Writer: Ed Brubaker
Artist(s): Steve Epting, Mike Perkins (p), Frank DíAmata (i)
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Plot: Tony Stark, Director of S.H.I.E.L.D. figures some things out. Bucky in the clutches of the Red Skull! Falcon almost back in his old threads teams up with the Black Widow. Things get worse for Sharon Carter. Bucky in the clutches of Doctor Faustus!
Commentary: Wow! Thatís the feeling you get consistently after reading this book every month. Brubaker, Epting, Perkins and DíAmata continue to fire on all cylinders! For action packed espionage, a great ensemble cast and dastardly dealings by ĎAí list villains you canít beat Captain America! Brubaker and crew continue to keep our pulses pounding. Between this and World War Hulk I get a great nostalgic feeling. It reminds me of when I first started reading comics at the age of 9 or so. The anticipation and pulse pounding are back. I open most comics these days with apprehension; expecting very little. This writer and artists team has raised the bar for classic superhero action and escapism and so it is with great expectation that I approach every issue.
The story opens in Tony Starkís control room where he wrestles with the dilemma of SHIELD agents having ďfallen off the gridĒ. The one common denominator is the all of them have had psychological evaluation session with Dr. Benjamin who we know is Dr. Faustus. The writing and drawing of these scenes where Tony puts the pieces together as replays of Captain Americaís shooting broadcast around him are exceptional. The tension is palpable and the art teams grasp of facial expressions and emotion is some of the best Iíve seen in a long time on any comic. The same goes for Sharon Carter as she goes through shock over a very big revelation (youíll have to read it yourself; Iím not telling) and then on the verge of hysteria and finally into mindless automaton mode at issues end. You know what sheís feeling without words every step of the way.
The fisticuffs between the Winter Soldier, Crossbones and Sin in General Lukinís offices are well done. Epting and DíAmata give us different perspectives and angles so that we feel as if weíre in the room with them lending a great sense of movement to the static pages. The Skull has taken full control of General Lukinís body (finally!) and the scene where he reveals this and slowly pulls out the Red Skull mask and pulls it over his head is iconic and chilling at the same time. This is the classic Skull ready for the new Millenium. Here is another aspect of Brubakerís run on this book which is so thrilling. Itís as if heís setting the reset button on a lot of old Cap tales and character introductions. We get the same thing later on in the issue where Dr. Faustus confronts a captive Bucky. Faustus states, ďMy name is Doctor Faustus and Iíve been waiting a long time to meet you.Ē Dr. Faustus has been around as long as the inaugural Lee and Kirby days of Captain America but his presence here feels familiar but new at the same time.
For all of these villains the Winter Soldier/Bucky is an unknown quantity and we look forward to seeing how Captain Americaís protťgť will deal with these long standing threats. Itís part of the excitement of the ongoing read. Brubaker and company are doing so well at making the revived Bucky Barnes a well thought out character that Iím beginning to get comfortable with the idea that he just very well may be the next Captain America! All signs point that way. Heís got Capís shield, mask and the Punisherís spin on the Cap fighting togs at this point. If this is where Marvel is headed I will say that Brubaker did it right and made it work. To me this is one of the hardest things to pull off in comics; having the sidekick or a younger character take up the mantle of the elder one. Kudos to all involved here for making me believe it just might work for once.
Final Word: Brubaker and company continue to excite readers with red-blooded action, shocks and suspense. Its comicsí goodness at itís best. Buy this book; youíll be glad you did.
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