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Captain America Top Ten Graphic Novels

Updated on October 10, 2014

"I'm loyal to nothing, General...except the dream"

Captain America is pretty much Marvel's Superman. Clean cut, patriotic, high morals, and a character so pure of heart others fall over themselves to be led by him. I love him...but many don't. In this day and age, characters like Cap stand for values (or perceived values) that many no longer agree with. That perception is wrong. Captain America was created as a weapon during World War II, that much is true, but since his revival by the Avengers he avoids entanglement with the military/political establishment. His attitude is very firm - he wears the American flag as he represents the American dream, the ideal, NOT the government of the day. Indeed, he has resigned as Cap before rather than take government 'orders'. The other fascinating aspect of Cap is the 'man out of time' angle, and this makes for a fascinating character, and a fascinating history.

I have chosen my top ten favorite graphic novels/ collections featuring Captain America, and hope you'll come along for the ride. Enjoy!

Images are used under Fair Use (Comic Single Panels)

10. Captain America: Operation Rebirth (Marvel Premiere Editions)

Writer: Mark Waid Artist: Ron Garney

One of THE classic partnerships on Cap, Waid and Garney took on the title after several years of, at best, so-so stories. This collects together Captain America issues 444-448, and issues 450-454.

Waid smartly went back to what made the character interesting - his great villain, the Red Skull, and his presumed dead girlfriend, Sharon Carter. Saved from death by the Red Skull, Cap is enlisted into defeating Hitler himself....wait.what?! exactly. Waid decided he wanted Cap to do the thing he was created for back in the 40's..Fight Hitler! How could you not love that! Hitler's consciousness had been trapped in the Cosmic Cube, and the Red Skull (who put him there) wanted Cap to get rid of him.

The second story arc in this collection features Captain America having to deal with the fallout of working with the Red Skull, and because he had to take out some American troops and attack a covert U.S army base in order to stop Hitler. Additionally, while he was being revived by the Red Skull, all of his secrets were stolen from his brain. Steve Rogers is 'sacked' as Captain America and exiled to Europe where reluctantly teams up with a still embittered Sharon Carter, to clear his name and reclaim his costume and shield .

Which he does, hooray!

it was a breath of fresh air, classic Captain America and,hey Hitler, how do ya like them apples! great read.

Star Spangled Bargains...!!

'Operation:Rebirth' Quick Review

9. Captain America, Vol. 1 (Marvel Masterworks)

Writer: Stan Lee Artist: Jack Kirby, Dick Ayers

You always need to go back to the beginning, and this collection is important for that (you can also get the cheaper black and white essentials collection). Obviously there are the 1940's Captain America stories but, for 'modern' Marvel, this is where you start.

After reviving Captain America in The Avengers, and getting positive feedback, Stan put Captain America straight into his own book (he shared it with Iron Man, so only half the page count) in `Tales to Astonish', starting in issue 59, ending in issue 81 (1964 to 1966).

Stan takes an interesting approach. After setting up Steve Rogers in the modern world of the 1960's, he then sets some stories back in World War II, with then-sidekick Bucky Barnes; it does give Stan an excuse to give us the origin of the Red Skull, however.

We move back to the 'present', and The Red Skull resurfaces in the modern world, and Steve first encounters Sharon Carter, and meets Nick Fury for the first time since World War II...Best of all, the first appearance of Batroc the Leaper!

These stories are important to understand the later years of Captain America, as they introduced very influential characters and concepts - Red Skull, Sharon Carter, SHIELD, HYDRA, the Cosmic Cube etc.

Simpler stories for simpler times, but great nonetheless!

Origin of Captain America... - in 2 minutes!

8. Captain America: Scourge of the Underworld

Writers: Various Artist: Various

For its day, the Scourge of the Underworld storyline was incredible; an assassin, he would turn up in various books at random and assassinate minor Marvel villains (the reality was writer/editor Mark Gruenwald wanted to cull the vast amount of average characters that existed). In the days of pre-internet advance notice, this was amazing stuff!

This collects together Marvel Fanfare issue 29, Amazing Spider-Man issue 278, Captain America issues 318-320 and 358-362 and USAgent #1-4.

Mark Gruenwald's Captain America book was where things started to gather speed. Cap, regarding villains as worthy of protection as well as anyone, decided to track down Scourge once and for all. The big showdown, and the reveal of who Scourge is, was also a surprise. Although Gruenwald expected it to end there, Scourge had been very popular, so Marvel ensured he reappeared, and the later stories covered here cover the return of Scourge, again prominently featuring Cap.

I like the fact that the book contains ALL the Scourge appearances, even when they were just 1 page in an issue (Fantastic Four, Amazing Spider-Man, Avengers and The Thing etc) to give you an idea of what's been happening, the main 'meat' of the story in Captain America, and the final explanation in the U.S Agent mni-series (he was the replacement Captain America)

Again, a little hokey in parts, but still a great read, a bunch of good characters, and worth a look


The 'classic' Shield

Captain America

"I believe in an idea, an idea that a single individual who has the right heart and the right mind that is consumed with a single purpose, that one man can win a war. Give that one man a group of soldiers with the same conviction, and you can change the world."

7. Captain America by Jack Kirby Omnibus

Writer: Jack Kirby Artist: Jack Kirby

Now this was different. When Jack Kirby returned to Marvel, he was essentially given total freedom and, boy, did he take advantage So much so, that 'his' Captain America is not regarded as being in continuity!

This collects together Captain America issues 193-214, Annuals 3-4, and Captain America's Bicentennial Battles.(568 pages!)

The joy with Kirby is that scripting was never his strong suit, and Cap just seems to appear in situations with barely an explanation..just straight to the fisticuffs. Yet it works. Kirby clearly has fun with his over-the-top Cap, and so do we. He also gave extensive page time to the Falcon, at a time when black characters were thin on the ground.

We get MASSIVE splash pages, MASSIVE fights, bizarre MASSIVE gadgets and its great fun all the way. It ain't Stan's Cap, that's for sure!

for a good in-depth review, and some page art as well, check out this blog entry here (not me)

Captain America Variant Cover.... - ...look closely, its made up of collages of many artists work on Captain America down the years.

All Marvel Comics characters and the distinctive likeness(es) thereof are Trademarks & Copyright © 1941-2012 Marvel Characters, Inc. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Images are used under Fair Use (Comic Single Panels)
All Marvel Comics characters and the distinctive likeness(es) thereof are Trademarks & Copyright © 1941-2012 Marvel Characters, Inc. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Images are used under Fair Use (Comic Single Panels)

6. Captain America: War & Remembrance

Writer: Roger Stern Artist: John Byrne

This is the perfect 'superhero' Captain America, fun, action-packed, great stories and art.. Straight forward 1 and 2 issues stories, no long term continuity baggage, these stories ran in Captain America issues 247-255.

For me, this is probably the best run of issues before Ed Brubaker came on the scene. Although Stern/Byrne slightly tinkered with Cap's origins, they didn't need to reinvent the wheel with Cap, they just understood the character. The rogues gallery is excellent - Cobra, Mister Hyde, Batroc the Leaper, and Baron Blood. There's a great moody team up with Union Jack in England, and Cap even contemplates running for President. Pretty flawless writing, art and execution

If Only...

5. Captain America: Death of the Red Skull

Writer: J.M DeMatteis Artist: Paul Neary

This was a seminal storyline for me, with DeMatteis really putting Cap through the psychological ringer; I remember barely being able to wait the entire month to fine out what would happen next!

This collection contains Captain America issues 290-301, and starts off optimistically. Cap is happy, he has a steady girlfriend and a new partner, Nomad, who he is training. Things start to darken, however, as the mysterious Mother Superior arrives, and we discover she is the daughter of the Red Skull. He is dying, and wants to finally kill Captain America before he dies. Baron Zemo tries, and fails.

The Red Skull tries to break Cap, even aging him, so we see the two characters as they are - two old men, who genuinely hate each other for being exactly what the other hates (pure goodness, pure evil) still fighting a war long gone. Its telling about the Skull's self loathing that he wants Cap to kill him, which he refuses.

Great main storyline, excellent supporting cast (Falcon given good airtime again, Nomad ) and a nice character study.

The Red Skulls Origin

The Modern Shield

Captain America (after Mark Twain)

"This nation was founded on one principle above all else: the requirement that we stand up for what we believe, no matter the odds or the consequences. When the mob and the press and the whole world tell you to move, your job is to plant yourself like a tree beside the river of truth, and tell the whole world - "No, you move.""

4. Captain America: The Captain

Writer: Mark Gruenwald Artist: Tom Morgan, Kieron Dwyer

This collects together Captain America issue 332-350, and Iron Man #228. It's a long, sprawling storyline (528 pages) at a time this was not the norm, and its all the better for it.

The storyline is a definite comment on the Reagan right-wing political tenor of the times, as Steve Rogers is 'sacked', and replaced by a violent, order-following successor. As time goes on, we see that its not the costume that makes Captain America, its the man inside. He chooses personal ethics over loyalty to government, while his successor John Walker does not.

One of the standout moments is when the Serpent Society transform President Reagan into a serpent-man, and Gruenwald, tough firmly in cheek, proclaims "the deadliest snake of all!"

Steve Rogers takes on the role of 'The Captain' so he can continue to fight on, but as time goes on, and John Walkers violence escalates, its clear a confrontation is coming.

Th storyline is important because Gruenwald addressed the 'problem' many had with Captain America, that he was a government lackey. Here we learn he has a great love of country, the people, but never of any individual government..

John Walker, the 'replacement' was ultimately rehabilitated and became the U.S Agent, wearing a version of The Captain costume. He kind of became Marvel's Guy Gardner.

Spend those war stamps...

Step up Soldiers...

When was/ is your favorite era of Captain America?

See results

3. Captain America Lives Omnibus

Writer: Ed Brubaker Artist: Various

We knew he would ultimately return after his 'death', but how? This collection, covering Captain America (2005) issues 43-50, 600-601; Reborn 1-5, Digital Prologue, shows us how.

We initially see the final run of Bucky/ Winter Soldiers time as Captain America, something I initially disliked but grew to like. Bucky has to work at being Captain America, it doesn't come naturally, and Brubaker conveys that superbly.

Brubaker again makes good use of a great, extended cast, notably Black Widow and Falcon. We have a handful of stories that look at what Captain America represents/ who he is (Brubaker, Stern, Waid) before the meat and potatoes of the actual return.

Alongside the already present Red Skull, and Dr Doom extended cameos, Norman Osborn enters the arena, determined to 'control' a reborn Captain America. Cap never died, it appears, but is moving through time, reliving various events over again before moving on. We get to see past events again, like the Kree/Skrull War, before Steve finishes fighting an army of MODOKS and, of course, the Red Skull.

Its not quite as cohesive as the other omnibuses, for obvious reasons, but is still a fine read, and the return of Captain America and Bucky, as a team, is a nice legacy.

6 Page Preview of Captain America Reborn

All Marvel Comics characters and the distinctive likeness(es) thereof are Trademarks & Copyright © 1941-2012 Marvel Characters, Inc. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Images are used under Fair Use (Comic Single Panels)
All Marvel Comics characters and the distinctive likeness(es) thereof are Trademarks & Copyright © 1941-2012 Marvel Characters, Inc. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Images are used under Fair Use (Comic Single Panels)

just click here

2. Captain America: Man Out of Time

Writer: Mark Waid Artist: Jorge Molina

This collects together the fantastic 5 issue mini-series, Man Out Of Time, plus a reprint of Avengers issue 4.

It is the single best character study of Steve Rogers you will ever read. This is Mark Waid's love letter to not only Captain America, but to American history. Its a look at the events of the world since World War II, seen through the eyes of Steve Rogers, and a reaffirmation that we need hero's now more than ever.

We see a man coming to terms with being a symbol to millions of people, yet who is just one man. This isn't just the origin story yet again of how a frozen-in-time Steve Rogers was found and thawed out, it's the story of how one man realized that he couldn't go home again, and that his place was now here, in the future, with the Avengers. Its sad, uplifting, thought-provoking, and ultimately, optimistic. For everything you lose, you gain something else. Cannot recommend enough

1. Captain America Omnibus, Vol. 1

Writer: Ed Brubaker Artist: Steve Epting, Mike Perkins

Before Brubaker came along, I thought I had seen every interpretation of Cap, every angle, and I thought most writers would tread the same ground. Its difficult to keep creating original stories for such an established character. Boy, was I wrong.

Collecting Captain America (new series) issues 1-25, Captain America 65th Anniversary Special and Winter Soldier: Winter Kills,This volume comes in at a massive 744 pages, and is packed with extras.

The new Captain America title that Brubaker launched was astonishing, some of the best comics work ever. In a post 9/11 world, what do you do with Captain America? Brubaker combined the best of the old with the best of the new, bringing back old characters but using them in good ways (Falcon, Sharon Carter, Nick Fury), making old, somewhat tired characters revitalized, and giving the new series a kind of '24' feel, a race against time, espionage, secret plans, slow burning masterplans. Its writing at its finest, and the muted artwork complements it perfectly.

All that alone should make you buy it, but add in the fact it contains two massive events in the Marvel Universe - the return of Bucky Barnes (which was genuinely stunning at the time), and the death of Captain America (even more so)

If you've never read this, you are missing out on some of the finest storytelling in the medium.

'I know what freedom is. I know what it feels like to fight for it and I know what it costs to have it. You know compromise'

Marvel's Dynamic Duo

All Marvel Comics characters and the distinctive likeness(es) thereof are Trademarks & Copyright © 1941-2012 Marvel Characters, Inc. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Images are used under Fair Use (Comic Single Panels)
All Marvel Comics characters and the distinctive likeness(es) thereof are Trademarks & Copyright © 1941-2012 Marvel Characters, Inc. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Images are used under Fair Use (Comic Single Panels)

Guestbook Comments, Speak Up Soldier!

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    • profile image


      5 years ago

      The shield is my favorite!

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      How fun - Love Captain America!

    • goldenrulecomics profile image


      6 years ago from New Jersey

      very nice review of such a great character!

    • FloridaDino profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago

      @avigarret: That's great to hear, thanks so much. Cap is my favourite Marvel character, so loved doing this!

    • avigarret profile image


      6 years ago

      Captain America is my second favorite after Spider-Man, this lens really brought me back to my childhood days, thank you so much for sharing :)

    • FloridaDino profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago

      @Timewarp: Really glad you enjoyed it, much appreciated.

    • Timewarp profile image


      6 years ago from Montreal

      Nice lens, looks like you put a lot of effort in to it, blessed!


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