After a run in with a young street gang that leaves someone with a 50/50 chance of survival, one in critical, and one dead on arrival. Captain America returns back to HQ and finds one of his employees, Fabian, working diligently on a device. While examining him closer, Captain America notices that he's dropped at least 30 pounds in short weeks. Suddenly, Fabian has an outburst that has Cap ask him is he on drugs. Fabian tells him about a drug called ICE. Captain America does some research and realizes how bad drugs on the streets have been neglected. He soon ventures into the streets to put an end to this new drug. -summary
It's always a welcome treat to see superheroes pulled from the world of escapism, and injected into the world of reality, and it doesn't get anymore real than drugs. Streets of Poison is a very good tale that not only focuses on drugs and the effects, but also the violence that comes with it when rival gangs seek to eliminate the competition. This series was written by the late great Mark Gruenwald, and this graphic novel reprints Captain America issues #372 - #378, which was originally released back in 1990.
I really like the intricate storyline that combines the right amount of drama with action and realism. The character development is very strong and begins quite early, when Cap ponders on his use of the Super Soldier Serum. In which, ironically, is a drug but is quite different from steroids and street drugs. The story picks up immediately when Captain America confronts a suicidal drug pusher by the name of Napalm, and he detonates the building he and Cap are in. Captain America appears to be in great physical condition, but he seems obviously different to his friends. It's soon revealed that he breathed in a large amount of ICE during the explosion, and he's now giving in to his violent side. Captain America continues on his personal mission to rid the streets of ICE, all the while, coming to blows with friends and even another super hero.
The narrative is never boring, due to the brisk pacing and side plots going on. In the same streets, a gang war is taking place, when an unknown force challenges the Kingpin, by gunning down many of his people and blowing up a building. This leads to retaliations and confrontations between super villains; Bullseye and Crossbones. Captain America also comes to blows with Daredevil, and other heroes face off as well. Although the tale is a dark one, it never loses its feel as a comic. That can be either a good or a bad thing, all depending on what you're looking for.
The plot continues to move rapidly despite a couple of weak moments here and there. Fortunately, the story begins to pick up even more towards the end, when Captain America searches through his soul, and begins to wonder, "what makes Captain America?". He finds himself in a position having to prove to himself; is it his bravery and determination that makes Captain America, or is it the super soldier serum?
There's just something about Marvel artwork of the 90's I just really like. The character designs just have that it factor for me. Despite Captain America being almost an ordinary man, he's built like a juggernaut here, and Crossbones is even bigger than that. I swear, these big dudes make me want to go to the gym right now and get some weight lifting in. The female characters Black Widow and Diamondback look pretty good too, but they're not bursting with sex appeal, shades of Psylocke and Rogue from the X-Men. The action panels are very good with some nice exchanges between Cap and Daredevil, as well as with Crossbones. Overall, the artwork is pretty consistent and just a joy to look at.
Captain America: Streets of Poison is a good story, but it could have been a little better to me, had it focused more on the reality of drugs and recovery off of them, as opposed to delivering a superhero tale. Still, this is a series worth reading even if you're not a fan of Captain America. One thing is for sure, I feel like revisiting more old stories of the Star Spangled Avenger. Recommended.
-Down to Earth story
-Some battles were too short
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