06th Jul2020

‘Marvels Snapshots: Captain America #1’ Review

by Dean Fuller

Written by Mark Russell | Art by Ramon Perez | Published by Marvel Comics

As these Snapshot books are supposed to be walks down Marvel’s memory lane, with a side helping of modern relevance, it was inevitable that some form of homage to Jack Kirby would take place. In terms of which character to use, there was a wide field, but in terms of the right one to use, there was only one choice. Captain America. Jack not only co-created him, he kept an eye on him in one way or another for several decades. Cap is also a unique character in that, like Kirby himself, his Marvel connection stretches from the 1940’s through to the modern era. For me, Marvel tapped the perfect writer for this book in Mark Russell, a writer who loves to inject a little social relevance into his books, to formulate plots a little deeper than your average comic book. It all looks very promising, so let’s take a look.

Behind a superb cover, we jump right into the late 1970’s South Bronx, where young electronics whizz kid Felix, currently trapped working in a TV repair shop, is one of thousands whose experience the detonation of the Madbomb. For those unfamiliar with the original storyline, this was a Kirby story that ran in Captain America books in 1976, still the fag end of the Nixon era of distrust and unrest. The Madbomb was an invention that sent out sonic waves that literally turned people insane , making them turn on each other. Russell captures the sense of how this would have felt to an average person here, as the inhabitants of local Bronx neighbourhoods deal with this sudden wave of aggression, physical violence, and insanity. Felix survived, but his baby brother didn’t, unfortunately killed by their own Madbomb infected mother.

Of course we didn’t see this at the time. We saw Cap and the Falcon, in their partnership’s glorious heyday, win out as always. We saw the Marvel hero’s step up, helping out in Manhattan, in Queens, even Long Island. No-one helped out the people in the South Bronx though, things went from bad to worse as economic decline followed physical and social scarring. On a more personal scale young Felix can no longer go to college, as his family just don’t have the money. Which is just when a smartly dressed man turns up from Advanced Ideas Mechanics, or A.I.M to you and me. He offers Felix a deal he can’t refuse, money, college, prospects. Felix, though, is cautious, until he realises that America and its symbol, Captain America, are rebuilding everywhere but where he lives. They’ve been forgotten

Felix joined A.I.M and, funnily enough, they weren’t half bad. Seemingly normal guys doing research work. Felix was respected, liked even. He’d never had that before. Everything was coming up roses, until he realised A.I.M were working on a Madbomb. Even worse, he helped them with it. For a time. Conscience, though, is a powerful thing, and Felix decides to blow it all up. This, funnily enough, attracts the attention of Cap, Falcon, and Iron Man, who invade A.I.M and make short work of them. Tony Stark realises Felix is quite the wonder kid and offers him a place at Stark Industries. He refuses.

This is where Russell’s writing really shines. Felix represents every little kid stuck in a poor neighbourhood, every forgotten area of every forgotten town in America. Stark Industries are as much the Establishment as A.I.M, neither helped when they could, always building the future rather than improving the present. Cap is America, knocking down threats as they arise, but never building up afterwards, never taking enough care of the victims. Food for thought, especially in times like these. Captain America is in one way a minimal character here, physically at least, but his presence and spirit very much run through the book. Russell doesn’t put a foot wrong. The art by Ramon Perez is very nice, and he evokes that 70’s feel perfectly, with some gorgeous big panels along the way.

I think Jack Kirby would have been proud of this, proud that his character still has a relevance even now, and proud he can still encourage such great stories. I think Kirby would have agreed too that, sometimes, even the spirit of America needs a kick up the backside once in a while.

****½  4.5/5


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