Captain America: the Definitive Platinum Edition Reloaded


By Joe Simon & Jack Kirby, Stan Lee, Steve Englehart, John David Warner, Mark Gruenwald, Mark Waid, Kurt Busiek, Ed Brubaker, Steve Harris, Al Avison, Al Gabriele, Dick Ayers, John Romita Sr., Frank Robbins, Kieron M. Dwyer, Ron Garney, Ivan Reis, Butch Guice, Luke Ross, Mitch Breitweiser & various (Marvel/Panini UK)
ISBN: 978-1-84653-580-2

The Sentinel of Liberty was created by Joe Simon & Jack Kirby at the end of 1940 and confidently launched in his own title Captain America Comics #1, cover-dated March 1941. He was an overwhelming overnight success. He was the absolute and undisputed star of Timely – now Marvel – Comics’ “Big Three” (the other two being Human Torch and Sub-Mariner) and amongst the very first to fade as the Golden Age ended.

When the Korean War and Communist aggression gripped the American psyche in the 1950s Steve Rogers was briefly revived in 1953 – with the Torch and Sub-Mariner – before sinking once more into obscurity until a resurgent Marvel Comics called him up again in Avengers #4.

It was March 1964 and the Vietnam conflict was just beginning to pervade the minds of the American public…

This time he stuck around. Whilst perpetually agonising over the tragically heroic death of his young sidekick (James Buchanan Barnes AKA Bucky) during the final days of the war, the resurrected Mr. Rogers stole the show in the Avengers, then promptly graduated to his own series and title as well.

He waxed and waned through the most turbulent period of social change in his nation’s history, constantly struggling to find an ideological niche and stable footing in the modern world.

After decades of vacillating and being subject to increasing frantic attempts to keep the character relevant, in the last years of the 20th century a succession of stellar writers finally established his naturally niche: America’s physical, military and ethical guardian…

Now as part of the always entertaining Marvel Platinum Definitive Editions series,this tantalising treasury of less-told tales offers some intriguing landmarks from Captain America: Sentinel of Liberty #7, Captain America Comics #3-4, Tales of Suspense #75-76, Captain America volume 1, #186, 363-364, 444 and #615.1, Avengers volume 3 #52-54 and the one-shot Captain America: Who Will Wield the Shield?: spanning nearly 75 years of the Star Spangled Avenger’s tumultuous tour of duty.

Following Editor Brady Webb’s effulgent Foreword, the action opens with a fascinating and insightful exploration of Steve Roger’s war-time relationship with his idol President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in ‘An Ending’ by Brian K. Vaughn, Steve Harris & Rodney Ramos from Captain America: Sentinel of Liberty #7 (March 1999) before the bombastic Simon & Kirby – aided and abetted by Al Avison and Al Gabriele – show everybody how it’s done with a brace of tales from the Golden Age of comicbooks.

Captain America Comics #3, May 1941 featured ‘The Return of the Red Skull’’; an explosive 17-page epic wherein non-stop action and eerie mood accompanied the Nazi nemesis as he attacked New York with a colossal boring machine but couldn’t tell Cap and Bucky from a brace of fraudulent criminal impostors…

A month later the same team exposed ‘Captain America and the Unholy Legion’ wherein the Patriotic Paladins convincingly crushed a cunning conspiracy and routed a Nazi-controlled army of beggars terrorising the city.

FromMarch and April 1966 Tales of Suspense #75-76 details Cap’s first meeting with S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Sharon Carter who had ‘30 Minutes to Live!’ (Dick Ayers pencils over Kirby layouts with John Tartaglione inking) after couriering a deadly explosive package…

The enigmatic Agent 13 would eventually become Cap’s long-term girl-friend and this bombastic bout also saw the debut of Gallic mercenary Batroc the Leaper in a taut 2-part countdown to disaster ending with #76’s‘The Gladiator, The Girl and the Glory’, illustrated by John Romita Senior.

Captain America volume 1 #186 (June 1975) featured a turning point in a protracted campaign against American corruption and the returned Red Skull which had seen the Sentinel of Liberty abandon his identity to become Nomad – the “Man without a Country” – before resuming his Red, White and Blue destiny.

Reprinted here is climactic conclusion ‘Mind Cage!’ (by writers Steve Englehart & John David Warner, limned by Frank Robbins & Mike Esposito) which revealed – as the villain attempted to overrun S.H.I.E.L.D. – that our titular hero’s greatest friend and ally The Falcon was in truth a Cosmic Cube creation and helpless puppet of the Fascist felon…

Mark Gruenwaldwas one of the longest-serving scripters of theStar Spangled Avenger and is represented here by Captain America volume 1 #363-364 (November-December 1989, wherein the All American hero battled his physical and ethical antithesis Crossbones in ‘Moon over Madripoor’. The Skull’s chief enforcer had kidnapped reformed villainess Diamondback and dragged her to the pirate island but was unable to defeat the Sentinel of Liberty in his impromptu ‘Man Trap’ (both issues illustrated by Kieron M. Dwyer & Dan Bulanadi)…

In 1995, after a truly heroic and generally under-appreciated run, Gruenwald surrendered his post, going out on a high note by actually killing Captain America, as the super-serum that made him the world’s most perfect physical specimen degraded in his bloodstream, causing a total bodily collapse.

This cleared the decks for a spectacular relaunch from Mark Waid & Ron Garney in issues #445-448. Before that saga began, however, the duo – with the inking assistance of Mike Sellers – offered this unique perspective on the hero’s legacy in ‘Hope and Glory’ (Captain America volume 1 #444 October 1995) as a hostage crisis in Washington DC forced the bereft Avengers to overcome a seemingly insurmountable problem by asking “what would Cap do?”…

This is followed by the concluding 3 chapters of the 14-part Kang Dynasty storyline, which saw the Tyrant from Tomorrow finally conquer our planet and time (first seen in Avengers volume 1 #52-54, May-July 2002 as detailed by Kurt Busiek, Ivan Reis & Randy Emberlin, Dwyer & Rick Remender).

The epic counterattack was well underway on three fronts when Captain America led a daring sortie by a veritable army of Avengers against the Reiver of History’s orbiting Damocles Base. This resulted in a cataclysmic and ultimately cathartic hand-to-hand clash with Kang which would decide the fate of humanity and forever prove that Steve Rogers was its staunchest defender.

Although perhaps the Sentinel of Liberty’s finest moment, the extract here would surely be better understood and certainly better enjoyed in a collection of the entire saga…

During the superhero Civil War Captain America led an anti-government faction of heroes who refused to surrender their liberties and identities to the Super-Human Registration Act. After spirited resistance and the death of too many friends at the hands of former comrades, the star spangled rebel surrendered himself to the government and was assassinated on the steps of a Federal Courthouse.

Naturally, nobody believed he was really dead…

His place and role was taken up by his long-dead first sidekick. Years previously Bucky had been captured by the Soviets and used as their own super-assassin – The Winter Soldier. There’s no truer maxim than “nobody stays dead in comics”, however, and after being rescued from his unwanted spy-role the artificially youthful (now and part-cyborg) Barnes reluctantly stepped into his mentor’s crimson boots…

The politically-charged thriller Captain America: Who Will Wield the Shield? (Ed Brubaker, Butch Guice & Luke Ross) is set squarely in the immediate aftermath of the original’s return from the dead (details of which can be found in Captain America Reborn)…

Here, however, the former Winter Soldier ponders his future in the wake of the “real” Captain America’s resurrection and considers returning the role and unique Star-emblazoned disc to its rightful owner.

Meanwhile Steve, fresh from a timeless suspension where he perpetually relived his life over and again, combats the agonisingly haunting memories by taking to the snow-bound streets where he encounters his replacement and super-spy Black Widow battling the ferociously brutal Mr. Hyde.

Content to merely observe his old partner at first, he is soon invited to join the fray and, after the dust settles, the comrades-in-arms come to an understanding. Barnes will stay as the one and only Sentinel of Liberty. After all the new President of the USA has a far more strategic role in mind for his mentor Steven Rogers…

This rousing recollection concludes with the State-of-the-Union style recap issue Captain America volume 1 #615.1 from May 2011 by Brubaker & Mitch Breitweiser who recount the history of the many men who filled the role as an old, old friend manipulates the retired Rogers into once more taking up the role he was re-born for…

With covers by Ron Frenz, Kirby, Simon, Gene Colan, Gil Kane, Dwyer, Garney, Gerald Parel & Daniel Acuña, a healthy host of in-depth info pages about ‘Winter Soldier’, ‘Falcon’, ‘Sharon Carter’, ‘Batroc the Leaper’, ‘Crossbones’ and ‘Red Skull’, plus an erudite discussion on the evolution of sidekicks in Mike Conroy’s ‘The True Origin of Bucky Barnes’, this power-packed primer is an ideal introduction for readers familiar with the recent movie iteration and looking to increase their familiarity with the grandfather of all patriotic champions.

Filled with drama, tension and blockbuster action, this an ideal tool to turn curious film-goers into funnybook fans and another solid sampling to entice and charm even the most jaded lapsed reader to return.
© 2014 Marvel. Licensed by Marvel Characters B.V. through Panini S.p.A. All rights reserved. British edition published by Panini UK.