Sunday, January 3, 2016

Comic Book Review: Captain America: Castaway in Dimension Z

Penned by Rick Remender, Captain America: Castaway in Dimension Z is a two-part storyline that reintroduces Steve Rogers as part of the Marvel NOW! comic run. Dropped into an alien realm ruled by the maniacal Arnim Zola, Captain America must escape a technological fortress and battle horrific alien tribes if he hopes to survive and make an escape home. Neon blues and purples decorate the bizarre backdrop of Cap’s new surroundings, and, in many ways, it feels like the First Avenger has been dropped into Remender’s other dimension-hopping series, Black Science.

Castaway in Dimension Z opens with a bang, and despite Cap’s ability to escape from Zola’s clutches, he ends up furthering the wrath of the Nazi-turned-robot villain by taking Zola’s artificially-created son with him as he escapes from the facility. The two encounter plenty of challenges over the many years they remain in Dimension Z – the monstrous wildlife is plentiful, and the two are nearly killed by a tribe of rock-like beings, only managing to come to peaceful terms with them thanks to a universal communicator that Cap has on him. But Cap did not escape Zola unscathed – he was infected with a technological virus that haunts him more and more as time passes, and Zola attempts to break Rogers’ mind.

Cap’s decision to take the boy (who he names Ian) from Zola, is brought into question as something of a morally grey action. As is later revealed, Ian was not the only child Zola intended to raise, but he did intend to brainwash both of them to do his bidding. Meanwhile, Zola’s virus torments Steve Rogers with questions of the justification of tearing the boy from his home, teaching him his own values and sense of right and wrong. As readers, we certainly know that Cap’s virtues will always trump those of Zola, but in the eyes of a child who has never known anything beyond this tumultuous and bizarre reality, it’s a lot to take in.

Less compelling to this narrative is Steve Rogers’ out-of-nowhere decision to finally attempt an escape plan after many years spent in this hellish domain, and a full beard grown. Certainly, Zola has many scientific monstrosities at his disposal, and storming his technological fortress is no small feat, but there is practically no explanation as to why Cap decides to wait until Zola’s plans for invading Earth are nearly complete before taking any sort of heroic actions. Visually, it’s an interesting setting to have Cap stranded in, and breaks from the familiar Hydra or A.I.M. bases that the First Avenger so frequently storms. Plot-wise, Castaway in Dimension Z is slow-going, and doesn’t offer many satisfying answers.

My rating: 6.25 (out of 10)

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