Captain America is one of the most recognizable Marvel characters, given a boost in recent years by Chris Evans’ portrayal in the MCU, yet he was never one of my individual favorites. I picked up The Avengers recurrently in the 1980s and loved to see him interact with X-books from time to time, but the character felt out of place with the tone present in comics at that time. If I had picked up the issues reprinted in this Epic Collection, I’d likely held a different impression of Cap.
This trade collects Captain America appearances from 1982-83, as writer J.M DeMatteis and David Kraft dig into the “fish out of water” elements of the character. Most of the issues are self-contained and include a rogues gallery of little-known villains, often with a monster of the week feel to each. While the issues feel of their time, with heavy handed monologues and dialogue, there is a clear attempt to incorporate social challenges facing America in the early ’80s, giving the WW2 superhero reason to reflect and address these concerns.
Without a doubt, the highlight of this collection is the pencil work from Mike Zeck. His early 1980s work, with communicative and engaging character drawings, was ahead of its time and stands as a real testament to his artistic skill. One of the best issues was #272, featuring Falcon and Captain America confronting the malaise of inner cities during this time, weaving in realistic family drama into superhero conflict. The themes and ideas addressed in the issue are still relevant and worth reading today.
The standout issue is #283, where Cap is captured and manipulated by Viper and Constrictor, forced to face his deepest fears and failures. While it’s a stock superhero adventure, Zeck’s haunting art is given a spotlight, providing a real sense of fear in the unshakable hero.
This is a fine collection, even for those not big on Captain America. It’s a solid look into an often-forgotten era of the character with some relevant storytelling and excellent art that still stands on its own.
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