Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Steve Rogers: Super Soldier #2

Since literally his very first moments among the elite, Steve Rogers has been on a quest to discover and conceal the secrets of his origin. Though Nazis may have gunned down the scientist behind his super soldier serum sixty years ago, the hunt for its successor still rages today. While it may not have always been at the forefront of his actions, that ongoing desire to find and protect the very compound that created him has always been at the core of Steve's character. Now freed of his responsibilities as Captain America, Rogers is hot on that trail once again, and not a moment too soon, in Steve Rogers: Super Soldier.

It doesn't take long for Ed Brubaker to prove he's barely scratched the surface with this character. At its root, this is just a book about Steve's continuing quest for the next iteration of the serum, but under the covers there's so much more. Habitually, the author has skinned this tale under layers upon layers of secrets, swerves and suspicions, but he's kept the actual storytelling amazingly streamlined and restrained. That results in an issue that's extremely simple to browse but unmistakably difficult to predict.

Brubaker's take on Rogers is a classic, too: one part action hero, one part super sleuth, one part international spy, one hundred percent business. It's difficult for some authors to manage one of the above, let alone all four, but Bru boils each down to its basest flavor, then mixes the whole lot together so precisely it resembles something entirely different. His rendition of Steve Rogers is the rendition of Steve Rogers, at least in the modern setting, and it's tough to imagine a tighter pairing between writer and character.

Dale Eaglesham's artwork is a different look than I'm used to seeing alongside Brubaker's writing, but it's a welcome change of pace. Where the writer's previous collaborators on Captain America and Daredevil have employed a gritty, harsh noir quality, Eaglesham delivers a bright, lively, energetic mood that's grounded in reality but still fantastic to behold. Like John Cassaday and Bryan Hitch, his work has a certain trustworthy believability, but Eaglesham leans less to strict detail, employing slightly more artistic liberty and subtle, effective exaggeration than his more celebrated peers. He grants Super Soldier #2 a distinct, memorable personality right from the first panel and while his contributions aren't without a few moments of weakness, (in particular the wild fluctuations in the size of Steve's hands) for the most part this is a very solid showing.

Super Soldier is a fine example of a classic story set against a modern backdrop. It's got all the elements of a modern masterpiece: great artwork, simple but imaginative storytelling, a wild cliffhanger of a last page and an important central figure with deep ties to the entire Marvel universe. The only pity is that this mini-series is only scheduled for two more issues, but that might just be a blessing in disguise. Nothing this good can possibly last forever. Buy it.

On a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 is poor and 10 is amazing...
Overall Score: 9

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