After some slight mishaps during Captain America: Reborn, Ed Brubaker appears to be back on full-grind, delivering the espionage star-spangled comic like no other. While I’m not sure this recent “Gulag” arc is as exciting as the previous “Death of Captain America” or those Bucky-Cap arcs that followed, it’s still quite tenacious enough to follow every month. Even more so, nearly the entire Captain America family is involved. Bru has been chopping the book into three segments, all the while meshing the threads with ease.
First up: Bucky’s girl, the Black Widow, and her pairing with Steve’s ol’ lady, Sharon Carter. While certainly an odd couple of femme fatales, this section is hastened by Chris Samnee’s flawless storytelling and Widow’s vigorous determination. Natasha’s going with her instincts on this one, seeing how she’s dealt with Russian KGB. for a strong portion of her life. While the panels are distinctively detailed, Samnee keeps the reader guessing at all angles. The style certainly screams spy-intelligence-action.
The meat of the book is rendered by full-time artists Bruce Guice and Stefano Gaudiano. Certainly, this portion carries on tradition from Steve Epting’s pencils of Captain America’s past. The shadowy, often-cryptic angles are delivered in a sharper, perhaps more superfluous style, which I sure pray doesn’t confuse readers as much as entice. It’s possible though, as flipping back a page or two often becomes a necessity. Here, Bucky is fighting to find a friend — anyone who can get him out of this mess. The Gulag is as back-stabbingly crooked as it sounds, so what they want to do with the “former” Captain America, I have no clue. That unpredictability — whether James Barnes even survives or not — is what makes Bru’s current run so exhilarating.
And, I say “former,” because I’m going out on a limb by saying, or maybe not considering the new Captain America #1 slated in time for the movie, that Bucky will go back to being Winter Soldier. That’s no spoiler; it’s a prediction. Considering all the work Brubaker has done to make Bucky the Captain America many of us have always dreamed about (i.e. badass guns, bionic arm, snarky attitude), and despite coming off as politically correct as he can in past interviews, I can’t help but see Bucky turn over.
By the end of Fear Itself and the film, of course, fans are surely going to tire of anything Red Skull. That doesn’t leave too many intriguing foes for the blonde guy with the big shield.