Marvel Masterworks: Captain America Volume 3
Pros: Lee takes time to evolve the character, Kirby and Steranko’s artwork
Cons: Feels quite stale in many places, weak ending
Captain America recognizes an old Nazi war criminal living his life as a well mannered civilian but decides to attack him anyway. Nick Fury appears and apparently betrays Cap by letting the man go as a friend. Cap is completely puzzled by this, and he hopes there’s more to Fury’s actions. – summary
The last volume was indeed very good as Captain America began to evolve more. He allied himself with SHIELD and started using their gadgets. Plus he found something of a love interest in Agent 13, whom is revealed to be Sharon Carter. This volume continues that path and along the way introduces a leader of a terrorist organization; but at the same time this batch of stories began to show that Cap really couldn’t carry a title as well as Spider-Man, Iron Man, Hulk and others, which is why I always felt that to be the main reason Falcon was introduced to his title later on; but that’s another story though. In any case, around 1968 it was kind of obvious that Stan Lee hit a creative snag in some of his titles, and I will always believe that Captain America suffered first. This TPB collects issues 101 – 113.
The plot begins with Captain America being given a mission and the lead takes him to the Red Skull, whom has chosen to activate his fourth Sleeper robot that had been dormant for years. Later on he sets up Captain America for another sinister plan. One thing here is obvious, next to Dr. Doom, The Red Skull was the most diabolical villain at this time, and he had the expertise to accomplish many things. He was a very and still is a very interesting villain, but Stan Lee really didn’t use him to his full potential though.
The encounters with Red Skull felt kind of familiar and at times simply annoyed me. It was just hard to buy into his ego being such a weakness, because it led to him making very foolish mistakes and the Red Skull is no fool or maybe he is. This time I felt their encounters to be kind of weak and routine, and I wanted Cap to feud with someone else. For me, their confrontations lacked the magic of Spider-Man vs. Dr. Octopus for example.
This volume simply has a stale feel with Cap frequently struggling over his loss of Bucky, and Agent 13 is too much of a plot device to spring Cap into battle on occasion. I simply didn’t feel many of these stories, and the confrontations with Swordsman and Batroc despite being pretty good in regards to the former, really didn’t help all that much. Stan Lee attempts to up the ante by falling back on a previous and critical story element. Captain America was on the verge of quitting, therefore he gave up his secret identity in an attempt to live a normal life. This comes back to bite him as his enemies and even newer enemies takes advantage of this. This adds an interesting dynamic to his character and on one occasion against Dr. Faustus it was used quite well. However, by the end of the book it seemed as if Stan Lee felt that was a mistake, and the events leading to some type of closure felt like a patchwork at best. There was so much I couldn’t buy into it and it just didn’t work to my taste.
The one major highlight is definitely Jack Kirby’s imaginative artwork. His pencils has bailed out Lee on numerous occasions especially in regards to earlier issues of Thor, and these issues are no exception. The man was able to craft some engaging action panels that worked towards Cap’s major strengths: his fighting ability and combat awareness. The action on his end is really good, and Jim Steranko’s cinematic art style followed up quite well. Despite the writing issues this is a fun book visually, especially during the final confrontation against Madame Hydra.
This volume of Silver Age Captain America isn’t bad, but it really isn’t great either, at least to me it’s not. There’s just so much lacking even down to the short meeting with The Hulk. I would only recommend this to serious old school comic fans and Captain America fans. This really isn’t something to run out for unless it’s going out of print.