This review contains minor spoilers.
Captain America is a character standing on a long, complex, and often lauded history — we all know this, we often celebrate it. However, at the core of every book about him, at the core of his very character, is one central question: “What does one good person do in the face of overwhelmingly bad, nay, evil odds?”
Captain American Annual from writer Tini Howard and a talented team of artists (too many to list) answers those questions in the best, most capable of ways: through a short but, effective vignette. One story, just a handful of people in the middle of seemingly never-ending world war. It may even seem inconsequential, but, it matters to the characters involved and that makes all the difference.
Following Cap and Bucky through their run-in with, and subsequent rescue of, a group of Soviet, Jewish, Roma and other runaways in Nazi-controlled Germany during the height of WWII, the story is a simple, almost spartan, character piece about responsibility — not to a greater good necessarily, but to each other. It works.
Howard writes a tight, well-paced and controlled script that although is lacking in fluidity, (noticeable mostly in the side characters) exudes a confidence I found reassuring and affable. Especially so, through the eyes of Cap and Bucky who speak idealistically, yes, but also approachably and reasonably — they know not only their limits but also the limits of the non-super heroes here and they play to those limitations. It’s a kind of unspoken, but present, narrative tell that adds a palpable level of realism.
The art, too, is a wholly fluid and simply effective affair. While it’s not necessarily dynamic, and I do wish it was a little gritter, as the story here is dark and the fear should be a little more palpable, the way characters bound across panels and pages is a fun, slick touch – effective, easy to follow and totally fitting for the level of heroism at hand.
All in all, this is a simple story. One of people looking to each other for help. Captain America and Bucky’s personas melt away, their identities become those of men who are idealistic but practical, their momentary compatriots are people who need help and who are also willing to offer it to each other — individuals seeking to do good in the face of that overwhelming evil. It’s not complex, it lacks a shocking villain, but it doesn’t matter. That’s not the story being told. The story being told is one of resilience, one of passion, a sense of duty, and of compassion. And on those merits? This is a complete and total success just like the rescue taking place on its pages.