Writer: Mark Russell
Artist(s): Ramón Pérez, Rico Renzi
Letterer: VC’s Joe Sabino
Cover(s): Alex Ross
Release Date: June 24th, 2020
Price: $4.99 USD
Marvel’s new “Marvels Snapshots” series of one-shots are (according to Marvel) “…stories focusing on the historical context and the human side of superhumanity.” Spinning out of Marvel’s eponymous 1994 series Marvels, retelling classic comics narratives from the POV of an “ordinary person” documenting a world filled with heroes in capes and tights. The premier issue certainly ticks that box, but is it any good? Let’s dive in and check it out.
I’ll summarise this issue in a few sentences, then fill in a few gaps: Remember the mad bomb? Well, betcha didn’t know there were plans, a la a second Death Star, for a second one. Thanks to a teenage genius toaster repair kid, A.I.M.’s plans get foiled.
If you don’t remember The Madbomb story, you can read it in Captain America vol.1 193-200. Basically, a psychoactive bomb is set off in New York that makes everyone REALLY ANGRY. You wouldn’t think it takes some of the most brilliant scientists in the world and a billion-dollar budget to piss off a bunch of New Yorkers, but hey. Suspension of disbelief and all that, right?
Anyway, Cap and jive talkin’ Falcon deal with rage zombie Manhattanites, and Cap disposes of the bomb. We check in with the new protagonist of our story- Felix Waterhouse, a teenage genius toiling away in the family appliance repair shop, who is smart enough to go to college by day, but it’s tough being a poor African-American kid in South Bronx. His dad has a little money set aside, but thanks to the destruction of the city because of rage zombies, that money has to go to repairs of the shop and medical bills. It all looks very sad until a man in an ill-fitting suit comes a-knockin’. His name is Harold Bainbridge, and he has a summer internship at A.I.M for Felix. Some moral quandaries and false reassurance from Cap later, Felix is off to earn his very own beehive hat at an A.I.M base under Manhattan. We get the hierarchy of working at A.I.M., and while Felix is toiling away, saying big words like “granularity”, he eventually gets recruited to help fix the next Madbomb.
Another moral quandary later, Felix decides to covertly sabotage the project. It goes as well as you’d expect- Harold, now in an Ill-fitting lab coat, decides they have to kill him. Luckily, Cap, Falcon, and Iron Man are in the neighborhood and dive in, save Felix, and… apparently leave the A.I.M. underground base intact for more shenanigans. I can’t imagine how that might not be a great idea. Felix turns down a job at Stark Industries to keep working on B&W tv’s and toasters and not go to college for some reason, but instead help rebuild and gentrify the South Bronx because nothing says job security like working the family business fixing up TVs. Just wait until Felix sees the Maytag commercials in the ’80s!
If you’ve ever read Mark Russell’s story before, you know what you’re in for. A political allegory and social, commentary with the usual capes and tights crowd. No change to the formula here, and in amazingly prescient timing, he weaves a story about African-American disenchantment and the feeling of being “left behind” by a system with presumably good intentions. It is an interesting viewpoint, even if some of the nuts and bolts don’t make total sense (repairing a tv and being smarter than the most brilliant scientists in the world, for one) but Mark Russell does a good job getting the vibe mostly right. I’m not crazy about the stylized, ink heavy art, with some distorted faces and generally odd facial expressions throughout, but it works for the rage zombies and weird stuff in the A.I.M. Bunker. I realize it’s a Cap Book, but I would have liked to see Falcon take Felix under his wing (pun definitely intended) because having the whitest man ever talking to a teenage African-American boy when you have a successful African-American hero flying around doing nothing? Get Felix to college, will you??