Captain America: Marvels Snapshots (2020) #1
Writer: Mark Russell
Artists: Ramón Pérez, Rico Renzi & Joe Sabino
The latest installment of Marvel’s “Snapshots” anthology presents a story about regular people struggling in the wake of Earth’s mightiest heroes. Writer Mark Russell applies the Kurt Busiek/Marvels spin on the Madbomb arc of the 1970s’ Captain America comics, allowing us to view its events through the eyes of an everyman from an angle that, like its protagonist, is sometimes overlooked.
There is an important aspect of this one-shot that should be addressed before anything else: for a story titled Marvels Snapshots: Captain America, Captain America has a limited presence in the story. By page count, Cap appears for less than half of this issue. Most of his appearances are action shots, some without dialogue, and most shared with Iron Man and the Falcon. Cap’s limited role doesn’t necessarily detract from the quality of the story, but it doesn’t meet the expectation set by a title and cover that feature him so prominently.
The story’s real focus, which it portrays well, is the struggle of an average person whose life suffers because of the actions of superheroes despite their best intentions. The first Madbomb incident badly hurts the residents of the South Bronx, including the family of teenager Felix Waterhouse, financially and emotionally. Felix notes that New York’s heroes seem to have abandoned their neighborhood. His financial straits force him to find work with the terrorist group AIM, where he discovers a second Madbomb. It is only through Felix’s intervention that AIM is stopped and only through Felix’s words that Cap and his fellow heroes change their perspectives on heroism.
Cap may not actually achieve much in this issue, but Snapshots: Captain America presents a relatable story about an intelligent character who feels trapped by circumstances out of his control, who believes that he has no choice but to turn to crime because no other opportunity exists within his reach. However, in spite of all he loses, he still chooses, in the end, to act for the good of his community. It’s nothing we haven’t seen before, but it’s a relevant story with which readers can easily sympathize.
Artist Ramón Pérez and colorist Rico Renzi team up on this issue with an art style reminiscent of Marcos Martin’s. There are some well-drawn, dynamic action scenes peppered throughout, which helps offset scenes of characters standing, sitting, and talking without much else happening. Pérez uses bold linework with fairly heavy shadows and black inks to emphasize detail, while Renzi’s flat coloring gives the art an appealing retro-feel (this is, after all, an homage to ‘70s Jack Kirby). Renzi’s choice of color palettes also suits the story quite well, with scenes in the South Bronx colored primarily in drab greys, browns, and yellows, whereas scenes using brighter blues, greens, and yellows, offering a noticeable contrast between each setting.
If there are gripes to be had with this story, they are with its characters and aspects of its premise. Other than Felix, most of the characters are throwaways, faceless AIM grunts, and robots or nameless street punks. Felix’s boss at AIM, Harold Bainbridge, is a cookie-cutter bad guy with nothing unique to say or do. Even Falcon and Iron Man, the heroes who feature most prominently here other than Captain America, are very minor characters. Felix is the only really interesting character in this issue and, as its protagonist, ends up carrying most of the plot on his own. A decent character moment between Cap and Felix helps tie it together but also makes me wish there had been more moments like these throughout.
My problem with the story’s premise comes from the heroes’ attitudes towards the South Bronx. Several panels show shops and homes in ruins and literally on fire, with residents looting what still stands, yet Felix states that not a single superhero intervened the entire time. That the entire population of New York’s costumed crime fighters would simply ignore an entire section of the city is hard to believe, especially given their sheer numbers. It’s equally hard to believe that characters like Captain America and Spider-Man, native New Yorkers who have seen their fair share of economic hardships, would seemingly do nothing to help people in this part of their city.
Marvels Snapshots: Captain America is a mixed bag. Readers expecting a story that focused more on Captain America himself will probably be disappointed. The issue’s actual story is fairly strong, due in large part to a relatable protagonist, but its other characters don’t impress. The art by Ramón Pérez and Rico Renzi has an appealing retro look, and the narrative throwback to Jack Kirby’s Madbomb story is entertaining. However, this issue could have capitalized more on its title and on the overall premise of the anthology.
Captain America: Marvel Snapshots #1
Marvels Snapshots: Captain America is a mixed bag; readers expecting a story that focused more on Captain America himself will probably be disappointed. The issue’s actual story is fairly strong, due in large part to a relatable protagonist, but its other characters don’t impress. The art by Ramón Pérez and Rico Renzi has an appealing retro look, and the narrative throwback to Jack Kirby’s Madbomb story is entertaining. However, this issue could have capitalized more on its title and on the overall premise of the anthology.