Captain America #4 The Unholy Legion part one   Leave a comment

We have now reached Captain America #4, detailing the first story, The Unholy Legion. Coming from the lower East side of New York City, Jack Kirby seemed fascinated with the underside of life that he must have observed there in his developing years. Throughout his career, he crafted several stories that featured homeless people or vagrants as depraved villains or even soulless zombies as in the story in All Winners #1 entitled The Case of the Hollow Men. Then of course, in Fantastic Four #4, one of the most famous chance encounters in comic book history, he has Johnny Storm retrieve the deluded Sub-Mariner from the depths of the Bowery.

In Cap#4, we see our heroes captain America and Bucky uncover a plot by a fiendish ragtag mob of Nazi saboteurs and killers. The title page is as usual crisply drawn and inked mostly by Kirby.

Issue four of Captain America kicks off the major involvement of Al Avison as an artist. Next to Reed Crandall and Kirby himself, Avison is my favorite Golden Age Kirby interpreter. On page two, Avison appears to be finishing fairly loose Kirby pencils, but the drama of Kirby’s initial composition is there with the crutch wielding machine gunner and the poison apple hag. There is something primordially horrific about these first few pages when these vagabond creatures attack, as if we are looking into some dim recess of Kirby’s urban nightmare dreamscape.

Avison worked over Kirby on Captain America fairly consistently on issues four through ten, and actually took over penciling chores after Kirby and Simon left Timely.

Avison appears to have been fairly adept at finishing loose Kirby pencils and layouts, while adding some strong stylistic touches of his own. Here is a sample of Avison’s pencil work in issue #12’s story, Rozzo the Rebel.

One can clearly see that he is using Kirby traced or influenced poses. Also note the characteristic facial features of some on the drawings, particularly the turned up or bulbous noses and heavy lower lips. If we compare those features to the ones on pages two and six below, we may see a similarity of styles. Still, my feeling is that there is solid Kirby underneath most of these drawings. the poses, such as Bucky socking  the vagrants on page six seem beyond the abilities of Avison alone. These figures are counterpoised to optimal visual advantage.

Mike Vassallo also has George Klein and Syd Shores credited as inkers, starting more or less in this story. Shores’ style can best be seen with his use of a cross-hatching inking technique best described as “Hay” as seen in the upper left corner of panel three.

Captain America finally appears on page seven, bursting through the door to rescue Bucky in the nick of time. This is not a particularly well-constructed page and the only outstanding pose is Cap’s figure in panel three. I do however like the character in the final panel, springing up into the air after receiving a hotfoot from Bucky. While it’s obvious that Kirby is doing layouts and loose pencils, it also seems that Avison is being given quite a bit of responsibility to finish the artwork.

To be continued

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Posted August 16, 2012 by norris burroughs in Uncategorized

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