If you’re in a comic shop and don’t feel even the remotest pull of curiosity when faced with an image of Captain America riding a winged lion, then perhaps you are browsing the wrong shelves. The first issue of Amazing Fantasy has such an image on its cover and it really is one you have to hold in your hands to appreciate.
Granted, old ‘Cap’ looks a little different here, with Thor-like hair and beard and Conan-esque garb. But the shield is there, albeit peppered with arrows. The whole composition of the cover, from the languid pose of the supple elf-maiden to the hyper muscled orc (?) and Cap bring to mind the classic sword and sorcery art of Frank Frazetta and maybe even a little Boris Vallejo.
The whole cover is gleefully anachronistic, and I love it. From the title font down to the brief cover pitch, it instantly conjures up the feel of the pulps of old. Indeed, the original run of Amazing Fantasy (originally titled Amazing Adult Fantasy) harkens back to the post-pulp early ‘60s, and while primarily being famous for featuring the first ever appearance of Spider Man, had previously featured some excellent, weird and wonderful stories from Stan Lee, illustrated by Steve Ditko and Jack Kirby!
It is perhaps fitting then, that this new book contains not only numerous nods to Marvel history but also stars Spider Man alongside Captain America. Joining them is Black Widow, or perhaps more accurately here, ‘red-room’ era Natasha Romanoff. Kaare Andrews has elected to use World War II era Cap and teenage Spidey in this awesome story.
Aside from the letters and editor credits, this title is very much a one man show, and Kaare Andrews makes sure it is a seriously impressive show, at that. The opening scenes of ‘Arrival’ show us Captain America on what seems to be an ocean-bound escort mission during WWII. Disaster soon strikes and the Cap is transported to a strange new world, lit by twin suns and populated by fearsome beasts.
We then change pace, tone and art style to join a young Black Widow in the depths of the Red Room programme. Soon after experiencing some of her harsh reality, we shift over to join everyone’s favourite webslinger, mid-fight with the Green Goblin, just before he is similarly whisked away to find himself in hot water surrounded by odd, misshapen creatures.
This whole book is a love letter not only to Marvel but also the many early pulp fantasy and science fiction stories which informed a lot of later entertainment. Kaare Andrews uses his shifts in art style to take us from one era or scene to another, with changes in line work and colours very effectively charting a course through the chaos until our three protagonists all arrive in this strange new world.
As the action unfolds and builds towards the climactic closing pages, we are left with a sense of wonder and discovery but also with questions as to the exact nature of our heroes’ experiences. Is it real, a shared dream, or something more… permanent?
‘Arrival’ is a superb opening issue for this 5 book run. The standard cover is worth the price of admission alone (there are a few nice variant covers around, too). As a comic creator, Kaare Andrews is openly flexing here, showing off his considerable talents to bring us a tale worthy of that awesome cover and a gathering of some of Marvel’s most popular characters. This one is highly recommended. I can’t wait for issue 2!
Review by Andy Flood, 8/8/21