Sunday, 6 February 2011

Retro Review: Captain America and the Falcon: Madbomb

Captain America and the Falcon: Madbomb collects Captain America #193-200 by Jack Kirby

It is a sad fact that the late Jack Kirby will always be more well known for his (admittedly spectacular) artwork than his writing. Indeed, his runs as writer for Marvel on Captain America and the Black Panther will always be eclipsed by his career defining work pencilling Stan Lee's seminal run on Fantastic Four. With that in mind I was unsure of what to expect from his Captain America work but this storyline happily does little to dispel Kirby's status as one of the comic book worlds most iconic figures.

Kirby's plotting itself is fairly unremarkable, while the story works well enough it is often overly complex, with some fairly sloppy pacing. A whole issue is devoted to an unnecessary and forgettable love interest, while the final confrontation between Cap and the arc's villain seems oddly abrupt and inconsequential. Despite these issues, this graphic novel was a great read. What the plot lacks in ingenuity it more than makes up for in heart. Kirby's great strength as a writer is in the weaving of real-world social issues into his plots without ever coming across as heavy handed or preachy, and this is something that definitely comes to the fore in this collection. Madbomb is much more than men wearing silly outfits hitting each other and is a much stronger read as a consequence, with some genuinely though provoking dialogue.

Of course it is impossible to review any Kirby-penned title without mentioning its artwork. Although Kirby's style is slightly dated it has aged remarkably well. His artwork is vibrant, dynamic and brilliantly detailed, aided by Janice Cohen's brilliantly vibrant colours. Kirby's fight sequences are outstanding as well, very well choreographed and packing a real punch. It is plain to see from his work here how he has come to be known as one of the finest comic book artists of all time.

While this story is hardly doing anything groundbreaking, it is an excellent example of Kirby's oft-ignored talent as a writer. The plot isn't perfect and the dialogue is sometimes cheesy but where this story really shines is in its refusal to shy away from difficult social issues, something that gives the story a somewhat timeless feel. Madbomb is a little known but heavily underrated story, by a man whose writing talents have sadly received little of the acclaim that they undoubtedly deserve. A very good read.