Writer: Ed Brubaker
Artist: Steve Epting
Publisher: Marvel Comics
One of the great things about being a comics reader is many times we operate in a vacuum. We go to our local shop, come on the Interweb and rant about the books we read, and call it a day. The only time the rest of the world talks about us is when they are making fun of us. This week, however, we actually made news that interested the world. I canít tell you how many phone calls I got from friends actually asking me about comics. My response was, ďOh now you want me to talk about comics, huh? Werenít you guys laughing at me at the Christmas party?Ē Everyoneís talking about the death of a true piece of American pop culture, and whether heís really dead or not.
This is a quote from Joe Quesada about whether or not death is significant anymore, ďItís as important as you make it and how itís executedÖTo me itís all in the telling.Ē
My first thought was to rip the issue to shreds on the basis of it coming on the heels of Civil War. In the same interview, Quesada said this is the death that was promised by writer Mark Millar in CW. There was some confusion as to whether or not the death should come in the mini-series or in the monthly title. Looks like Brubaker won and gets to be credited as the man who killed a legend.
It would be just as easy to praise the book as to kill it, as Brubaker is truly becoming one of the best writers Marvel has in its stable. The artwork is sort of gritty in parts and clean in the places it needed to be. I thought Epting did a good job. There will also be most likely a great year of comics as readers get to see if dead really means dead, and if so, who will take up the mantle of the stars and stripes. Will it be Bucky? How about Frank Castle? Would Fury risk coming out of hiding for something like this? Iím not denying it will be thought provoking, and possibly worth a read.
The key issues surrounding this book unfortunately deal with the external forces at work with this book. First and foremost, Marvel is a publishing company and whatever they have to do in order to sell the most pieces of paper has to be done. If you need to create event after event to get your brand into every child with three bucks (oops, sorry they raised the price a dollar on us for this book), then so be it.
They of course knew the book would sell like hot-cakes, so did it make sense to print so little of this book? Is the attention from the outside world worth it to readers? I stood there on Wednesday as kid after kid walked in to my local shop and asked for as many Caps as possible. My owner being the shrewd veteran of selling funny books he is had already pulled the issues he had after giving his regulars their copy. These were his words, ďIíve seen this a bunch. They come in once to buy a book that will be worth a killing on E-bay and I never see them again. They donít want to read the books, and they could care less about Cap dying. They just want to make a fast buck.Ē
So the real issue is what do events like this really do for the industry? Will we see an increased readership because of this book? Will Marvel see much of a spike in their orders of Captain America in the aftermath? Will the world care in two or three weeks what happened?
The answer to all of those questions is a big fat NO in my opinion. Does this event open the door to many possibilities of great stories in the next year? Absolutely.
I know I didnít talk about what happens in the book much, but thatís my point exactly. With things like this, there are way too many things in play for me to care about what really happens in the book. The hype, interviews, news clips, endless stories about the impact of Captain America dying, itís all crap that shouldnít be nearly as important as what happened in the book itself past the gun shot.
Quesada stated that itís all in the telling. I agree, but I wish we could talk more about how Cap died instead of that he died.
By now everyone has heard the news. Loyal and regular comic book readers are still crying foul over the way the issue was spoiled before it even hit newsstands. My mother even called me to ask me what the whole thing was about. What happens in this issue is no longer a secret: Captain America was gunned down by a sniper on his way into court. Captain America Steve Rogers then ďdiedĒ in the arms of his long time lover, Sharon Carter. Sure, there is national coverage about Marvel killing Captain America, but letís face it: this is the third time Cap has died, heís got his own ongoing series, heís got a movie coming out, and heís one of Marvelís most popular characters. Although Dan Buckley and Joe Quesada claim that it is only Steve Rogers who has died, Steve Rogers is the most important element to the character of Captain America. Cap is my favorite Marvel character, and I will say that you can listen to whoever you want and read whatever you want but the bottom line, even as Ed Brubaker has hinted, is that this is just part of a greater storyline that will run for about nine issues.
The day the comic book came out, shop owners withheld multiple copies, and both covers of the issue sold for about $250 on eBay. But the book has lost a lot of ground, and now it sells for about $40 on eBay. The hype has subsided, and Marvelís cheap marketing ploy, similar to another cheap marketing ploy in 1992, has begun to lose some of its appeal. Itís eerily similar to "The Death of Superman" not only because of the way Cap dies (in the arms of his long time love interest), but also because of the ďFallen SonĒ tie-ins. Unfortunately, most Marvel readers will avoid the ďFallen SonĒ tie-ins having flashbacks to the multiple Civil War tie-ins that had no real benefit. So far, Civil War has resulted in two things that Iím not particularly fond of: the near destruction of my hometown Stamford, CT, and this cheap marketing ploy to draw in more readers. Because of this alone, I have no choice as a lifetime comic fan but to dock this issue 1 bullet.
The hype around this issue has a negative effect in two ways. One is that it proves that Ed Brubaker has some cahones and was willing to take the step that Mark Millar did not, thus that negative effect is on Millar. The other negative thing that will come out of this is that when Captain America does re-emerge (and not Bucky dressed as Captain America, but Steve Rogers himself), Marvel will have some explaining to do. The logical thing would simply be to suggest that this was part of a greater plan not only to get Steve out of S.H.I.E.L.D. custody, but to fool the Red Skull. Cap has a lot of enemies right now, both Iron Man and the Red Skull are the most dangerous, so wouldnít it make sense for Cap and Fury to fake his death to get him out of the picture? Yes, yes it would. If this is the case then the credibility of this story will still be strong and I can say, ďwell-played, Mr. Brubaker.Ē
My personal theories and feelings aside, this issue is really well-written. Sure thereís the gratuitous narrative by Bucky about the history of Captain America and all the things heís done. But this is for all those people who donít read comics and got this issue because it was the thing to do this past week. Brubaker manages to exploit the Civil War and use it to further his grand plan for Captain America. Brubaker wisely avoided answering questions about whether or not this was really the death of Cap by saying ďIíve been planning a story-arc like this for a long time.Ē Either way, Brubaker manages to capture the chaos and emotion that ensues over Cap being shot multiple times. I loved the way it played out: with chaos in the streets Bucky and the Falcon immediately go after the snipers. And following the announcement of Capís ďdeath,Ē Brubakerís real story begins to play out: the mind games of Doctor Faustus and the Red Skull on those close to Cap.
While this issue will be big news for a few months, this story will ultimately play out like "The Death of Superman." There is only one Captain America. It will always be the World War II hero Steve Rogers. Sure heís been replaced multiple times, but the shield always ends up being wielded by Steve Rogers. Nick Fury even says it in this issue, ďItís Steve RogersÖ heís taken bullets before. He ainít gonna die, okay?Ē While this issue apparently shows a dead Cap, there are plenty of innuendos to suggest just the opposite. Nick Fury did not show his face throughout the entirety of the Civil War which leads me to believe that Iron Man and the Red Skull have got some trouble coming their way.
Ed Brubaker should have written Civil War. Heís had a fantastic storyline going through his entire run on Captain America, and this issue is just a plot device for a great storyline. But I think in the end he will touch on the one issue Mark Millar ignored: that no matter what government policies are and who is in control of the country, the American spirit will always prevail, something that Millar, a British writer, missed. Steve Rogers is one of the biggest comic book incarnations of the American Spirit and will prevail.
Steven G. Saunders:
Ah, the Death of Captain America. I was wondering when Marvel would do it. Or have they? How many times has Cap bought it? Only to be brought back. Itís only a matter of time before Steve Rogers is backÖ if heís even really gone. You never know with comics theseóOh, who am I kidding? Of course we know? Everyone digs Cap. Heíll be back.
Marvel pulled a classic fake-out, letting people think that someone would buy it in the Civil War series. Then they ďkill offĒ Rogers in his own title. Not bad, really. Most everyone knew that Captain America would die or something. Some, like me, hoped Marvel wouldnít do itÖ you know, making it like another ďDeath of SupermanĒ deal. But, essentially, it is. Except I feel that this issue was better done than the issue that depicted the death of Supes.
Blatant marketing ploy or not, writer Ed Brubaker handles this issue masterfully. He proves that he is truly one of the greats working in the industry today. Captain America #25 is plotted and paced magnificently and executed in top form.
Uh, no pun intended there.
Weíve got character retrospectives, great narration, and nice dialogue. Pretty much all we could expect from a pivotal issue such as this. Eptingís art is also well crafted, bringing that extra emotional edge the story needs. Then thereís a great twist at the end, as well as Crossbones showing up (Did I call this or what? I love Crossbones!), and Red Skull being the evil sonuvabitch we all love to hate, but love anyway.
Issue #25 was especially interesting to me because I read my advance issue early in the morning before my brood and I headed out to deal with a family emergency. Not only was it a bummer of an issue to read, but I was also coincidently wearing my ďCaptain America for PresidentĒ shirt. Yeah, weird, I know. By the time we arrived where we were going, Cap was all over the news. The news? Really? Does a comic book character rate over wars, starving kids, and lightbrite bombs? I suppose it does these days. To many, it was a big deal. Cool, I say. I love Cap, too. I donít know if Iíll cry over it because, well, heíll be back. In some way.
And get your predictions in now, folks. Will Rogers be brought back via a time rift thanks to someone (like Reed Richards) using the Infinity Gauntlet or some machine? Is Capís death faked and will he become a new Thunderbolt? Will we have multi-Caps?
I think the Silver Surfer will become the new Captain America. Hey, it could happen! (Iím kidding.)
All in all, a solid issue only marred by the fact that itís a marketing gimmick. Not that I hold this against Marvel or anything. Gotta pay the bills and all that. At least they provided us a supremely talented team to bring it to us. Bravo to everyone who worked on this issue for pulling this off so well. Even my cynical little self enjoyed this moving comic.
Imagine my surprise, freshly home from a gruelling day at school, listening to the news and ready to crack open my brand new copy of Captain America #25, when I hear ďCaptain America is dead.Ē Gee, thanks new media for spoiling it for me and readers across the planet.
That spoiling of the ending was one of the many things that made me almost decide to drop this title. Ed Brubaker had been writing my favorite Marvel title, keeping the story tense with the Red Skull and Aleksander Lukin pulling the strings as Steve Rogers, Bucky, and Sharon were caught up in the mess. Then Civil War came and dragged a great independent storyline into a convoluted mess. That limited series was an overhyped story had great premise but was poorly executed with little elaboration on Registration (would non powered vigilantes be accountable? Would foreign heroes? We still donít know). The buildup, out of character moments, and an amazingly anti-climatic ending nearly ruined the character of Captain America for me.
And for all that, Brubaker deserves an award for this issue.
This issue takes place after Steve Rogers has turned himself in at the end of Civil War. On his way to the trial, friends Sharon Carter and Bucky the Winter Soldier separately plan to free him, under the direction of the still underground Nick Fury. As he goes up the courtroom steps, Rogers sees a laser sight and takes a bullet from a sniper to save one of his captor's lives. After that, itís mayhem, and at the end of the issue, a hero has left us.
Brubaker does the smart thing and mostly forgoes the effects of Civil War, using it only as a setup (although he does place some great masses at the courthouse, supporters and opponents of Cap, and itís nice to see the masses actually show their opinion on the SHRA; itís a shame Civil War: Front Line failed to show us that). Instead, the pathos of the story comes from Sharon, Bucky, and Sam ďThe FalconĒ Wilson reminiscing about their past with Captain America. Itís a trio of moving scenes that show that for all his years fighting as a soldier and symbol of America, Steve Rogers was a human being.
Another great touch is that the sniper isnít some radical supporter of the SHRA, but rather Crossbones, the sword arm of the Red Skullís powerbase. Brubaker said that he advanced several plotlines as Civil War came about, but you can hardly tell, the series still flows as smoothly. Crossbones attempts to escape, but Bucky and the Falcon quickly catch up, and we once again learn why the Winter Soldier in indeed the #1 action hero of the Marvel Universe. Meanwhile, Captain America is in critical condition, suffering from not only the sniperís wound to his shoulder, but a trio of gunshots to his torso. Yet even the best paramedics cannot save him, and the world is now without Captain America. Thankfully, however, the press forgot to spoil one little detail: it wasnít the sniper that killed Cap. The final twist at the end of this issue sets up what is sure to be a wonderful mystery for the next few issues.
I had forgotten how much I loved Eptingís art, but this issue reminded me in full. The large crowd at the courthouse was heavily detailed, and the depictions of the supporters and opponents of Captain America were wonderfully drawn. The flashbacks are each unique, with the WWII ones carrying a muted tone, while the Falconís recent memories carry a youthful, bright atmosphere that is soley due to DíArmataís colors. His work on this series has given me a whole new appreciation for the colorist occupation. Epting and DíArmata compose a team of unlimited potential. The Winter Soldier/Crossbones fight is a great, fast paced action scene that wonderfully offsets the somber, quiet story that makes up the main plot.
Iím not really sure what to think of Captain Americaís death. Maybe he is dead, maybe he isnít. Iím not even sure if I care. I mean, the series doesnít look like itís being cancelled, and with Brubaker still at the helm, and the events of this issue, the series is far from out of ideas, Cap dead or not. As I said, Brubaker deserves an award for this. Even with the press ruining the ending for me, even with Civil War putting Cap in a terrible position, Brubaker, Epting, and D'Armata manage to recapture my love for this series and get me hooked once again.
Caryn A. Tate:
Well, Iíll say this for it: this issue of Captain America really challenged my concept of how to rate a comic book fairly. Iíll explain in a bit.
Most people reading this review have probably already heard a ton about this comic, even if you havenít read it. Because of that and in order to thoroughly discuss my viewpoints related to the story, Iím going to skip my usual lack of specifics about the plot. So be warned: there are spoilers ahead.
In issue #25, Cap is getting ready to be put on trial from the results of what happened at the end of Civil War. Sharon, Bucky, and later Falcon each have flashbacks of their fondest memories of the hero. Outside the courthouse where Cap is going to appear for his trial, both Sharon and Bucky are waiting, in contact with Nick Fury. There is mention of a plan to get Cap out of this situation. Before it can be executed, though, Cap spots a sniper in a nearby building and moves to save the guard who is with him. In doing so, he is shot repeatedly. Itís revealed that the shooting is the plan of the Red Skull, and soon it is announced that Captain America is dead. Almost more shocking, though, is the revelation that there is more than one shooteróand who the second shooter actually is.
So, about the first line of my review. While this issue was plotted and scripted expertly, and the art was Mr. Eptingís usual level of fantastic, I hated what actually happens in the story. I put my personal feelings aside as much as I was able and gave this comic a pretty high rating, because it should reflect the actual quality of the book; but my opinion about everything else can, thankfully, be discussed in the body of my review.
Why do so many comic book creators and editors these days seem to think that an amazing, memorable story equals tragedy? I donít need to have Captain America, or Superman, or any other hero, taken from me in order to appreciate his heroism and his meaning. It doesnít make me love him more, or realize just how important he is. It makes me resent the seemingly grandstand editors and writers. It makes me feel that they donít appreciate me as a reader, and that they donít respect the characters the way they should.
You can inspire and engage readers with positive stories just as muchóif not moreóthan depressing, sad tales, especially in the superhero genre. Arenít those types of stories the ones that caused most of us to fall in love with this genre to begin with?
I donít know about you, but I just donít want to read superhero comics that kill their heroes, or that showcase a cast of dark and angst-ridden characters. I understand the desire to create something unusual, to do something that ďshouldnít,Ē or has never been, done (although, technically, this hasójust not with Cap). I also understand that this killing of Captain America may very well be a ruse of some kind, and I know Cap will be back in one form or another. But is all of this at the expense of enjoyable stories? Of returning readers? Iím tired of it. This dark storytelling has happened way too much of late.
On a positive note, the characterization is detailed and honest. Cap behaves just the way I would want him to, and all the characters surrounding him has their own voice, and their love for him shows through so clearly, even in moments with very little dialogue.
Of course, a large part of that is due to the powerful art by Mr. Epting. In reading this comic, I felt transported into the story, practically forgetting that I was reading anything at all. Just the way it should be. The colors are subtle and synchronize so well with the pencils that it all just gels into one beautiful creation.
The pacing of this issue is also practically flawless; Iím impressed that Mr. Brubaker was able to fit this much story into one issue. I admire that kind of compressed storytelling, the type that gives you more bang for your buck. Itís not just about money, but about the readersí time and how good a tale can be weaved in a single issue.
Because of Mr. Brubakerís strength as a storyteller, I fully expect this to be just the beginning of another great story arc. I just donít know if Iíll stick around for it.
Captain America #25 sees the death of Steve Rogers. His character had been killed earlier this month.
Before I go into this comic, I need to comment on recent events in Civil War #7 and Civil War: Front Line #11.
So 56 dead in a super-brawl is the worst tragedy in the history of New York City? Itís not even the worst super-related death in Marvel history. That would be the massacre that started this war!
Sally Floyd goes from being a liberal to a bitch because she doesnít want to be predictable and blinded by ideology. Fine. We in the Left have no use for the unthinking nor the faithless.
Sally says Cap doesnít know what America really is and fights for an outdated ideal. She proves this by pointing out how Steve Rogers knows nothing about NASCAR, American Idol, Paris Hilton, or The Simpsons. Now, Iíve never been to a NASCAR race; never seen it on TV. Canít stand Paris Hilton. Havenít read a celebrity-filled gossip rag in over a year. I havenít seen a new Simpsons in months. And I have no clue who won American Idol last year. So, by Sallyís logic (and presumably writer Paul Jenkinsí), I donít know what America really is either.
Yet here I am, serving in the military, upholding the security of the nation, ready to protect the lives of innocents and uphold law and order around the world. I know thereís institutionalized racism. I know our leaders are hypocrites. And I know the current war is driven by ego and money as much as the genuine threat of international terrorism. But I can do more good from within the system than standing outside it, yelling at people who wonít listen. I will fight for the higher ideals of the American Dream, the dream of absolute equality, complete individual freedom, and the trust that a person free from all oppression will achieve greatness. Those values are timeless.
That is what Captain America fights for! And he never stops fighting. Ever!
Honestly, I feel more angry about the poor portrayal of Cap than his actual death. Having lived through the ďDeathĒ of Superman and all the deaths/resurrections that followed, Iím jaded to death in comics. Hell, even Bucky came back for crying out loud! Iíd have preferred Cap died fighting Iron Man in Civil War #7. Steve Rogers is a soldier, and death in battle is a great death for a soldier. It also would have given the story emotional weight to its empty pretentious gestures. And Tony Stark would actually feel guilty about the mess he perpetuated.
But Capís death here also works for me. The assassination of a public figure, once loved but fallen from grace, destroyed by his enemies living in the shadows, is also classical. We see Capís life summarized by his closest friends: Sharon Carter, Bucky Barnes, and Sam ďThe FalconĒ Wilson. A fourth, unknown narrator gives us the obligatory origin. Brubaker and Epting craft a perfect story about the end of a good man.
My only complaint is how the shooter gets away. I mean, someone must have seen or recorded the shooting. There were cameras and people everywhere, including a Marshall standing right behind Cap! No one turned to look when they heard the first shot? The most public assassination since JFK, and no one saw a thing? What the hell, man?
Anyway, I still give this despite that gap in logic. This really is a comic everyone should have. And if you missed it for cover price, you might as well wait for the trade. The complete story should be memorable.
What did you think of this book?
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