Captain America: Living Legend #1
By Andy Diggle & Adi Granov
Reader Appeal/Publisher Rating: T+ (Teen and Up)
Genre: Fantasy / Superhero
First, you should know that Captain America: Living Legend #1 "takes place before the events of Captain America #10."
Does that mean anything to you? Me neither, but it was printed in boldface and all caps on page one of this comic. It was an awkward, story-defying way to get a reader into this new Cap adventure. What was especially annoying about that interruption was that it came after a kinda-cool character intro for Captain America that was framed as a Russian spy dossier. So, after hooking us into the story with a top-secret, foreign intelligence report and creatively giving us all the background a new reader would need to know about Captain America, the editors over at Marvel called a boldface-all-caps timeout to remind us that we aren't reading a story but an unnecessary add-on to the Captain America saga that's more profit opportunity than adventure. Sadly, that was a harbinger of things to come for our Living Legend.
First, the good stuff. Adi Granov is a beautiful artist, and his painterly panels from beginning to end of this comic brim with life and precision. I love the photorealistic approach to comic-book illustration, and Granov does not disappoint. Faces express real emotion—eyes twinkle, teeth grit, lips wrinkle behind natural smiles. Backgrounds for Granov are what they are supposed to be: Background art that fills the scene but doesn't draw the eye away from the human story being told. If this review were only about the illustrations, Captain America: Living Legend #1 would earn a slam-dunk "A" rating. In fact, after reading, I had to take time just to look back through the book, skipping the words and watching the art tell the story instead. That was cool.
Unfortunately, this comic also required strong storytelling to match the art. It fell short of that goal. the aforementioned "time-out" was the start of that problem, pulling the reader out of the fantasy and into the real world of commerce right away with the reference to Captain America #10. From there, it was a bumpy ride through the rest of the limited series setup.
It's another Cold War plot for Cap, and another hop-skip-jump through time to justify it. This issue is primarily concerned with introducing Captain America's newest adversary, a communist military zealot named Volkov. This WWII sergeant was a contemporary and (barely willing) ally to Captain America at the end of the war. Cap defeats a few Germans for him (ripping the top off a tank with only the toss of his shield...seriously...I know, I rolled my eyes too), and then saves Volkov's life after he is shot.
Skip forward a few decades. Volkov (showing no signs of having grown older at all) is now a Russian astronaut who disappears into space. Skip forward forty years more, and now Volkov—apparently immune to aging or a remarkably active nonagenarian—is somehow behind the mysterious destruction of a peaceful, American space project with altruistic environmental aims. (PS. Why do comic book writers always use environmental ideals as a stereotype for "good guys"? Not that there's anything wrong with environmental ideals, but ever since Avatar, this characterization shortcut has been so overused it feels clunky and forced, plot-wise.) And now Captain America and his gal pal, Sharon Carter, must figure out the enigma that is Comrade Volkov and stop what appears to be a world-threatening menace who hates America.
As I said, it was a bumpy ride. With the current strained relationship between the United States and Russia, a return to a Cold War-style story feels appropriate, but the invention of Comrade Volkov seems stretched at best, and contrived at worst. It is possible to find a villain in Russia that is not miraculously a remnant of WWII, and Marvel should demand a higher level of creative artistry from its writers and editors in that regard. Additionally, while Andy Diggle is a competent name in regard to comic book writing—his credits include Batman, Superman, and Daredevil—he appears unsure how to handle Captain America's unique super-abilities. At this point, Cap comes off as more like Superman than Captain America, and while there are similarities between the two heroes, Cap has a humanity, and inherent frailty, that Superman will never have. That humanity is the real reason we root for Captain America, because at his core it's not about what Cap can do, but about who he is, that makes him a real American hero.
I wanted to love Captain America: Living Legend #1, and I did love the artistic renderings on each page. But unless issue #2 raises the bar on plotting, I may find myself giving up on this new series sooner than I had planned.
For parents, Captain America: Living Legend #1 is rated T+ for teens and older, primarily because of war violence and mild fantasy/alien horror scenes.
Let’s Talk About It
If your family members are interested in this book, then encourage discussion about it afterward. You can use these questions to get started:
• What did you like best about Captain America: Living Legend #1? What did you like least?
• If you were asked to be a co-writer on this series, what would you add to the story?
• In what ways are you co-writing your life story with God? What do you think God is adding to your story?
Note: All product-related graphics in this article are standard publicity/promotional shots and are owned by their respective publisher.