The Death of Captain America: Volume I – A Graphic Novel Review

I’m a guy who waits for the collected editions of my favorite comic books, so my knowledge of the death of Steve Rogers arrived long before I read the actual volume in which it occurred. And you want to know something? It didn’t lessen the impact one iota.

This is because Ed Brubaker’s Captain America is masterful. This is not a title looking to shock you in one-and-done scenarios, this is a title where each issue builds off the prior and the author clearly has an epic plot in mind. The story progresses organically and logically.

Collecting issues #25-30, Steve Rogers dies in the first installment and then his supporting characters take center stage. Brubaker gives us a level of richness and complexity with Tony Stark, Sharon Carter, the Falcon, Nick Fury, the Black Widow, and Bucky Barnes rarely seen in comic books. The fact he keeps Captain America just as intriguing and captivating without Captain America is proof enough as to why this man won the Eisner award.

Now we all know who the current Captain America is, and this volume, as well as the preceding issues of this series, really sets up the events leading to Barnes donning the Captain America mask. It makes total sense and it didn’t feel at all forced.

In fact, I’d like to briefly congratulate Brubaker for reinserting Barnes into the Marvel Universe in a seamless, rational, and consistent manner. Unlike another once-thought-dead partner, Barnes has been handled with care and intelligence.

Furthermore, Steve Epting’s art is the perfect compliment to Brubaker’s realism. While cinematic in execution, Epting delivers characters and action that are believable yet extraordinary. His angles and layouts please the eye while strengthening the overall story.

Brubaker’s Captain America has been a delightful and unpredictable joy from the get-go, and I look forward to seeing where he takes us next!

Ex Machina: The First Hundred Days – A Graphic Novel Review

Pronounced mah-kin-ah, this little ditty I picked up only because I saw it had recently earned an Eisner Award, which in the world of comic books, is a very big deal. The story is about a former hero turned politician. Not the stuff of captivating reads, in my opinion. On top of that, the writer, Brian K. Vaughan, was someone I was previously unfamiliar with. But, the buzz was big, the accolades were huge, so I thought I’d give it a shot.

The result was quite shocking.

I loved it. If you’d told me I would enjoy a book whose main character was the mayor of New York City, I’d have told you that you were nutso. It’s simply the writing and the artistry. I honestly think Vaughan and his artist, Tony Harris, could put out a comic book about an agoraphobic farmer and it would still win awards.

Mitchell Hundred is a civil servant of NYC who happens across a strange device at the base of a bridge’s, er, base. It explodes literally in his face, thus granting him the singular ability to converse with machinery of almost any magnitude, the utterly simplistic to the drastically complex. For instance, he can command a gun to jam, preventing its detonation. Eventually, he dreams of a rocket pack allowing him to fly. His older friend and role model, Kremlin, helps him build it. He becomes a hero, calling himself The Great Machine. However, after only a year, he gives up the hero business, deciding that he’s causing more harm than good. Instead, he runs for mayor. And he wins.

The arc of The First Hundred Days deals with a portrait of Lincoln with the n-word written across it debuted in a museum funded by the tax payers, someone killing off snow plow drivers, as well as many flashbacks to Hundred’s days as The Great Machine.

As stated, this doesn’t sound terribly interesting, but it is! I believe it is Vaughan’s pacing and script that forces us to keep going, as well as Harris’s perfectly executed sequential art. The dynamic characters, the mystery of who is murdering city workers and why, plus the conflict of the portrait’s controversy creates an entrancing plot. On top of it all, Vaughan seems to know just enough about the workings of city government to make us believe that Hundred really is the mayor of NYC.

Oh, and there’s a really, really interesting sub-plot (although I can’t help but think it will develop into a major plot) dealing with 9/11. Yes, 9/11.

If you pick this book up looking for the stuff of Superman and Batman, you’ll be disappointed. If you pick it up looking for a political drama with a touch of super hero flair, you’ll be quite pleased.

I highly recommend you pick up Ex Machina: The First Hundred Days.