It might be easy to reduce Captain America to a super-soldier from World War II and leave it at that. If you know his origin story that suffices, but then you probably haven’t read the decades worth of tales that followed his origin. Marvel Comics has produced a fantastic Epic Collection this week who anyone who’s ever been a hater of Cap’s soldier persona and wanted proof he could be so much more. This volume contains four story arcs, three of which are iconic for showing different ways of using the character. Let’s break it down!
Captain America, Space Leader
The book opens with Galactic Storm, a 19-part story with Captain America serving as the leader. This book doesn’t collect it all–in fact, it jumps from Part 1 to Part 8 in the first two issues–but it does well to show that when Captain America is in charge he’ll take the fight as far as the deep reaches of outer space. The war is also pertinent since Empyre is on its way this summer since it focuses on an intergalactic war between the alien Kree and Shi’ar empires, portals being used that are draining energy from our sun, and generally needs to stop. Cap serves as a leader and broker of peace. It’s also fun to see him interact with lesser-known characters like Black Knight, Crystal, Goliath, Sersi, and Hercules. This chunk of the story runs 125 or so pages.
Captain America: Capwolf
One of the zaniest Captain America stories is next and it’s a real treat. Entitled “Man and Wolf,” this is the tale that turned Cap into a werewolf! It’s an incredible 6-issue arc involving Wolverine, Cable, and a villain known as Starwolf. Cap didn’t traditionally fight supernatural threats which put him out of his comfort zone. It’s also impressive how Rik Levins draws Capwolf with an almost cute dog face rather than a monstrous one. He is the hero after all. Is this an over-the-top and silly story? Sure is, but it’s also one of the most famous ’90s Captain America stories you’ll ever read.
Following this is a Red Skull story, further proving this book has it all. Crossbones is in there too as well as some wildcards, making it a fun supervillain menagerie. It’s not an iconic tale, but it’s nice to have in the collection.
Captain America, Gritty Urban Fighter
Finally closing out the book is the three-part Punisher and Captain America: Blood & Glory by D.G. Chichester & Margaret Clark with artist Klaus Janson. This is a darker and edgier Captain America story printed at a time when Punisher was ruthless and practically a criminal himself. Cap iconically tells Frank Castle he doesn’t agree with his methods at one point cementing the fact that they aren’t friends. Janson’s art is some of the crime-comic visuals you’ll ever see. You can feel the explosions, the rain on a casket, and the heat of the guns. It’s impressive.
This book has it all when it comes to Captain America save for the soldier fighting in World War II stuff. The book is hard to put down if you grew up in the ’90s, with a wide variety of roles for Cap to master. Being a comic from the ’90s, the read can suffer from over-explanation and quirky, sometimes lazy choices, but it’s also endearing for the very same choices made at the time.