All right, folks… here we are at the end of our journey. We’re ending with Captain America #208, titled Captain American and Falcon: River of Death. Up until now, the Marvel comics that we’ve read of Kirby’s have been done in collaboration with Stan Lee, but this one is all Jack. Written, drawn, and even edited by the man.
Hail to the King, baby.
I’m glad to end with this issue because, while it’s clear in my previous pieces that I’ve enjoyed the hell of out his collaborations with Stan, this month is about Jack, who is known widely as a great artist. We’ve seen him do some stellar writing, though, so I’m pleased that, with Captain America #208, we get to celebrate Kirby in all of his glory. Now, let’s see what this issue is all about.
In this action-packed tale, Captain America is attacked by a seemingly indestructible beast called the Man-Fish. A scrap between the two of them nearly leads to Cap’s death, until a group of uniform-clad men appear and scare off the Man-Fish with gunfire. Their intentions are quickly revealed to be impure, though, when they hold Cap and gunpoint and take him into their custody. Meanwhile, S.H.I.E.L.D. is looking for the missing Captain America, as is Falcon, but for this issue, it’s on Cap to escape from his human enemies and survive his second encounter with the Man-Fish.
Wholly different from both New Gods and Mister Miracle in every way, Kirby’s Captain America is a frenetically paced, pulpy thriller. Kirby’s sparing use of text words well here, pushing the story forward where need be but never over-explaining. His Captain America is square-jawed and heroic, but very clearly human. While Kirby’s Thor is larger than life, Cap is grounded in his fallible humanity: he gets hurt a ton and is constantly in peril, adding palpable tension to the story that increases with every page turn. The only thing that disappointed me about this story was that I didn’t get to see Cap with Falcon. Falcon is in a few pages, but he’s pretty much just on his way to find Cap – which seems will take place in the following issues. I would’ve loved to see Kirby’s take on their classic friendship, but all we have to do to see that is keep on reading on to find out what happens next. I suspect a great deal of you already have, though, and hope that some more will join me.
This brings us to the end of Journey with Jack. We’ve gone all the way to the far reaches of space and time, to come back home again all the wiser. We’ve walked the line between life and death and, sometimes, jumped back and forth over that line. We’ve met superheroes, aliens, warlords, gods beyond gods, and people good and bad doing their best to be their best. A lot of folks call Kirby the greatest to every do it, and I can see why. He told huge, sprawling stories with tenderness and humanity, and always made sure it was fun.
But you know what he did best of all? He drew a damn fine comic book.