Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Review- CAPTAIN AMERICA BY JACK KIRBY OMNIBUS


CAPTAIN AMERICA BY JACK KIRBY OMNIBUS (Marvel, 2010; Hardcover)

Note: Book actually released in early 2011

Collects Captain America Nos. 193-214, Captain America Annual Nos. 3, 4, and Marvel Treasury Edition Featuring Captain America's Bicentennial Battles (cover dates January, 1976- October, 1977)

Writer and Penciler: Jack Kirby

Inkers: Various

It's almost impossible to mention Jack Kirby without fandom blowing a gasket over how he was/was not screwed over by Marvel, or how Stan Lee did/did not help co-create the characters which served as the foundation of the Marvel Universe. People get passionate, tempers flare, Internet arguments ensue. I won't even go there, but I will say that Kirby was a terrible businessman. He came back to Marvel and freely created even more characters for them after his perceived mistreatment the first time around. I wouldn't have given them shit if I were as mistreated as Kirby claimed he was.

I recall many comics fans bashing Kirby in the '80s. Indeed, looking at his then-current work I thought that he sucked ass when I was a kid. It wasn't until I got a Fantastic Four Marvel Treasury Edition in 1985 (which collected '60s FF) that I began to appreciate his work. The point of this statement is that it is considered sacrilegious to utter that something that Kirby did, anything that Kirby did, was not art of the highest order and unparallelled creative genius. This only became a way of thinking after he died, of course. Until then, those same folks who utter statements like this were still busy bashing his work. 


I'm going to go out on a limb and say that this run on the title is not very good. I imagine if you were 8-12 when these issues were originally released then these are some of your all-time favorite comics. When I read this, I see Kirby past his prime as an artist, with occasionally nauseating dialogue, going batshit crazy. Kirby trips over himself trying to makes things over the top explosive. Issues that begin in the middle of a scene or forgetting where he's going by the issue's end. It's painful at times. Some of these issues are way fun, though, and his artwork occasionally rises to his past greatness. I began reading this during the winter immediately following the completion of the Silver Age Captain America Omnibus which collected the classic Stan Lee/Jack Kirby run. To go from Kirby at the peak of his powers to this caused me to put this book down and leave it alone on and off over the past 7-8 months.

Marvel Treasury Edition Featuring Captain America's Bicentennial Battles completely sucks ass. It's Kirby at his ham-fisted worst. People can debate about who did what, but this story makes it abundantly clear who wrote the better dialogue: Stan Lee. Kirby's scripts are painful at times, and him being his own editor was an even bigger mistake. The Madbomb arc (issues 193-200) is abysmal. Kill-Derby (issue 196) sees Kirby ripping off Rollerball, much like he ripped off Planet of the Apes and Ka-Zar a few years earlier when he “created” Kamandi, The Last Boy On Earth. The gem of this run is his creation of Arnim Zola. 


The Night People arc was very good, a welcome change of pace from the Madbomb debacle. Kirby goes way off the deep end here, though, taking Cap not only off planet but out of this dimension altogether. Texas Jack was another stupid, cheesy character Kirby inserted into the proceedings in a nonsensical manner. Things then sort of float between readable and good until the end of the book. Annual 4 sees Cap taking on Magneto and a rather uninspired new Brotherhood of Evil Mutants. Kirby's characterization of the Falcon is good, even if his “street” dialogue with him and his “Mama” is embarrassing to say the least. 

Note the lack of gutter loss, a mighty impressive feat on a 550+ page book. Proof positive why Marvel's Omnibus program is superior to DC's.
So while many fans proclaim their love for the genius of Kirby, I will say that this book does not help that argument one bit. If you want to show someone why Kirby deserves a spot on the Mount Rushmore of comic book creators then show them his '40-60s stuff. This stuff is best seen as a curiosity item and is recommended for completists only.
Junk Food For Thought rating: 2.75 out of 5.

The OCD zone- I love Marvel Omnibus hardcovers. This book is slightly out of original publication sequence, with the Marvel Treasury Edition Featuring Captain America's Bicentennial Battles and Captain America Annual No. 3 being first in the book. I guess that their location in the beginning of the book makes sense from a readability standpoint since they are standalone stories, but it may cause some restless nights for the acute OCD sufferer.
DVD-style Extras included in this book: Cover pencils to issues 193, 194, 197-199. (5 pages)
Covers to Captain America' & The Falcon: Madbomb TPB, Captain America:Bicentennial Battles TPB, and Captain America' & The Falcon: The Swine TPB.
Linework and Color restoration rating: 4.5 out of 5. Some folks have complained about the linework and color restoration being “muddy” in this book, but I'm not seeing it. Coloring errors from the original issues were faithfully maintained because Marvel uses a “warts and all” approach, leaving typos and coloring errors as they were in the original comic books.
Paper rating: 5 out of 5. The golden age of the Omnibus format, when the paper was thick coated stock and smelled of sweet lead and mercury. The paper on modern Omniboo is much thinner, unfortunately.
Binding rating: 5 out of 5. The best of the best sewn binding, plenty of flex in the casing which allows the book to lay perfectly flat from the first page to the last. 
 
While this book is out of print, this material is available in the following collected editions at InStockTrades!

 

1 comment:

  1. Really interesting review...this book always seems to be going on and then off my radar. I've read parts of this run when I was younger, and they were off-putting to me at the time despite the fact that I'm a huge Kirby fan. Having read more of his Fourth World work now, though, I wonder if this would make more sense in that light. It seemed to me that he was making some arguments in the Fourth World that were very different from those of other superhero comics at the time, and I would be interested to go back and see how much of that carries over into Captain America.

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