Fighting American: The Ties That Bind (#1 – 4) – Gordon Rennie

4 out of 5

This should not be as much fun as it is.  A Captain America redux – Jack Kirby and Joe Simon were frustrated that their patriotic adventurer had relaunched their creation without their purview and so offered up this second iteration of the hero for Crestwood Publications – as re-scripted by a Scottish writer, “modernized” via the tired, fish-out-of-water method of transporting a 50s hero into modern times…  The hero is a rewrite; the story is pastiche.  But: FA, while certainly of the Cap DNA, is only a copy in as much as any cape-wearing hero is a copy of Superman, and Rennie knows goddamn comic books so well that he can somehow straddle the line between cheek and tribute in his telling, while still – somehow – managing to develop a standalone plot and set of characters.

In our last outing, we tracked FA and sidekick Speedboy’s tech-assisted jump into their future (out present) in pursuit of a villain from their time.  They trumped said villain, but not before further evil-baiting creations could be seeded from past to present, bringing forth a whole new wave of baddies who promised to give future FA arcs their fodder.  By allowing for the 50s vs 2010s culture shock but not allowing it to guide the book, and by playing “fair” and inserting FA and SB into the current regime as an extension of the FBI, Rennie kept the book moving forward, incorporating laugh out loud moments, great Kirby action, and a compelling, evolving world of characters.

Ties That Bind follows up pretty closely on arc one in a logical fashion, with our duo attacking the promised bad guys, but behind the scenes, an old archnemesis is pulling strings from within the FBI to fracture the team, already exacerbated by Speedboy’s growing pains.  As with the time-travel humor, Rennie doesn’t wallow in this; SB’s reactions are believable (within context) and not obnoxious, and Rennie leverages this into some snarky Fox news snipes and general media commentary.  This is just as much fun as arc one, if not even moreso because we’re not split between playing catch-up and establishing a status quo.  Artist Andie Tong proves to be the perfect sub for Duke Mighten, bringing his own sense of pacing and style while sliding alongside Mighten’s Kirby-ized paneling.  Tracy Bailey again colors this thing to the nines – a wonderful balance of 50s pulp brightness and modern day dimness – and Simon Bowland again letters, occasionally struggling with bubble placement reading order, as he’s ought to do.

While I’m always a big fan of isolated-but-connected miniseries (a la early Hellboy), which seems to be the model FA is following, this arc in particular contains a lot of – for now – dead ends: plot points that are built up but don’t result in anything in these issues, presumably to be used later.  This is a bit surprising from Rennie, who’s a pro at the self-contained tale from 2000 AD and quite deft at expanding things without doing so for no immediate reason, but it’s only a distraction at this point – wondering how / when / why this stuff will come back – as opposed to an immersion killer.

Here’s hoping we do, indeed, get enough arcs to see this insanely fun title bring those various plot points to the fore.