Graphic Novel Review: Ultimate Captain America
FOR comics newbies, there’s likely to be a degree of confusion about the so-called Ultimate Universe. In a nutshell, it’s an 11-year-old largely self-contained series of books which are supposed to be more grounded in reality than the mainstream Marvel U. One of the benchmark characters of the line is its version of Captain America, aka Steve Rogers, a hardened combat veteran with 1940s sensibilities, and a love of his country which hasn’t been clouded by the events of the latter half of the 20th century.
Like his MU counterpart, this Cap was also frozen in ice for decades, but unlike his alternative version, he’s a no-nonsense, front-line soldier not afraid of using lethal force to get the job done.
This collection of the recent mini-series by writer Jason Aaron and artist Ron Garney reveals that following the original’s disappearance at the end of WWII, the American military establishment tried to re-create the super soldier formula which gave him his incredible abilities, and ended up creating a new, more aggressive Captain America in the 1960s.
Volunteer Frank Simpson racked up a massive body count serving his country during the Vietnam War, until psychological pressures caused him to go AWOL until the present day, when he returns to confront his predecessor and attempt to reclaim the Cap identity.
Rogers pursues the rogue Cap back to Vietnam and a village already transformed through a synthesis of the super soldier serum, where he is captured and is physically and psychologically tortured as Simpson attempts to brainwash him with anti-American diatribes…
What follows is a battle of wills between the two diametrically opposed Captains, and allows Aaron to comment on the changing nature of American society since Rogers took the mantle in the 1940s, and how Simpson’s own experiences 20 years later left him disillusioned and disheartened by the country he once so ardently loved.
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In common with much of the Ultimate line, there is a feeling that this story tries a little bit too hard to be relevant, but that aside it’s a nice self-contained tale which adds further depth to this particular version of Captain America.