Writer: Ed Brubaker
Artists: Steve Epting, Butch Guice
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Plot: Bucky battles “Bucket-head.”
Commentary: Here we are at the penultimate issue before the unveiling of the New Captain America next month. It’s an integral transition issue because the Winter Soldier has to duke it out with Iron Man before his late partner’s (Steve Rogers) last wishes are revealed thereby ending the fisticuffs and focusing Bucky’s intensity in a more constructive direction; that direction is appropriately The Red Skull and company. The prospect of the All-New Captain America being revealed against a backdrop of Steve Rogers’s oldest and deadliest foes is a classic in the making. Mr. Barnes has been their prisoner and taken their measure, and I’m sure Brubaker will give him a whole can of “whoop a@@” to open up against them. The fact that the promos have shown the new Cap carrying a gun means this will be a decidedly different take on the classic character. Brubaker is leaning slightly more in the direction of reality and in step with our current world context. This is a welcome thing and will probably bring some much needed relevance to the character of Captain America. For all the nay-sayers Captain America is first and foremost a soldier. Soldiers get their hands dirty fighting for what they think is pure and right. Strip away all the politics and various behind the scenes agendas, and this is the heart of what a soldier is. Brubaker knows what he’s doing. I’m glad to see Marvel is just letting him tell his story. Other than a few promo images that have popped up over the last few months Marvel has not dumped a ton of advertising money into the new Cap announcement, and every comic in their line doesn’t have some cheesy banner touting this as “The Next Big Event!,” “Comics History In the Making,” “The All-New, All Different Captain America!,” "Who Is The Man Behind The Mask?” or some such.
Marvel seems to be letting Brubaker and Epting’s (and now Guice’s) faithful followers such as me carry the fanfare and support for the new Cap. The story has been great so far, and Brubaker’s two year lead in to this is the right way to make such a change: gradually with consistently good storytelling and art that makes us want to come back and know what’s going to happen to these characters. The only unfortunate thing here is that it had to happen against the backdrop of the new status quo in the Marvel Universe. Tony Stark is the head of S.H.I.E.L.D. and the Initiative. So, once again we have an unregistered hero going up against the man who allegedly dons the most powerful mobile weapons force in existence, the Iron Man armor. We’ve seen this scenario over and over again this past year. Former teammate (insert Spiderman, Thor, Hulk, et. al) confronts or is confronted by Stark. Former teammate breaches or immobilizes the Iron Man Armor. Former teammate has Stark up against the wall. Former teammate and Stark come to a compromise. Frankly, I think Marvel opened up a can of worms that they continue to flounder around in. Tony always has these meetings solo with no backup and never winds up arresting anyone breaking the new laws. Here at least his motivation is better: fulfilling the dying wishes of an old friend.
Another development I’m not exactly keen on is the all purpose “tool” the Winter Soldiers cybernetic arm turned out to be this issue. S.H.I.E.L.D. wisely separated it from his body, but it turns out it can be controlled remotely and is key in Bucky’s escape. It came off as a bit contrived and corny to me, and I’m hoping this is a one time occurrence and we don’t see his arm detaching and re-attaching in battle in future issues. “Robo-Cap” is not something I’d relish seeing. That would be as bad as the time they put Steve Rogers in Cap-Armor. Uggggh. We get hints once again that the absent Nick Fury is pulling some strings, and I’ll look forward to seeing how Brubaker and company bring him back into the forefront of The Marvel Universe. All things considered, this is a necessary issue as lead in to next issue’s big reveal, but the execution is hampered somewhat by Marvel's current editorial and marketing necessity.
Final Word: The least compelling and interesting issue of Brubaker’s run to date. I have confidence things will pick up again next issue.
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