Review of Captain America: Dark Designs by Stefan Petrucha

Steve Rogers knows the art of survival better than most. Decades under ice will do that to a man. But the Avengers chipped more than rock-hard morality and super strength out from under that permafrost. When Cap takes out a terrorist cell threatening to poison the world, he’ll discover a threat far more deadly. An incurable virus has hidden in his body for years — and now it’s come to the surface. To save the world, he’ll have to return to his own personal hell: deep freeze.
And he’ll have to take an old friend with him. Having survived his own death by inhabiting a clone of Steve Rogers, the Red Skull has inherited the virus — and he’s a little less willing to play martyr. As the deadly disease shifts and evolves, new patterns emerge. Can Captain America contain the Red Skull before the virus runs rampant?

I have to admit that when it comes to these Marvel tie in books I do have a bit of a soft spot for them. They are fun and easy reads and they are accessible for readers who only know Marvel via the Avengers films, like myself. Unsurprisingly, Dark Designs has a cinematic quality to it, plenty of big set pieces, explosions and battles, with enough nods to established characters which really help with visualisation. One of my favourite of the battles takes place in Paris starting at the Louvre and covering the length and breadth of the city all the way to a climactic finish in the Seine – this is of course helped immensely by the arrival of Tony Stark who actually steals the show for most of this book. There is amazing banter from him as always which was much needed as actually, for a Captain America book, I felt that his character came across as pretty flat. He was almost secondary to the sinister Red Skull, who I think may have appeared in a series of S.H.E.I.L.D once, he felt very familiar, but utterly insane! His sinister presence is actually pretty chilling at times as he releases a series of Sleepers born out of WWII Nazi tech, the liberties taken though with the technological capabilities of the time are those which can only be taken with a comic book edge! The presence of Dr N’Tomo as well was fabulous, Black Panther is one of my favourite films of the Marvelverse, so the talk of Wakanda was very welcome –  although sadly shows how chronically underrepresented female characters are in the book.

It does feel formulaic at times, but i think with these books a linear style works because you always know what you’re going to get and in part is what makes these enjoyable reads, I really enjoyed the addition of the artwork in some of the chapters too, it was interesting to see more of the graphic novel versions of Captain America and was a nice touch. The epilogue was great too, really unexpected and puts quite the slant on things, it was a great way to end the story.

An enjoyable 3.5 Stars for this little slice of the Marvel Universe.

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