Saturday, November 10, 2012

Where I Go, The Red Skull Goes


Marvel 100th Anniversary Issues

FEATURING:


Captain America #100

Before they received their own titles, both Iron Man and Captain America were featured together in Tales of Suspense, but split the comic with their own separate adventures:


After forty issues, the decision was made to give each character their own title, while ending the publication of Tales of Suspense after issue #99. Now what kind of publication company, you may ask, would just throw away a lucrative sales opportunity that comes with a one-hundredth issue that's due to hit the presses the very next month? That's the only reason I can think of as to why the first issue of one character's title was numbered at #100, instead of #1. In this case, that was the Captain America title, while Iron Man's first issue was reset:



I suppose that shows how much clout Captain America carried in the eyes of Marvel. Iron Man had a full twenty issues of Tales of Suspense under his belt before Captain America began splitting the title with him; yet it was Captain America who received a landmark issue when the two characters received their own titles simultaneously.

Or maybe it was as simple a choice as a coin being flipped. Hell, what do I know.

At any rate, Cap's segment of the last Tales of Suspense issue ended with a "suspenseful" cliffhanger:



The woman is SHIELD spy Sharon Carter, otherwise known as Agent 13--and she and Cap have fallen in love, which puts her in a bind since she must now choose between blowing her cover or blowing her lover's brains out.

Cap's first issue picks up at this point, but not before briefly recapping (heh--reCAPping) Cap's origin for anyone picking up his first issue who's unfamiliar with his history. As has been well documented, the Sub-Mariner played a direct role in bringing Cap back into action; and the scene gives us a sense of déjà vu, since it's very similar to how Namor himself was brought back into action after a long period of inactivity. Have a look at how they mirror each other:




Once Cap shakes off his cobwebs in his first issue, we get a nice full-page depiction of where things stand from the cliffhanger we saw in Tales of Suspense:



To make a long story short, Agent 13's shot intentionally misses Cap by a hair's breadth and gives Cap and the Panther time to make their move. Subsequently, Agent 13 and the man we think is Baron Zemo head for their control room, where Zemo plans to initiate a destructive ray from an orbiting satellite. Apparently Zemo has implicit trust in "Irma Kruhl" (Agent 13's cover identity), since he makes Stupid Villain Disclosure #104 and gives her exactly the information she needs:



And you just know what happens next:



From there, we get several pages of pandemonium, where Zemo's army of men go after Cap and the Panther, who (with Agent 13) are attempting to escape. Zemo has one last card to play--the Destructon, Zemo's artificial bodyguard, whom the three escapees are headed directly toward. (Jeez, for a bodyguard, what's he doing standing idle in another room somewhere else in the complex?) Still, it's another opportunity for Cap and the Panther to show their moves:



And when it's clear their best efforts aren't putting the Destructon down, Cap tries another tack:


Once the Destructon is rendered inert, Zemo is revealed to be a fraud; the Panther persuades his men to surrender; and Nick Fury has SHIELD shoot down the satellite. Yet for Cap, in his very first solo issue, it seems like he's not making much of a break with Tales of Suspense if the last panel is any indication:



I can't help but feel a little uneasy at this point about Cap being in his own series. Marvel was still a long way from stretching believability to the breaking point by having its characters all over the map in terms of their simultaneous appearances in other storylines--so Cap inexplicably exiting the Avengers put considerable pressure on this title to make his solo career a success, since there was nowhere for him to go if it folded. Yet in succeeding issues, one incident after another had him opposing the Red Skull, and it was becoming tiresome. I didn't see the Red Skull popping up in The Avengers, so why did Cap need the Skull to define him here? If Cap was going to break away into his own title, wouldn't a new direction have been called for? Or after a successful run in Tales of Suspense, did Marvel feel no need to fix what wasn't broken?

So we have a "one-hundredth issue" that gives the illusion of a continuing series, in conjunction with a new comics title which implies something different and more provocative that sets the character apart from what has come before.  Obviously the latter didn't materialize; yet if readers didn't exactly get much of a jolt from this new series on the racks, the Red Skull at least had job security.


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