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Month of Cool Avengers/X-Men Comic Book Moments – Captain America Takes Issue With the Red Skull’s Salute

All month long we will feature brand-new Cool Avengers and X-Men Comic Book Moments in celebration of their fiftieth anniversaries this month. Here is an archive of all the past cool comic moments that I’ve featured so far over the years.

You folks all enjoyed the last Captain America moment I shared from Geoff Johns, Olivier Coipel and Andy Lanning’s Red Zone storyline that I figured I’d share one more, from Avengers #69…

Again, the concept is that the Red Skull has infiltrated the highest levels of the United State Government and has a plan to take total control of the government through the use of a terrorist attack (chemical warfare using the “Red Death” gas that made him look like he does). The Skull claims that he is embracing the American Dream. As you might imagine, there is a certain Avenger who disagrees with this notion…

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Very awesome.

There are a few other great moments from Red Zone, but I think I’ll settle for picking just one more before the month is over. It involves Red Skull on the wrong end of some poetic justice.

22 Comments

I didn’t like this scene at all- wouldn’t someone have noticed that the Secretary of Defense didn’t have any background until about a year before he got the job? The Skull couldn’t have brainwashed every reporter, intelligence analyst, etc. in the entire world, could he? (And if he could, why not just use the brainwashing gizmo to take control of all the leaders of the world?)

Geoff Johns’ stint ran hot and cold with me. He brought back Gyrich, Falcon, Scott Lang, and Black Panther, but dispatched my favorite Marvel hero, Jack of Hearts in a gruesome manner. Typical of Geoff, I know. But at least Jack got better.

What I liked about this was, despite his defiant, angry entrance, Cap actually got defeated by the Red Skull at the end of Avengers vol 3 #69. And so who had to step up to the plate and fight him in the next issue? None other than the Black Panther, with an assist from the Falcon. Yep, the two Avengers who the Skull, due to his virulent racism, regarded as his inferiors, were the ones to kick his butt. I especially loved that moment when T’Challa took off his gloves, showing of his dark skin to the Skull, and calmly tells him “I’m going to break you jaw.” This, of course, totally enrages the Skull, just as the Panther knew it would, and he proceeds to give Schmidt an epic beat down.

Coipel’s art for me is right on the line of “is it too cartoony or not” (I think it’s not just by a hair) but damn if that isn’t an awesome full panel of Cap. That needs to be a poster.

I don’t like this scene. It feels too Geoff Johnsy. Geoff Johns has this thing, and it fits in better over at DC comics under Didio, where he will do the whole “iconic and admirable” thing with the heroes, with moments that are mawkish and put there to be “oh shit!” moments, usually on single page or double page splashes. But they always feel insincere and contrived to me, and strangely manipulative and unearned. Like he’s just aping past moments that were better executed and more sincere, in an empty, going-through-the-motions way, something to just put in there because he knows it is cool and is a popular trope and is part of the tradition.

To me, when i read a Geoff Johns moment, he just seems to do whatever cliche/trope he thinks is cool, and they are all interchangeable. A zombie villain who has sex with corpses, a psycho cannibal villain shown eating a pregnant woman’s face, a genocide by a laughing mad man, a baby blown to shreds with a shotgun, Superman or Captain America standing with a flag in a cool pose? They all seem to hold equal weight in a Geoff Johns stories, all just flat, 2 dimensional, cool moments that eventually end up all feeling cheap. If anything, when I read a Johns story, I feel he actually feels more passion for the misanthropic, gory, murderous aspects of his stories than the supposed “inspiring” ones like this one. This Cap scene is cliched and uninspired beyond belief and could come from any past Captain America stories, but when it comes to showing villains doing depraved, disgusting acts, suddenly Geoff Johns is inventive and diverse beyond belief, coming up with ways to disgust and revulse me that I never ever imagined.

A very low part of his Avengers run to me was when he used the threat of a creepy pedophile gearing up to rape Scott Lang’s daughter as a long, drawn-out cliffhanger. The idea of using child rape as a nail-biting cliffhanger I thought was in poor taste. I don’t mind touching on the subject of child rape to make a bigger point or produce great art, but reducing it to just a way to put the audience on the edge of their seats and give them an adrenaline rush or nail-biting moment was disgustingly cheap to me. But with Johns, I feel when I read moments like that on the written page, his heart is way more into those moments and that iconic, inpsiring moments like what Brian showed above are almost throwaways that he wasn’t anywhere nearly as emotionally involved with.

I like him better at DC because the whole editorial tone of the company seems to fit into his misanthropic style of writing, drenched in carnage and misery but punctuated with throwaway, mawkish faux-inspiration moments to make it all seem okay at the end of the day.

Very awesome indeed. I should re-read ‘Red Zone’ sometime soon :)

I just want to make clear, I don’t think moments like what’s shown above are inherently mawkish and insincere. When Kirby, Stern, DeMatteis, Claremont, Simonson, and others go for them I totally buy into them. It’s just something about how Geoff Johns does them that feels insincere and unfairly manipulative. Like he just does them to make the audience feel better for wading through the cesspool and ugliness he just subjected them to. With other writers, the bad stuff feels like it’s there as an excuse to allow them to go to town with the heroic inspiring stuff. With Johns, I feel the heroic, inspiring stuff is there as an excuse to go to town with the disgusting, depraved stuff.

It should be noted that “Red Zone” was semi-adapted into an episode of The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes.

Dell Rusk = Red Skull. I slapped my forehead so hard it raised a welt. How did I not see that?!?

I think because we’ve had two “Rusks” in prominent government positions so it sounds like a lame play on their name. Misdirection.

@fraser I was talking comics with a friend once and was telling him good Red Zone was and how cool the Red Skull reveal was and he kept looking at me like I was a complete idiot. I realized it was because the whole time I had been talking I had been calling him Dean Rusk.

I should go back and re-read Johns’ run. I remember at the time that I really liked the team line-up — Cap, Warbird (in a really bad, generic redesign), Scarlet Witch, She-Hulk, Falcon, Black Panther, etc. — but the stories left me cold. It was a huge disappointment after his JSA run. “Red Zone” was probably the highlight, but even that I found “off.” Some posters above loved the “Dell Rusk” bit but I thought it was groan-inducingly corny. If you’re a supervillain infiltrating the highest echelons of American government, you use a ridiculous anagram of your bad-guy name instead of, say, something that would not raise any eyebrows? (Not that Skull has eyebrows to raise…)

Still, I should go back and re-read. I may have been predisposed to disappointment given how much I loved Johns’ DC work at the time, how frustrated I was with Avengers during Busiek’s interminable Kang arc, and then the follow-up arc by — shudder — Chuck Austen.

” A zombie villain who has sex with corpses, a psycho cannibal villain shown eating a pregnant woman’s face, a genocide by a laughing mad man, a baby blown to shreds with a shotgun ”

I know the first one is Black Hand, but what about the others?

What I liked about this was, despite his defiant, angry entrance, Cap actually got defeated by the Red Skull at the end of Avengers vol 3 #69. And so who had to step up to the plate and fight him in the next issue? None other than the Black Panther, with an assist from the Falcon. Yep, the two Avengers who the Skull, due to his virulent racism, regarded as his inferiors, were the ones to kick his butt. I especially loved that moment when T’Challa took off his gloves, showing of his dark skin to the Skull, and calmly tells him “I’m going to break you jaw.” This, of course, totally enrages the Skull, just as the Panther knew it would, and he proceeds to give Schmidt an epic beat down.

While I don’t normally like Geoff Johns’s writing, that is indeed a great touch. I never read that part of the run, so I didn’t know about it until just now, but that is something many writers would not have thought of and for that Johns deserves a lot of credit. For too many well-meaning white writers, good moments for black characters means suffering indignities with their heads held high and not being broken by them, while for white characters good moments means having agency and kicking ass and taking names. It’s often very patronizing, bordering on benign racism. Kudos to Johns for not falling into that trap.

I know the first one is Black Hand, but what about the others?

The psycho cannibal villain eating a pregnant woman’s face wasn’t real. I was just trying to come up with a convincing Johnsian villain moment. If you want to replace it with another sick Johns moment that actually happened, you can use the human Nazi buzzsaw who cut through a woman and her child with his body in JSA. Genocide by laughing mad man was something I’ve seen several times, but I can’t recall specific single example. Baby blown to shreds with a shotgun was in a JSA issue. I believe the baby was resurrected via time travel or something. I forget details of the story.

” The psycho cannibal villain eating a pregnant woman’s face wasn’t real. I was just trying to come up with a convincing Johnsian villain moment. If you want to replace it with another sick Johns moment that actually happened, you can use the human Nazi buzzsaw who cut through a woman and her child with his body in JSA. Genocide by laughing mad man was something I’ve seen several times, but I can’t recall specific single example. Baby blown to shreds with a shotgun was in a JSA issue. I believe the baby was resurrected via time travel or something. I forget details of the story. ”

The sad thing is, I totally believed you. We might as well come up with a master list moments of Geoff Gorn (which would also include a severed head and arm sticking out of King Shark’s mouth, Red Lantern Mera spewing boiling blood all over her zombie Black Lantern baby, and a baby bird graphically plummeting to its death in Brightest Day).

My comment is still awaiting moderation three days later? Brian, what did I ever do to you? :)

My comment is still awaiting moderation three days later? Brian, what did I ever do to you? :)

Spoiling the aforementioned other moment from this story that I’m going to feature later on. ;)

T. – Maybe you’re too hard on Johns. Yes, he has his gory moments, but I’m not as convinced that he gets such a jolt out of them. Maybe the “problem” isn’t Geoff Johns, but that there has been a sort of escalation of violence in superhero comics? Say, you’re a writer and you want to show that supervillain X is dangerous, what do you do? Robbing banks is almost heroic with guys like the Joker and Major Force out there.

I became sort of burned out on his writing, but Johns had some genuinely tender characters moments in his books that I recall. Not necessarily the tough guy heroic posture kind of inspiring, I don’t think he excels at that, but there were things like Hal Jordan spending time with his brother’s family, and Atom-Smasher’s moral fluctuations in JSA, that were good old superhero soap opera.

I think my problem with Johns was with the constant line-up changes, characters coming and going, mega-events, crossovers, there was a sense of futility about it all. It’s strange, because people usually buy his books and Bendis’s books at Marvel, because they’re supposed to be the ones that “matter”, the “official” chronicle of those superhero universes, but I got the opposite impression, it became hard to care when Secret Sinestro Invasion segued into Infinite Dark Realm or whatever.

Now, I don’t know if Johns and Bendis are at fault because they shaped the superhero comics of the past decade to be like this, or the corporate comics environment of the last decade shaped their writings, or perhaps both.

Oh, okay, fair enough, Brian. Sorry about that. Keep up the good work :)

By the way, just for the record, the Red Skull first embraced his own twisted notion of the American Dream in Captain America #350, written by Mark Gruenwald. Nevertheless, this is a well-presented moment.

Honestly almost none of Johns villains moments have really stood out to me, which for me is a good thing since I don’t like villains, but also tells me I never found them to over the top.

I thought Johns’ Avengers run was an under-appreciated gem. There were some nice character bits that really felt like classic Avengers (one of the last times the book really had that feel).

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