Not like this.
Just when it looked like Captain America was nearing the top of a blood-drenched, flesh-strewn, sinew-snapping climb, another much bigger mountain crumbles on him.
Since the Marvel NOW! relaunch, writer Rick Remender has made it his mission to run Steve Rogers through a brutal gauntlet of torture and pain. For the past few years in this comic world, Rogers lived as a prisoner of another dimension, holding on to his resolve and standing for the things he believes in — truth, justice, and the American way.
He took in a boy, became the hero for the dimension’s native species, and carved out a virus that manifested itself as Zola’s face on his chest.
Then, he climbed Zola’s tower and fought off hordes of mutates only to fall from that tower, sinking deep into its bowels where he battled Princess Jet Black. Persuading her to join him was a major victory, but Zola had the last laugh last issue when Ian, Captain America’s adopted son, shot the Captain.
The story arc has begun its long ascent to climax, and the buildup of plotlines and flashbacks are connecting and weaving intricate threads into a beautiful tapestry. Captain America #8 begins with a beatdown by one of Zola’s mutates created from Steve Rogers’ DNA, Captain Zolandia. Somehow, Zolandia also shares some of the same memories, and the battle becomes as much an emotional one as a physical one.
Forcing himself to fight, the Captain takes down the mutate, then defends himself against an enraged Ian who turns the tables by questioning Captain America’s motives. Rogers saved the boy and raised him as his own, but Ian is now under Zola’s grasp. As much as Rogers hoped to mature Ian into a socially conscious and responsible person, Ian now views Rogers upbringing as mind control.
Ian’s arguments challenge the basic elements of the Captain’s character, and raises specific questions about what could have been if he had not save Ian. In that one act of separating child from father, Rogers changed the course of this child’s life.
Captain America #8 is a philosophical issue that plays a little bit like a courtroom drama — one where opposing sides get to beat each other senseless. The issue is 90% action and 100% tension as Ian beats his adopted father into a bloody pulp and points a gun at Rogers’ head.
Given a choice, Ian has to decide which name he will choose — the one given to him by Zola or the one given to him by his adopter.
The last three pages of the issue the equivalent to a punch to the gut if that punch was actually a rhino wearing a brass knuckle on its horn. It’s a demoralizing and wrenching end that will affect Captain America deeply.
Remender’s quest to wring Captain America through a grinder gets better and better with heavy plot twists and dialogue with substance. The Captain America series has contained some profound moments and monumental surprises. Anyone who would call this series starring the First Avenger as stale would probably encounter many more readers who’ve been at the edge of their seats.
Working on the same page, John Romita Jr. knows how to draw panels composed in tension with both fathers — Rogers and Zola — fighting against their children. The artwork is just as merciless as the writing, and the last three pages’ unfold in brutal fashion.
With eight issues in, Captain America does not look like it will have a happy ending, and when this story arc finishes, will the title get a few months rest so the Captain can take some time off? Credit goes to the creative team for building a comic that doesn’t feel distant or superficial. Other comics feel episodic and routine, but this is a substantially formative story arc with deeply felt repercussions. Captain America’s pain is this title’s gain, and it’s likely Rogers will stop Zola and save the day. But at what cost? It’s clear the kid gloves didn’t stay on past the first page of the first issue.
Some say it’s darkest before dawn. Don’t be surprised if dawn isn’t another few issues away.
Captain America #8 (2012)
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Words: Rick Remender
Pencils: John Romita Jr.
Inks: Klaus Janson and Scott Hanna
Colors: Dean White
Letters: Joe Caramagna