Let us here at PoP! guide you through a minefield of projects that seem full of win from the word go, but which once you delve into them have you shouting… It’s a Trap!
Written by Mark Waid
Art by Jorge Molina
Published by Marvel Comics
Captain America has long been one of my favorite Marvel characters, mostly due to his constant status as a “Man Out of Time” having been awakened from a decades-long coma and being forced to fit into the modern world. This aspect of his character was always more interesting to me than his patriotism or his enhanced abilities, because it offered a slightly different point of view of the overall Marvel Universe from someone who was literally there during its humble beginnings. In 2011, superstar creator Mark Waid put out a five-issue miniseries with artist Jorge Molina entitled Man Out Of Time that revisited the early days of Cap’s immediate experiences after being awakened by the Avengers in an attempt to show readers the internal trauma he experienced in having to get used to living in such a different era from the one he was so suddenly whisked away from. While this miniseries does occasionally mine some genuinely effective emotional beats from Captain Steve Rogers’ situation, it ultimately fails to tell a compelling tale overall and winds up kind of an uneven mess at the end of its run.
As expected, Man Out Of Time begins near the tail end of World War II, establishing the close bond that Rogers had with his crimefighting partner, James “Bucky” Barnes. The first issue shows us the terrible accident that supposedly took Bucky’s life and placed Rogers into suspended animation until being discovered and awakened decades later by the first Avengers team. The second issue basically retells the first half of Avengers #4, the issue that brought Cap into the Silver Age, and mostly deals with Rogers’ attempts to acclimate himself to this new era before eventually being convinced by Rick Jones (whom the hallucinating Rogers believes at first to be Bucky) to save the Avengers from an alien attack, which is strangely skipped over in this storyline. After Cap becomes a member of the Avengers, he still finds it hard to truly feel at home in this new era, which according to Marvel’s sliding timeline is around the year 2000. He entertains the possibility of going back in time to save Bucky with the help of Reed Richards, but is told by both Tony Stark and the President of the United States that such an attempt would potentially have disastrous consequences to the present. Disheartened by this news, Cap continues to fight alongside the Avengers until he is whisked back to the late-1940s during the team’s first battle with Kang the Conqueror. While he is happy at first to return to an era where he feels that he belongs, his duty to his new teammates drives him to try to find a way back to the present in order to defeat Kang, which is achieved in a way that is just as confusing and problematic as in most time-travel stories.
Despite staying fairly consistent in its point of view and in the overall arc of its main character, Captain America: Man Out Of Time completely fails to tell one complete story and instead shows us brief vignettes of three separate tales that Waid tries in vain to satisfactorily tie together. There are a handful of great isolated moments throughout the miniseries, such as a scene in which Tony Stark takes Cap on a tour of Washington and highlights all the great advances that have happened since World War II that is contrasted by a scene in which he witnesses many of the ways in which the nation still hasn’t lived up to what he envisions it can be. There is also a well-written scene in which Thor takes him to task for wanting to rescue Bucky from his fate, telling him that he would be robbing his former partner of the glory of having died while fighting for what he believed in. Since this book was written after Bucky was revealed to have been alive after all in the pages of Ed Brubaker’s legendary run on the main Captain America book, it does seem strange that Waid chose not to at least hint that Bucky did not actually die, but perhaps doing so would potentially dilute Cap’s sense of loss in the story. Despite these moments, Man Out Of Time doesn’t really congeal into a compelling single narrative, which isn’t helped by the fact that the only action scenes are brief, single-panel snippets of battles with assorted super-villains. Waid’s attempts to meld these Silver Age storylines with a more modern storytelling method doesn’t work very well either, since those stories were kind of silly by their very nature.
Ultimately, the time-travel hook that Waid adopts in the second half of the story tries to give Steve Rogers a way to accept his new identity in the modern world but in my opinion actually undermined many of the aspects of his character that I found most compelling. Being trapped in a world that in many ways has passed him by has continuously challenged him and made him such an interesting character within the Marvel Universe that having him choose to return to the present-day kind of takes away some of the aspects that always endeared him to me in the first place. While I appreciate what Waid tried to do here, it did not work for me in the slightest, which is the main reason why Man Out Of Time pales in comparison to some of his strongest work, such as his earlier run on the main Captain America book and his stellar runs on The Flash and Daredevil, among others. Still, he should be commended for trying something a little different with such a well-rounded character, even if it didn’t work out that well. Captain America: Man Out Of Time earns 2.5 out of 5 Kid A CDs.