Thank you to Titan Books for sending a copy of Marvel Studios’ The Infinity Saga – Captain America: The First Avenger: The Art of the Movie in exchange for an honest review. 

Do you yearn for a return to yesteryear? Whether that means “the Marvel Cinematic Universe: Phase One” or “the 1940s,” Marvel Studios’ The Infinity Saga – Captain America: The First Avenger: The Art of the Movie is the art book for you.

The First Avenger: The Art of the Movie was written by Matthew K. Manning with book design by Mike Zagari. It includes a foreword by Rick Heinrichs and dustjacket art by Ryan Meinerding. Cap was created by Joe Simon & Jack Kirby, and Captain America: The First Avenger was directed by Joe Johnston.

The Art of Captain America: The First Avenger

Cover for Marvel Studios' The Infinity Saga – Captain America: The First Avenger: The Art of the Movie featuring Cap in his WWII era costume.

The First Avenger: The Art of the Movie is a look back at the movie that immediately preceded The Avengers. Because the book includes “Marvel Studios’ The Infinity Saga” branding on its title page and dust jacket, this fact is unforgettable. But part of this book’s appeal is harkening back to a time when Marvel Studios was making a serious effort to make their movies distinct from one another.

During the foundational phase of the MCU, each of the movies released had its own distinct tone. At least, aside from Iron Man and Iron Man 2, which are both techno adventure movies. Meanwhile, Thor falls into the fantasy genre, while Captain America is a period war movie. Also, there was The Incredible Hulk.

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It’s clear from The First Avenger: The Art of the Movie that the 2011 movie achieved this because it took its genre very seriously from the start. In fact, the circa 2011 introduction by production designer Heinrichs details his careful consideration before joining the project “with slight trepidation.” This is because his father is not only a history professor but a WWII veteran. The fact that production approached the subject matter with care from day one is evident throughout this book, which demonstrates how the creative team looked to real historical context for inspiration.

Here’s just one example. One piece of concept art by Meinerding depicts Chris Evans as WWII-era Cap. This includes a close-to-final helmet design, which you may remember for its painted-on wings. An accompanying note explains that this detail was inspired by the fact that in WWII, “soldiers often had identifiable symbols painted on their helmets.” This costume element has become part of the MCU’s landscape. However, learning its origins offers insight into what made the detail so memorable.

A Globe-Spanning Narrative’s Foundation

One thing that elevates The First Avenger: The Art of the Movie is the breadth of art included. In addition to the production art, there are also production stills and on-set photos. We get a look at the storyboards for an early pivotal scene. And there are reproductions of a Marvel Comics tie-in issue for the movie and lots of promotional posters. 

All of this art is accompanied by text that adds additional context. As is expected of these kinds of books, this means lots of quotes from those involved in the production. The First Avenger: The Art of the Movie achieves a good balance between text and image. It is not too sparse with the information included in the writing, but it doesn’t forget that an art book is first and foremost about the imagery.

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A few of the included images are particularly memorable. Among them is a sequence of early possible designs for the Red Skull (Hugo Weaving). Some of these are especially creepy. If one of these guys were guarding the Infinity Stone, I think Thanos would have just let him keep it.

One thing I would have liked to see more of in the book is the Marvel Comics pages that inspired the movie’s production team. While we do get a few glimpses, I would have liked to see more in-depth comparisons of this angle throughout the book. However, those Captain America comics are of course available for reading elsewhere, including on Marvel Unlimited, so the focus on the movie’s art is understandable (if not preferential).

Available Now

Finally, as you’ve come to expect from Marvel art books, this good-sized hardcover is of high quality. The pages are reasonably thick and the images are clear and crisp. Plus, under the dust jacket, the cover features Cap’s shield on the front and the HYDRA logo on the back. 

Will you be checking out The First Avenger: The Art of the Movie? What did you think if you did? Be sure and let Geek Girl Authority know in the comment section!

Marvel Studios’ The Infinity Saga – Captain America: The First Avenger: The Art of the Movie is available now at a local bookstore and/or public library near you.

This article was originally published on 5/30/24.


Avery Kaplan