With Steve Rogers now in his custody, the Ultimate Marvel universe’s Vietnam-era Cap, Frank Simpson, goes to work, attempting to make Steve see “the truth” in the same way he did, to bring him around to his perspective. He subjects him to a litany of atrocities committed from the time of the Vietnam War forward, enlightening him as to the true nature (or, the true nature as Frank Simpson sees it) of the country whose flag he wears so proudly. Steve keeps holding onto the idea that all the torment he’s endured since awakening from the ice will be “worth it,” that there’s a greater purpose to his suffering, and that is probably the only thing that keeps him from breaking under Simpson’s relentless fury.
I don’t know if Jason Aaron has any kind of an axe to grind with Ultimate Captain America, or if he just sees a Vietnam vet with PTSD fighting Captain America as a good device for a story (and since this is the more “extreme” Ultimate Marvel continuity, I’m inclined to agree), but he’s managing to tell a pretty potent, compact tale here, now that we’ve reached the third issue. The thing I miss most from Mark Millar’s time on The Ultimates is a sense of social engagement with the superheroes, the awareness of a world outside their little spandex-people-punching-other-spandex-people stories, and that such a world could be affected by their actions, and a spark of it’s returned here in Ultimate Cap. Simpson’s nearly endless list of black marks on the soul of America, while certainly not the most ambitious plot element, at least injects words like “Darfur” into the superhero lexicon, and for the moment, that’s significant enough.
There’s an odd little parallel between Ultimate Captain America and Captain America: Man Out of Time developing that I didn’t expect to ever see. Both, in their own vastly different way, attempt to deal with Steve Rogers’ status as a citizen of a world oftentimes excruciatingly different from his own. Steve in Man Out of Time, at least, has the distinct advantage of neither getting waterboarded, nor beaten, nor psychologically abused by the folks trying to enlighten him as to the “nature” of the world in which he’s living. On the other hand, he’s not nearly the vicious, rather brutal soldier that Ultimate Cap is.
Ron Garney’s art, well, it’s kind of plateaued for this series, I suspect, and that’s both for the good and the bad. Everything that was good about his art in the beginning has remained, but three issues in, I’m not seeing anything I haven’t seen before. It’s tough to imagine an artist better suited to this particular series than Garney, admittedly, but there just hasn’t been anything that’s really grabbed me, that’s made me shove a page in front of somebody else’s face and demand they appreciate it, too.
In the last few pages of Ultimate Captain America #3, Aaron finally makes Ultimate Steve a more interesting character than he was before. If the series wraps up with the next issue (and I honestly have no idea whether or not it will), I hope we see it end continuing the steady climb of improvement it’s made thus far…