Captain America (2013) #1"Castaway in Dimension Z"
Written by Rick Remender
Penciled by John Romita Jr.
Inked by Klaus Janson
Colors by Dean White
Letters by Joe Caramagna
The marketing sold me on this comic by mentioning two things - Arnim Zola and John Romita, Jr. And boy, it certainly has both of those things.
Rick Rememnder is certainly committed to an action-filled book. We open with Captain America tackling a group of super-powered eco-terrorists over the skies of New York, and there's only a three page breather filled with sexual banter before he sends Cap rocketing through a secret subway into an alternate dimension populated entirely by Arnim Zola and his bio-freaks. And yet for a book that aspires to be a non-stop thrill ride there are surprisingly few thrills. The narration makes the opening action sequence feel perfunctory, as if Cap just isn't into it despite the millions of lives on the line. His later rampage through Dimension Z feels like a set piece that was too precious to be abandoned, a placeholder for a fast-paced plane chase that just couldn't be translated to the printed page successfully. If this is a preview of coming attractions, there's nothing here that's going to convince me to pick up the second issue unless I was a huge fan of Captain America or Arnim Zola. Or John Romita, Jr.
And speaking of John Romita Jr., isn't it a little odd that in the last twenty years no one at Marvel has been able to figure out that their in-house coloring style just doesn't work over his pencils?
I mean, just look at that. It just doesn't look right. White's subtle tonalities and painterly touches just don't work well with Romita's underlying bold, abstract forms. The end result is the grotesque addition of three dimensions introducing on flat forms that are being rendered in a visual shorthand that should be defying precise dimensions. Just look at Cap's chest and right arm. They look tortured, and they don't have to.
(Also, the blown-out highlights are weird. They feel like something from an early Image comic. There's They do a good job of leading your eye around the page but there's still just way too much contrast and they start to draw attention to themself, which is a big no-no.)
(And the coloring job totally ruins the little motion lines around Cap's hands! Here they just become weird little details on his restraints and Zola's loincloth.)
It also doesn't help that JRjr seems to have lost a few steps in the last few years. Too often in this book figures seem to have been scribbled out without an attempt to figure out their underlying anatomy, and layouts chosen for ease of rendering rather than maximum dramatic impact. It's an approach that he's used well in the past, cand it can be thrilling when done with enthusiasm and energy. But these days it can feel like he's working just to work, like his heart doesn't seem to be in it.
I'll take his mid-'90s Spider-Man work over this any day.
Oh, and does anyone know what the little AR symbol in the lower left-hand corner of the panel is? It's all over the cover and the inside but I've got no idea what it means. I suspect it's something from the digital version of the comic that should have been left off the printed version but I don't do digital so I'm not sure.