Legion Of Super-Heroes #7 (written by Mark Waid, pencilled by Barry Kitson, inked by Art Thibert and James Pascoe) goes to Colu, as Brainiac starts to piece together who’s been hounding the Legion. The emphasis on Legionnaire backstory isn’t as strong this issue, although the setting gives Waid a chance to fill us in on Brainy, however indirectly. He does a good job of making the misanthropic scientist sympathetic, and one gets the feeling that the hyper-intelligent Coluans are the picked-on nerds in the galactic high-school social strata. There is also some movement towards confronting Terra Firma, the villain group; but the shakeup in Legion leadership, advertised on the cover, doesn’t really happen this time out.
Astro City: The Dark Age #1 (written by Kurt Busiek, with art by Brent Anderson) kicks off the biggest, deepest, darkest Astro City storyline ever attempted, with a story set in the volatile, paranoid days of 1972. Astro City watched Watergate too (I was waiting for some little bit of alternate-history tweaking), and Busiek uses that lesson in abuse of power as a backdrop for a growing mistrust of superheroes. Actually, it’s more of a contrast, because even though Nixon was re-elected, the superheroes come off a little better. The story itself is told through the eyes of a thief whose brother is a policeman, but nothing much happens to them this issue — they are just eyewitnesses to history. As with any AC tale, there is the usual game of spot-the-surrogate, and Busiek works in a clever reference to Mike Friedrich, a young DC writer during the early ’70s, so it’s pretty much business as usual — and business, if I may say, is good.
Appropriately enough, Captain America #7 (written by Ed Brubaker, with art by John Paul Leon and colors by Frank D’Armata) is a Busiek-esque tale recounting the history of Jack Monroe, a fellow who (as the story points out) spent most of his life being the second guy in a famous costume. It is not a happy story, because we know Jack’s fate and we learn early on that he wouldn’t have survived long anyway. I am sure there are oblique clues to the “Bucky mystery” revealed last issue, but this issue doesn’t go out of its way to highlight them. In fact, it is set up so that virtually nothing from Jack’s point of view is absolutely credible — and yet we know that someone wanted him dead, so they must not have known his real problem.
Anyway, I had never “met” Jack Monroe before this issue, but Brubaker eulogized him well. I also enjoyed seeing the art of John Paul Leon, someone I’ve liked ever since his early work on Milestone’s Static. Here his lines are thicker and his work a little cleaner, so it looks a bit like Ty Templeton at first. However, soon it settles into his usual quasi-realistic style, not unlike David Mazzucchelli or Michael Lark, which fits perfectly with this tale and the current take on Cap as a whole. Frank D’Armata’s colors give depth and dimension, and may even be a little brighter and more varied than his work on the first arc. This standalone issue doesn’t have to fit into the larger story arcs to be enjoyed, but I am curious to see what Brubaker does with it.