Captain America, thrilling readers since 1941, has gone through a few editorial adjustments during his 75-year tenure. For instance, fans recently expressed their distaste for Cap’s newfound love for his old institutional enemy Hydra. Some retcons are less controversial than others though. Exhibit A: Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale‘s six-part mini-series shortsightedly entitled Captain America: White.
For the unlucky few who haven’t yet gotten a chance to read the rest of Loeb & Sale’s “color series” retcons (Spider-Man: Blue, Hulk: Gray, & Daredevil: Yellow), I recommend them heartily. But, even though Captain America: White is the latest iteration of Loeb & Sale’s unique treatment, it’s set decades before the events of their previous retcons.
As the Timely Comics Watchamacallit, I’ve dedicated the past few years to learning about the Golden Age of Marvel comics. So, naturally, this book excited me when I heard about it. Reading it, I was a bit underwhelmed – not much, but a bit.
My disappointment was mainly a byproduct of how much I like the rest of Loeb & Sale’s “color series,” and feeling as though Captain America: White lacked some of the emotional gravity that the others trade so well in. I’ll try to avoid spoilers because this is a relatively new mini-series, when comparing to the last comicbook I reviewed. Read on, True Believers …
Captain America: White – The Framing Device
Captain America: White makes use of the Loeb/Sale method of having the hero look back on a particular adventure that involves a late comrade or out-of-reach romantic interest. In Spider-Man: Blue, it’s Gwen Stacy. Daredevil: Yellow shows Matt Murdock thinking about Karen Page. And, Hulk: Gray revolves around Bruce Banner and Betty Ross‘s frustrating love life.
Captain America: White, though, breaks the mold slightly. Cap isn’t pining over a lost or unapproachable love interest, he’s mourning his fallen partner Bucky Barnes. And, since the framing device is set just shortly after his defrosting in the ’60s, Cap’s unaware that Bucky survived the war to become the infamous Winter Soldier.
Captain America: White – Familiar Faces [Spoilers]
I won’t discuss dialogue or the plot aside from mentioning that this mini-series concerns Cap and Bucky’s first mission. I will spoil a bit by mentioning the Marvel characters that make an appearance in this mini-series.
Readers of Sgt. Fury and his Howling Commandos will recognize the overworked commando team fighting alongside Cap and Bucky. We also meet the Cirque de la Revolution. They’re a band of acrobatic Nazi fighters that help Cap and the team out. Among the Cirque’s ranks is Olivier Batroc, the super-villain Batroc‘s grandfather. And, the framing device shows readers the original pre-Cap Avengers.
Readers also witness a brief appearance by the avenging son himself, The Sub-Mariner. And, for the serious nostalgia buff, there’s even an appearance of Steve Rogers’s Golden Age superior officer Sergeant Duffy.
But, no mini-series would be complete without a couple of villains. So, in attendance we have Baron von Strucker and the always evil Red Skull.
Captain America: White – What’s in A Name?
The title of a mini-series is generally its least important part, but this title is a bit mystifying. Publishing under the title “Captain America: White” while Sam Wilson, an African-American, and Steve Rogers are both using the name “Captain America” was a misstep. And, because I’m sure Marvel didn’t mean to highlight the two Caps’ different racial identities, I’m not sure of the title’s significance.
Of course, naming this mini-series “Captain America: White” highlights the fact that this is another of the Loeb/Sale “color series” (even though white’s not a colour). So, wouldn’t “Captain America: Red, White, & Blue” be more apt? Sure, but Marvel already published a trade paperback full of retcons and previously published material under that title. Plus, Marvel also published a trade paperback entitled “Truth: Red, White, & Black” that tells a very different Cap-related retcon story and uses the notorious (and horrible) Tuskegee syphilis experiment as its jumping-off point.
I suppose “Captain America: White” references young Cap and Bucky’s relative naïveté during their first mission.
Captain America: White – Don’t Judge a Book by Its Title
The title aside, Captain America: White tells a heartwarming tale of surrogate fatherhood mixed with the pain of losing one’s best friend. Knowing that Bucky actually survived the war, though, dilutes the emotional gravity of this mini-series significantly. If Marvel had published Captain America: White before Bucky’s return in 2005, it would’ve been more of a tear-jerker.
As it is, I’m glad I got to read it. Loeb’s understanding of Marvel characters’ motivations is, as usual, on point. And, Sale’s artwork brings these characterizations out in a dramatic and meaningful way. All in all, this is a good read for any Cap fan.