Thursday, June 17, 2010

Off the Shelf

Captain America: Truth
One of the more interesting retcon stories produced by either Marvel or DC, "Truth" looks at the development of the super soldier program and the creation of Captain America. The revelation, however, is that Steve Rogers wasn't the first Star-Spangled Avenger. The original origin of Captain America saw Steve Rogers selected to be the recipient of an experimental serum that would make him the ultimate combatant. For centuries, this stood as the extent of the genesis of Marvel's ultimate hero.

That is until Robert Morales and Kyle Baker developed Truth. They delved into the history of Captain America and exposed the ugly history of how Steve Rogers became who he is. Instead of Rogers walking into an army recruiter's office and becoming a military superman, Morales and Baker show that the super soldier program was in development for years and Rogers wasn't the first recipient of the serum.

While I initially had a negative reaction towards the prospect of this scenario, I quickly realized that it made sense. America was in the throes of war and in Marvel's comic book world, heroes were needed to gain an advantage. In the volatile racial climate the nation was in, blond-haired, blue-eyed Caucasian weaklings would not be the a guinea pig for unproven, radical experimentation.

Enter the segregated African-American regiments of the US Army. As the best and brightest were screened through, experimented on, disfigured, lied to and essentially abandoned on suicide mission after suicide mission, an ugly realization came upon me: if such a program existed, this is exactly how it would operate.

Morales does a great job of tying in factual events, themes, and sentiments of the period. It really brings the book to life and makes it scarily realistic. Where the book lacked was art: Kyle Baker has a long history in comics and has several historical perspective/commentary works to his credit. For such a stark, chilling tale, however, his cartoony approach didn't mesh with the subject matter. Thankfully, it doesn't distract from the overall story and is not a hinderance when read in the graphic novel format.

"Truth" is an important book in many regards. It injects a hard, disturbing reality into the Captain America mythology and it instills a relevance and appreciation that Steve Rogers had previously been lacking. With a Captain America film in the works, it would be great to see this story incorporated into the script, even if just a subtle nod to the fans, but more so to those in the real world who have been sacrificed at the expense of progress.

Henry & Glenn Forever
This mini-comic proposes an amusing premise, but the allure quickly fades after the first couple of pages. Setup as a sitcom scenario, it features Henry Rollins and Glenn Danzig as roommates (maybe more?) living next door to noted Satanists Hall & Oates. Forever contains one page comics, diary excerpts, and little else. While it's fun to imagine such an arrangement existing, the loose narrative created a clunky story that left me unfulfilled. As even Rollins himself quipped, "Has Glenn seen this? Trust me, he would not be impressed."

Jeffrey Brown's latest release is a collection of small-release, little seen work. Switching back-and-forth between various publications, the anthology holds together well and is a fun read. Brown is in an interesting artist. In the case of some contemporaries, anthologies such as this will show a real progression over the course of the work. Brown's art remains relatively unchanged over the decade or so range and his wit, paranoia, and demeanor stayed the same. Brown's work is always fun to read, very personal, and serves as a great mirror unto the reader. He's embraced the medium of comic storytelling well and is a prolific creator. "Undeleted Scenes" is an enter

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