Best Shots Advance: CAPTAIN AMERICA, INDESTRUCTIBLE HULK #1s

 

Captain America #1

Written by Rick Remender

Art by John Romita Jr., Klaus Janson and Dean White

Lettering by Joe Caramagna

Published by Marvel Comics

Review by David Pepose

'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10

Who put steel in a Super Soldier's spine? The answer is Rick Remender, and if his first issue is any indication, Captain America is going to hit you like a freight train. Juggling sci-fi action with some striking characterization, this first issue hits all the right notes.

The problem with a character like Captain America is, well, he's just so gosh-darn perfect, from his square jaw to his idealistic backstory. Well, not anymore — Rick Remender takes his trademark grim and grit to the Depression-era streets of the Lower East Side, and adds just a little bit of tarnish to Cap's childhood that suddenly gives all that perfection and drive purpose. It's a wickedly smart move (and one that fits in continuity, albeit a backstory that few other writers ever reference), and finally gives us something that Cap hasn't had in a long, long time, even with Ed Brubaker behind the wheel: something for us to connect to.

And that hasn't even scratched the surface about the artwork. Remender knows how to stage something visually, and it's to Marvel's credit that they've given him an A-list talent to work with. In fact, he's pretty much the A-list: John Romita Jr. From flaming super-spaceships to melees with laser-toting super-terrorists, Cap is basically a star-spangled battering ram knocking through anything in his path. Yet Romita also makes the human moments count, too, whether it's Steve's hard-knocks childhood or a tender kiss with Sharon Carter. To be honest, the only thing that hampers this story a bit for me is the colorwork by Dean White — in certain scenes, the off-kilter colors work just fine, but his iconoclastic palette sometimes comes off as a bit self-indulgent, particularly for a clean-cut series like Cap.

Ed Brubaker's Captain America was a slow burn, an espionage thriller, a thinking man's game. Rick Remender isn't playing. He's blown up the dam, he's cranked things up to 11; he's injected a ton of ambition and thrills and pure pulp into the veins of Steve Rogers, Super Soldier. Whether its defining the man behind the shield or giving him some serious stunts to pull off (seriously, that last-page cliffhanger made me literally hoot in excitement), this comic is definitely going to be the selling point of Marvel NOW! Definitely pick this one up.

 

Indestructible Hulk #1

Written by Mark Waid

Art by Leinil Yu and Sonny Gho

Letters by Chris Eliopoulos

Published by Marvel Comics

Review by George Marston

'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10

After the popularity of not just the Hulk, but Bruce Banner in last summer's Avengers film, Hulk is poised to be a breakout character of the Marvel NOW! relaunch. With Mark Waid at the helm, odds are good that he'll fulfill that potential, and if Indestructible Hulk #1 is any indication, he's already started.

If there's a major success of this issue, it's Waid's characterization of Bruce Banner. For Waid's Banner, the Hulk is no longer a disease he hopes to cure. He's a curse, a condition to be mitigated, evidence of a promising legacy gone awry, and, perhaps, a tool to be used. Waid's Banner is a man tortured by his inability to solve the one problem he is uniquely poised to deal with, who has decided to channel his frustration into curing the ills that are within his reach. Intact are a biting, sardonic sensibility consistent with other Marvel NOW! portrayals of Banner so far, and a willingness to push others buttons, lest they push his first.

This issue is definitely all set up, establishing a new status quo for the Hulk that places him far from the somewhat insular mythology that has defined the character in recent years, and squarely in a position where his interactions (and membership) with the Avengers, and other Marvel characters will make perfect sense. That's not to say that there's no meat to this story; just as Waid defines Banner, he also defines the Hulk, albeit perhaps more succinctly, fully utilizing the "indestructible" adjective in the title. This Hulk is a force of nature, the kind that grabs a threat by the ankle and flings it around like a ragdoll, a being of pure rage that, as the script puts it, must be viewed less like a bomb, and more like a cannon, to be aimed responsibly rather than cleaned up after.

Leinil Yu is a great choice for this title. He thrives on a kind of moth-eaten grittiness that lends itself surprisingly well not just to scenes of Hulk smashing, as he is wont to do, but to Bruce Banner's traveled, tired countenance. When Hulk does smash, there's an intensity on the page that few other artists could match, a kind of darkness that doesn't preclude the idea of excitement or energy. Sunny Gho's colors do leave something to be desired, relying on a few too many earth tones, and muting Hulk's skin so that he looks more realistic, so to speak, but doesn't stand out on the page as much.

This first issue has a lot going for it, and there's a distinct place in the market for a smart, action-oriented Hulk book, and Indestructible Hulk looks like a safe bet to fill that niche. Waid's usually brilliant writing takes center stage here, and the fact that he wisely focuses on making Bruce Banner as interesting and exciting as his big, green counterpart goes a long way to making this a book that should appeal to longtime Hulk fans, as well as those who have only recently been captivated by the possibilities of a character with this type of duality. Indestructible Hulk is a winner all the way.

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