Category Archives: Comics

Thoughts on the death of Captain America

I’m a big comic book fan. Or at least, I used to be. I collected mostly Marvel comics, and mostly X-Men at that, since I was a kid. I’ve stopped reading comics so much, though there are a few great series that I pick up in trade paperback form (including Fables, The Ultimates, Powers, and Astonishing X-Men). While I don’t read all of the comics coming out today, I do keep abreast of what is going on in the two big universes: DC and Marvel.

This week, probably the biggest event to hit comics since the death of Superman happened in the pages of Captain America #25: Captain America, on his way to be arraigned for breaking a registration law, is shot. If you frequent the typical sites for comics news (e.g. Newsarama and The Pulse), you’ll see a lot of outrage and angst over Cap’s death, many posters claiming they’ll give up on comics all together (at least, Marvel comics) and wishing illwill on the creators and editors of Marvel.

It seems that a lot of this vitriol comes from people who haven’t read the issue. Mind you, neither have I. But, from what I’ve read and seen, it seems that the issue is actually very well written and that the current writer, Ed Brubaker, has done a marvelous job on Cap for the last 25 issues. It seems that people aren’t willing to let a major event like this happen, even though it may result in some great stories.

I compare this death with the recent “death” of Kara Thrace on Battlestar Galactica. From what I’ve read on BG spoiler sites, it seems that Starbuck’s death was at least partially due to conflicts between the actor and the producers/writers of the show. This, to me, seems a pointless death. She is killed off only because the actor isn’t going to be part of the show anymore. I mean, of course they have to do it, but in terms of the story, it means that any plots that dealt with her have to be dropped and that any grand vision for her character is no more.

Compare that to Cap’s death. This is determined solely by the writers and editors of the comic; Steve Rogers didn’t decide to stop being Cap. That said, often such events are gimmicks and result in poor story telling. However, in this case, a solid writer is behind the series. And, even if they do bring Cap back, which many see as a foregone conclusion, if it results in great stories, then so be it. Kill Cap.

I personally am not so hung up on continuity, a big deal for many comics fans. I think it would be better if writers focused not on single issues but trade paperback-length stories that weren’t quite as open-ended as the typical comic series. Sure, a lot of great stories come out of the current format, but so does a lot of dreck.

So, while I haven’t been reading Cap, I’m really intrigued by the current story line and am going to get the TPBs of Brubaker’s issues to date. It sounds like one hell of a ride to me.

Fullmetal Alchemst

I just finished watching the anime series Fullmetal Alchemist, which is based upon a comic book of the same name. It is about two brothers who live in a world where a form of alchemy exists. Specifically, certain people can transmute matter from one form to another. Without spoiling the show, the brothers are trying to find the power to fix their bodies, which they damaged when performing a special transmutation.

Most American cartoons are pretty shallow, being little more than independent 30 minute episodes that really don’t build upon one another. Of course, this isn’t 100% true, as shows like X-Men and Justice League Unlimited had story lines that lasted seasons. However, Fullmetal Alchemist does them one better in creating a world and a story that continues to build upon itself for 50+ episodes. Each episode reveals more richness in the world as the brothers Elric discover more about how alchemy works and the major players in their world.

The story touchs a number of deep subjects, including the costs of war, the atrocities that are committed during war, the nature of truth, the role of science (in this world, alchemy) in society, just to name a few. The brothers, though young (early teens), become quite the philosophers through the course of the show.

There are some things that annoyed me. When trying to display extreme emotions, the art gets a bit more cartoony than I like; it breaks the flow of the rest of the animation, which is more realistic and generally quite good. I also didn’t like that one of the characters, Armstrong, constantly is flexing his muscles for all around to see.

There were also a few things I didn’t understand. I didn’t get the whole point of the character Rose. I didn’t see what she added to the story or was supposed to represent. And I don’t quite get why Japanese animation has characters that look more western. You rarely see Asian characters in western animation, so I’m a bit confused as to why Japanese animators use western characters so much.

Overall, though, I think this is an excellent series with a deep story line and involving characters. I highly recommend it!