Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Captain America: Living Legend Review (Andy Diggle, Adi Granov, Agustin Alessio)

At last - a good Captain America book! Because Cap is the very definition of whitebread, has a boring shield he can only use as a magic Frisbee, and has zero personality, the flag-wearing boy scout is almost never interesting to read about by himself (and frankly not all that much fun to read in the Avengers books either). The one exception was the fantastic Winter Soldier story and now, joining that rarefied league of good Captain America books is Living Legend, the story of Cap killing a Russian cosmonaut possessed by an alien! 

That might seem like an oversimplification but it’s not really – in the four issues that’s basically the story: alien craziness kicks off in Siberia, Cap goes to fight alien, Frisbee fighting ensues. It jumps around a bit in time from the end of WW2 when Cap first meets the Russian soldier Volkov, to the early 60s when the Soviets still had a space program and Volkov gets shot into space, to the present day, but it’s all easy to follow stuff and gives the necessary background on Cap and Volkov’s history to make the story more meaningful to the reader. 

The cosmic monster that possesses Volkov is a mix of biological and mechanical elements and is described as an entity composed of dark matter from the dark side of the moon - if you’ve read The Authority, picture Angie the Engineer and you’ve got it. It’s actually a good enemy for Cap as it’s susceptible to the vibranium in his shield meaning Cap can defeat the villain by being himself without having to get help from the Avengers. 

The series is also notable for being Adi Granov’s first comic since the awesome Iron Man: Extremis. Though he only draws the first issue, his superb artwork is as gorgeous as it’s ever been and it’s a shame he rarely draws comics besides covers. That said, Agustin Alessio draws the other three issues and his artwork is no less impressive than Granov’s, uncannily mirroring his style immaculately. Living Legend is a pretty dark book with writer Andy Diggle going for a blend of early Ridley Scott space horror to Warren Ellis’ Ultimate Galactus stories (Ellis loves writing about the forgotten dark experiments the Soviets worked upon, now abandoned and getting crazier as the years pass), and the art is well suited to the tone. 

Watching the trailer to The Winter Soldier and reading Living Legend, there’s a noticeable effort on the part of Marvel to make Cap seem more superheroic than he is – specifically leaping out of planes. He jumps without a ‘chute in the trailer (incredibly cool moment but should mean certain death for him unless Hulk catches him on the way down, Avengers movie-style!) and in Living Legend he does a HALO (High Altitude, Low Opening) jump from 10 miles up in the atmosphere, which is practically space, without an oxygen tank! At that height, unprotected eyeballs freeze in an instant but Cap’s alright, and he even lands without a parachute! Insanely silly action hero stuff for still a very street level character but cool moments, nevertheless. 

Living Legend isn’t going to be anyone’s favourite comic ever but for simply being a short, interesting Captain America action/adventure story, it succeeds across the boards. Diggle’s writing and plotting is fine, Granov and Alessio’s artwork is spectacular, and Cap comes across very heroically – the consummate soldier. It’s never boring and I enjoyed it throughout – Living Legend is definitely worth picking up to see what a good Captain America book looks like!

Captain America: Living Legend

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