Writer: Ed Brubaker
Artists: Steve Epting, Mike Perkins
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Plot: Tony Stark does some political double-speak about how there will never be another man in the Captain America gear. The Winter Soldier considers this his opening salvo against Tony Stark/Iron Man who he has vowed to kill. Heíll steal Capís shield. Sharon wrestles with her own guilt while ďhauntedĒ by Dr. Faustus. Falcon shows up with a new mission for him and Sharon: Stop the Winter Solidier!
Commentary: Iíve never been a big fan of Captain America. Or, let me put it this way: Iíve never been a big fan of how most of Marvelís writers have handled the ďideaĒ of Captain America. You see, to me thatís what Captain America was meant to be, the embodiment of the idea that is America. Cap is a great visual symbol. As corny as a man running around with wings on his head sounds in reality I have never gotten over that sudden leap of heart at our flag charging forward in human form. I am a patriot, but that doesnít mean the stories that are supposed to portray those ideals have always grabbed me, until recently. It took Captain Americaís ďdeathĒ to spur me to pick up his book (sans he) on a regular basis.
Captain America without Captain America is working on so many levels. Brubaker gets it! How do people act and react when rallied around not a man but an ideal? You see the ideal lives on even when thereís no man there. He being dead yet speaketh. Thatís the power and inspiration behind Captain America. Brubaker just writes good American stories from his Daredevil brought back to the streets where he belongs to his high octane espionage thrills in Capís book. He knows what gets Americans' hearts pumping: pride and loyalty as embodied by Bucky and the Falcon, a defiled love and gripping Soap Opera in Sharon Carter, villains with no redeeming qualities (i.e. Arnim Zola, Dr. Faustus and the Red Skull and arguably Tony Stark too). Finally, a no nonsense take control man in Nick Fury. Brubaker, Epting and Perkins work the stereotypes that we love so much (cyborg solidiers, transforming cars, high tech hide outs, cloak and dagger shenanigans, girls with guns, high speed chases) while cranking them up to a quality level where darn it, we just want to keep reading! Itís all the trappings, but hereís the difference: itís all the trappings with heart behind Ďem.
Let me stop here to say that after Capís demise I went back to Stan Lee and Jack Kirbyís source material because I knew much of Brubakerís and Eptingís run drew characters and inspiration from those original works. Heís brought Lee and Kirbyís original vision and spirit into the present and beyond with admiration and flare. Thatís the only way Iíve ever loved Captain America, with Lee and Kirby and now again with Brubaker and Epting. Brubaker and Epting remind us ďwhy we go to the moviesĒ or, more accurately, why we read comics. Epting and Perkinsís art is more than competent. The men can tell a story. You could take away Brubakerís words and still get a pulse pounding story just by following the characters flowing and flying across the page. Thatís the highest praise you could give a comic book artist. Pick up the issue and look at the pictures in the ďOld FriendsĒ chapter (where Bucky recovers Capís shield) and you will see what I mean. The art is lively and kinetic without being cluttered and the colors by Frank DíArmata are just icing on the cake. Great job all!
Final Word: Brubaker, Epting & Perkins have taken the leftovers of the inconsistent quality from Civil War and crafted a blockbuster level modern day American epic. If you never liked Captain America, try Captain America without Captain America.
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