Posted by: Brian Hibbs on September 8, 2007
I agree with Graeme that there’s something transparently jingoistic about CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE CHOSEN #1, from its over-the-top cover to its horrendously cliche dialogue – seriously, some of David Morrell’s lines could give “DO YOU THINK THIS A ON MY HEAD STANDS FOR FRANCE?” a run for its money. There’s a considerable gap between the serious issues Morrell is trying to raise (ie: if you’re a soldier in a foreign war zone, will you always recognize your enemies when you see them?) and the simplistic, ethnocentric We Are Right And They Are Wrong Because We Are America way in which these issues are raised. Given that David Morrell created Rambo, I don’t know that we should’ve expected anything more, but Marvel missed the zeitgeist here: it would’ve been perfectly fashionable to publish this comic four or five years ago, when the post-9/11 atmosphere necessitated an inherently patriotic response (remember Doctor Doom crying in the ruins of the Towers?), but that sort of blind flag-waving has mostly gone out of style, to the extent that overly zealous displays of patriotism tend to earn polite snickers, if not outright parody. And while this particular interpretation of Captain America as a flag with legs was commonplace during John Rey Neiber’s run, or Dan Jurgen’s, it’s a little harder to reconcile with Ed Brubaker’s character-centric approach – even as FALLEN SON and mainstream news outlets treated Captain America’s “death” as a purely symbolic story, Brubaker’s own comic continues to treat Steve Rogers as a person first, icon second. And that makes THE CHOSEN #1 look even more AWFUL than it already is.
Fortunately, readers seeking strong characterization and an intriguing plot can always turn to Brian Vaughan, who kicks off a four-issue run with BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER #6. It’s gratifying, though not surprising, that Vaughan chose Faith as his protagonist rather than the titular heroine; he always does so well with damaged women like Hero Brown and Mystique, largely because he understands that to make an antihero appealing, you can’t be explicit about what’s going on in their heads. On TV, we usually only saw understated glimpses of Faith’s pain, and Vaughan keeps that up by dropping hints about her mental state rather than be overt about it (ie: the state of her apartment wall). I actually enjoyed this issue more than any of Whedon’s, mostly because I feel Whedon’s priority when scripting the first arc was to do things that couldn’t have been done on television (Dawn the giantess, zombie ballroom dancing, Amy and Willow duking it out in midair and so on). And while the spectacle was entertaining enough, it wasn’t quite as dramatically fulfilling as I might’ve hoped. Vaughan, by contrast, has scaled back the grandiose Peter Jackson-esque sequences for the sake of exploring individual characters, and even devotes a few pages to a surprisingly flirtatious scene between Buffy and Xander (am I imagining things or are those two getting a bit closer than they used to be?) just to keep the overall “seasonal” storyline going. I like the premise; I like the way Vaughan writes the characters; I like that part of this issue is dedicated to a pretty serious warping of Emily Post and her damned salad forks. VERY GOOD.