For a lady who spends a lot of time talking and writing about comics, there are times when I am shocked by how little I seem to know about them. Out of the four ladies, I think it is safe to say that I discovered comics the latest. So while I am always reading and exploring new comics, I have found that I’ve still got a lot of catching up to do. Part of this catching up involves me going back and seeking out the “classics” – the ones you MUST read, the ones that made such an impression that they changed the character or the genre itself.
I know I’m not the only one with an interest in such things. The comic book sales each time a new Marvel or DC film comes out is proof enough of that. So while I educate myself on why there are two Human Torches and and which Captain Marvel says “Shazam!”, I thought it might be helpful to share what I’m reading and how accessible it might be to those of us whose main source of comic book universe info comes from movies and cartoons. The plan is a simple one: read the books and then share a lot of the who and what you need to know so you aren’t spending too much time looking up things on various wikis rather than enjoying the story. Think of it as our own comic book Cliffs Notes – a little something to help you out so when the big reveal comes at the end, you get it…mostly.
With the second Captain America movie slated for April, I figure that’s as good a place to start as any. So here we go: you own introductory guide to Captain America and the Winter Soldier.
The Plot: For more than 50 years, the Soviets have utilized the skills of the Winter Soldier – an unstoppable and faceless assassin. Now he is under the command of General Lukin, who also has a Cosmic Cube to aid him in his plans for evil and destruction. When Captain America hunts down the cube and its owner, he finds himself up against not only the Winter Soldier, but also the ghosts of his past.
AIM (Advanced Ideas Mechanics)– The Marvel Film Universe introduced AIM in Iron Man 3, but in the Comic Book Universe, it has been around since the second World War. AIM is an organization filled with evil genius scientists who plan to take over the world through means of advanced technology.
Agent 13/Sharon Carter – At the time of this book, Sharon Carter is an agent of SHIELD under Nick Fury. Though her romantic relationship with Steve Rogers (Captain America) has ended (this time), the two remain quite close. Oh, and if that last name sounds familiar, that’s because she is the niece of Peggy Carter, The Captain’s love interest from his pre-deep freeze days.
Cosmic Cube – This is an easy one since the Cosmic Cube (also referred to as the Tesseract) has been in a few of the Marvel films. But actually, it isn’t that easy if you want to get into the mechanics of what a Cosmic Cube really is and how it works. My advice for those of you who crave a huge amount of detail, to check out the wikipedia article. Once again, for the purpose of this story, we just really need to know that the Cube has incredible power and can be used to alter reality itself. Quite a nice accessory for any bad guy hoping to rule the universe.
Crossbones – Brock Rumlow is a mercenary/assassin who’s previous employer list reads like a Who’s Who of villainy. He and the Captain have a history, and it isn’t a good one. Needless to say, a showdown between these two is going to be epic because Crossbones is no B-lister.
Falcon – Sam Wilson’s story is a bit more complex, involving adopting and training a falcon in Harlem and then answering an ad to help some guys in the tropics who were looking for a falcon to help out with their hunting. Well, turns out these guys were former Nazis, and the Captain got involved. The result? Falcon trained with the Captain for a bit and the two teamed up for a time. They are buddies, so much so that Falcon takes up the mantle of Captain America for a time when it is believed that Steve is dead.
Human Torch (1 and 2) – All you really need to know for this story is that there are two. Jim Hammond was the first and considered the “Golden Age” Human Torch. He is from way back at the very beginning of Marvel comics. The other Human Torch is Johnny Storm, member of the Fantastic Four, and just so happened to be played by Chris Evans in the Fantastic Four films a few years back.
Namor/Submariner – Another one of the original Marvel characters, The Submariner (Namor is his proper name) is considered one of the first comic anti-heroes. This is mainly because his prime interest is protecting the ocean, so he will team up to save the world…but really only because the ocean is part of it. Most of the time, he feels that humans should stop being jerks and take care of themselves.
Zemo – Wait what? There are two of these guys too? More actually? *sigh Ok, ok… Father and son. German Barons. Here we go. The first Baron Zemo created weapons for Hitler and was actually a rival of the Red Skull’s until they teamed up to go after Captain America. It was Zemo who tied Captain America and Bucky to the experimental plane that exploded – killing Bucky. After Zemo dies in a avalanche while battling the Captain, Zemo’s son takes his place and works for the Red Skull for a time as well. So, if you think about it, this Zemo is from a legacy of hatred for our dear Captain. And that’s some pretty powerful motivation right there.
So what’s the big deal anyway? Brubaker really knocks it out of the park with this one. He takes a character who’s pretty much a plot device and turns him into something interesting, frightening and complex. Bucky is completely reinvented and to be honest, he’s pretty bad-ass and heartbreaking. You know how people like to throw around the term “game changer” all the time? Well this one truly does change the landscape of Captain America’s story. If you are even remotely interested in dipping into the Marvel comic book universe, this is a great place to start. The only real question is, what other stories are this good?
Actually, that is a GREAT question! Hey, Captain America experts out there (and I know who some of you are), what is your list of must read Captain America stories? Share below and help the rest of us pick our next read.