a lot of eyes being looked into, unflinchingly.
The opening sequence is almost bereft of colour, hauntingly so, reflecting the ash everywhere after the Twin Towers had fallen. The first flash of primary cover from Dave Stewart is a shield and only a shield against which a knife shatters, held by a hand with murderous intent in a startling flash of anger, revenge-seeking and racist.
Pre-ULTIMATES, this was the first time that Captain America's mask was drawn with some substance, a leathery thickness, and his chain mail delineated as more than mere patterns but with a solid, pound-coin physicality, indicating their practical, protective functionality.
This appeared a decade and a half ago following the events of 9/11 and America's reaction to it. It is full of that understandable grief but also informed by a resolute opposition to the well of anger which was so alarmingly prevalent at the time.
It is not the flag-waving piece of patriotic neo-imperialism the cover might suggest, but a hard, heartfelt and unyieldingly diatribe against war and its terrible consequences.
In a peaceful town now strewn with land mines, in a pew in a church now laced with tripwires (one up against a child's fallen teddy bear) the hostages held by terrorists are told why and a wife turns to her husband:
"This is how you feed our baby? With bombs? You make bombs?"
"No! Components - We make components."
He says, holding his toddler's hand.
"Land mines outlast wars - aren't disarmed by treaties. Cluster bomblets fall without detonating - but explode at a touch. Any touch."
Elsewhen, elsewhere, Nick Fury defends S.H.I.E.L.D.S.'s deployment of terrorist technology.
"They're the edge that our enemies have, damn it - if we don't have them too."
"I know all about your edge. That's where I'm from. I am military technology. But that's not all I am."
Captain America looks him straight in the eye.
As I said, this is quiet. I've seen this sort of thing bloated with grandstanding verbosity but Rieber's self-control makes every word count and Cassady has grasped his intentions to perfection. I re-read 'Enemy' and 'Warlords' today for the sake of review with unequivocal admiration.
After those tales Chuck Austen took hold of the reins with Trevor Hairsine then Jae Lee in the artistic saddles with Rieber popping round for tea whenever he could. I haven't re-read 'The Extremists' or 'Ice' which bring this up to a chunky 16 issues, but I remember enjoying them. To a lesser greater, I concede, but what's not to love about Harisine's sturdy forms and crunchy textures and Jae Lee's spiky, shadow-strewn neo-gothic art? It's all brooding, angular and monumental, and his original Avengers - Thor, Iron Man, Giant Man and The Wasp - as coloured by the great Jose Villarrubia, dark-and-stormy-night-stylee, are utterly thrilling.
What I have done is found an old review from fifteen years ago for the second half, but it's a complete change in tone - thoroughly flip - and contains the most MASSIVE SPOILERS. It did, however, make me laugh, so it's entirely up to you whether you should stay or you should go now.
Previously in CAPTAIN AMERICA:
World War II: Cap and his perky partner Bucky are battling the evil Baron Zemo, the bloke with the tea towel fixed to his face. Zemo launches a whopping great missile and Buck and Cappy spring on top and try to diffuse the puppy. Oh no! It's about to explode! Jump, Bucky, jump!
Cap falls off but Bucky is blown to tiny teenage pieces, testosterone all over the place. And that's it for World War II. The next thing Steve Rogers knows is it's the 1960s and it's all a bit chilly on the willy on account of having been thawed from a big block of ice found floating in the Arctic, tossed into the ocean by Prince Namor of Atlantis (postcode unknown).
So there you have it, the established story for the last 40 years. Turns out it's not the truth, the whole truth nor anything like the truth, so help you God.
Say you were the US of A and - with your super-soldier goody-two-shoes keeping your heads above water - you were struggling against the Nazis and their allies, particularly those sneaky ones who redecorated Pearl Harbour without so much as a fabric or colour consultation. And say you finally managed to develop a great big bomb with Enola Gay written all over it, and you decided to drop it on Japan. Well, you don't think the upstanding Captain would be very pleased about that. In fact, he'd almost certainly attempt to stop you, and nothing much has got in his way before so it's time for the ultimate decommission.
Put the man on ice, so to speak.
And that's what they did. It wasn't some freak accident that saw the Captain spend the 50s in suspended animation. It was the government. The same one he'd been fighting for fearlessly, tirelessly before and ever since.
So upset is Mr. Steve "The Clean" Rogers that he contemplates casual sex. Good grief!
I don't think this is canon any longer.