It’s an exciting time for the old red, white, and blue shield bearer, with not just one but two ongoing Captain America titles on the slate for this summer. Before we crack open Sentinel of Liberty or Symbol of Truth, let’s revisit Cap’s latest adventure in writer Derek Landy, artist Angel Unzueta, and colorist Rachelle Rosenberg’s Captain America/Iron Man: The Armor and The Shield trade paperback. Collecting all five issues from the mini-series of the same name, this is an enjoyable and compact story that builds on the mythos of both characters while rewarding readers who have kept up with Landy’s previous work at Marvel — though at times it can feel a little overstuffed.
While not at all a household name at the House of Ideas, The Armor and the Shield marks Landy’s second mini-series in as many years at Marvel and continues building on the narrative he established in 2020’s The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. Landy manages to reward readers of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier with this new series without alienating new readers who may have missed it – a feat that is not easily accomplished. If you did catch his last miniseries, you’ll likely be very pleased with how Landy continues his story, particularly in how he uses this story as vehicle to further develop Veronica Eden into a more sympathetic villain.
Though Captain America and Iron Man equally shine in this book, Veronica Eden is really the star of the show here and undergoes the most noticeable transformation. A transformation that never feels forced but instead feels like a natural progression of her character as she slowly comes to terms with her place in the world and reconciles with her misconceptions around super heroes.
The only true shortcoming of Veronica’s story is that it felt like a missed opportunity to perhaps say something new about the idea of superheroes and our infatuation with them. Instead, her story resorts to the trite idea of “superheroes are bad because they bring problems on themselves and must be stopped to halt collateral damage.” Granted, this is an effective and enjoyable telling of this type of story, but it still feels like it could’ve said something new.
Looking at our two titular characters, The Armor & The Shield does a great job of honoring both characters’ legacies and recent histories, again without necessarily leaving newer readers in the dark. Sure, you will get more enjoyment out of this book if you’ve been keeping up with Captain America since Secret Empire or Iron Man since Civil War II, but the book never relies on the reader’s knowledge to make the story effective. Instead, it is a story that spends more time showcasing these two heroes’ friendship and their mutual devotion to their own specific styles of heroics. There aren’t any groundbreaking revelations about either Tony or Steve, but that doesn’t mean this story isn’t worth enjoying regardless, especially thanks to the more humorous exchanges between the two as they silently take down Hydra guards and killer robots.
Not only are these action sequences usually humorous, they’re vividly brought to life by Unzueta and Rosenberg. Even in the most chaotic action sequences, pages never feel cluttered and every sequence has a real sense of movement to it. There aren’t many climactic splash pages here, but the few that are there will leave you gushing over a page long after you’ve finished reading any of the word bubbles. Unzueta particularly does a great job adding humor to certain scenes thanks to his ability to perfectly capture facial expressions in a natural way.
Though I enjoyed this book and was able to finish it in a nice 90-minute reading session, I did feel like parts of the story felt a little overstuffed. The inclusion of the Paladins, former 50-State Initiative recruits trying to make a name for themselves a-la The New Warriors, ultimately distracted me from the A plot and never really offered much of a payoff. Perhaps if these were more recognizable or beloved characters, I would’ve been more interested in their arc, however, I found myself completely disinterested in their appearances throughout this series — even their big final twist.
The Armor & The Shield won’t go down as a classic run for either character, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth your time. If you’re a fan of either character or enjoyed Landy’s The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, then this five-issue mini-series will absolutely entertain you with an engaging and well-executed (if slightly cliche) story populated with excellent character interactions and fantastic art.
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