Writer: Jeph Loeb
Art: Tim Sale
Colors: Dave Stewart
Captain America White #4 continues the tale of Cap’s remembrances of the years of World War II that continue to haunt him to this day. He is feeling the pain more than anything over the death of one James Buchanan Barnes, and his own faults that may have led to that death. Scripted by Jeph Loeb and with art by Tim Sale and Colors by Dave Stewart, this limited series continues its high mark for quality, spirited adventure, and some of the most finely tuned treatment of the man that his Steve Rogers that has ever been written.
In issue #4, the party arrives in Paris, France to discover The Red Skull and Von Strucker cowing the populace into obedience while plotting who knows what horrors against the French people. Cap comes into direct conflict with a leader of the French Resistance, Marilyne, as the two cannot come to an agreement initially on how best to unseat the Nazis: focus on removing the Red Skull from circulation or protection of the populace and the fine art objects of France. Despite how many of us know Captain America as a cautious, always thinking battlefield tactician, Loeb portrays him as quite hot-headed in this time, and that enhances the conflict between Rogers, Marilyne, and one already seasoned Nick Fury.
The first thing that strikes you is how beautifully drawn and colored this book is. That hits you full force when you open to the first page, which is basically a portrait of the Red Skull, one corner of his mouth curled upwards in what must certainly be a tempestuous authoritarian speech. The second page is a wonderful full-page horizontal single panel with 4 character head bubbles in each of the corners. Stewart’s colors, which look like water colors, wonderfully bring out the best in Sales’ work. There are gorgeously painted shadows, and that second page is Skull and Strucker against a city skyline half-obscured by beautifully painted clouds or smoke. The storytelling is superb, as no two pages are the same and most of them do not follow any standard panel layout. But it’s also not off the wall panel layouts like a JH Williams joint, so the transitions from page-to-page are not jarring. The story is just carried along like a bottle on a lightly bouncing wave. It never stalls in its rhythm, but it also never kicks up into an unintelligible frenzy. There is one beat that can be missed when Cap opens up a door on an eavesdropping Bucky and hits him in the eye with the door. You might miss that and be confused when he has a black eye in later panels.
I typically do not go in for stories that are too antiquated, but Loeb paces this one perfectly. While there is a lot of dialog in this issue (few punches are thrown and hardly any shots fired), the story does a good job of making every conversation seem important. When Cap does spring out of conversation and into action, you can almost hear the heroic battle music playing in your head. The various scripted lines almost all reveal some element of Cap’s character. I’ve known the origin story and past of Captain America for a long time , but I feel like I am seeing this particular flashback episode for the first time. That can be attributed to the incredibly clean writing in this issue.
In a year in which I have been highly disillusioned by Marvel as a company, and question the focus of their strategic direction (or lack thereof), this series has stood out as being representative of what Marvel comics should be. A story that is full of heart, a villain who is absolute darkness, and the guilt driven angst of the world’s greatest hero (at least in Marvel)…there are few formulas for success that could compare to what this book is consistently doing from issue-to-issue. I would not mind seeing this as an ongoing. Nope. Not. One. Bit.