In recent weeks, it seemed as though every other Marvel periodical I picked up featured an appearance by the original Captain America, back from the dead as a result of the events of Captain America: Reborn #6. It was a bit irksome, though, as the comic that ended with the character’s resurrection hadn’t been released. Other Captain America-related titles would turn up in my account at the local comic shop, so I started setting them aside until I could read them in the order in which they were intended.
Well, Reborn #6 finally landed last week, so I sat down to peruse a trio of comics featuring the title character all at once.
Captain America: Reborn #6 (Marvel Comics)
by Ed Brubaker, Bryan Hitch & Butch Guice
The first part of this issue isn’t all that satisfying as it continues and concludes the predictable and cliched plot that’s returned Steve Rogers back to the land of the living. Of course, by this point, I was expecting the more conventional super-hero elements, so it didn’t seem all that disappointing. The point at which the heroes decide the Red Skull is really dead this time, despite the fact that he’s escaped death time and time again over the years, made me roll my eyes a bit. However, the denouement was much more satisfying. While this series has driven home the notion that Cap’s travels through time were potentially maddening, Sharon Carter’s ordeal throughout this series and the storyline leading up to it was far more arduous. As such, one really felt for her character, and it’s nice to see her and Steve having a Happily Ever After at the conclusion. It was also interesting to see some vulnerability in the title character, and his visions of what’s to come in the Marvel Universe are a nice tease (though there’s hardly enough of a glimpse here to speculate about future plotlines).
The bombastic and traditional nature of the super-hero action in this issue probably would have been better served by someone with a more exaggerated, conventional style rather than the photorealistic approach one expects from Bryan Hitch. I liked the idea of and design for the MODOK-like creatures that give the heroes a run for their money, but we really don’t get a clear view of them in action here. Hitch’s cover art is a bit odd as well, as it features just about the entire Marvel Universe at Cap’s side when really only a handful of Avengers turn up in the story. 5/10
Captain America Reborn: Who Will Wield the Shield? One-Shot (Marvel Comics)
by Ed Brubaker, Butch Guice & Luke Ross
The answer to the question in this one-shot’s title has been revealed, not only in the next comic I’ll review, but in the promotional material Marvel is putting out for comics it’s publishing in the forthcoming months. Bucky, the new Cap, will wield the shield, but that answer begs another question: why bother bringing back the original Captain America if he’s not going to be Captain America? Again, I do enjoy the notion that lovers Steve Rogers and Sharon Carter are enjoying a rest from a life of suicide missions and personal nightmares, and judging from the epilogue in this comic book, Marvel has other plans for Steve Rogers. Still, I wonder why the original Cap had to come back now when Marvel has so many other larger plotlines on the go. The main super-hero action — serving to give the original Cap a sense of paternal pride and cause to take a break from the super-hero game — is rather ordinary in tone, and the resolution of the conflict is a foregone (in other words, obvious) conclusion.
I loved the artwork on the opening flashback scene, as artist Butch Guice adopts a throwback style that puts one in mind of the styles of such classic Marvel artists Jack Kirby, Sal Buscema and Ron Frenz. When the plot shifts back to the present, the darker, grittier, foreboding atmosphere that’s been part and parcel of Cap’s adventures since his series was relaunched a few years ago comes back into play, and that’s appropriate. I like that there’s a consistency in the visual storytelling for the title character. Of course, I also enjoyed the more traditional look that creeps back into the mix during the New Cap/Mr. Hyde fight scene. I’m at a loss as to why this couldn’t have been presented as a regular issue of Cap, or why Marvel had to charge its readers four bucks for only 25 pages of story and art. 5/10
Captain America #602 (Marvel Comics)
by Ed Brubaker, Luke Ross & Butch Guice/by Sean McKeever, David Baldeon & Sotocolor
Ed Brubaker seems to pick up where he left off before Captain America: Reborn, focusing on the adventures of Bucky Barnes as the new Captain America, aided by his mentor’s friend and allies. On the one hand, the plotline here seems a bit too familiar, as the heroes go up against the Watchdogs, a racist militia-like threat, this time led by a twisted incarnation of the original Captain America. Brubaker seems to be revisiting the Mark Gruenwald stories from years ago in which Steve Rogers had to give up the Cap costume and an unstable soldier was elevated to the role of Captain America in his place. While the core plot didn’t do much for more, how Brubaker chooses to dress it up did. The Watchdogs’ dialogue in this issue is clearly meant to elicit comparisons to public comments made by such right-wing figures as Sarah Palin and Rush Limbaugh, who’ve spoken about two different Americas, sowing the seeds of division rather than furthering the principles of inclusion and equality upon which the country was founded. That kind of topical resonance helps make an ordinary story seem much more important and interesting, and for that, I applaud Brubaker.
Luke Ross has proven to be a solid addition to the string of artists who’ve joined Brubaker on this title since the writer took it over with that afore-mentioned relaunch some time ago. Again, he brings a consistent look to the series, in keeping with the darker, gritty style we’ve come to enjoy and appreciate over the last few years. Still, Ross’s own style still shines through, and I would imagine that fans of Mike Deodato’s work on Dark Avengers would also enjoy what Ross is going here with inker Butch Guice. The Watchdog design is rather uninspired, but it’s one that the artist got stuck with. It’s a shame he wasn’t given the opportunity to retool and update the D-list villains’ look for the 21st century.
I would have preferred it if Marvel left this title at its previous $2.99 price point, and adding a backup featuring a Bucky from another reality didn’t appeal to me; I didn’t read the recent Nomad limited series and hadn’t expected to read any story featuring the character. That being said, I was surprised at how accessible and enjoyable Sean McKeever’s teen adventure serial turned out to be. This team-up between the new Nomad and Arana proved to be a lot of fun; there’s a great deal of energy at play here. While I’m not sure the lighter, more traditional qualities of this backup feature is necessarily a good fit with the darker, political and socially relevant elements of the main story, I can’t deny that on its own, this Nomad story is entertaining. The brighter tone of the plotting and action is matched by artist David Baldeon’s style; it’s comparable to the energetic charm of Clayton (Adventure Comics) Henry’s style. 7/10
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