Rick Remender (Writer) Carlos Pacheco, Klaus Janson (Artists), Dean White (Colorist)
The Story: Returning to present-day America, both Steve and Jet needs to adjust themselves a bit after all these crazy sci-fi adventures.
The Review: ”Bold new direction” are words that many readers are used to hear in the past few years. Whenever a new creative team, or at least a new writer comes in for the ride, those words, or at least synonyms, are pronounced, but aren’t always exactly respected in ways that actually live up to the ”bold” part of the statement.
Rick Remender, however, really went there as he picked up the title from Ed Brubaker, moving away from the espionage corner to something more akin to Jack Kirby: crazy sci-fi. The adventure of Steve Rogers in Dimension Z were a far cry to the political and world-war II inspired stories that preceded them, which did cement the fact that this was an actual new take on the character. However, now that the first mega-arc has concluded, where will Remender go with the character?
This issue do try to answer that question, giving a slower pace with more character moments in order to counteract the high-octane action and ideas that permeated the previous chapter. Remender takes a lot more time with Steve and Rogers, showing how they react to both old and new encounters with Steve being healed by Bruce Banner and Hank Pym, while Jet Black gets interrogated by Marcus Johnson. The weariness of Steve and the impetuous attitude of Jet comes off as natural to their characters, considering what they went through.
Their interactions are also very good, as it all shows the evolution of these characters and the dichotomy of point-of-views they have, yet also the respect they have for each other. There is a particularly strong moment where Steve tries to teach Jet about the problems with living in the past, which resolves itself in a superb scene that seems to show a willingness to propel the character forward instead of always dwelling in what happened before in his life. This issue, it seems, manage to mix both this new era and the Brubaker one in term of tones, which is apt considering the roots of the character itself.
There is also a sequence in this book that manage to blend in some other era from both real life and earlier in comics history, as Remender provides a new foil with Nuke, who gets a short and rather violent scene that showcase the character perfectly. Showing a particularly backward analysis on the whole cold war and America’s dominance, the character still manage to make his presence known as this promise something rather exciting in prospects for this arc.
If there’s something a bit amiss in this issue, it would be the fact that the pacing might be a bit too slow in contrast to the previous arc, as some of these scenes do tend to drag on a bit. It is supposed to be Steve being rather introspective and unwilling to actually acknowledge and take the time to process his pain, sure, but beside dealing with that and setting Steve and Jet in a normal and more contemporary world, it doesn’t do much beside that. For those who were looking for a breather, it does the job admirably, yet those who wanted a bit more action or sci-fi goodness will be disappointed a bit.
Disappointed or not, readers would be hard-pressed to say that this pacing and this kind of character interaction is befitting of Carlos Pacheco, who can draw some terrific body poses, letting the body language propel the motion and the emotions very nicely on the pages. His backgrounds are also quite properly detailed*, with just enough to set the mood without overflowing the pages and panels. Where he fails a little bit, though, would be the faces, as some of the expressions are either too minimal, too subtle or almost-non-existent, which both serve and hinder the issue in several key areas. Nevertheless, his style fits the mood of the comic perfectly, which is a huge bonus for an issue like this one.
Another great bonus is Dean White, a colorist that always manage to give some potent degradations, enhancing the feeling conveyed by the issue. The moody moments have a very low amount of brightness, covered in a large amount of somber tones that accentuate the emotion behind the scene. He is also able to bring to focus a multitude of elements thanks to a good use of warm colors, like Nuke or what Steve Rogers is doing in the finals pages, making these moments even more striking.
The Conclusion: A slow issue that really take its time to show the evolution and the many interactions between some of the key characters. There may not be as much action as the previous issues, yet the introspective look combined with the detailed and evocative art by Pacheco, Janson and White makes for a good reading experience anyway.
Hugo Robberts Larivière
*Speaking of details, I was both amused and a bit depressed with the easter egg of Rex Tyler and Jay Garrick names on the tombstone in one of the scene. Considering there aren’t many chances of seeing those characters again in their previous glory, the visual is actually quite on point.