Graphic Novel Review: Captain America: Man Out Of Time

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ONE of the first of the patriotic, flag-draped superheroes of the 1940s, Captain America enjoyed a healthy career during the war years, only to suffer waning sales during peacetime which eventually resulted in the cancellation of his comic titles.

Despite a brief revival as a “Commie-basher” in the 1950s, later retroactively revealed to be a second hero wearing the famous costume, to all intents and purposes the Marvel Universe’s first Captain America vanished in the dying days of WWII.

In the early 1960s, writer Stan Lee revived Cap as a member of the fledgling Avengers, explaining how he had been frozen in ice since the war, his body preserved in stasis by the super-soldier formula in his bloodstream which gave him his physical prowess. Cap has gone on to enjoy a healthy second career, and is still a major player in comics today.

This volume collects a retelling of the circumstances surrounding Cap’s disappearance at the end of the war and revival years later, updating the time frame to contemporary America rather than the ‘sixties, and consequently allowing for a greater contrast between the two eras.

Although there were obvious changes in society when Cap was revived in the 1960s, WWII was still within many people’s lifetimes, and he subsequently lived through more major developments like the civil rights movement, Watergate and the Vietnam War. The need to keep characters constantly young means a sliding timescale for the Marvel Universe, so such events as the origin of the Fantastic Four (seen as the beginning of the modern era of superheroes) always takes place no more than 10 years ago.

This actually benefits a character like Captain America, so very much a product of his time, as he is even more of a fish out of water in today’s society, which has transformed beyond all recognition compared to the 1940s and 1960s.

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Writer Mark Waid succeeds in capturing the idea of a time-tossed superhero waking up to discover he has become a symbol of a better America, and what that means for the man behind the mask, and also coming to terms with his place in a world nothing like the one he left behind. Not only does he realise he cannot go home again, but he eventually accepts his new place as a member of the Avengers, and the inspirational role he can now adopt.

Unquestionably one of the stand-out Captain America stories of any era, this is the perfect tie-in to the summer’s blockbuster movie.