Saturday, October 5, 2013

Review: Captain America #441

Captain America #441, "Through the Perilous Fight," Taking A.I.M. Part 3, Cover Date July 1995
Written by Mark Gruenwald, Pencils by Dave Hoover, Inks by Joe Rosen

Captain America 441 Cover

Previously on the Avengers: we are rather obliquely told that Boca Caliente has the power to grant wishes, a result of A.I.M.'s attempts to create a new cosmic cube. Captain America apparently wishes his WWII partner Bucky back into existence, while a small boy wishes for a dog and Quicksilver inadvertently wishes for his dad Django "Unchained" Maximoff to show up. The Avengers, Cap's team, the Red Skull, and a bunch of Adaptoids are all poised for a showdown as M.O.D.O.K. appears re-born, attacking Cap and Bucky.

Captain America 441 M.O.D.O.K.
Check out M.O.D.O.K.'s robo-gams!

MODOK shoots a pink mental blast at Cap, showing how unnecessary all those guns are, but Bucky shoves Cap out of the way and takes a blast to the chest that leaves a cartoonish hole all the way through Bucky's body. Bucky's response: "Hmh." Cap monologues how he wished this was the real Bucky (duh, how do you think we got here, Cap?), but clearly this Bucky ain't human. Bucky climbs up onto MODOK's head, but MODOK produces a pink "phantom arm," according to Cap, to grab Bucky and throw him at Cap. MODOK (correctly) notes that this fight is getting nowhere, and leaves as the heroes are poised to fall off a cliff. Falcon saves Cap from the fall, but "Bucky" has disappeared. Falcon is the correct level of worried about Cap's sanity when asked if he's seen Bucky. "The Bucky that's been gone for decades? Uh, no."

Captain America 441 Bucky

Inside the AIM base, the two adaptoids that captured Free Spirit and Jack Flag adapt to the duo's powers, as one helpfully points out that Jack has "level 3" super strength. On what scale? What does that even mean? Mr. Brannex, A.I.M.'s apparent head-honcho on this island, lectures the adaptoids for taking these heroes into the base and tells them to toss them in the garbage or something before getting distracted by Superia and (not) Snapdragon appearing on a monitor. The two women are able to take out four A.I.M. agents even as Superia shows that a full-body suit with a female logo is no excuse not to give anyone watching (Mr. Brannex, for one), a ridiculous pose for some T&A action. On another part of the island, MODOK gets internal monologue captions as he enters the breach, pointing out that if he can't succeed where MODAM failed, the energy will be released globally in an hour.

Captain America 441 Free Spirit Jack Flag
Pff, only level 3? Pathetic.

Meanwhile, on yet another part of the island, Black Widow and Hercules stumble around the jungle, looking for Cap, when the Red Guardian, Widow's first husband appears (Guardian apparently died wayyyy back in Avengers #44, in 1967 [I say apparently because he was brought back, his death revealed to be an elaborate ruse when Bendis used him for a Daredevil arc in 2004]). Widow is extremely rude to Guardian, calling him a "figment of her imagination" and blasting him, causing him to make the least heroic pose anyone in this comic makes, and that includes Superia's bend-thrust move from a few pages back. Hercules mutely watches the scene, his t-shirt miraculously repaired from last month, when he sees Taylor Madison out of the corner of his eye. What did Black Widow tell you, Hercules?! Stop wishing your phantom non-real girlfriend back into existence!

Captain America 441 Superia
"What are you doing, Superia?"
"Throwing out my back!"

Back in the A.I.M. lab, Red Skull is going around blasting adaptoids, calling out Mr. Brannex. He appears, and absorbs Red Skull's blast. Turns out Brannex is the Super Adaptoid! I guess we should've seen that coming. As the two continue to fight, Falcon and Cap find their way into the base, but leave as Cap starts seizing up again. Outside, they get ambushed by more Adaptoids, even as they meet up with Free Spirit and Jack Flag, before Superia and "Snapdragon," now revealed to be Diamondback show up. Diamondback beats up Free Spirit while Superia administers another dose of "cure" into Cap, when blasts of energy start coming out of the ground. Cap is hit, but wishes that he had his armor so he could do something about this. Amazingly, his armor appears and he flies into the breach, where he finds an overwhelmed MODOK, who rather pathetically asks Cap for help. TO BE CONCLUDED!


So after learning virtually nothing about what was going on in last month's Avengers, we finally have someone explain some of what's happening and start doing something about it, rather than wander aimlessly. Of course, it's MODOK who's doing all the heavy-lifting. It's somewhat incredible that we are 3 parts into a 4 part team-up between Captain America and the Avengers, and not only have neither party really accomplished anything, the two groups haven't even encountered each other after they split up for no reason sometime between the prologue and part 1. Seriously let's very quickly run-down what everyone has accomplished. Cap was separated from Falcon, injected with a cure, wished for his dead partner, wandered around, briefly fought MODOK (who left), was saved by the Falcon, then was cured again and flew off to try to accomplish... something. Jack and Free Spirit beat up two A.I.M. goons, who then took adaptoid forms and sucker-punched them. They then infiltrated the complex, but were dragged back out of the complex when they overwhelmed the adaptoids, then re-joined Captain America. The Avengers beat up a bunch of A.I.M. goons and have spent the rest of their time accidentally wishing stupid stuff into existence even when explicitly told not to. Seemingly everyone is exceptionally terrible at their job, including the villains. Red Skull shot a couple of Adaptoids, then got in a fight with the Super Adaptoid. Superia snuck onto the island seemingly just to cure Cap twice. Why else is she even here? While Gruenwald does do a commendable job of moving the plot forward, he does completely forget about the young boy on the cover of last month's Avengers that was with Cap and Bucky all through that issue. Maybe it's just bad communication between writers, but the missing kid isn't even addressed.

What's crazy is as decompressed and not particularly interesting as this has been, it's only 5 parts, counting the prologue. In today's comic book world, this would somehow be at least six parts, possibly with even less happening.

Captain America 441 Red Guardian Black Widow
Red Guardian shows his wife what she's been missing.

Hoover's art is cleaner than last issue, which isn't saying much. The muscles seem less out of control, although MODOK's calves are pretty incredible for a robot who spends all his time in a hover-chair. There's still a lot of cheesecake shots, as we get some of Diamondback and Superia and Free Spirit, aka 3 of the 4 women who appear this month. On the other hand, Red Guardian's "looking for his contacts" hands and knees pose is pretty weird (although we fortunately don't have to look at his ghost butt), and we get one shot of Cap collapsing into a crawl due to Superia's formula wearing off where we do get a completely unnecessary shot of Cap's butt, which I have included for all the ladies who love 90's art. Equality!

Captain America 441 Falcon
I think Cap just pulled both his quads.

We also get a much different "Bullpen Bulletin," as only "Marvel Universe" titles are advertised, including all your favorites (final issue cover date in parenthetical): Guardians of the Galaxy (July 1995), Warlock and the Infinity Watch (July 1995), Thunderstrike (September 1995), Force Works (April 1996), War Machine (April 1996), and Fantastic Force (April 1996)! As a reminder, this issue is the July 1995 Captain America. We may or may not be mid-bubble burst here.

Captain America 441 Gruenwald
"What you see on paper is truly only the tip of the iceberg as far as what's going on behind the scenes."

Also included is a column by Marvel Universe EIC and Captain America writer Mark Gruenwald, who promises that "1995 is shaping up to be the most exciting year in the comics industry since the birth of the direct market." I guess car crashes are pretty exciting.

90's Fashion: nothing new as far as costumes, as we've already covered everybody here at least once. Falcon is surprised into exclaiming "Oh snap," which I feel is pretty 90's.

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