Captain America: Winter Soldier hit theaters with the force of a thunderclap two weeks ago, and since it continues to rake in box office “bank”, I thought it might be a good time to provide a quick primer on some of the best Cap comic stories to check out from our fantastic graphic novel collection.
Captain America: Winter Soldier Ultimate Collection by Ed Brubaker and Steve Epting. Life and death in comic books is cheap, with miraculous resurrections every bit as common as capes and tights themselves. But Captain America’s sidekick, Bucky, was different. While there were a few false flags, Bucky had remained “dead” for more than sixty years of comic and real time, but Epting and Brubaker bring him back in this amazing tale that seamlessly blends the espionage and super genres into one rollicking and gut-wrenching tale of loss and redemption. This is the one the new hit movie was based on, and it remains a modern classic.
Captain America: War & Rememberance by Roger Stern and John Byrne. This too-brief nine issue run of Captain America in the 1980’s redefined the character for modern audiences and did it so slickly that the stories seemed like standard superhero fare. Stern and Byrne took Cap back to England to face a deadly foe from WWII, had him briefly consider a run for PotUS, and redefined his origin to root him firmly in the mean streets of New York, the quintessential American city. The run also features some of the most dynamic super-slugfests ever rendered on the comic page!
Captain America Omnibus by Jack “King” Kirby. While I would be more comfortable recommending Mr. Kirby’s earlier, 1960’s run on Cap (with the inimitable Stan Lee), this later one from the 1970’s remains readily available in our collection. Calling this collection of stories weird or strange really smacks of understatement. I am fairly certain Mr. Kirby never did any drugs in the 1970’s (his vice was expensive cigars), but after reading these amazingly kooky stories, you might think otherwise. Kirby’s penciling powers are on the wane by this point, but his storytelling energy remains strong.
Three titles from three different eras of Cap’s storied history should get you up to speed on one of comic books’ most colorful heroes. While Cap plays best as a stranger in a strange land, man-out-of-his-time character, he always manages to embody the timeless aspects of American culture that transcend creed, politics, or other divisive forces. The ideas of personal liberty, responsibility, and simple compassion for the downtrodden make him Marvel’s ultimate time traveler–he remains relevant in whatever era he shows up in!
And if I might quote the great Stan Lee, “Excelsior!”