Skip to content

It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s a last-ditch commercial ploy! – Super-Soldier #1

July 22, 2010

It’s fifteen years on and the “Amalgam Comics” line still reeks of the industry-wide desperation that spawned it. The comics boom had gone bust — foil-enhanced triple-gatefold die-cut hologram covers had done their damage, and the resulting glut had made the bean counters at both Marvel and DC a bit nervous. And what was the cure for what ailed them? An intercompany cross-over, that’s what!

I was in my last year of high school when the two big titans finally got around to their first real big mixer. Comics weren’t really my thing at that point. Girls, cars and varsity sports had kind of taken over my spare hours by then, so I missed out on the “fun.” Nowadays, whenever I see any of the mash-up titles from this event I just move right along — I can’t get worked up over the mainly lame amalgamations (hey, wait, that’s the title of the merged “company”!) that were truthfully nothing more than brief storytelling cul-de-sacs.

But (there’s always a “but” with me), while I was flipping through a box of cheap books the other day, I came across Super-Soldier #1. For those of you that haven’t guessed the obvious, S-S is a combo of do-gooder Boy Scouts Superman and Captain America. But that melding wasn’t what grabbed me. It was the artist for the book — Dave Gibbons.

I’ve always been a big fan of his art, and that fandom goes far beyond his iconic work on Watchmen. He did some nice stuff on Green Lantern that I enjoyed quite a bit, he collaborated with Alan Moore on one of the great Superman stories of all time, “For the Man Who Has Everything,” and I even like some of his purely solo work, like a black and white novel he did called The Originals. He has a clean, expressive, eloquent style that I appreciate more and more as I get older.

So, with Gibbons on board, I figured “Why not?”

The story in this issue (from Mark Waid, entitled “Secret of the K-Bombs”) is tissue-thin, and everything that occurs happens only to make all the crossover elements fall into place. We get the backstory early on — Super-Soldier was a young man who volunteered for a program in World War II and was injected with cells from a dead alien baby (I guess “Kal-El” didn’t make it in this universe). He serves with distinction, but is done in by “Ultra-Metallo” and gets frozen:

Frozen in ice. Like Captain America. Get it? GET IT?!

We soon learn who the uber-villain is:

Hey…Lex Luthor is green! Sort of like how the Red Skull is red. So he’s sort of a “Green” Skull. And he’s in charge of HYDRA! Get it? GET IT?!

The older-in-this-version Jimmy Olsen brings some bad news to his newspaper colleagues:

Jimmy Olsen is “Chief” now. And Clark Kent is a blond. Like Steve Rogers. Get it? GET IT?!

At least Gibbons didn’t have the watch stop at five ’till midnight. That would have confused things way too much.

So guess who’s off to save the day?:

I’m not sure why the shield is the Superman “S” symbol. I can see that it stands for “Super-Soldier” (and I suppose SS would be a little, how shall we say, inappropriate), but it seems to be an awkward shape for a shield. He’s also invulnerable, so why does he even need one? Unless its sole reason for existence is to tie in a Superman costume element — then it would stimply stand for “Get it?” GET IT?!

I won’t bore you with the action. It’s fairly predictable — Lex Luthor/Green Skull unleashes a dredged up and Kryptonite-powered Ultra-Metallo, S-S stops it, and then he drags our emerald-hued villain to justice. The end.

Well, not quite. We’re even hammered over the head in the letters column, with missives coming from such witty personages as “Simon Shuster” and “Kirby Siegel”:

Get i-

Aw, to hell with it.

I sound like an awful stick-in-the-mud, but I wasn’t really into this thing. I can imagine that it might have been kind of fun when it came out, but after the passage of years it comes across as incredibly predictable. It seems that every page you’re whacked over the head with some new jumbled up arrangement of elements. It gets old fast.

And I usually love Gibbons’ art, but it had sort of a Dan Jurgens-y quality in this title. That’s not the worst thing in the world, and it may just be from the Superman influence of that era, but it took a little something away from things. I’m not sure what it took away, but something.

So I didn’t even have that to enjoy. Poor me.

And I’m still trying to wrap my brain around why he has an “S” shield.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. July 23, 2010 3:28 am

    The Amalgam titles weren’t the greatest thing in the world, but one thing I thought was fun was that in one of the letters pages (Spider-Boy, I believe), they printed a letter from Olav Beemer. No fake names, no amalgamations, just Olav Beemer.

    I wonder where that guy is.

    • July 23, 2010 9:43 am

      Now that’s a funny name. Up there with “Wes Mantooth” from Anchorman.

      And just as an addendum to my post, let me say that I don’t want to bash the Amalgam titles too harshly. It’s just that a little of that stuff goes a long way, and it was like the comics companies were trying to sate a thirst with a firehose.

      • July 23, 2010 10:48 am

        Sorry, for the background on this: Olav Beemer was an actual prolific letters page writer in the 80s and 90s. He wrote soe many eltters that I think he was in at least one letters page per month. Just like Uncle Elvis and TM Maple.

        So of course, he’d have written to Amalgam too (though I’m sure it was fabricated).

      • July 23, 2010 11:06 am

        No worries — I’m familair with Mr. Beemer’s work, his name just always struck me kind of funny. It’s a real name with an unconventionality that makes you do a double-take. Thanks for posting that, though — I’m sure there are folks that don’t know that he was, indeed, an actual letter writer.

Trackbacks

  1. Super I.T.C.H » Blog Archive » Makin’ lINKs # 237

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: