Alternate universes have always intrigued me as a comic book reader. As a youngster, I was drawn to the Elseworlds and What If? books that offered an alternative or definitive conclusion to the never-ending serialized characters produced by Marvel and DC. Knowing that it was impossible for these major properties to truly come to a final conclusion, these comics allowed for writers to explore the possibilities of a narrative end for some of their most iconic characters. This one-shot in Marvel’s The End line of comics gives us a window into what Erik Larsen sees as the fitting conclusion to Captain America’s arc.
Erik Larsen is a known entity and an acquired taste. I have followed his career from the early ’90s when he began work on his creator-owned book, The Savage Dragon, which is still in publication to this day. The comic industry has seen its ups and downs since that heyday of circulation, but Larsen’s relentless drive to keep his quintessential character published is impressive, especially this long after the bubble burst. Larsen has continued to explore this character he loves while refining his craft and storytelling over the years.
I would have likely passed on this book had it not been for Larsen. I have always enjoyed his line work and exaggerated superhero approach to crafting comics. I enjoyed his work on Spider-Man and was intrigued to see how he would end Captain America. There are fascinating moments here, but the book generally leaves one without a massive emotional wallop. It’s a fine little story focusing on Captain America with very few Marvel mainstays making an appearance.
This issue breathes Erik Larsen and contains many of his trappings. The exaggerated faces and poses, harkening back to both the Kirby ’60s, the arthouse scene of the ’70s and the massive muscle days of the ’90s. The colors are competently provided by Dono Sanchez-Almara and help give the book a retro vibe, as do the letters by Joe Caramagna.
For an ending story, it is rather small in scale and application. In this reality, a disease has spread, turning individuals into a hive mind of Red Skull zombies. These drones work tirelessly to infect the remaining humans of Earth with only Captain America to stop them. The plot and action are simple but effective. The short, complete story finds Cap trying to save a remaining few humans while questioning if he has what it takes on this final assault.
Like many of the What If? stories of old, this specific story is inconsequential to the character and his larger serialized narrative. Nonetheless, It is still worth checking out. This comic is for those looking to see one of the greatest living cartoonists do what they wish within the Marvel sandbox, and with that in mind, it’s worth a look.