I seem to have a “classic” theme going on lately, so I could think of no better way to throw us back to modern times, further into sci-fi, AND celebrate the 4th of July than with this graphic novel that pays tribute to Captain America’s past and future! The story begins by explaining that Steve Rogers is dead, and his sidekick Bucky Barnes visits his grave, inheriting the costume and title of “Captain America”, a title Bucky doesn’t want at first.
Bucky remembers back to his days in the “Young Allies” (Issue #1 Summer 1941.) and decides to visit his old war buddies to see if they think he made the right decision. The comic flashes back from the ’40s to modern times, 2011. The scenes in the ’40s are beautiful and have a Jack Kirby feel, but done by modern artists. The modern era scenes are darker as well. But, before they’ve decided if Bucky made the right decision, he discovers (at Cap’s viewing.) that The Dragon Lady (who you might remember from Milton Caniff!) is still alive, and out looking for an ancient mind-control gem. Concerned, Bucky calls up his old buddy Texas Jack, and asks to keep track of her.
Bucky shoots at her plane with a tracking bug, and of course, she thinks she escaped him, and laughs at him. Flashback to 1941, where the Dragon Lady takes over a Hollywood movie set with actors dressed as Nazis. She mind-controls them with the gem, and talks about how superior the Japanese are (The original Dragon Lady was Chinese, but no matter. Perhaps she was cooperating with Japanese propaganda.) while Bucky and the Young Allies are called in to take her out. It looks like the bad guys are going down, but she mind-controls Bucky, and it haunts him to this day.
After the flashback, we see The Dragon Lady in a South American mine, looking for the gem, which has apparently been the secret to her non-aging process. She’s barking orders, and confident Captain America will not appear, nor will his impostor. After all, she knows the “real” Captain America is dead. Next, we see Captain America parachute into the mine. By this time, she has the gem, and an army of mind-controlled miners. Cap fights them off, and even throws his shield at The Dragon Lady, to proclaim that he’s come back to stop her, but she isn’t fooled and knows he’s Bucky of the Young Allies.
The Dragon Lady plays along for a bit, and then releases the gem on him. After that, she commands Bucky crush himself with the large pillar where they found the gem. But then, he reveals that he was just playing along and shielded his eyes the entire time, stepping out of the way of the pillar. A great comic that takes advantage of adventure comic knowledge past and present, with the ol‘ switcheroo motif!
Following the “Forever Allies” story, there are reprints of Jack Kirby’s Young Allies # 1, and a Stan Lee story “Unsolved Mysteries” with the Young Allies. The first story is so horribly blackface racist I couldn’t finish it. Not recommended. But, the “Forever Allies” is a good story that brings it up to modern times, and re-introduces The Dragon Lady as a villainess quite well. If you want the best of both worlds, this is a great “passing-the-torch” tale.
Overall, I give it 3 stars. A good quick guide to bridge the old and new stories of Captain America; though these stories already feel dated because of the wonderful job Chris Evans does with Steve Rogers, who is Captain America in the movies. The old is new again!