Comic Book Review – Captain America Volumes 4 & 5

Captain America Volume 4: The Iron Nail (2014)
Written by Rick Remender
Art by Nic Klein & Pascal Alixe
Captain America Volume 5: The Tomorrow Soldier (2015)
Written by Rick Remender
Art by Carlos Pacheco

The Iron Nail has toppled SHIELD and unleashed the secrets of Weapon Minus. More specifically he’s let loose the trippy Doctor Mindbubble. Steve Rogers must face the allure of a fantasy whipped up by the manipulative villain while learning that SHIELD abused the secret soldier serum for decades. Meanwhile, Jet Black newly arrived in the Marvel Universe is adjusting to life as a superhero, fighting the instincts implanted inside her by Arnim Zola. She is targeted by Red Skull who wants to use her as one of his S-Men (as seen in Uncanny Avengers). Little does everyone know, Zola still preparing to invade from Dimension Z and does just that in the concluding volume of Remender’s Steve Rogers run.

Doctor Mindbubble is one of those characters Remender must have been chomping at the bit to drop into a series because he was first glimpsed as far back as Uncanny X-Force when the team was fighting the Deathloks inside of Weapon Plus. There’s a statue in the background of Mindbubble, and we learn here he was a super soldier developed by this twisted project. He’s an interesting gimmick but never really developed into a full-fledged character. As someone who spent countless hours as a child penning down my thoughts on comic books and writing up my own stories, I get what happened here. (Sidenote: I once created and wrote about a character I called Ameoboy who was, as his name implies half-boy, half-amoeba. I think the name and concept are cute, but I would never drop him into an actual published comic unless I damn sure had more thought out about him than the gimmick.)

Remender also decides to have The Iron Nail…turn into a dragon? I was incredibly confused by this moment because he resembles the Iron Man villain Fin Fang Foom pretty closely so for a few pages I thought they were possibly one and the same. This is also a profoundly disappointing character turn for Agent Ran Shen who had the potential to add to the SHIELD organization but was immediately undercut with his shift to villainy. At least it could have been an interesting villain. Instead, he’s a budget version of Fu Manchu, who’s less culturally offensive but equally mustache-twirly boring. The positive for this fourth volume is the ending twist that leaves Cap in an interesting and vulnerable position going forward.

In Volume Five, we manage to get a pretty satisfying conclusion to Remender’s run, despite its bumps in the road. The invasion from Dimension Z occurs and has Thor and Iron Man defending a weakened Steve Rogers whose barricaded in the Avengers Mansion. There’s a pretty colossal twist that goes all the way back to the Escape from Dimension Z story arc that is deeply satisfying. I have always been a fan of the concepts of legacy in superhero comics and of the characters aging and growing. DC Comics has been pretty good at this, especially with the Justice Society. Remender, whether his idea or an editorial mandate, gives us a massive shake-up to the Captain America status quo. The annoying thing is, with the gift of foresight, we can see how all of this was inevitably shaken off and reset back to the default in a couple of years.

For his five volumes, Remender presented a lot of exciting ideas, and those first two volumes are some of my favorite Captain America issues ever. He seemed like he wanted to challenge the readers’ expectations and deliver some wild and fun Cap stories. Due to the impending company-wide reset of Secret Wars, much of what Remender sets up here gets undermined and erased. Up next is the storyline that many readers point to as the final straw, AXIS.

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