The Pull List Comic Reviews: ‘Captain America’, ‘G.I. Joe’, and More!

For last week’s Pull of the Week and more, click here and here!

Pull of the Week:

Captain America #50 – Marvel – $3.99
Score: 7.5

Talk about promotional timing. This month, Captain America gets it’s 50th issue. Next month, Marvel lets the series go back to its original numbering and gives Cap his 600th issue. So what does writer Ed Brubaker bring to the 50th issue of Marvel’s Sentinel of Liberty? A birthday issue. The pages open with a dramatic action sequence from Penciler Luke Ross with Bucky being chased down the street by three heavily armed high-tech equipped villains. Bucky talks about how this birthday for him is just any other as he is doing what he has seemingly done on every birthday he can remember… fight.

As Bucky continues his confrontation, he takes the reader back to his memories of various birthdays like the bar-room brawl he encountered at sixteen, fighting alongside the Invaders at eighteen and interrogating a Nazi with Steve Rogers, his idol and partner, on his twentieth birthday. He even fades back to a few brief memories as his time as the Winter Soldier where he didn’t even experience his birthdays anymore.

As Bucky remembers his past while dealing with his present danger, he must contend with something that will forever haunt him, something he cannot argue. Bucky knows he is not the real Captain America. No matter how much good he does for the world or how many people he helps to make up for his past, he will never be Steve Rogers.

The issue also deals with the feelings of family in Bucky’s life. Brubaker talks about how Bucky had already lost his father at sixteen and was united with a Cap by eighteen. The Invaders became his family over the coming years until the fateful day where the surrogate father and son combination seemingly sacrificed themselves to save innocent lives. In his time as the Winter Soldier, Bucky had never felt more alone as he knew he was by himself.

Once given his memories back by Steve Roger’s use of the Cosmic Cube, Bucky was never able to have that same relationship as they used to after knowing all he had done wrong. Most importantly, the issue shows that family is something that may not ever be constant, but is instead constantly evolving as people come in and out of someone’s life. Bucky sees through his birthdays that family has always meant the same to him even though some of its members have changed along the way.
Other Pulls:

G.I. Joe #5 – IDW – $3.99
Score: 7.0

While G.I. Joe: Cobra has done much to stray as far away from the 1980’s cartoon series, IDW’s main G.I. Joe title lends itself to nods to the original source material. Unlike the upcoming movie, all the Joe’s are seen in their classic, memorable and identifiable gear. At the same time, these Joes aren’t the campy crew of “and knowing is half the battle” fame we remember either. This world of G.I. Joe feels more real, with consequences and repercussions. For one, this world actually has soldiers being killed and injured, like when Beachhead tells Duke he has broken his leg after being thrown from their jeep.

The story of the issue revolves around the Joe’s dealing with the invasion of their base by Destro’s robotic forces. The one remaining robot is chased down by Duke and Beachhead as Destro’s operators try to get it to safety. In the mean time, the Baroness is held prisoner by Destro after her failed attempt to assassinate him for Cobra. At the same time, half a world away, a group of Joe’s including Stalker and Leatherneck must deal with the current status of Snake Eyes as his current allegiance seems to be in question by everyone except Scarlett.

An important thing to know about this G.I. Joe series, this is a reboot of the franchise and many of the principals in it have never encountered each other before. The Joes have only heard rumors of the existence of Cobra and don’t know that it even exits. Destro only has vague knowledge of a branch of the US Military that is G.I. Joe, but no specifics of it, its members or its name. Cobra itself has only been represented thus far by the Baroness and Destro’s attempt to provide his usefulness to the organization.

Destro himself is still a mere man. His head hasn’t been covered over in his silver mask yet. As a result, despite being more than a quarter century old, the franchise still feels new. The reader is able to discover along with the characters the existence of the other factions and the roles they play with each other.

Chuck Dixon’s take feels fresh but familiar to those who grew up with the series but the way he presents it, no previous knowledge of the G.I. Joe mythos is required to enjoy the story. While it is more guns blazing and action oriented than G.I. Joe: Cobra, the two books almost can’t be compared to each other as they are taking two completely different approaches to their storytelling. While Cobra has the feel of a spy novel, the core G.I. Joe title does a great job of feeling like an action film on paper. It also does a great job of intermixing those action sequences with meaningful and informative back story.

Never in the book do the words feel like they are being placed for the sake of having more writing. Robert Atkins does a great job illustrating the issue … when he wants to. While some pages are beautifully detailed with both great action or gorgeous character models like his work on the Baroness, others seem rushed. That inconsistency takes away some from the overall feel of the book as it seems like effort was only put in to the specific panels he really cared about while the others were just breezed through for the sake of having them there. Fortunately, Dixon cannot be given that same fault as the dialogue throughout the story is consistently strong and well put together.

While G.I. Joe fever seems to be heating up with the upcoming feature film release, from the looks of the trailer the movie will have a lot of work to do to be able to live up to the current storytelling going on in both this title and G.I. Joe: Cobra. These are the stories that an adult fan of G.I. Joe wants to read and the fact that the two are so different makes them both all the more enjoyable. Taking a nod from Marvel’s early G.I. Joe work and shying away from the camp from Devil’s Due’s take on the franchise, IDW has done a great job thus far in the re-launch of this series.
Punisher #5 – Marvel – $2.99
Score: 7.5

Five words are reason enough to purchase this issue. “Punisher in an Ant-Man helmet”, and that’s just in the first few pages. Much like Deadpool and the Dark Reign: Hawkeye series, this book isn’t meant to bring a new take on society. It’s just simple, violent comic book fun. In this issue, the Dark Reign continues for the Punisher, as Frank Castle takes the fight to the Hood and the resurrected former friend of the Punisher known as Microchip. Equipped with an arsenal of weapons stolen from the Hood himself, the Punisher makes his way to Microchip who gives Frank an offer that neither man should be able to refuse.

Along the way, Frank tangles with classic Marvel villains like Mr. Hyde, the Brothers Grimm, and Grizzly–all working for the Hood. The issue ends with a reveal that the continued rivalry between the Hood and the Punisher is bound to get much, much worse for Frank as the Hood drastically ups the stakes with a huge two page splash reveal.

This is also the perfect book for artist Jerome Opeña as he does a great job of mixing violence and somewhat gory scenes in a way that still feels real and not overdone. Another part he hits well on is the Betty Page inspired hooker from the Brothel. Instead of drawing the “perfect” female form like many artists would, he gives her an imperfect body, littered with unattractive tattoos to help make the environment continue to feel gritty and real.

While still not as harsh as the Punisher MAX series, this one finds a happy middle ground from the somewhat behaved Punisher: War Journal allowing for the Punisher to fit in with the rest of standard Marvel continuity and heroes. With the Hood being such a major player in Osborn’s plans, it’ll be interesting to see what happens when the Punisher and the Hood finally get the chance to square off since both are “take no prisoners” kind of players. Since that seems to be where the story is heading, the arc continues to build with each passing issue.

Wolverine: Weapon X #2 – Marvel – $3.99
Score: 6.0

The best way to describe this issue is summed up in one word: quick. Even though it is a full twenty-two pages, the book reads incredibly fast. There’s nothing bad in terms of content, by any means. The fault lies in the fact that there isn’t really much there. The book begins with a reporter from San Francisco wanting to do an expose on Wolverine for her paper because little is known about him, which is followed up by a joke that he is overexposed. She receives a phone call at her home telling her that if she digs deeper, the story she is searching for isn’t about Wolverine, but about the Black Guard.

The remainder of the book takes Wolverine to the Pacific Coast of Columbia where he crosses paths with members of the Black Guard, men who have been genetically and techno-organically altered to mimic his powers, and the ensuing fight between them. And that’s really it. Again, the content given is good but there just wasn’t much there. The Black Guard are cold and calculating fighters and don’t engage in any witty banter with our hero as they fight which leads to just fast paced action sequences that take up more than half the issue.

Ron Garney does a great job with these sequences telling the story in almost epic detail of everything that occurs during the course of the battle. Likely, Garney was thrilled to be allowed so much time to tell such a detailed fight scene out as these are often cut short in most other comics. Sadly, Garney’s work alone isn’t enough to bring up the overall level of this book.

The sad case is that such little really happens in the pages, there isn’t much to even review about the book shy of going through individual art panels. Like last month, Wolverine: Weapon X suffers from their own joke about the overexposure of the character and does little to examine more about him in any substantial way.

Be sure to check back tomorrow for part two of this week’s edition of The Pull List!

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