REVIEW: CAPTAIN AMERICA MOVIE COMIC SERIES "HEAVY ARTILLERY" CAPTAIN AMERICA
2011 really does seem to be the summer of the super-hero -- movie, that is. There was one thing in particular that I was hoping for from the Captain America line. I'll admit I wasn't terribly interested in a figure based on the movie likeness for Cap. I understand that some super-heroes are going to translate better into a "real-world" movie than others, and that there is going to inevitably be some modification, but I did feel that some parts of Cap's movie design were not to my liking.
Fortunately, what I was hoping for -- I got. When the Captain America action figure line debuted, it was divided down just as the Iron Man 2 movie line had been -- into three segments: Movie Series, which featured characters based specifically on the film; Concept Series, which featured characters based on -- well, whatever someone could come up with that seemed workable one way or another; and Comic Series, which featured characters based on their original likenesses from the comics.
And HERE is where I found what I wanted, which I honestly hadn't seen even in the Marvel Universe line -- a good, basic, straightforward, comic-accurate Captain America. Not the movie likeness. Not his World War II likeness with the open neck and the badge-like shield. Not the Ultimates version of Cap. And certainly not Bucky as Cap. I'm talking about the proper, round-shielded, modern-day, Steve Rogers, Star-Spangled Avenger Captain America!
Officially, the figure is designated "Heavy Artillery" Captain America. But this is only due to the additional accessories. As far as I'm concerned, they could call him Pizza Cutter Captain America and have him come with a pizza cutter whose blade is Cap's shield, as long as the shield is otherwise workable as Cap's main accessory, and he's dressed properly. And this Captain America is.
Let's consider the background of Captain America. It's a rather unusual one. Technically, Captain America is one of very few characters known to modern Marvel audiences that actually predates the Marvel Universe. Alongside Namor the Sub-Mariner and the original, android Human Torch, and a handful of their enemies, these characters were actually first published in the late 1930's and early 1940's, around the same time as DC, then known as National Comics, was turning out the early adventures of Superman and Batman in what would come to be called the Golden Age of Comics.
Unlike Superman and Batman, however, who, setting aside certain multiversal retcons, were published consistently through the decades to the present day, Cap and his contemporaries, published by then Timely Comics, would largely fall by the wayside following World War II. When the "Marvel Age of Comics" got rolling in the 1960's, with the development of the Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, the Incredible Hulk, and others, it was decided to find ways to bring back some of these characters from the past decades. Particularly in Captain America's case, that jump over time has become an integral part of his backstory.
Captain America first appeared in Captain America Comics #1, which debuted in March of 1941, and was created by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby. An intentionally patriotic character who was often depicted as fighting the Axis powers of World War II, Captain America was Timely Comics' most popular character during the wartime period.
After the war ended, the character's popularity wanted and he disappeared by the 1950's. There was an ill-fated attempt at a revival in 1953, when Marvel's 1950's iteration, known as Atlas Comics, attempted to revive some of its superhero titled. Cap was billed as "Captain America, Commie Smasher". This lasted less than a year, and in fact, the Captain America that appeared in these stories has since been retconned to be a different individual entirely.
Another false Captain America turned up in a story featuring the modern Human Torch of the Fantastic Four, which appeared in 1963. In the story, Johnny Storm believes he has encountered the original Captain America, who has returned after years of retirement. This Cap, however, turned out to be a villain named the Acrobat, but the story was a means of testing the waters to see if readers would like the real Captain America to return.
Captain America was then formally reintroduced in The Avengers #4, in 1964, which explained that in the final days of World War II, he had fallen from an experimental drone plane into the North Atlantic and spent decades frozen in a block of ice in a state of suspended animation. He quickly became the leader of the Avengers, trying to adapt to then-modern life in the 1960's.
As to his specific origin: Steve Rogers was born July 4, 1917, in the Lower East Side of Manhattan, to Irish immigrants Sarah and Joseph Rogers. His father died when Steve was only a child and his mother died of pneumonia when Steve was a teenager. By early 1940, before America's entry into World War II, Rogers is a tall but scrawny fine arts student specializing in illustration. Disturbed by the rise of the Third Reich, Rogers attempts to enlist, only to be rejected due to being in poor shape.
U.S. Army General Chester Phillips, looking for test subjects, offers Rogers the chance to serve his country by taking part in a top-secret defense project - Operation: Rebirth, which seeks to develop a means of creating physically superior soldiers. Rogers volunteers for the research and, after a rigorous selection process, is chosen as the first human test subject for the Super-Soldier serum developed by the scientist "Dr. Josef Reinstein", later retroactively changed to a code-name for the scientist Abraham Erskine (darn those decades-long continuity glitches...)
That night, Operation: Rebirth is implemented, and Rogers receives injections and oral doses of the Super-Soldier Serum. He is then exposed to a controlled burst of "Vita-Rays" that activate and stabilize the chemicals in his system. Although the process is arduous physically, is successfully alters his physiology almost instantly from its relatively frail form to the maximum of human efficiency, greatly enhancing his musculature and reflexes. Erskine declares Rogers to be the first of a new breed of man, a "nearly perfect human being."
Once again there were some continuity problems over the decades, as the process Rogers underwent has varied from account to account, ranging from injection, to oral formula, and then the Vita-Rays. The retelling of the story in Captain America #255, by John Byrne, ultimately stated that all three were used in combination, a sort of "what the heck, it works" fix.
After the physical transformation, a Nazi spy reveals himself and shoots Erskine. Because the scientist had committed the crucial portions of the Super-Soldier process only to memory, it cannot be duplicated. The spy is killed, but he has done his work.
The United States government, deciding to make the most of its one super-soldier and to hide all information about Operation: Rebirth, re-imagines Rogers as a superhero who serves both as a counterintelligence agent and as a patriotic symbol to counter Nazi Germany's head of terrorist operations, the Red Skull. To that end, Rogers is given a uniform modeled after the American flag, and based on Rogers' own sketches, a bulletproof shield, a personal sidearm, and the code-name Captain America.
He is given a cover identity as a clumsy infantry private at Camp Lehigh in Virginia. Barely out of his teens himself, Rogers makes friends with the camp's teenage mascot, James Buchanan "Bucky" Barnes.
Barnes accidentally learns of Rogers' dual identity and offers to keep the secret if he can become Captain America's sidekick. Rogers agrees and trains Barnes. Later, Rogers meets President Roosevelt, who presents him with a new, circular shield, forged from an alloy of steel and vibranium, fused by an unknown catalyst. The alloy is indestructible, yet the shield is light enough that it can be used as a discus-like weapon and readily thrown, and so well balanced that it can be angled to return to him. It proves so effective that Cap forgoes his sidearm.
Throughout World War II, Captain America and Bucky fight the Nazi menace, as well as various Nazi-affiliated super-villains. In late April 1945, during the closing days of World War II, Captain America and Bucky try to stop Baron Zemo from destroying an experimental drone plane. Zemo launches the plane with an armed explosive on it, with Rogers and Barnes in hot pursuit. They reach the plant just before it takes off, but when Bucky attempts to defuse the bomb, it explodes in mid-air. Bucky is believed killed, and Rogers is hurled into the freezing waters of the North Atlantic. Both are presumed dead.
Years later, the newly-formed superhero team The Avengers discovers Steve Rogers' body in the North Atlantic, his costume under his soldier's fatigues and still carrying his shield. He has spent the intervening time frozen in a block of ice, and worshiped by a local tribe of natives, until (ironically enough), an enraged Namor, one-time teammate of Cap, having recently lost a battle, comes upon the scene and flings the block of ice, Cap and all, into the ocean, where the ice begins to melt. After Cap revises, the Avengers piece together that Rogers has been preserved in a block of ice since 1945, surviving only because of the enhancements of Operation: Rebirth.
Captain America has since remained a man out of time -- often increasingly out of time as his World War II origin remains intact, unlike other heroes who have shifted forward somewhat in their origins as the decades have gone by. Steve Rogers has a fondness for music from the 1930's and 40's, which strikes many of his friends as distinctly odd given his apparent youthful age, and on at least one occasion, Captain America has made a decidedly disparaging remark about the Internet.
On the heels of the events of "Civil War", and as part of what I feel is the increased politicization of Marvel Comics, Steve Rogers was assassinated. This proved to be unsurprisingly temporary, although the character's death came as a blow to co-creator Joe Simon, who said, "It's a hell of a time for him to go. We really need him now."
Perhaps just as unsurprisingly, there are those on both sides of the political spectrum who believe that Cap should be used as a voice for their side. Series writer at the time, Ed Brubaker, commented that one side wanted Cap "to be giving speeches on the street corner against the Bush administration" while the other side wanted him "over in the streets of Baghdad, punching out Saddam Hussein."
Ultimately, Rogers returned, although he allowed his former sidekick, Bucky Barnes, who had also survived, to retain the role of Captain America, which he had undertook. However, as of this writing, there are plans to return Steve Rogers to the role of Captain America -- just in time for the movie!
As to his powers and abilities, technically, Captain America has no superhuman powers, although as a result of Operation: Rebirth, he is as close to a perfect specimen of human development and conditioning as is possible. Captain America's strength, endurance, agility, speed, reflexes, durability, and healing are at the highest limits of natural human potential. It's probably worth noting that in a couple of Marvel/DC crossovers, Cap has held his own against Batman, arguably the DC Universe's closest physical equivalent.
Rogers' battle experience and training make him an expert tactician and an excellent field commander. Roger's reflexes and senses are also extraordinarily keen. He has blended judo, western boxing, kickboxing, and gymnastics into his own unique fighting style, and is a master of multiple martial arts. Years of practice with his indestructible shield make him able to aim and throw it with almost unerring accuracy. His skill with his shield is such that he can attack multiple targets in succession with a single throw or even cause a boomerang-like return to attack an enemy from behind. He is regarded by other skilled fighters as one of the best hand-to-hand combatants in the Marvel Universe.
Rogers has vast U.S. Military knowledge and is often shown to be familiar with ongoing, classified Defense Department operations. He is an expert in combat strategy, survival, acrobatics, military strategy, piloting, and demolitions. Rogers also has a broad understanding of the espionage community, largely through an ongoing relationship with S.H.I.E.L.D. In his civilian identity, he has held careers in law enforcement, commercial art, and even comic book illustration, for a time even drawing the "in-universe" version of the Captain America comic.
The shield is considered almost as iconic as Cap himself, and in more than one timeline, has proven to be long lasting. Both the time-traveling mutant super-hero Cable and the future space explorer Major Victory have unearthed Cap's shield in their respective far-flung futures, and used it as both as a weapon of defense and a symbol of inspiration.
Captain America's uniform is made of a fire-retardant material, and he wears a lightweight, bulletproof "duralumin" scale armor beneath much of his uniform for added protection, which is what gives the upper torso its "chain mail" look.
He also seems to naturally engender the respect of his peers. Spider-Man, when offered a place on the Avengers by Rogers, commented that you just don't say no to Captain America, and Hercules once eulogized him by saying that on Olympus, while various character traits were compared to other gods, when it came to courage, they compared to Captain America.
For myself, I've always liked the character, even if I haven't cared for his occasional bouts of politicization on the parts of various writers. What the character represents to me is an ideal of America, one which we probably won't ever achieve, since there's just too many differing opinions on what that ideal should represent, but I tend to think that it's not for nothing that his costume is based on another symbol of that ideal, the American flag.
So, how's the figure? Well, as I said at the top of this review, I'm sincerely pleased to see a good, straightforward figure of Captain America as he is best known. It's about time. And this really is an outstanding figure.
Captain America stands very slightly over 4" in height. He has a solid, muscular physique, I think somewhat moreso than most of those found in the main Marvel Universe line.
Of course, most people are familiar with Captain America's costume design. Cap wears a blue cowl with a white "A" on the forehead. His eyes, lower face, and ears are exposed. There are tiny little white wings on the sides of his cowl. I've never entirely understood the purpose to these, if there is one, but I know that he doesn't look quite right without them. The "Ultimates" version of Captain America eliminated this detail, and -- he just doesn't look quite right.
The upper torso and upper arms of Cap's uniform are also dark blue, with a scaled look to them, representing the fact that they're armored. I've always thought this was an interesting if somewhat curious detail, since it seems rather limited in scope. If it is intended for protection, is the rest of his uniform similarly, if more subtly, protected? While it protects the neck, upper arms, and chest, and presumably certain vital organs, there's still no shortage of other areas where Cap could be injured.
There is a white star on the chest and on the back of Cap's costume. The abdomen is alternating wide stripes of red and white. While the illustration of these stripes has tended to vary over the years, these days it's fairly traditional to have a red stripe in the center, and have the stripes be broad enough so that there are three red stripes evident on the front, and three on the back. And this is how the figure has been designed.
Cap has a black belt with a silver buckle, dark blue leggings, and red boots with folded cuffs. His lower arms starting at the bicep are white, and he is wearing red gloves with a slight flair to them.
The figure has been very skillfully done, with all details just as they should be. The abdominal stripes are sculpted as well as painted, and they are very neatly painted. The scaled ridges on the upper torso are intricate and orderly -- which can't have been easy for the sculptors.
Most significant to me is the neatness of the stars on the front and back, and the "A" on the forehead. The number of times I have seen these botched over the years...! I realize that the shape of the star is open to some artistic interpretation, and some artists like to draw it large and wide, but I've always felt that it should be as regular-looking a star as possible.
Toy Biz once did a 9", cloth-costumed Captain America figure that was a little ridiculous. They went for a massive, almost irregular-shaped star, that was so spread across the entire upper torso of the uniform, that the white textile paint or whatever they'd used had actually begun to crack. Years later, when Hasbro first obtained the Marvel license and did a limited series of 9", cloth-costumed figures, their Captain America had a more regular star -- and the figure looked a lot better for it.
And so does this Captain America. Also of significance is the "A" on the forehead. I've seen this messed up, as well. Some artists like to draw the "A" with a fairly wide bar at the top, as well as the crossbar further down. Now, according to how I learned to write the alphabet, the letter "A" is a fairly triangular letter. Fortunately, on this figure, somebody remembered that. I'm not sure what font this is, and it's imprinted onto the figure's forehead, not even sculpted on (but somehow, that makes it look more authentic and appropriate), but it's a good, proper, bold letter "A". This is how Captain America should be.
Most of the paintwork is excellent. If one area comes up a little short, it's the lower arms, which are molded in red for the sake of the gloves, and then the portion above the glove is painted in white. On one arm, somebody's aim was a little off. Curiously, I encountered the same thing on the USAgent figure from this line, who wears a uniform somewhat similar to Cap's.
His face is superbly well painted, and well sculpted. Captain America's face rightly reflects an image of heroic determination. His eyes, which are blue, have been very neatly painted. I never fail to be impressed by how it's possible to paint such tiny eye details on such a small figure, but it's something that Hasbro excels at in any number of their lines, many of which are of a similar scale to this one.
Of course, the figure's articulation is excellent. Captain America is fully poseable at the head, arms, elbows (including a swivel), mid-torso, legs, upper leg swivel, knees, and ankles. The upper leg swivel is interesting, as it's not quite the ball-and-socket design that some early Marvel figures had (and which honestly didn't work that well), but neither is it the more G.I. Joe-like leg construction that more recent Marvel Universe figures have had. It's somewhere in between, and honestly, it works very well, and looks decent.
Let's discuss the shield. Of course he has his shield. For one thing, it's a pretty good size. It's about 1-3/4" in diameter. Secondly, the detailing on it is perfect, and even moreso given that it's painted on, not sculpted in. Cap's shield features a series of concentric stripes -- red, then white, then red again, before ending with a dark blue circle in the center that has a white star in it. The shield has a slight metallic finish to it. It really is as cool as the figure.
It has a clasp on the back that can clip on to Cap's wrist. This can be rotated around to bring up a peg, which allows the shield to be connected to Cap's back. This is not an uncommon means for Captain America to carry his shield when he needs to have both arms free, although obviously, in the comic books, he slips the two straps on the back of his shield over his arms.Then there's the device which denotes this figure as "Heavy Artillery" Captain America. It's a medium-sized launcher, that looks like it's designed to be clipped onto Cap's lower arm. But it's big enough so that you hope he's been keeping up with those workouts. A fairly angular thing with what looks like a couple of near-wings, which are painted in metallic red, while the rest of the device is dark blue, it comes with a small dark blue missile which can be launched from the spring-action mechanism within. It's not much more than a play gimmick, but it's well-made.
So, what's my final word? Okay, technically this figure is part of the Captain America movie line. And the movie Captain America doesn't quite look like the traditional Captain America. But if what you're looking for IS a traditional Captain America, well, here he is, in the Comic Series section of the Captain America movie line. And based on my own observations, he's easily one of the most popular figures in the entire line, and I can't say I'm surprised. This, to me, and I suspect to a great many Marvel fans, and Captain America fans -- this IS Captain America, at his finest. And it really is an excellent action figure of the iconic character. Any Captain America fan will want to have this figure.
The CAPTAIN AMERICA MOVIE COMIC SERIES figure of "HEAVY ARTILLERY" CAPTAIN AMERICA definitely has my highest recommendation!