Friday, June 17, 2016


Storytellers: Jeph Loeb & Tim Sale | Colors: Dave Stewart
Lettering: Comicraft's Richard Starkings | Design: Comicraft's John Roshell
Production: Idette Winecoor | Consulting Editor: Richard Starkings
Assistant Editor: Jon Moisan | Editor: Mark Paniccia | Editor-in-Chief: Axel Alonso
Chief Creative Officer: Joe Quesada | Publisher: Dan Buckley
Executive Producer: Alan Fine | Captain America created by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby

Last year I wrote about the original three Marvel "color" series from Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale -- DAREDEVIL: YELLOW, SPIDER-MAN: BLUE, and HULK: GRAY. I've loved the first two of those since their original releases circa 2003 and they're still very special to me, while GRAY has always left me a little cold. Unfortunately, CAPTAIN AMERICA: WHITE falls closer to the GRAY end of the spectrum than the YELLOW or BLUE end.

WHITE, which originally received a #0 issue back in 2008, finally saw the remainder of its installments published in 2015. Considering the circumstances, it's a remarkably consistent read; I can only assume the script was written entirely in advance. Where the previous three "color" books featured the title characters mourning the losses of the great loves of their lives, WHITE is about Captain America, recently awakened in the modern day, recalling his relationship with his partner and best friend, "Bucky" Barnes.

The story, set in World War II, follows Cap and Bucky on a mission to Europe as they meet up with Nick Fury and his Howling Commandos, then head into Paris to investigate the Red Skull's presence there. In France, the group teams up with a resistance fighter named Maryline, a.k.a. the Gypsy, and her band. Cap stops the Red Skull from destroying the Eiffel Tower and killing Bucky, then the Americans leave Paris to continue their war while the Gypsy and her people remain behind to carry on their own battle.

The book is beautifully drawn and colored by Sale and Dave Stewart, and overall, it's nice to see the Loeb/Sale team back together. I have no great love of Loeb as a solo writer, but his team-ups with Sale generally seem to bring out the best in him. Though if I'm honest, the creative credits mean less to me than the sight of Comicraft's Richard Starkings and John Roshell contributing to a modern Marvel comic. I believe I mentioned it before in the other "color" reviews, but at some point Marvel parted ways with Comicraft, who had regularly lettered pretty much their entire line in the late nineties, with the exception of certain special projects. Notably, nearly everything Jeph Loeb has written for Marvel, even after that split, has been lettered by Comicraft, so he must be a fan of the company -- and so am I. I firmly believe that no letterers in the digital age of comics are better than these guys.

But I didn't pick this book up to admire the pretty letters. The story and art come first and foremost. In this case, as far as I can tell, the plot seems to be pretty much wholly original -- but I could be wrong. I'm no expert on Golden Age Captain America or on his appearances in TALES OF SUSPENSE from the sixties. But, as is the case with HULK: GRAY, there's something about this book that feels "made up" when compared with SPIDER-MAN: BLUE and DAREDEVIL: YELLOW, both of which are quite obviously threaded throughout old issues from the sixties.

One thing I like about the plot is that there's no Winter Soldier to be seen here; really not even a hint that Bucky could ever come back. I have nothing against Ed Brubaker's CAPTAIN AMERICA -- in fact I liked it quite a bit as it was coming out -- but just the same, it feels like fan fiction in a way. Bucky is a character, like Uncle Ben and Gwen Stacy, who should stay dead. He was always more important in death than in life; he was Cap's best friend and the fact that Cap survived an experience which should have killed them both left him with a strong sense of survivor's guilt. Resurrect Bucky, and you lose that important element of Steve Rogers' character.

(Also, as an aside, it's nuts to think kids growing up nowadays on Marvel's cartoons and movies won't have lived in a world where Bucky was dead for any appreciable amount of time.)

I also like the frequent banter between the Howling Commandos, even if Dum Dum Dugan is presented here as really, well... dumb. Though again, I've never read the old SERGEANT FURY comics; it's entirely likely Loeb is simply going with the original characterization established by Stan Lee. And Nick Fury's constant frustration with Cap's flamboyant heroics is pretty entertaining as well.

On the other hand, I'm unsure about some choices here. For one thing, I'm not a fan of the Loeb/Sale interpretation of the Cap/Bucky relationship, which is presented almost more in a father/son way than in the traditionally shown big/little brother dynamic. Plus the story makes a really big deal about the irresponsibility inherent in bringing a kid into superhero action -- which is well and good in the real world, but which robs the comics of their element of fantasy. Teenage sidekicks probably shouldn't exist as a "thing" nowadays, but if they do, especially in throwback projects such as this one, they should be presented in earnest without delving too far into the ramifications of the concept.

The above are my main issues with the story and are the primary reasons why it just doesn't click with me, but there are a few more questionable choices I feel I should bring up: for one thing, Loeb and Sale introduce a member of the Gypsy's crew called the Leaper, a.k.a. Olivier. The presentation of this character is ham-handed beyond belief. We first meet him as a gentleman with a strong resemblance to Batroc the Leaper, who engages in a brief skirmish with Cap, drawn by Sale to mimic the famous silent duel between the pair by Jack Kirby.

For most anyone with passing familiarity with Captain America, this should've been enough; this guy is clearly meant to be Batroc's grandfather or some other relative -- a fun Easter Egg for those in the know which wouldn't detract at all from the enjoyment of those unfamiliar with that famous page or with Batroc. But Loeb can't let it go. Later in the story, Olivier's last name is revealed as -- le gasp -- Batroc. Okay, Jeph. So subtlety isn't your strong suit. But then, a few pages later, as he (SPOILER) lies dying in the Gypsy's arms, Olivier Batroc begs her to look after his grandson... (dun dun DUNNN) Georges!

Holy cow, you guys. I mean, sacre bleu. This guy who looks like Batroc, fights like Batroc, and has Batroc's last name is actually related to Batroc??? I would never have figured that out if Jeph Loeb hadn't hammered me so hard over the head with the revelation that I'm still suffering from a concussion weeks after reading the book.


Side note: How the heck old do Loeb and Sale think Batroc is, anyway? Even if he was a newborn in 1941, when this story takes place, he'd be pushing 75 years old today. I've noted before that these "color" stories are somewhat timeless in their depictions of fashions and technology, but that doesn't mean they get to ignore commonly accepted logic which, nowadays, tells us Captain America was defrosted somewhere around 2006.

Anyway -- now that I've done four ranting paragraphs on Batroc, let's get back to the story, and I'll quickly sum up my remaining issues: Sale's Steve Rogers looks like a dufus. Loeb has a weird interest in Steve's sex life and the fact that he was most likely still a virgin after he became Captain America. At one point, present day Cap speaks of the Red Skull as if he was responsible for Bucky's death when we all know it was actually Baron Zemo. There is a single full-page splash panel (no pun intended) appearance by Namor which is clearly there because Sale wanted to draw the character and for no other reason. Etc., etc.

All told, as noted earlier, it's nice seeing Loeb and Sale reunited for a new project, and it's great to see this long-teased series, in particular, come to fruition. But, aside from some nice moments, it's just not a great story. I have no doubt Loeb and Sale put their best effort into the work and I want to like it, but for the most part it seems like a waste of a great idea. WHITE simply doesn't resonate with me like BLUE and YELLOW.

(And I also feel that it breaks the trend set by the previous series of the hero mourning his first great love. I fully expected this one to be about Steve remembering Peggy Carter, rather than Bucky.*)

Available from Amazon

* Sorry, I'm not a subscriber to #GiveCapABoyfriend. Preeeetty sure he's been straight for the past 75 years.


  1. that doesn't mean they get to ignore commonly accepted logic which, nowadays, tells us Captain America was defrosted somewhere around 2006.

    Honestly, that notion (which is not at all incorrect) freaks me out WAY more than the notion of a generation of readers to whom Bucky is a guy who was dead for awhile but now isn't. :)

    And I also feel that it breaks the trend set by the previous series of the hero mourning his first great love.

    #GiveCapABoyfriend aside, you could argue that Bucky does represent Cap's first great love. It's just not a romantic love in this case, but it's still about a character working through the death of a person they cared for deeply.

    1. I would definitely agree that Cap being defrosted in the 21st century just feels wrong. It's part of why I favor a sort of "timeless" approach to these sorts of things -- but Marvel doesn't, at least not that I know of, which is why I picked that nit here.

      "#GiveCapABoyfriend aside, you could argue that Bucky does represent Cap's first great love."

      That's certainly true and I think it's the way Loeb and Sale are looking at it here. I guess I should've been more specific -- all of the other three series were very much about the title heroes mourning their first great romantic loves, so I expected that here, too. I have no problem with the series being about the friendship between Cap and Bucky; I just wish it was a better story.