Friday, August 21, 2009

Dominic Fortune, minus Howard Chaykin...doesn't leave much, honestly.

The other day at the Comic Book Shop, I neglected to pick up a copy of Howard Chaykin's new Dominic Fortune miniseries, either because I was tradewaiting, or because I was already down like four weeks of Wednesday Comics. (Anyone else fall behind like that? Because it kind of takes the edge off a weekly book that way...) I may have to go back for it: reviews over at The Factual Opinion make it sound pretty good.

In the meantime, there's a Dominic Fortune/Captain America story in Marvel Super-Heroes Fall Special #3, "Who Saves the Hero...?" (Written by Danny Fingeroth, pencils by Gary Hartle, inks by Tony Dezuniga.) Maybe it will be just as good...
Somehow, I suspect there's a lotta film of Dom that Cap would not be comfortable watching...
Oh, no. No...not so much, yeah.

As Captain America stops a truck hijacking in New York City--does that happen a lot there? Seriously?--an old man konks a bad guy with a garbage can. Cap almost recognizes the old man, who immediately knows "Stevie."

Decades ago, in the early 1930's, young and asthmatic Stevie Rogers is getting shoved around by four bullies, until local tough Davey Fortunov runs them off. Some years later, Steve catches a newsreel before a movie, and recognizes Davey as crimefighter Dominic Fortune. Multiple things wrong so far: odds of getting usable footage with newsreel cameras as Fortune beats up a Nazi circus, 10-to-1. Odds that Fortune's "two-fisted sweetheart, Sabbath Raven" would be mentioned at all, at least 100-to-1. Odds that fortune would be 'fighting crime' in the traditional sense, even if it was Nazis, several thousand to none.

The piece on Fortune precedes the footage of Nazis stomping across Europe, that inspires Steve to try and enlist in the army. Meanwhile, on the gambling boat Mississippi Queen, Fortune is losing all his cash back to his 'sweetheart' Raven, when he is approached by an army officer introducing himself as Philips. Without a lot of subterfuge or beating around the bush, Philips offers Fortune a chance to try out for a chance to try out the Super-Soldier Serum. Seems like a security risk, but Fortune's up for it.
By 'traditional' I'm pretty sure he means, 'boring.'
While Dr. Erskine begins working up Fortune and the Serum, the overseers of the program debate their test subject. Some like the idea of a Jewish Super-Soldier, as a counter to Hitler's "Master Race" propaganda, but in the end, it comes down to questions over Fortune's character: a gambling, hotheaded, promiscuous troublemaker might be fine for higher office, but not for a symbol of America. When told that he's cut, Fortune tries to storm off, only to be stopped by a pile of soldiers, since Philips refuses to have a top-secret facility compromised.

With Fortune out, the Super-Soldier program begins working on Steve Rogers. Even though he was told not to go back there, Fortune takes Sabbath back to where the army had been hiding him, just to prove to someone that it did happen, and he sees Steve. Right before the Nazis show up.
Always. Make. An. Entrance.
Fortune manages to get Steve clear, but he and Sabbath end up captured. Although he's been told repeatedly that he's vital to national security (much of the Super-Soldier research had been keyed for him specifically) Steve knows he can't be a symbol of America if he leaves them to die, and goes back for them. As is typical for Cap stories written at that time, Steve won't use a gun or kill anyone. He will use a homemade turpentine firebomb and crack Nazis with his T-square, though. Steve frees Fortune, and they manage to beat down the remaining Nazis before the army gets around to arriving.

The rest of Cap's origin then proceeds apace, and Fortune and Sabbath recognize little Stevie Rogers when they see Cap in the newsreels. Fortune briefly wonders what could've been, if he could have become a symbol for America. Sabbath gently points out he probably would've embarrassed himself and the country.

Back in the present, old man Fortune stops another batch of bullies from beating on a little kid, which is a pretty good way to get shot now. Cap, having caught the last hijacker, comes back to talk to Fortune, and they go have a malted. I swear, if you've read any of Chaykin's Dominic Fortune stories (or any Chaykin, period) this reads like someone had to cut until they got a G rating.

Even more than the multiple coincidences in this story, I don't think I care for stories about how Steve Rogers was a brave hero even before he became Cap; since I understood that pre-Super Soldier serum, he was so sickly he probably couldn't stand up without getting winded. That and everytime you retell Cap's origin or events surrounding it, more Nazis show up. It wasn't enough that they got a spy in to kill Erskine, they were up, down, and all around America's most top-secret plan to that time.

1 comment:

Siskoid said...

I am even later than you are with my contemporary reads. And yes that includes Wednesday Comics.

I remember Dominic Fortune well from the 80s, and he just LOOKED like Howard Chaykin character, you know?

Took his time to BECOME one.