Marvel is rolling out several one-shot special issues under the banner of Captain America: Theater of War. These issues are designed to give supply the reader with Golden Age tales of Captain America and his missions during World War II. I dig the idea of further fleshing out Cap’s history, but I was hesitant to purchase any of these issues since I already am overrun with buying so many Secret Invasion and Final Crisis tie-in issues every single week.
Then I saw that Daniel and Charles Knauf were slated to write Captain America: Theater of War: Operation Zero Point #1. I am a huge fan of the Knaufs and decided to go ahead and give this issue a try. I am confident that Captain America: Theater of War: Operation Zero Point #1 will be a quality read. Let’s go ahead and hit this review.
Writers: Daniel & Charles Knauf
Artist: Mitch Breitwieser
Art Rating: 6 Night Girls out of 10
Story Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 7 Night Girls out of 10
Synopsis: We begin in Poland in 1944. Captain America is on a military plane getting ready to be dropped in Poland behind enemy lines. Captain America thinks how the Army told him about the Nazi’s secret program being conducted in Poland. Evidently, the Nazi’s have beaten gravity. The scientist in charge of the program, Ernst Fleischer wants to defect and promises to build the U.S. a squadron of Foo Fighters.
Captain America mumbles “Yeah right.” to himself. Captain America is supposed to rendezvous with Lior Eshel, an agent with the Polish resistance forces. Cap mutters to himself “What kind of name is Lior, anyway?” Captain America then thinks how he is supposed to infiltrate the base, extract Fleischer and then blow the base up.
Captain America thinks that whenever you put “top secret” with “Hitler” you always get some crazy program involving robots, werewolves or something else funny. Captain America mumbles “Guy must read way too many funny books.” The soldier next to Cap keeps asking what he is mumbling and Cap keeps responding “Nothing.” as he focuses in on his mission.
We cut to Captain America having landed on the ground. Cap heads to the rendezvous point and realizes that Lior is a rather good looking female agent. Lior informs Captain America that they are located at The Trophy Field where the remains of aircrafts lie that were unfortunate to fly through the flying saucers’ kill zone.
Captain America scans the area with a pair of binoculars. Cap spies the German leader of the program along with a bunch of Nazi soldiers. Captain America comments that the German leader is a huge man. Lior tells Captain America that the German leader of the program is called The Butcher. The story goes that he was mauled by a bear when he was thirteen and lost an eye and half his face. The story continues that the Butcher then wrestled the bear to the ground and snapped the bear’s neck.
Suddenly, Nazi soldiers pop out of nowhere and attack Lior and Captain America. A flying saucer also appears on the scene. The Butcher then stands in front of Cap. Captain America throws his shield at the Butcher. The Butcher calmly plucks Cap’s shield out of the air and holds it.
The flying saucer then blasts Lior and vaporizes her. Captain America gets blown off his feet by the force of the blast from the saucer. The Butcher then kicks Cap in the face and knocks him out.
Captain America wakes up and finds himself stripped to his underwear and strapped to a table in one of the labs at the Nazi facility. Standing there is the Butcher and a German scientist. The scientist marvels at the fact that Cap’s burns are already healing. Cap asks about Lior and the Butcher responds that Lior was working for the Nazis and she is who told the Nazis where she and Cap were setting up camp for the night.
The Butcher reveals that he intercepted a message that Captain America was being sent to extract Dr. Fleischer from the facility. The Butcher cannot believe that the Americans offered him up Captain America on a silver platter. Captain America spits “Don’t get too cozy, Fritz. This isn’t over.” The Butcher orders the guards to take Cap to his cell. The Butcher states that the scientists will be performing a vivisection on Captain America tomorrow.
We cut to Captain America chained to a wall in his prison cell. Dr. Fleischer is in the cell next to Cap. Dr. Fleischer does not know that Steve is Captain America. Dr. Fleischer is dismayed that the Americans only sent one man to come and rescue him. Dr. Fleischer sarcastically states that he should have contacted the Russians instead.
Cap responds that they are not through yet. Dr. Fleischer remarks “You are joking!” Cap retorts that “Everybody keeps saying that…” Captain America then asks Dr. Fleischer to explain what he discovered. Dr. Fleischer explains that using Einstein’s unified field theory, that Dr. Fleischer created something called “the Bell.” The Bell consists of two counter rotating cylindrical containers filled with cryogenically frozen mercury. The Bell generates a powerful electromagnetic-gravitational field.
The primary result is a zero-point gravity field that powers a disintegration weapon. The flying saucers are powered remotely by the Bell. Steve then rips his shackles from the prison wall. Steve asks why the Nazis have not attacked America with the flying saucers yet.
Dr. Fleischer responds that he purposely held back vital information. Therefore, the flying saucers are merely working prototypes with a very limited range. Since Dr. Fleischer caused the Butcher too much trouble, Fleischer is to be executed tomorrow. Fleischer figures that the Nazi scientists will attempt to reverse engineer the Bell. Fleischer adds that they cannot reverse engineer his technology.
Steve then tells Fleischer to get the prison guard over into his cell. Fleischer is stunned that Steve was able to rip his shackles from the wall. Fleischer fakes a coughing attack and screams out for the guard. The prison guard enters Fleischer’s cell. Steve reaches through the bars separating his cell from Fleischer’s cell and grabs the guard and breaks the guard’s neck.
Steve then frees himself and Fleischer. Fleischer is stunned and asks who Steve is. Steve replies that Fleischer will find out soon enough. Steve races to where his costume and items were being held. Steve puts on his Captain America costume. Fleischer is stunned and comments that he underestimated the Americans.
Steve quips that Fleischer wouldn’t be the first to do so. Captain America then asks how he can destroy the flying saucers. Fleischer tells Cap that it is simple: destroy the Bell. Fleischer says that if he can puts something small and metal like a bolt into the Bell’s primary chamber then it would cause a localized chain reaction and annihilate the entire base and any aircraft in the sky. Fleischer says that they would have about twenty-thirty minutes to clear the camp of the prisoners before the Bell explodes.
We see Captain America and Fleischer approach the lab where the Bell is kept. The lab is sealed by a massive metal door and guarded by a couple of soldiers. Fleischer states how everyone is afraid to be too close to the Bell since five of his assistants have died in the process of testing the Bell. Captain America mutters “Terrific.” and then leaps to action and takes out the guards outside of the lab.
We see a bunch of Nazis rush to the scene. Captain America then engages the German soldiers in a huge battle. Captain America thinks how time slows down for him at this moment. Cap wonders if his mind was altered by the Super Soldier serum or if he always had this ability to shut everything out of his mind and focus on the task at hand. That Cap has no fear, no anxiety and no doubt.
Captain America continues to kick ass on the German soldiers. Cap thinks that the scientists would probably call this ability of his a side effect of the Super Soldier serum. However, Cap likes to think that it is because he is from the lower East Side. We see Captain America grabbing a machine gun and mowing down German soldiers.
We see Captain America land on the ground clear of the explosion. Captain America runs to the prisoners’ compound and sees that the Butcher is standing there with his gun up to Fleischer’s head. The Butcher states that if Captain America wants Fleischer then Cap will have to go through the Butcher to get the scientist. Cap throws his shield down and says “Bottle it, Fraulein. I don’t have all day. And incidentally…I’m no bear. ”
The two men then engage in fisticuffs. The two men give as good as they receive. Captain America spits “You’re…their best? Pathetic.” Captain America gets the upper hand in the fight and then rips out the Butcher’s cybernetic eye. Captain America then takes down the Butcher.
Captain America walks over and picks up Fleischer and begins to carry the scientists away from the facility. The Butcher then musters just enough energy to pick up his gun and fire off a shot that hits Fleischer in the back. The Butcher then collapses to the ground.
Captain America holds Fleischer as the scientist dies. Fleischer mumbles that he met Cap’s creator, Abraham Erskine, at a conference. That Erskine told him about his formula and the vita-rays. Fleischer says that Erskine died making something magnificent. Fleischer then says “Make sure my death means something.” Fleischer then dies.
We then see Captain America, with two machines guns blazing, freeing the prisoners from the facility. We then see the Bell exploding in a huge ball of fire. Suddenly, all of the Foo Fighters blow up and fall from the sky. Captain America stands on top of the wreckage of one of the flying saucers and surveys the destruction of the facility.
Captain America thinks that Fleischer’s death did mean something. That the prisoners of this facility are saved and no one will ever be terrorized with these Foo Fighters again. That this means that there is a chance for tomorrow. End of issue.
The Good: Captain America: Theater of War: Operation Zero Point #1 was a good read. The Knaufs serve up an entertaining issue that hooks the reader early with an explosive beginning and keeps the reader’s attention until the very end thanks to a story that treats the reader to plenty of adrenaline pumping action scenes and one bad-ass Captain America.
The Knaufs craft a classic World War II adventure tale in the vein of the numerous esoteric Nazism or Nazi occultism stories that we have consistently gotten over the years. And the Knaufs smartly poke fun at this well worn blueprint for a World War II story by having Captain America mocking how the Nazis always come up with some bizarre plan which makes Cap think that Hitler reads too many comic books.
This was a nice subtle way for the Knaufs to cue the reader into the fact that they are not taking themselves too seriously and want the reader to understand that this story is going to focus on simply delivering a good old fashioned action adventure tale.
What impressed me is that the Knaufs actually pulled off some nice research before writing this issue. And that is surprising considering it seems that many writers simply go through the motions and put in little effort when writing a one-shot “special” issue. The Knaufs take the time and effort to use a rumored Nazi creation known as the Bell and make it the centerpiece of this issue.
Die Glocke, also known as The Bell, was a purported Nazi secret weapon which the subject of a non-fiction book entitled The Hunt For Zero Point by Nick Cook, an investigative reporter for Jane’s Defence. The Bell is something of a legend among believers of zero point energy, perpetual motion machines and anti-gravity devices.
The Knaufs take the concept of the Bell and run with it in cranking out an exciting adventure in Captain America: Theater of War: Operation Zero Point #1. This issue was a tightly plotted and properly paced read. The Knaufs keep the story nicely focused and move it along at such a pleasant flow. The Knaufs dial up a fine blend of action scenes and dialogue heavy scenes. The scene transitions are smooth and the Knaufs do a good job easing on and off the gas pedal during this issue in order to create some nice rhythm.
This younger version of Steve Rogers is a bit more cocky and sarcastic. I like Steve’s sardonic view on various topics including the U.S. military brain trust and the strange plans that constantly come from the Nazis.
I also liked Steve’s self-deprecating comments in response to Lior gushing over the tales that she has heard about the great Captain America. Steve brushing the tales off as just propaganda highlights the fact that Steve did not assume the mantle of Captain America for the glory. That Steve shoulders this mantle of Captain America for the good of the country and to help inspire his fellow American soldiers.
This younger version of Captain America is also a bit rougher around the edges and more testosterone laden. It is only logical that Steve would be a bit more of a cocky brawler during the beginning of his career as Captain America and then naturally evolve into the more even-tempered and charismatic leader that he would become in the modern age.
The cockiness is apparent when Lior states that the Nazis fear Captain America which prompts Steve to quip that the Nazis should fear him. And we also see that same cockiness as Steve trash talks the Butcher when they square off for their big fight near the end of this issue. Personally, I dig the attitude and edge that Steve has in this issue. And it makes sense that a young Steve Rogers still learning his craft and in the middle of a war would display some attitude.
And this young Captain America technically only succeeds in completing half his mission. He does destroy the Nazi facility, but Steve fails to return Dr. Fleischer back to America. I dig the fact that this young Captain America does not always win. It makes sense that Steve has to lose some early in his career in order to become the super hero in our modern era who always seems to have a successful plan no matter how dire the situation.
I also liked the fact that the Knaufs write Captain America as real soldier rather than a super hero. This version of Captain America is more militaristic in attitude. It is clear that this young version of Captain America is a soldier and a national symbol and not a crime-fighting super hero. And the Knaufs let Captain America fight like a soldier as Steve has no problems putting away his shield and relying on machine guns to blast his way through the Nazis.
Of course, what has always been present with Captain America has been the way he keeps calm, cool and collected no matter how intense the fighting may get. I like how the Knaufs appear to have read Brubaker’s run on Captain America. Way back in Captain America #17, Brubaker made a point of having Steve mention that he is able to dodge bullets because he can see things faster than a normal person.
The Knaufs play with this concept by having Steve mention that he sees everything happen in battle slower than it really seems. And how the scientists think it is a side effect of the Super Soldier serum. I always appreciate it when one writer pays attention to what another writer has previously done with a certain character and then builds on it.
Of course, it is the kick-ass action scenes that make Captain America: Theater of War: Operation Zero Point #1 such an enjoyable read. The Knaufs make Captain America look like a total bad-ass as he lays waste to the Nazis in his path. All of the fight scenes are impressively well choreographed.
Personally, I am not a fan of Mitch Breitwieser’s style of artwork. It is too rough, sketchy and lacks details. It is a bit too drab and dull looking. Having said that, Breitwieser’s old school style of artwork does match the story in that this is a Golden Age Captain America tale. So, while I might be overly impressed with Breitwieser’s artwork in general, it worked fine with the mood and tone of the story in this issue.
The Bad: I have no complaints with this issue.
Overall: Captain America: Theater of War: Operation Zero Point #1 was an enjoyable read. The Knaufs create an easy to read and rather straight forward one-shot issue. This was certainly an entertaining and satisfying issue. This issue will also probably appeal to fans of World War II stories. Also if you like plenty of action then you will probably enjoy this issue.