Published: June 17th, 2015 Written by: Mark Gruenwald, D.G. Chichester, Randall Frenz, Fabian Nicieza, Dann Thomas, Roy Thomas Art by: Larry Alexander, Mark Bagley, Ron Frenz, Don Hudson, Ron Lim, Mike Manley, Chris Marrinan, Jim Valentino, Ron Wilson
Marvel Comics, 493 Pages
I really liked the Streets of Poison storyline when I was a kid. I was also really pumped to jump right into this Epic Collection, as the previous one was pretty exceptional.
However, this didn’t read as good as it did when I was eleven years-old but lots of things don’t and that also doesn’t mean this was bad.
I like this era of Captain America and revisiting it makes me appreciate it even more, even if it’s not as perfect as I remembered it.
This kicks off with the Streets of Poison arc, which is highlighted by a fight between Red Skull and the Kingpin. I thought that this rivalry between the two villains and everything leading up to their fight was really solid. You had Crossbones trying to take out Kingpin with Bullseye trying to take out Red Skull and the two assassins having their own fight. Additionally, Captain America fights both of them as well.
My only real gripe about the story was how being exposed to drugs altered Cap’s behavior pretty immensely. It bonded with the super solider serum in his body and the only way to cure Cap was to remove his blood and fix the serum. However, Cap, being strongly anti-drug after this experience, rejected the serum and decided to move forward as a normal man and not the creation of a drug he took back in the 1940s.
Following Streets of Poison, we got the story of the Serpent Society abducting Diamondback and trying her for her crimes against the Society. King Cobra and his minions rule against Diamondback harshly but she survives her execution when Cap finds her. Diamondback’s allies within the Serpent Society leave the group as well and they start to establish themselves as a new heroic group.
There are a couple single issue stories weaved into the bigger tapestry, here. None of them were bad and they honestly just showed how solid the writing at Marvel was in this era.
Published: April 25th, 2018 Written by: Mark Gruenwald, Kieron Dwyer Art by: Mark Bagley, M.D. Bright, Rich Buckler, Kieron Dwyer, Ron Lim, Al Milgrom
Marvel Comics, 495 Pages
Well, this is probably the greatest string of Captain America issues that I have ever read. The first few were a bit shaky but they laid the groundwork for the start of the two primary stories, here, The Bloodstone Hunt and the Captain America portion of the Acts of Vengeance crossover and its fallout.
The Bloodstone Hunt was pretty incredible and a hell of a lot of fun. It was like an Indiana Jones story as Cap and Diamondback, now essentially his partner, raced against Baron Zemo, Batroc and their crew to try and hunt down five magic gems. It wasn’t clear why Zemo wanted them until the end, where he attempts to use them to resurrect his father, the original Zemo. However, he resurrects the powerful soul that was locked in those gems instead.
That story also features the debut of Crossbones and John Jameson (a.k.a. Man-Wolf) becoming Cap’s pilot. Sadly, we don’t get Man-Wolf action but this series of issues drops some hints that Jameson might not be able to suppress his cosmic werewolf alter ego for much longer.
After that, we get a two-issue arc that sees Cap and Crossbones fight for the first time. Man, I forgot how much I loved Crossbones in these early stories. He’s such a good sack of shit and a perfect rival for Cap. I really wish they would’ve used him better in the MCU movies, especially with Frank Grillo in that role.
Following that, we get the Acts of Vengeance stuff, which sees Cap have to fight Namor, his ally, as well as The Controller and Crossbones, again. There are also side plots about The Hellfire Club being raided and Magneto kidnapping and burying Red Skull alive in a tomb due to his ties to the Nazis, which a young Magneto and his family were victims of.
There’s just so much in this volume and all of it is damn good, once the story gets rolling.
Mark Gruenwald might be the best Captain America writer of them all. Additionally, the art throughout this stretch was superb. I still remember buying a lot of these single issues off of the racks, many of which I still own, and I remember loving back in 1989. I’m glad to say that this aged exceptionally well.
Published: August 11th, 2021 Written by: Mark Gruenwald, Bob Layton, David Michelinie Art by: Mark Bright, John Byrne, Kieron Dwyer, Tom Morgan
Marvel Comics, 499 Pages
The Epic Collection volume that preceded this one, laid the ground work for Steve Rogers being replaced as Captain America by John Walker, who would later become US Agent.
This volume is where Rogers goes away, Walker steps in and the series becomes really interesting, as it splits its time between the former Captain and his story, as well as the new Captain and the challenges he faces trying to fill the shoes of a man that will always be greater than him.
I enjoyed that this series kind of had a split personality for this run but it was all still tied to the core of the Captain America symbol and what it means for those who represent it and those in power who exploit it.
Where the preceding volume felt a bit “kiddie” in how it was written, the series turns pretty serious and really steps up to the plate when peeling back the layers of John Walker, Steve Rogers, both their sidekicks, the U.S. government’s involvement in all of this, as well as some important deaths and losses.
This really goes deep into the John Walker character and even though he’s been a prick up to this point and does some very dark shit, here, these issues humanize him, his situation and how he comes to the realization that even though he’s the best choice for the role of Captain America on paper, he’s still missing that x-factor that made Steve Rogers the Captain America.
The writing in this stretch of issues really went to another level, which I think was important in conveying the weight of this story. This also had real gravitas and minor characters that initially don’t seem to matter too much, mean a lot to you when certain things transpire, which I won’t spoil.
All in all, I really enjoyed the hell out of this and it’s far superior to Disney’s loose adaptation of it in The Flacon and the Winter Solider.
Original Run: March 19th, 2021 – April 23rd, 2021 Created by: Kevin Feige, Louis D’Esposito, Victoria Alonso, Nate Moore, Kari Skogland, Malcolm Spellman Directed by: Kari Skogland Written by: various Based on: Falcon by Stan Lee, Gene Colan; Bucky Barnes by Joe Simon, Jack Kirby; Winter Soldier by Ed Brubaker, Steve Epting Music by: Henry Jackman Cast: Sebastian Stan, Anthony Mackie, Wyatt Russell, Erin Kellyman, Danny Ramirez, Georges St-Pierre, Adepero Oduye, Don Cheadle, Daniel Brühl, Emily VanCamp, Florence Kasumba, Julia Louis-Dreyfus
Out of all the Marvel television shows that were originally announced for the Disney+ streaming service, this was the one I was most excited for.
That being said, I was severely disappointed and it kind of made me not really care about three of my favorite characters from the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
I don’t even know where to start with this awful mess but here I go.
I guess the biggest thing is that this show is woke as fuck, which I was pretty sure the MCU was gearing up to do with their entire franchise once Avengers: Endgame was over and they had the obvious intention of making Captain Marvel, an unlikable cunt, the focal point of the universe going forward. Now they’ve potentially switched gears due to immense backlash of the Brie Larson character and its lack of charisma or any real purpose other than trying to be a Mary Sue boss bitch. However, the suits at Disney want identity politics injected into Marvel even more so than what they’ve done with Star Wars.
Anyway, I guess the one big takeaway from this show is that I now know that Falcon is black. I never really noticed it before, so I guess it’s good that this show points it out to its audience about six times per episode.
The plot, which makes little sense, shows Falcon turn over Captain America’s shield to the US government even though Cap gave it to him because he earned it. But oh no! Falcon, who was given the endorsement from Cap himself, can’t be Captain America because he’s black. So the entire series deals with Falcon being mad that a black man can’t be Cap, even though he willingly gave that up when the torch was passed to him. So when another white dude gets named Captain America, suddenly Falcon is like, “Oh, hell no!” By the end, Falcon gets the shield back and is Captain America, so we’re right back where we started in the first place.
Additionally, whoever wrote this doesn’t understand these characters or understand actual morality. The reason I say this is because they have Falcon sympathize with the murdering terrorist girl over his own allies and against his actual mission. I get it, dude, she’s a confused teenager… but the fact of the matter is, despite whatever her fight is, she murders lots of people. But Falcon, he just wants to bring her over to the light.
Also, the terrorists have no real objective other than, “Shit’s fucked up! It’s America’s fault!” They have no plan, no actual goal, they just want to blow shit up and kill people.
Then when Falcon gives his big speech at the end, calling out politicians and leaders he blames for the terrorist girl’s tough life, he can only criticize and can’t give actual solutions. He’s just as stupid as the terrorists.
This show felt like it was written by a pissed off, rich, white teen girl that went down some social justice rabbit hole on TikTok.
Bucky had a good story when the show started but then it was dropped to deal with Falcon’s blackness. Then it was resolved at the end but you didn’t care about Bucky’s journey by that point.
Also, I was really looking forward to the return of Baron Zemo and finally seeing him in his mask. However, he only wears the mask in one episode for about five minutes.
Beyond that, Sharon Carter has a heel turn. It doesn’t make sense, it’s stupid and the only way to make it work is to reveal that she’s a Skrull. But then, the MCU fucked up the Skrulls too and made them babyfaces in Captain Marvel.
Sadly, this show is probably a clear sign of what’s to come from the MCU, which is hot garbage.
Like Disney’s Star Wars, I’m starting to lose interest with each new release. I guess I’ll have to see how bad things get with Loki when it debuts next month.
Rating: 4/10 Pairs well with: white non-binary pineapple fembots on TikTok lecturing and shaming everyone, even though they’re not old enough to get a driver’s permit.
Published: April 5th, 2017 Written by: John Byrne, J.M. DeMatteis, Mark Gruenwald Art by: Mike Zeck, various
Marvel Comics, 511 Pages
I wanted to read this beefy Epic Collection of Captain America stories, as it sets up the era where Steve Rogers quit being Cap and the role was then given to the man who would later become US Agent. With that, Rogers picks up the Nomad persona and travels the country, fighting villainy.
Those events don’t happen until the collection of issues after this one but this lays all the groundwork, introduces us to the future US Agent and gives us a solid Cap and original Nomad team-up. There are also stories featuring Scourge, Wolverine, Yellow Claw, Flag-Smasher and a great story where Cap is trapped in Red Skull’s “haunted house”. We also get the debut of D-Man and some cool Frog-Man stuff.
I loved a lot of these stories when I was a kid and it was cool reading them now, as it’s been so long since I’ve read Captain America from this era. While they’re not as great as my memory made them out to be, most of the stories here were enjoyable.
I actually forgot that Cap was already sort of a nomad before becoming Nomad. I also forgot that he had a side hustle as a comic book artist, which comes off as really odd, now that I’m reminded of that as an adult. But it does add some interesting complexity to the character and kind of shows you that there’s a certain sensitivity behind his top iconic layer.
This is really good and it’s prepped me for the US Agent stint as Cap, which I also wanted to reread, as the character is finally debuting in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, as a part of the Falcon and Winter Soldier television series.
Rating: 7.25/10 Pairs well with: other ’80s Captain America comics, especially those involving US Agent.
Published: April 11th, 2007 Written by: Mark Millar Art by: Steve McNiven
Marvel Comics, 196 Pages
I loved Civil War when I first read it over a dozen years ago. It reignited my interest in Marvel Comics and I stuck with a lot of the core stories that were born out of these events.
For those that don’t know, this pits two factions of superheroes against each other: one group led by Captain America and the other led by Iron Man. It would also go on to inspire the movie Captain America: Civil War, nine years later.
Cap’s group is against a new law that would force superheroes to give up their secret identities and become agents of the government. Iron Man agrees with the law, after a group of C-list heroes are responsible for the deaths of hundreds of children. Spider-Man, the third central character, starts the story on one side and then switches after certain events give him newfound clarity.
The story, the idea and its execution are near perfect. In fact, I’m not sure how this wasn’t a story idea before this, as it seems like a natural development for the superhero genre. Regardless, Mark Millar penned magic here and this is, hands down, one of the greatest mega events in comic book history.
Having just read two of DC’s massive Crisis events and seeing how they were massive clusterfucks, this is the complete antithesis of those and goes to show how much better Marvel is (or was) at bringing a massive group of characters together.
I also really enjoyed Steve McNiven’s art and it fit the tone well. McNiven was one of the top artists at the time and his talent was put to great use here.
My only negative takeaway is that this story should’ve been longer than seven issues. It felt like there was a lot more story to tell. But then again, there are literally dozens of Civil War tie-ins that you can read for more context and to see what other heroes were up to during this saga. From memory, a lot of them were also pretty good.
Rating: 9.5/10 Pairs well with: all the other Civil War crossover tie-in trade paperbacks, as well as The Death of Captain America.
Published: 1988 Written by: Chris Claremont, Peter David, Louise Simonson, Steve Englehart, Mark Gruenwald, Ann Nocenti Art by: Marc Silvestri, Todd McFarlane, Bret Blevins, June Brigman, Kerry Gammill, Jon Bogdanove, Kieron Dwyer, Keith Pollard, John Romita Jr., Walt Simonson
Marvel Comics, 803 Pages
This was a story so big that it was collected into two massive volumes. But I figured I’d read both and give the whole thing a single review, as one body of work.
But that may have not been the best approach, as this crossover doesn’t really crossover in a way that makes one big story. This is more like an anthology of events that were going on in all the different X-books at the same time. And weirdly, this isn’t collected in chronological order but as separate stories without much overlap or characters meeting.
This big event also has some short stories focused on Hulk, Captain America, Daredevil, Black Widow and the Fantastic Four. In those tales, it shows what they’re up to during the events of what is happening in some of the X-books.
The Fall of the Mutants takes place between Mutant Massacre and Inferno. It is also the last of the ’80s X-Men crossovers that I hadn’t read in its entirety.
Out of all the tales here, I thought the X-Factor one was probably the best as it concludes the Apocalypse and Angel storyline, as it introduces Archangel for the first time. Also, the X-Factor arc showcases Cameron Hodge turning on the team, revealing his true agenda to set up what would eventually be the superb crossover event X-Tinction Agenda.
The New Mutants part was the weirdest but it also featured Hodge’s heel turn and kind of sets things in motion for X-Tinction Agenda and Inferno. This is also where the New Mutants dump Magneto as their teacher and return to the ways of Charles Xavier.
Ultimately, this was kind of a mess when read as one body of work. But it does do a proper job of bridging the gap from Mutant Massacre and the next two big events to follow.
Rating: 5.5/10 Pairs well with: other major X-Men crossover events from the ’80s and ’90s.
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