I admit that I’m a rabid Captain America fan. I just love the character because of his character. I have a slew of Captain America comics. It’s beyond safe to say that I know Captain America. When I saw that a new novel was released with him front and center, it was a no-brainer to grab it and dig in.
I have mentioned before that I have a huge collection of superhero prose novels. Over 120 at the moment. Though that may be a surprise to some, I am a collector not just of comics but the novels as well.
Captain America: Dark Designs was written by Stefan Petrucha who has also written Spider-Man: Forever Young and the new Nancy Drew graphic novel series. I must say that I was excited. The last Captain America prose novel I read was eons ago called Liberty’s Torch by Tony Isabella and…well…let’s just say that it was less than stellar. But it’s the age of superheroes now so I was optimistic.
The book opens with Cap stopping a terrorist missile from launching. This is some classic Cap. Starting off good. I’m diggin it.
The story then takes a turn that puts Cap in an odd situation. Iron Man makes a cameo and Fury is in there as well. At first, it appears as if the story is building but then it gets rather predictable, going simply from one fight to another. This is where the book stalls for me. Don’t get me wrong. I love my action sequences but they can get rather banal especially when the villains are a part of geometry (read the book and you’ll know what I’m talking about).
You have to come into this thing knowing something about Cap which I thought was a good thing. This is something for fans of the character who won’t be lost with the familiar faces in the book.
Cap didn’t stand still the whole time despite his condition. There was some interesting interaction. But there wasn’t a lot of development going on character-wise.There was a glimpse of his self-sacrifice near the end which was decent to see.
Petrucha’s writing style is solid. The editing was done well. I got an electronic version of it, and it was formatted well. There was a simplicity to it that, combined with his writing chops, made reading it smooth and enjoyable in that regard.
However—and this has been an experience with many fiction books I’ve been reading lately—the end borders on epic fail. How things get resolved is just…ugh. The main villain actually ends up being the secondary villain and a major plot point is resolved in what I can honestly say is forced and unbelievable. It’s as if Petrucha ran out of ideas on how to come to a resolution and he simply doesn’t pull it off. You end up with a big question mark and disappointment.
Overall, I gave this a C+. It was definitely better than Tony Isabella’s take on the character but the arc just built a little, fell flat, built a little again, went down slightly until it just crashed hard at the end. Which is unfortunate because a bad ending ruins the book. It’s not an awful read. The plot just wasn’t strong enough and the non-existent character development just made it fall flat. If you are a Cap fan, you may want to go along for the ride for the sake of loyalty but it’s not something I would put in the column of “must read”.