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These points of data make a wonderful line: Diana is Still Alive, 11/21

Brian Hibbs

I don’t even play Portal and I’m addicted to that damn song…

Anyway, during the Savage Critics’ short-lived re-enactment of Marvel’s Civil War (whose side were YOU on?), Peter Adriaenssens made what I thought was a rather insightful comment:

“I find it interesting that the reviews are considered ‘joyless’ and ‘dreary’, as that seems to be one of the prevailing opinions on superhero comics in general these days.”

Now, personally, I think Peter’s made the Call of Duty 4 equivalent of a head-shot here: enthusiasm, that genuine joy one gets out of reading comics, is hard for me to come by these days. I get terribly jealous of someone like Chris Sims, who seems to pull it off so effortlessly week after week, even when reviewing soul-destroying artifacts of Satanic origin like TAROT: WITCH OF THE BLACK ROSE. I just can’t work myself up to that level, mostly because the endless chain of mediocre events and crossovers and “oh hell no” moments on both sides of the fence have taken me to a pretty apathetic place, generally speaking. I get a lot more fun and satisfaction out of webcomics (which, Hibbs willing, I may actually talk about here someday!).

I’m going to be fair here, and note that the Big Two are business enterprises and they have every right to prioritize the cash-grab (COUNTDOWN) over quality (CRIMINAL). And I’m not saying that financial motivation can’t produce a good story, though I’m hard-pressed to think of a recent sales stunt that I actually enjoyed as a reader: the return of Captain Marvel? World War Hulk? Skrulls? Meh.

So, yes, there are times when my outlook on comics gets a bit dreary and lacking in the fun department, because I’m not having fun and I’m not happy about it.

Then Ed Brubaker puts another comic on the shelves, and I get my groove back.

When I think about comics that have truly impressed me over the last few years, Ed Brubaker’s CAPTAIN AMERICA is pretty high up on the list. Since issue 25, Brubaker has taken what could have been an empty sales stunt – I’m looking at you, “The Death of Superman” – and turned it into a true character-driven story full of action and intrigue. With the most recent CAPTAIN AMERICA #32, we’re now eight issues into the “Death of the Dream” storyline, there’s no sign of the protagonist, and this series isn’t the least bit poorer for it.

Part of it has to do with the way Brubaker’s almost writing around the Captain’s demise now, in that the story’s still moving: Falcon and Bucky and the Black Widow are picking up the slack, and Sharon Carter’s in a dangerous place, and the Red Skull’s endgame – whatever it may be – continues to unfold. I’m still invested in the story and in these secondary characters, precisely because Brubaker’s fleshed them out to the extent that they can maintain themselves as credible protagonists even without Cap to provide the context. And that’s no small feat: could Superman’s supporting characters have held the line together if he’d never come back? Probably not, ADVENTURES OF PERRY WHITE doesn’t have the same ring to it (though I suppose that, in the Silver Age, it might’ve actually made for some hysterically funny reading).

I’m also very appreciative of the way Brubaker’s done away with decompression without sacrificing the story’s integrity: a lot happens this issue, and a lot happened last issue, and it’s gratifying to feel like the story’s going places rather than tread water for 22 pages at a time.

For all these reasons, I’m giving CAPTAIN AMERICA #32 a well-deserved EXCELLENT. Bravo, Ed!

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