Captain Canuck 5-7: A Review

in COMIC BOOKS fan/prolast month

Captain Canuck, 1979 version, issues 5-7, really begins to see the series hit a stride; unfortunately, it's not until issue 7 that it really happens.

After all the excitement of issue 4, issue 5 had a lot to live up to. The story now takes place in 1994 and has progressed from being purely earthbound into space! The law and peace loving nations of the world have created Earth Patrol along with Space Patrol. This particular story begins with our three heroes - Captain Canuck, Redcoat, and Kebec - arriving at the space station to begin to build out space patrols. Apparently war - and Nazi's, in particular - have also expanded into space, and it's Space Patrol's duty to keep them in check.

I am really a fan of Richard Comely's vision of the future (or what was the vision of the future at that time). The concept of internationally cooperative space exploration was really ahead of its time. Unfortunately, the concept of Nazi's going on murerous sprees just for the sake of doing so seems rather dated. Then again, this was written in the laste 70's where the focus was not so much on detailed story telling as much as it was on action and adventure. No sooner do our characters reach space than they are immediately brought back down to earth to fight off a gang of Nazi's that wiped out all of Earth Patrol.

Damn.

Richard Comely's storytelling in these early issues has some really good things going for it: he is very inclusive and, not only do our current heroes come from different social backgrounds, but this storyline also introduces Stardance, a Native American/Canadian with a strong sense of right and wrong.

Unfortunately, Richard Comely's writing at the time seems rather stilted. During Canuck's return to earth to do battle with the Nazi's, Comely offers us a completely out of place flashback describing Captain Canuck's origins at the hands of aliens and Zeta Rays. Seeing an origin helped fill in some backstory as to just why Captain Canuck is so special, but it was really out of place and did not serve to add to the current story.

Also out of place is stilted dialogue and dialogue which is just... out of place. Sorry, Richard, despite your religious preferences to not show poor language, this is just wrong.

I figured the Captain would have more wherewithall about him than to utter a dumbfounded "huh."

And this:

The less said about this panel, the better.

Moving on.

Issue 5 ended with a neat cliffhanger: Der Fuhrer is actually Mr. Gold in disguise. It was a neat twist (and nice to not have generic-Nazi-bad-guys), but it would have been nicer to have a few issues later, since the last Mr. Gold story ended just last issue. It was nice to see Canuck punching Nazi's, though.

Overall, issues 5 and 6 see Comely's art drastically improved over earlier issues, which is to be expected. The storytelling is better, too, which is also to be expected. Issue 6 and 7 really begin to show this improved storytelling. Issue 6 sees the team split up - Canuck goes after Gold, again in South America, and the others (Kebec, Redcoat, and Stardance), plan out a heist to infiltrate a drug dealers inner circle, nullify the drugs potence with techno-jargon, and begin to make arrests.

What I like about issue 6 is that it shows the determination and dedication of the heroes to get the job done properly, even though there are still some writing issues. I like how Canuck overcomes his circumstances with force of will but, just like issue 4, he's helped by sheer dumb luck with yet another native uprising against Gold. The story dismisses the coincidence as the work of a Higher Power, an allusion to Comely's religious beliefs, but from a story telling standpoint I felt it seemed too easy of a solution.

Also still stilted is the dialogue.

So, Canuck wins the day again, again in South America, and again with unexpected help from the natives, though this time he has the help of an old British bloke instead of an attractive Canadian nurse.

So how are the others faring? Not so well. Issue 7 sees Redcoat outed as someone other than he claims to be, though he's able to save his life by spinning a believable story.

I need to say, issue 7 is, so far, my favourite after issue 4. The storytelling really hits a stride here; gone is the corny dialogue of the previous issue, and improved is the character building.

What changed between issues is that George Freeman was brought on as primary artist, leaving Comely to focus primarily on the story and the writing itself. I also suspect that Freeman, as editor, was able to tone down some of the corniness while leaving the heroics of common men overcoming adversity.

When CISO would not let Canuck go help his friends, Canuck simply quit and went to help on his own. This entire page is just a gem: it shows a determined Canuck/Tom Evans ready to do what he needs to help his friends. I like the transition between frames 3 and 4, and I really like Freeman's small nuances on Tom's face on panel 6. This page works so well because the story can be told and understood even without the dialogue. Now this is what comic book storytelling is all about.

It's also really nice to see Redcoat, Kebec, and Stardance as actual heroes and able to function independently. Redcoat saves his own hide while Kebec and Stardance work on the side to keep all hell from breaking loose. Ultimately, when the team does meet back up, it's all done undercover and on-the-fly, and they all show why they're the best that CISO has to offer.

Freeman's art in issue 7 is great. On any given panel the reader is able to identify who are the heroes and who are the villains by their stature: the heroes have firm bodies and expressive eyes, while the villains are all droopy and flabby. In many contexts this wouldn't necessarily work and would seem too stereotypical, but it works here.

Looking back, issue 7 is something of a bitter-sweet issue for me; Comely and Freeman have really begun to hit their stride. By sharing duties they are really able to put together a fun, fast-paced, and character driven comic. It's bitter in the sense that I know there are only 7 more issues plus a Summer Special to go before CKR (the publishing company) went out of business. Producing quality comics in the 70s was not cheap!

Regardless, there are more stories to come, and another review of the next chapter next week!


(c) All images and photographs, unless otherwise specified, are created and owned by me.
(c) Victor Wiebe


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