Marvel brings us another tale of Captain America’s past this month with another Theater of War one-shot. I somehow missed the first one, but last month’s issue gave us a look at the 1950’s Commie-bashin’ Cap courtesy of Howard Chaykin. This month, we get two stories about Cap’s adventures during World War II.
In America the Beautiful, Captain America recounts the tale of the bravest man he ever knew, a guy who also happened to be the worst soldier the United States Military had ever seen. It’s a predictable story of a good-for-nothing nobody who dreamed of being a big shot. The guy who told tales of his beautiful girlfriend back home to cover up for the fact that he was too shy to actually speak to a girl. The one who got the rest of the guys in trouble due to his failure to remember how to put his gun back together or keep up with everyone else in basic training. Always scared, always slowest, always last. Or, as Cap says, “He was everything I would have been, if fate hadn’t gone my way.”
It doesn’t take a genius to figure out how the story of this cowardly soldier ends. It’s sappy and schmaltzy, but I liked it anyway. I’m a sucker for World War II stories, and who doesn’t love a good story about a loser finding that he has the heart of a hero inside?
Artist Gary Erskine knows how to lay out a page. He can tell a story smoothly and seamlessly. The artwork is never jarring or out-of-place and I can always tell exactly what’s going on, even in the big battle scenes. That being said, all of the faces look almost identical (though the expressions are great) and I think his anatomy could use a little work. Okay, maybe a lot of work. 90% of the art looks wonderful, but the 10% that doesn’t work is glaring and really stands out. I don’t doubt that Gary Erskine is a fantastic artist, but I really don’t think this was the type of story he’s best suited on.
The second story, Heart, focuses on and old man telling his grandkids about the time he met Captain America during the Battle of the Bulge. It’s another tale of heroism and courage in the face of impossible odds. Much like America the Beautiful, it’s quite predictable, overly sentimental and more than a little bit cheesy. And I liked it a lot. Hey, the story might be one you’ve heard a million times before, but the art was by Jerry Ordway. Who’s gonna complain about Jerry Ordway drawing a World War II story featuring Captain America and Nick Fury? Not this reviewer.
So we’ve got two decent Captain America World War II stories. They weren’t original or groundbreaking in any way, but they had a nice old-fashioned quality to them. Just two inspirational stories that would be perfect for someone who is unfamiliar with Cap and wants to know what he’s all about. This book certainly wasn’t a “must buy”, but it was a worthwhile read. It’s the type of book you read and then hand off to a kid or donate to a library or some charity for poor kids. Adults will find it trite and predictable but a kid who is unfamiliar with the clichés presented in this story might just find his or herself inspired. And with the first story clocking in at 35 pages and the second coming in at 22 (plus an Andy Kubert pin-up) for $4.99, that’s more than twice as much story as you’ll get in the current issue of Avengers for only a dollar more. Not a bad deal.