“In the waning days of World War II, Steve Rogers – Captain America – seemingly sacrifices his life to save his nation. But decades later, he finds himself revived, thrust into a strange new America he barely recognizes. As he meets the heroes his legend inspired, Cap comes to understand what his sacrifice has meant. But it doesn’t change one fact: His partner and friend, Bucky, is dead – and Cap may have the means to return to the past and save him. For the sake of the timestream, the Avengers must do everything in their power to stop him!”
Marvel superheroes have lived long and varied lives. For someone like myself, who fell hard for a few of them after seeing their stories brought to life via the movies, trying to determine the correct place to wade in comics-wise often left me in a state of vague confusion. For instance, my first graphic novel outing with Iron Man – Ultimate Iron Man by Orson Scott Card – was, honestly, something of a disappointment. It was an origin story, but not one that in any way resonated with my perception of the character or what I had pieced together by reading fan fiction and things like Marvel Avengers: The Ultimate Character Guide and various Marvel related web sites. Captain America: Man Out of Time, on the other hand, proved to be a fine start, if only for the fact that it cemented my love for Steve Rogers and his super solider alter ego.
This graphic novel opens in 1945; Steve and Bucky are holed-up in the aftermath of a mission, and receive transfer orders that have terrible consequences. Namely, and this isn’t a spoiler because it says so up there in the summary, Bucky seemingly dies in an explosion. Steve, unable to save him, wakes up decades later, surrounded by a handful of costumed strangers, including a man made entirely of something that looks like metal. Basically, this is Mark Waid’s take on Cap’s rebirth and his immersion into the Avengers, and it works as such.
Now, I’ve heard it said (seen it written?) that opinions hold that Steve Rogers/Captain America is one of the least interesting characters in the superhero cabal; that he’s too idealistic, too vanilla, especially when standing shoulder to shoulder with, say, Tony Stark/Iron Man. But that’s just not how I see him. He is, to my mind, one of the more dynamic, sympathetic characters I’ve encountered since digging into comics of this kind. And he about broke my heart in Man Out of Time.
Here’s a man who has, for all intents and purposes, lost himself in order to fight the good fight, if you will, and to his belief in doing the right thing. Early on in this story, Bucky asks Steve what he’ll do once the war is won and over, and Steve doesn’t know how to answer. His identity is completely tied up, at that point, in what he does rather than in whom he once was – Steve Rogers, kid from Brooklyn – his hopes and dreams having been sacrificed to the serum that remade him and to the people giving him his orders. And then there’s his grief over losing Bucky and his inability to save him; his confusion upon waking up in an entirely new world; his struggle to determine his place, not based on his own wishes, mind, but where he can best serve his country and its people; and his eventual acceptance and determination to make a go of it with the Avengers. For all of his strength, he has the air of a Lost Boy; I’m not going to lie, that aspect of him plays me like an accomplished master.
But – and this is where frustration kicks in – I know I’m not articulating beyond the obvious why Steve/Cap gets to me. Steve and Tony both tie me up in knots; I can’t seem to untangle myself to objectively determine just when or how it happened, never mind be able to coherently write about it.
In any event, I’m getting off track.
Regarding the art in this graphic novel, I’m going to take the easy way out: I loved it. Full color, wonderful use of various palettes, and the expressions on Cap’s face conveyed his internal struggle beautifully. I could happily just look through this book without reading a word.
With this under my belt, I’m going to go back and read the graphic novels that will give me a better understanding of Cap’s place in comic book history. I want to know who he fought – beyond Red Skull – and learn more about the Avengers after he was fully on board. Perhaps then I’ll be able to more authoritatively explain why his character works so remarkably well for me.