Captain America: Dark designs

By Stefan Petrucha

Captain America: Dark designs, a novel by Stefan Petrucha
Book details

There is an inherent problem with superheroes. Sometimes they are just too super. How is any mortal person meant to take down a being that can fly into the sun or bounce bullets off their bracelets? It is up to the comic creators to come up with an enemy that will match the super heroics with super villainy. Or is there another way? What happens when the mighty are brought down a peg or two? If you can’t beat them, why not make them join you in the normal world?

Captain America is sick. This is not your normal sniffles, but a virus. And a superhero requires a super virus. Inside Cap is a disease that, should it mutate any further, has the ability for extinction levels of damage. Being the hero that he is, Captain America agrees to stay in isolation, but this level of philanthropy does not extend to the only other person who has the virus, Red Skull. How can Captain America save the day if he is confined to an isolation ward?

Captain America: Dark Designs by Stefan Petrucha is another in the Titan Books series of novelisations that puts comic book action into the prose form. Here we have a story of a true hero, both in their strength, but also in their actions. Captain America will do anything to protect people, even if that it is detrimental to himself. The key to Dark is that the fight is not only against the present threat of Red Skull, but also the potential of a virus that could wipe out mankind.

There are many fight scenes in this book, but they are divided by some very interesting sections about dealing with limitations. Nick Fury and the rest of SHIELD are reluctant to allow Captain America to leave quarantine, so they must rely on other techniques to overcome Red Skull’s latest plan. This is the form of Nazi era machines that have lain dormant for decades. Can our heroes trick the machines into thinking they are coming against the menace that is Cap? Forcing the characters to think differently on how to use Captain America’s skills means that this book has a different feel to the knock them down style of many comic book adaptations and highlights Captain America’s intelligence.

That is not to say that there are not fights. There are plenty of fights. Here the comic would still be the best format, but Petrucha does a decent job of writing the action. You can visualise what the Nazi machinery looks like and they feel very menacing. You may not get some of the visceral imagery a comic would portray, but what you lose in action, you gain in wonder. Questions are posed that consider what it is to be a hero.

For the parts that explore heroics, you need a counterbalance. Here it is in the form of Red Skull. For large parts of the story, you follow both hero and villain on an equal footing. Comparing how both characters deal with the virus and how it may kill them is very interesting. Skull believes himself invulnerable, but even he must admit that this time he won’t be coming back.

Your enjoyment of Dark will depend on what you are looking for in a comic book adaptation; action or prose. The action on offer is bombastic but is not able to quite reach the highlights that a well-drawn cell provides. What you do get is a great exploration into honour and sacrifice. Captain America is willing to sleep a hundred years more if that what is required, whilst Red Skull would rather kill the whole world, if he is going to die. Marvel fans who have been around enough to appreciate the more cerebral storylines over the years will enjoy this book the most, but action fans will also get a few kicks in too.

Written on 3rd November 2019 by .

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