The Pull List Comic Reviews: ‘Captain America’, ‘World of Warcraft’ and ‘Dark Reign: Mr. Negative’

For last week’s edition of The Pull List, click here and here.

Pull of the Week:

Captain America #600 – Marvel – $4.99
Score: 9.0

Without a doubt, Captain America #600 is a work of love. 104 pages dedicated to the Sentinel of Liberty that has been around for nearly seventy years. The sheer volume of work in the book including new stories, classic reprinted work and a cover gallery let the reader know just how important this character is to the creators who were privileged to play a part in it.

The issue begins with “Origin”, a two page painted summary of Cap’s history done by Alex Ross and Paul Dini. The pages are beautifully painted in a style that only Ross can capture with Dini telling Captain America’s origin in his own words. This had been originally published in Captain America: Red, White and Blue back in September of 2002. Of anything written, this two page synopsis of Cap’s history may be the best explanation of the essence of the character and his motivations.

The next piece of the book entitled, “One Year After” continues the current Brubaker story arc of the Captain America series as it takes a look at how the world deals with the aftermath one year after of Steve Rogers’ assassination on the steps of the New York courthouse where he was going to be tried for treason. Ed Brubaker hits every foreseeable corner of Captain America’s world as he catches up with Sharon Carter, Steve’s ex-lover who had been brainwashed in to delivering the fatal shots on Steve, as she begins finding pieces of her shattered memory and searches for the “most notorious murder weapon in the world”. The shooter of the first bullet to hit Steve Rogers, Crossbones, is given a spotlight as his fellow inmates praise his actions from a year ago, ultimately resulting in a prison riot. 

Marvel should be applauded for their work on this issue. It takes everything that made the readers care so much about Steve Roger’s assassination and brings them right back to it. There is a heart and soul of the character that exemplifies so much of what people love about America that no other character is able to fulfill. As much as people have been enjoying Bucky taking up Steve’s mantle, in the readers’ hearts he can never really be “Captain America”. Just by the fact that so many readers refer to him as “Bucky Cap” is proof that it could never be a lasting trend.

Something about the character of Steve Rogers just can’t be replaced. Just like Ben Reily couldn’t uphold the legacy of Spider-Man, Bucky will eventually have to give the title back to Steve. Even the inclusion of the Heroes Reborn girl Bucky in the issue didn’t take away any of its thunder, despite the vocal outcry against tainting the series with the character. The return to the original numeric sequencing doesn’t just signify a marketing move by having impressive numbers to the series length, it signifies the return of Steve Rogers which is hinted at for the first time in the series since Steve’s death.

The Ultimate Captain America may have said it best, “The ‘A’ doesn’t stand for France.” Though there have been so many different takes on the character, all of the creators involved in with Captain America from Stan Lee’s early work on the character to Ed Brubaker’s current amazing run should be proud of themselves for what the readers have been graced with. Very few comics may ever reach the six hundred issue milestone. With any bit of luck and determination, the character will be alive for a long time coming to keep reminding us what is so great about our proud nation.

Other Pulls:

World of Warcraft #20 – Wildstorm – $2.99
Score: 7.0

Let two things be pointed out first and foremost with this review. First, I am not a World of Warcraft player so don’t think that my video game fandom has anything to do with my review of this book. And for the most part, I am not a fan of many video game inspired comic books as they often are not of very high quality. This book continues to prove to be the exception though as it is probably the best video game story currently on comic store shelves. Now, over a year and a half since its initial release, World of Warcraft continues its medieval tale of swords and sorcery through the already mythos rich world of Azeroth.

Taking characters from the three real time strategy Warcraft PC games like the orc warlord Thrall, ogre mage Cho’gall and the Lich King, World of Warcraft also brings in new characters to further expand on their ever changing world. This issue begins with the three major cities of Stormwind, Ogrimmar and Theramore Keep simultaneously under attack from the Lich King’s forces. At the end of all three battles, the three champions of their respective cities all receive the same message to come face the Lich King and bring their forces to Northrend.

All the heroes rally their forces in preparation of the upcoming battle. The remainder of the issue follows Valeera, a blood elf, and Meryl Stormfell, an undead warlock, who are attempting to save the young half orc Me’dan from the clutches of the previously mentioned Cho’gall and the battle that ensues between them.

While sometimes the dialogue itself comes across as campy, it actually works in context of the story. It is believable that the characters would talk with the classic medieval style of pomp and circumstance or the overdone bravado that we expect from a story of knights, dragons, wizards and warlocks. The artwork of the issue is also somewhat different than what would be expected.

Unlike the Warhammer series which is often dark, drab and a downer feel to it, World of Warcraft takes its bright color scheme and somewhat cartoonish appearance from the PC game. Even during grizzly death scenes, the book is still able to maintain a bright and uplifting feel about it.

Certainly, World of Warcraft is no literary masterpiece set to become the next Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter but if just taken at face value, it is a fun book. For a fan of the series, there are many fan service moments as popular names of both people and places from the history of the franchise make frequent cameos throughout the series. For those not a fan of the franchise because they were not RTS or MMORPG players, there is still a wealth of story to be told in the pages of the series that is very much unlike any other comics out right now. While not everyone will love it, it is certainly a good enough book that can be picked up and given a chance by any reader to see if it fits their bill.

Dark Reign: Mr. Negative #1 – Marvel – $3.99
Score: 6.0

No, this comic was not written about yours truly. Following in the rogues trend of Dark Reign: The Hood and the upcoming Dark Reign: Zodiac, Dark Reign: Mr. Negative #1 is the first of a three part miniseries focusing on one of the villains created during Spider-Man’s Brand New Day banner, Mr. Negative. The reason he’s called Mr. Negative is because of his monochromatic color scheme and how the use of his powers to control another person, their color scheme goes negative with black becoming white, red becoming blue, etc.

This issue revolves around the rising tensions between Mr. Negative, also known as Martin Li and one of New York’s most beloved charity workers and philanthropists, and the current kingpin of the New York crime scene, the Hood. The issue starts with the White Dragon, one of the Hood’s B-List cronies, coming to Mr. Negative to “negotiate” Negative’s new subservience to the Hood’s reign. Negative, obviously not in favor of this, takes control of the White Dragon and sends him in to the Hood’s headquarters with a message. The Hood promptly deals with the White Dragon and takes Negative’s actions as a declaration of war. The remainder of the issue shows the first shots of that war on the street’s of Chinatown in Mr. Negative’s territory and how Spider-Man finds himself involved in it.

Overall, there is an interesting story taking yet another perspective on the underbelly of the criminal world under Norman Osborn’s America. Just because a lunatic villain is in charge doesn’t mean that all the other villains have become united. The Hood, being one of the members of Norman’s Cabal, has taken it upon himself to organize New York’s super villains and crime lords under his jurisdiction.

Most have quickly submitted to the new status quo realizing that the Hood must have friends in high places as seen in this issue where Light-Master comments that the Hood much have some major connections to bribe H.A.M.M.E.R. to shut down an entire section of Chinatown for the attack they are readying to wage. At the same time, it’s also interesting to see which of the villains allow themselves to fall in to the subservient roles as lackeys instead of trying to stick it out in solo careers as they would have done in the past.

The major problem with this book that Dark Reign: The Hood didn’t suffer from is the lack of star power over the pages of the issue. While the hood has established himself as a major player across multiple books, Mr. Negative has been more of a lower tier background character in Spider-Man, only popping head out once in a while since his introduction. Even with Spider-Man and the Hood appearing in the issue, they aren’t seen for a majority of it. Instead, Negative and a bunch of the B-Listers no one really has an attachment for other than a “hey, I remember that guy from reading Ghost Rider in the 90’s” moment are the centerpieces of the issue.

So far, Mr. Negative hasn’t done anything to make himself stand out to really any Spider-Man fans so the chances of this book reaching out further to any mainstream general Marvel fans becomes even slimmer as they will have no idea at all who he even is. Fred Van Lente, of recent Marvel Zombies 3 and X-Men: Noir fame, still does a good job working with many of these characters despite their lackluster reputations. With even more villain centric miniseries coming out in the coming months under Dark Reign, it seems like Marvel was smart to put them at only three issues a piece.

It becomes increasingly hard to get behind a title character with no redeemable qualities with each passing month, let alone a number of books with the same central style behind them. The most interesting part of the next issue will be seeing the change as Spider-Man and the Hood look to take more active and central roles in the stories. But for now, Dark Reign: Mr. Negative is an alright book with a lot of room to grow still.

Be sure to check back tomorrow for part 2 of this week’s Pull List!

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