By: Paul Jenkins (writer), Carmine Di Giandomenico (artist), Bill Rosemann & Alejandro Arbona (editors)
The Story: This story is split between the events of December 1944, in German territory, and modern-day USA. The characters in 1944 are a squad of superhero soldiers led by Captain America, and in the present, a 93-year-old man and his granddaughter.
The Review: Jenkins offered some fine writing in this first issue of an 8-issue limited series. I was dropped right into the confusion of a running WWII battle, nuanced with gritty, low-powered, wartime superheroing. I think Jenkins did a better-than-fair job of catching some of the peculiar word choices of the time, which helped the art create a feeling of authenticity. And while it would have made the read easier if he’d provided slightly more text on the dramatis personae, I accepted that if his goal was to create in the reader a sense of the chaos of a pitched urban battle, one way to contribute to that is to give the reader less information. I enjoyed the modern setting less, partly because we shift from action and a sequence of micro-cliff-hangers to a sedate character piece. Now, the change in focus isn’t a problem in, but that I felt Jenkins didn’t succeed so much in the establishment of authenticity. The focus on wartime comic books in the beginning seemed to be a bit too meta-fictional for me, and the dialogue felt less honest as the level of exposition-through-dialogue increased. That being said, I think the scenes were effective in connecting the WWII era to the present.
Artwise, I think Di Giandomenico’s style suited WWII action really well. Not only did he make a bomb-ravaged Germany come to life, but his soft, fluid lines suited the combat fatigues. He used some rougher, more jagged, lines to bring the combat scenes into focus. Additionally, I think Di Giandemonico worked his composition effectively to make the chaos of combat come alive by having, in some panels, such a riot of details as to make any visual “key messages” hard to discern. This is absolutely deliberate, because his composition is much more focused and clear in the present moments, and in the quieter moments of the book (like the interrogation scene). Other combat panels are sharply composed (check out Cortez and the tank, or Piotr’s last stand) and the juxtaposition in composition creates the effect of a sea of blurred hyper-activity dotted with islands of hunkered-down hiding from the violence. Well done.
Conclusion: Jenkins launched this 8-issue limited series by showing that there are two moving situations we need to keep our eyes on: (1) a 93-year-old man and his granddaughter in the present and (2) a band of soldier-superheroes in the past. Although we don’t know its exact nature yet, there is a ghost in the closet that must be exorcised. Intriguing start.
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