(a) John Romita Jr.
I’m just going to say it.
I love Rick Remender and John Romita Jr’s Captain America.
For the better part of the last decade, Ed Brubaker’s stoic, dark, spy-y stories about the Sentinel of Liberty have kept me at arms-length from one of Marvel’s top characters. Brubaker steeped his Cap stories in the world of espionage, and while that’s awesome and cool, I always felt a disconnect between Rogers’ personal ethics and his actions as an undercover spy working in the shadows.
With the ‘Marvel NOW!’ imperative, Rick Remender has been given the reigns of Captain America, and he’s decided to take Steve Rogers in the complete opposite direction that Brubaker had been going. Dimension Z is more than just a weird new setting; it’s a metaphor for Cap’s life, et al. On Earth, Captain America is arguably the best superhero there is because he’s got this amazing combination of tactical genius, physical superiority, genuine faith in his beliefs, and a determination that never quits. After last month’s look into a year in the life of being stranded in Dimension Z, Captain America #3 thrusts Steve and his travelling companion Ian (Arnim Zola’s son under Cap’s protection) into more familiar territory.
This familiarity comes with Steve and Ian being attacked by the Phrox, a species native to Dimension Z who retreated to subterranean caves when Zola invaded and took control of their home. Cap gets to utilize some of his combat skills that have proved useless otherwise thus far, and it goes a long way in making this volume of Captain America feel more organic and natural. The Phrox are wary of Steve and Ian, as their land has been overrun by Zola’s mutated experiments, so it makes sense that their first instinct is to kill the invaders. Fortunately, Steve and Ian gain an unlikely ally from a friendly Phrox who saw that Steve, too, was at odds with Zola. Remender also continues his look back at the life of young Steve Rogers in depression-era Manhattan, a story that relates to Cap’s current feelings of overwhelming helplessness. As a weak child, Steve was at the mercy of the neighborhood bullies, and in Dimension Z, his skills are rendered all but useless in a place where the landscape shifts and mutant freaks roam the countryside.
John Romita Jr’s art is an acquired taste. I’ve heard that you “either love it or hate it”, but I’m more inclined to see it as a learning curve. Much like how it can take time to get used to different writing styles depending on what writer you’re reading, the same can be said for artists and their various techniques. Romita has a very stylized look about his work that immerses you without distracting from the story (unlike, say, David Finch’s art, which constantly forces me to decipher who’s punching what on splash pages and/or fight scenes.)
It makes sense that many people are finding Remender and Romita’s vision for Captain America a little off-putting. The most common complaint I’ve found has been the arguably unnecessary inclusion of the flashbacks to Steve’s childhood. As I mentioned earlier, these flashbacks serve not only to shed some light onto a part of Steve Rogers’ life that hasn’t ever been delved into much, but also to show that even though the world and the circumstances may change, the pain and the struggle remains the same. Captain America #3 comes to an end with a pretty big shocker that’s going to have lasting consequences (at least as far as Marvel’s solicitations are concerned) that will affect not only the rest of Steve’s time in Dimension Z, but also quite possibly for the rest of his life!