Editor's Note: Captain America #37 arrives in stores tomorrow, April 16.
"The Death of Captain America: Act III: The Man Who Bought America: Part One"
I don't think I can really sum up in a paragraph/introduction/combination of words, how I feel about Ed Brubaker's run on Captain America without sounding completely redundant. I think I've made it pretty clear over numerous reviews that I am a fan of Steve Rogers and I love Captain America. I've always loved the methodical, slow-building and consistently excellent work that Brubaker is delivering with his tandem of rotating artists, Mike Perkins, Steve Epting and Butch Guice. Even the most die-hard of Steve Rogers fans that I know, who were initially put off by his "death," have come to fully accept this fantastic series. It's funny because every time I'm in between issues I always find some excuse to say "ehh, Rogers will be back soon," to more than likely be put in my place when Brubaker delivers each month. While there have been some moments I have questioned, overall this series has delivered issue after issue.
So one has to ask, what can Brubaker give readers that he has yet to give them in the 37 issue span of his tenure on Captain America? How about an intimate portrait of the Red Skull's motivations and the root of his hatred for America. The interesting thing about Brubaker's portrayal of the Red Skull is that he hasn't focused too much on Herr Schmidt's motivations. Sure, Lukin killed the Red Skull's body only to have the Cosmic Cube join their minds inside of Lukin. And yes, the Skull has been slowly picking away at America through political influence and corporate dominance. But why is the Red Skull doing this? One would happily assume the blatantly obvious "He's the Red Skull, Nazi super-villain." But that's too obvious, too on point in terms of what's taking place. In fact, reading the first few pages of this issue, where Brubaker reveals the Red Skull's motivations, really brings the meaning to the title of Act II of this saga: "The Death of the Dream." You see, this opening scene depicting Bucky, Captain America and soldiers celebrating the fall of Paris in August of 1944 relates to that title as much as the actual "death" of Captain America does. In August of 1944, the Nazis were ousted from France, and Hitler's dream began to die, and love us or hate us, America became the number one superpower. But this also shows the beginning of the death of the Red Skull's dream, a dream of supremacy crushed by soldiers from America and in this case, a man carrying a shield. The Red Skull would make it his life goal to destroy America; he would make it his life goal not just to kill Steve Rogers, but to destroy the dream that is America. This opening scene takes my breath away, as cheesy as that sounds, but the themes and undertones are truly magnificent.
With that out of the way, this issue is a bit of a change of pace from the last three isues featuring "Bucky Cap" in action. Brubaker does an excellent job showing the Red Skull's master plan in action as Senator Wright creates the Third Wing party and announces his candidacy for President. Get it? Third Wing, Third Reich. Maybe I'm just thinking too much into that one, but that's the first thing I thought of. Brubaker directly touches on the shocking and wild ending from last issue as Faustus and the Red Skull discuss the revival process of the apparent Steve Rogers, and how he will be under their control. (More on that soon.)
I love Brubaker's portrayal of Tony Stark in this issue. Tony once again acts like the smug S.O.B. he is and always believes he's doing the right thing before he thinks about it. The Marvel cadre of writers has done an excellent job with Tony Stark across the board. He stays very true to his convictions, always believes what he is doing is right and has managed to get himself into some deep doo-doo. Brubaker delivers an excellent scene full of well-written dialogue between the Falcon and Tony over Tony's negligence in telling Falcon about "Bucky Cap." I appreciate that Brubaker didn't really touch on the subject of the Falcon becoming the new Captain America because that is more or less territory that has been covered in the past. Brubaker also does make the point to show that Falcon knows how manipulative Tony can be when he calls him on it. There is some really great dialogue and just a well done scene here.
There's also an extremely well written and much needed scene between Bucky and Clint Barton, a.k.a. Hawkeye. Clint often stepped in to act as Captain America and is one of the few men who can actually catch the shield. I really like this scene and the fact that Brubaker even put it in the story. During the Fallen Son mini-series, one of the issues featured Clint posing as Steve Rogers and one had to figure it was only a matter of time until the two met. Of course, Brubaker nails Clint to a tee as well. Clint's always been a bit of a jerk and Brubaker really makes him come off that way in this scene. Again, the dialogue is fantastic and the similarities between the two are expressed clearly as they both were one time protégés of Steve Rogers.
Okay, so I know you’re reading this wanting to know what I think, or what happens based on the events from last issue. After finishing the issue, two things became very clear. One, Sharon Carter is still completely sane, and two, I know the true identity of "Steve Rogers," or at least I think I do. I suppose there had to come a point in this series where Brubaker really tapped deep into the Captain America mythos. I'm a bit disappointed with myself that I didn't see it coming but the situation is set up perfectly and really plays off of some old ideas from way back in the 70s, which featured stories about the 1950s. Haven't figured it out yet? First check out my "The Many Faces of Captain America" column from January before issue #34 came out, the man who I think "Steve Rogers" is happens to be on that list. So check that out, see if you can guess who it might be, then hit your "back" button and come back here. Or just scroll down, but beware of spoilers!
The man who Sharon saw and talks to at the end of this issue has to be the Grand Director, a.k.a. "Captain America of the 50s." Yes, sir, the man who hacked his face up to look like Steve Rogers and legally changed his name to "Steve Rogers." Well played, Mr. Brubaker, well played indeed. You see, in an attempt to stop the Communist Red Skull, NOT Herr Schimdt mind you, from attacking the United Nations, the Grand Director, as Captain America, and his sidekick Bucky a.k.a. Jack Munroe, injected themselves with a faulty super-serum giving them psychotic symptoms. They were eventually turned over to the care of Dr. Faustus, the very man manipulating S.H.I.E.L.D. and most of those close to the real Steve Rogers. Faustus used his mind control to have the Grand Director attack the real Captain America. Do you get where this is going? The Grand Director, who committed suicide, has seemingly been brought back to life and Faustus and the Red Skull are going to use him to attack Bucky. Of course, I could be wrong, but given what Sharon says to the man at the end of the issue and his response, my only conclusion is that this man is in fact the Grand Director.
This may prove to be a bit problematic for those readers who only came on board this title recently, or readers who may not be familiar with the history of Captain America and his "replacements." While on one hand this could be very beneficial as a catalyst for a spike in Marvel's digital comics subscriptions, this kind of heavy reliance on mythology may end up alienating those who are not die-hard Cap fans. I'm sure Brubaker, being the master that he is, will no doubt explain all of this if my theory is correct, but it could still break momentum in this series. It's only a possibility. Im a big Cap fan so I am able to devise the theory, and thus I see no break in momentum. However, what I'm trying to say is that some people will not see the "Grand Director Theory" and may be left a bit confused.
Steve Epting returns to pencil duty for this issue and he delivers the same high-caliber artwork that I have really gotten used to. There are some moments of facial inconsistencies that I could nitpick about, and I feel Clint Barton is a little too broad in size, but for the most part Epting once again delivers some of my favorite Marvel artwork as part of a trio of rotating artists who have really contributed fantastically to this series. My only other issue with the art comes in terms of personal preference. I don't mind that the World War II scenes are virtually the same in tone and color (albeit a little more washed out) as the present day scenes, but I wish the dream sequence in the second half of this book had a bit more of a "dream feel." But that's just my personal preference and for the most part I could care less either way.
Brubaker delivers yet another solid issue of this series. While I'm a bit wary that some newer Captain America fans will feel alienated if my theory proves true, I for one absolutely love the idea of tapping into some classic Captain America stories and retro-fitting them for Bucky. While I love Steve Rogers, I also love this series and can hold off on his eventual return a bit longer.
What did you think of this book?
Have your say at the Line of Fire Forum!