Captain America Story: Nick Spencer (Writer), Jesus Saiz (Artist)
Spider-Man Story: Dan Slott (Writer), Javier Garron (Artist)
Free Comic Book Day is the one day of the year where comic companies gets to audition itself to the non-comics reading public and convince them to keep coming back. To that end, Marvel seems to have the FCBD formula down pat: it takes its “push” characters for the year and publishes them in standalone stories which still have a lead-in for the reader. But if this year’s Captain America comic seems to be a little repetitive of Marvel’s past offerings, that’s OK: this book isn’t aimed at people already reading Marvel, but at general audiences who need to know that coming back is worth their while.
So Captain America is, unsurprisingly, piggybacking off a certain movie that came out this weekend to remind the public that there’s more Cap stories out there. Serving as a lead-in to next month’s ongoing by the same creative team, this half-issue of Captain America tells a fun little story about the newly-rejuvenated Cap trying to take down a terrorist cell in Europe while his team back in America tries to prevent a repeat of 9/11 in New York. We get a rapid survey of Cap’s team, who are as new as they are familiar: Sharon Carter as S.H.I.E.L.D commander, former teen sidekick Rick Jones (who’s now been retroactively made into a Snowden-esque hacker), guest appearances by that “other” Cap, Sam Wilson, and an appearance by the world’s most obvious Cap villain.
Spencer’s story marks a return to form for Cap as he takes him back into the world of superpowered spies and espionage. If you enjoyed Ed Brubaker’s revitalization of Cap in the mid-2000s and were frustrated by more recent plotlines (such as Cap spending decades in another dimension), then you’ll probably enjoy this take as well. The only thing that could use some improvement is the art. Jesus Saiz’s drawings are fine (though I admit, Cap’s latest costume is frustratingly nondescript), the colors are a bit muddy and look a little artificial against the pencils. His take on Sharon Carter suffers the most, with excessive linework on her face making her look much older than she should be.
The back half of the comic is devoted to another Dan Slott Spider-Man story which sets up the “Dead No More” event coming this fall. It follows the same formula as Slott’s past FCBD Spidey stories (he wrote a “Spider-Island” setup for FCBD 2011 and one for “Spider-Verse” in 2014). Like the lead Cap story, Slott’s Spidey story is a basic Spider-Man adventure that gives us a broad survey of his current status quo and some of his supporting characters. The story’s ending will be a shock moment for longtime readers, though members of the general public who aren’t up on Spidey’s history might be confused by the surprise appearance.
Both stories are a good basic foray into the Marvel Universe of 2016 and make a decent introduction to comics for the Captain America: Civil War fan who’s never read one. If you didn’t get to your shop for FCBD, hopefully they still have one.
Rating: 4.5 out of five shields.