CAPTAIN AMERICA: Captain America Lives Again by (mostly) Stan Lee and Jack Kirby collects the early years of Cap’s Silver Age series (leading up to the second collection, Coming of … The Falcon), plus his resurrection in Avengers and an early tryout story (Human Torch battles Cap, who turns out to be an imposter). Like the second volume it’s worth reading but severely flawed, though for different reasons.
On the plus side we have Kirby’s dynamic art, plus a John Romita story (notably more romantic in tone than Lee/Kirby) and Gil Kane (I’m inclined to say more realistic than Kirby, though I’m not sure that’s the difference). We have, for much of the series, Lee’s intense, melodramatic dialog; coupled with Kirby’s art he creates the feeling this is not only the greatest battle of Cap’s life but the greatest battle of anyone’s life. And the following issue, they do it again. There’s also SHIELD agent Sharon Carter, one of the few love interests on the front lines in Silver Age Marvel, and much tougher than Invisible Girl and Wasp usually came across.
It takes a while to get to that point, though. First we sit through a half-dozen stories where Captain America has to defeat a dozen or so generic thugs, while informing them they have no hope of taking down a man with a lifetime of combat training. But Steve Rogers doesn’t have that: he became Captain America in 1941, when he was 19 (other sources may differ by a year or two) and went into the ice in 1945, when he was 23. As comics blogger Brian Cronin has said in some of his Avengers reviews, Lee frequently writes Cap as if the guy had stayed in action for the two decades since the war ended. In reality he’s only slightly older than Peter Parker (I feel a story idea in their somewhere …).
Stan and Jack then do some fun WW II stories (including the origin of the Red Skull) before bowing to reader requests and returning to the present. Now we get espionage, SHIELD agents, supervillains and Sharon. However the romance is really odd: even though they’re instantly attracted to each other, it’s still hard to buy Cap proposing on their first actual date (leading to a rather illogical twist in which he not only quits but reveals his identity). Overall, though this is fun despite the flaws.
The sixth shadow novel, THE DEATH TOWER, opens with psychoanalyst Dr. Palermo meeting a troubled patient in his penthouse — and having him strangled. This gets him the man’s priceless sapphire, after which he disguises himself as the dead guy to carry out another murder. This fools the cops but not the Shadow; however Palermo’s penthouse is a booby-trapped fortress and reaching him won’t be easy. This was excellent except for the handling of Palermo’s mistress, a nurse who kills for him; after the Shadow turns her, he ignores the murder and sets her free.
As I’ve mentioned before, buying my friends’ books is a little nerve-wracking, but WOLFBANE: The Coldstone Files Book I by Jason Gilbert turned out to be a good read. The protagonist, James Coldstone has inherited money and lycanthropy from his father, but lives quietly due to Dad’s locally infamous murder spree. He does use his powers to help his cop best friend crack supernatural cases, but the one he takes on this book proves nastier than expected, involving an evil shapeshifter, a human-trafficking ring and a sexy werecat. And things get messy and very public … I’m not particularly a werewolf fan and urban fantasy is hit-or-miss with me, but this one was a winner.
Mary Beard’s WOMEN AND POWER is the print version of two lectures on the title topic. One, about women’s voices and they way they’re treated as unsuited to the public square (men demand or ask, women supposedly whine), was interesting. The other, on men’s control of the halls of power, covered stuff more familiar to me.
#SFWApro. Covers top to bottom by Jack Kirby, Kirby again and S.H. Roddey.