Welcome to the latest installment of Breather Books. These are comic book stories that are commonly referred to as “done-in-one”. There are no 12 part “epics” that will change everything, for-real-this time, here. Instead these are single issues, or graphic novels, that can be enjoyed, as a complete story, start to finish. If you are tired of event books and need a rest, these books are for you.
Since Captain America: Civil War came out in theaters a few weeks ago I thought it would be a good time to feature a Captain America comic. Therefore, today’s entry is 2011’s Captain America: The Fighting Avenger.
Written by Brian Clevinger of Atomic Robo fame and drawn by Gurihiru. This book was a companion piece to the critically acclaimed Thor: The Mighty Avenger series, featured in the first Breather Books article. Originally, this was slated to be a mini-series, but was condensed down to a one-shot before publication. Upon reading, this 44 page tale suspiciously looks like 2 issues of a series under one cover. A seeming cliffhanger on page 22 of the book reinforces this, but does not hinder the story. While I don’t recall any reason given for the change publicly , I would assume declining sales on the Thor book lead to cold feet on this project.
The conceit of the book is a clean slate, but classic feel for Captain America, similar to the approach of Thor: The Mighty Avenger. During World War 2, an elite military strike force is saddled with babysitting a costumed, but inexperienced Steve Rogers through a straightforward mission. The team balks at Rogers tagging along with them due to his greenness and the obvious bullseye his costume is in the field. There is a good joke throughout where his military superiors have not settled on a public name for the new super-soldier yet, so a slew of test names is given, with his comrades deriding him with them.
Once on their mission to destroy an unguarded bridge, the team is ambushed by a Nazi squadron as they have fallen into their trap. Imprisoned in a nearby castle, Rogers gains the attention of a Dr. Schmidt who deduces that he is a result of the American Super-Soldier program that the Nazis sabotaged. Escaping from their cell, Rogers and the team launch an assault on the Nazi base. Steve goes after Schmidt who has consumed a vial of a substance developed by Germany’s human enhancement program.
He is able to go toe-to-toe with Rogers and seems to have the advantage. Until, the formula has the unexpected side-effect of burning Schmidt from the inside, and of course burning off his face leaving him with a red skull for a head. Rogers and the team escape the castle and blow it up on their way out. At the end a newspaper is shown telling of the team’s victory and the newly dubbed Captain America.
This story acts as a great start to what could have been a long running series, but is a great story on its own. Free of continuity and no baggage, this issue gives a look at a rarely seen inexperienced Captain America who is not yet the leader he will become. Just seeing the team questioning him and viewing him as a burden is novel for this character.
Captain America: The Fighting Avenger is a little harder to find digitally online, but is out there. It is also available from some online retailers, but as always check with your local comic shop first for a physical copy you can chill out and read sometime. There was also a Free Comic Book Day Special that teamed up Fighting Avenger Captain America with Mighty Avenger Thor that would have been the only other appearance for this version of the Captain. It’s worth seeking out and to read and complete your Mighty Avenger/Fighting Avenger collection.