Graphic Novel Review: Captain America: Hail Hydra!

(Panini, �10.99)

TOWARDS the end of the Second World War, super-soldier Captain America, aka Steve Rogers, and his young partner Bucky (James Buchanan Barnes) are recruited by the anti-Nazi German Freedom League to investigate mysterious experiments in an isolated castle fortress.

They discover the insane Dr Geist is working on resurrecting fallen soldiers as part of an invincible undead army, but manage to thwart his activities before he can change the course of the war…

Flashbacks to key periods in history reveal Geist’s ancestors have been working for centuries as part of the secret conspiracy known as Hydra, a multi-faceted organisation with its roots in the third dynasty of Egypt, and influencing the course of history ever since.

Like the hydra of myth, the strength of this subversive terrorist force lies in its sheer size – cut off one limb and two more will take its place – ensuring its survival even in the face of apparent defeat.

Hydra’s prime mission has been in the creation of a formula for immortality, collecting together ancient artefacts linked to the preservation of human life beyond its natural parameters.

After being frozen in ice for decades at the war’s end, Captain America is eventually revived in the present day by superhero team the Avengers, only to discover Bucky apparently died in the same explosion which flung him into suspended animation.

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As he begins to acclimatise to a brave new world, Cap realises his old adversaries in Hydra are still very much active, and the story reveals his various confrontations with Geist over the subsequent years, culminating in a final clash alongside a resurrected Bucky, now wearing the uniform of Captain America following Rogers’ apparent death.

Like the acclaimed Man Out Of Time, Jonathan Maberry makes the most of Steve Rogers’ cross-generational career, his roots in WWII and revival decades later, shaping a story which pits the patriotic hero against an adversary whose evil spans the centuries. Each chapter is illustrated by a different artist in a style suitable for the particular era depicted, with Sergio Cariello, Tom Scioli, Phil Winslade, Kyle Hotz and Graham Nolan each taking a turn with the illustrations.

It’s another perfect collection to accompany the release of the summer’s blockbuster Captain America movie, with even the more complicated details of Cap’s history neatly explained.