Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Kickin' Nazzy as . . tail. (In case any youngsters're readin' this)

The new Captain America/Black Panther: Flags of Our Fathers is set early in Cap's career, telling the pulse-pounding tale of his first mission with Sgt. Fury & His Howling Commandos! The Howlers & Cap are off to Wakanda to head off Hitler's attempt, led by Baron Strucker, to steal the African nation's Vibranium for use in their missile technology. Cap quickly runs afoul of T'chaka, the WWII-era Black Panther, and that leads into the next issue.

There's plenty of nasty Nazi business, a great battle scene right in the first few pages of the book, amusing dialog from the Howlers about this new star-spangled joker that never removes his mask (Nick Fury, particularly, is suspicious of him), but what really grabbed me with this first issue was Gabriel Jones' narration during the Howlers scenes. I'd never thought about how it might've been, being a black soldier, hand-picked by Fury himself, in an elite WWII commando squad. The Army's not desegregated yet, he's on this elite force with guys from Brooklyn & Kentucky, and they're heading into Africa for the first time (well, I think Fury had been there before). There's thoughtless comments and jokes about Africa from his teammates, and an impressive scene in the mess hall when Cap sits down right next to Gabe, doesn't have any silverware, and asks to uses Gabes, who is done eating. That's something you just didn't do back then (heck, I wouldn't do it now; not outa racism-that's just plain unsanitary w/anybody)! Actions like this, and Cap's fighting skills, yet ridiculous (to them, at that time) costume, have all the Howlers asking "who IS this guy?" When Cap first shows up, Dum Dum Dugan asks "who is this clown?" to which Fury replies "America's secret weapon." "I thought WE were America's secret weapon" is his response, shown in a tight close up of Dugan's shadowed eyes and hard-set jaw. Tension's a-brewing, right away!

These tensions of preconceived judgments and prejudices, roles, and battle action will make for a great Cap, Year One-style story with a little more than just Nazi-bashing (not that that ain't enough any day o' the week), if writer Reginald Hudlin (Black Panther) can keep it up. The art, by Denys Cowan (The Question) and Klaus Janson (tons o' stuff) is nice, too, lots of good character perspectives and cinematic transitions.

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