Editor's Note: Captain America #40 arrives in stores tomorrow, July 16.
"The Man Who Bought America: Part Four"
I've made the point of saying on more than one occasion that Ed Brubaker's Captain America story-arc has been methodically paced, beautifully crafted and just damn good. The idea of Bucky becoming Captain America was an idea that I wasn't thrilled about at first, and I still can't wait for the day Steve Rogers returns, but as long as Brubaker can maintain the momentum and the purely amazing quality of this series, I am one satisfied reader. The title has reached levels of success based on (1) its superb, long-running plot, (2) its focus not only on the titular character, but the supporting cast, (3) the use of today's political, social and economic turmoil, and (4) a classic villain with the classic motive of taking over the country, but also the mystery of that character's true intentions. Throw in a few psychopaths and Tony Stark and we've got one hell of a story.
This issue is a rather big change of pace from what we have previously seen. The past three issues or so have been building to the confrontation between Bucky and the Grand Director, and Brubaker immediately turns up the heat and the pace from the very first page when Bucky-Cap soars out of a window. His attacker, the spitting image of Steve Rogers, is an enemy who is not only stronger than Bucky, but is meant to mess with his head and create doubts about himself. While this story is indeed a play off of the old Silver Age story when Dr. Faustus and the Red Skull used the Grand Director to attack Steve Rogers, the idea is used significantly well with Bucky as Cap. The reason behind this is because Bucky never met the Grand Director, nor does he know of the Red Skull and Faustus' original plot involving the Steve Rogers knock-off. Whether it is deliberate or not, it's just clever writing and clever planning on Brubaker's part, thus preventing Bucky from really putting the pieces together.
The fight scene is great. It's fast-paced, and more or less one-sided. It's a battle of survival for Bucky as he knows he is completely outmanned. Brubaker maintains his excellent writing of Bucky's inner voice, relaying his feelings on the action as it transpires. Bucky isn't as strong as Steve Rogers, nor is he as agile, thus the excitement and suspense of the battle builds every time Bucky gets hit. While Steve Rogers would most certainly adapt to such a situation, Bucky has to strategize and approach the Grand Director from a tactical standpoint. A well placed punch or kick to the head could severely injure Bucky. With every blow the Grand Director lands, Brubaker and Epting compensate with a panel showing Bucky recovering, giving off a disoriented sort of vibe. While the fight takes place, Bucky continues the internal debate over whether or not he's really fighting Steve Rogers, a Steve Rogers who is somehow stronger and faster than Bucky knows.
I thought the way this fight scene slows down was well timed and brilliantly executed. Bucky uses a little bit of psychological warfare of his own to confuse the Grand Director and cause some worry for the Red Skull. Bucky finally puts all the pieces together when he realizes the Grand Director can't be Steve Rogers because he has no idea who Bucky is. He only recognizes Bucky as the man who killed Jack Munroe. This moment goes all the way back to the first few issues of the series and reminds the reader just how long Brubaker has kept this phenomenal story going. The very end of the fight where the Grand Director essentially defeats Bucky is also important because the Falcon, who rescues Bucky as he falls off the top of a building, says that Bucky acted just as Steve would have. Regardless, the psychological tactics Bucky uses to distract the Grand Director leave the Red Skull, Faustus and Armin Zola pointing fingers at one another, yet another sign of the cracks in the villains' plan.
While this fight scene takes place, there's another one happening as well. While Faustus, the Red Skull and Armin Zola watch the Grand Director battle Bucky, Sharon Carter and Sin engage in a battle of their own. Once again, it's Brubakerís dialogue and inner narration from Sharon Carter that makes this scene truly great. The back and forth dialogue where Sin tries to get into Sharon's head and the inner-narration where Sharon does her best to ignore the vixen flows perfectly before Sin is able to knock Sharon down. Sharon is disoriented herself due to the drugs that were injected into his system, but the true nature of these scenes are to show the narcissism and evil that lies within Sin. When guards come to her aid, she tells them to stop and that she "only wanted an audience."
When you really look at the fight that takes place between Sharon and Sin, you might take a second and laugh just at the sheer fact that two women in rather sexy outfits are fighting in front of a group of male guards. But the fight scene is fantastic. While it is brief, it highlights the fact that Sharon never backs down nor gives up. It's important to see this fight as well because the entire time I was thinking, "holy shit, Sharon's pregnant." When you see the finale you will probably think the same thing and Brubaker once again turns up the heat on this series. Of course, the Red Skull's reaction to what happens is when you really begin to theorize about his true motives.
Steve Epting is back on art duties with this issue and once again, his work is phenomenal. The fight scenes are very well done, and Epting maintains his consistency and fantastic work. There's really nothing to complain about in the least bit in terms of the artwork, and I really hope Epting never leaves this title, even when this storyline is complete.
It's truly hard to say or find anything negative about an issue I enjoyed from cover to cover. The action and story is paced perfectly in this issue, the fights are beautifully rendered and Bucky's method of battling someone more powerful than he is brilliant in the long run. While some writers may take a legacy filling character and essentially morph them into their predecessor, Brubaker takes Bucky and brings him into his own with only shades of Steve Rogers' style. This issue definitely has a pulse-pounding ending and adds yet another plot thread to keep readers involved. I don't know about you, but Iím a very satisfied reader right now.
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