Captain America Annual #1
Written by Tini Howard
Art by Chris Sprouse, Ron Lim, Karl Story, Walden Wong, Scott Hanna, Jesus Arbutov, Erick Arciniega and Israel Silva
Lettering by Joe Caramagna
Published by Marvel Comics
‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10
Taking a trip down memory lane, Tini Howard, Chris Sprouse, and Ron Lim engage in some good old-fashioned heroism in Captain America Annual #1. Trapped deep behind enemy lines, Cap and Bucky come across a group of escapees from a nearby concentration camp. Their mission becomes instantly clear; survive the night and get these people out of Germany. But while the plot itself is fairly straightforward, writer Tini Howard taps into a deep vein of pathos as Steve and Bucky are faced with pure, all too real evil and see how those caught in its wake fight and carry on. Stocked with vintage Steve and Bucky action and a strong, deeply resonant emotional core, Captain America Annual #1 is a finely constructed standalone story.
Steve Rogers and Bucky Barnes aren’t strangers to the horrors of war. But that is what makes them heroes - they have seen the worst in people but still strive to protect the best in them. This is the core tenet of the pair’s character that Howard makes excellent use of. Looking for a route back to friendly forces, Cap and Bucky come across a plucky group of former detainees, rounded up according to the detestable criteria of the Nazi “science” divisions. Though initially distrusting, the group welcomes in Cap and Bucky as it becomes quickly apparent that the pair are the group’s only hope for survival.
Though almost quaint in relation to recent Cap narratives set in the past, Howard’s story really nails the honor and righteous fury of a wartime Cap and Bucky. By bouncing the pair off of one another with quippy banter and allying them with, in Cap’s words, the “real heroes” of the conflict, Howard really sells the everyman energy of the early characterizations of Cap and Bucky along with presenting the era with a clear eye. Howard’s story delivers all the ugliness and unexpected hope of the war, but remembers to pepper in some choice Cap-versus-Nazis action, making it a fantastic modern interpretation of old-school war hero comics.
Howard also has the best men in her visual platoon to sell her story with artists Rom Lim and Chris Sprouse. Given delicate definition by the inks of Karl Story, Walden Wong, and Scott Hanna and rich, lushly vintage colors by Jesus Arbutov, Erick Arciniega, and Israel Silva, Lim and Sprouse’s styles combine in an expressive, fun combination reminiscent of the recent arcs in which artists Chris Samnee and Patch Zircher wielded the shield. Sprouse handles most of the establishing scenes early in the annual, selling both the calculated, graceful fighting styles of Cap and Bucky as they take down a German patrol, as well as the issue’s emotional core when they make contact with the frightened but determined trio of escapees.
As the night continues and more and more Nazi patrols stalk the woods, determined to recover the “undesirables,” Ron Lim’s lithely propulsive artwork brings it all home. From Cap making a break for a nearby radio tower to a joyous cameo from another wartime hero, our heroes make a thrilling stand against the Nazi war machine rendered in a cinematic finale sequence thanks to Lim’s sleekly detailed style. While Captain America Annual #1 succeeds thanks to its realistic and heart-wrenching look at WWII, it is also nice to know that this creative team makes good use of the spectacle and theatrical action of the period as well.
If you like your Captain America tales with more period flair and a hefty dose of Nazi-punchin’, then the Captain America Annual #1 is the comic for you. Given a beating heart and fantastic characterization by Tini Howard and classic war comic visuals by a stocked roster of talented artists, inkers, and colorists, this annual cuts right to the core of what makes Captain America such a resonant character both then and now.