Saturday, September 27, 2008

Captain America #42

I am in complete awe of writer Ed Brubaker.

Oh, not because he's done such a great job of writing Captain America. Not because he managed to keep my interest after killing Steve Rogers. Not because he manages to balance a large cast of characters and never leaves you feeling lost. No, he's impressed me because he created a storyline that I was convinced I'd hate - and I don't hate it.

See, I thought it was a terrible idea to bring back Cap's World War II sidekick, Bucky. This was a character whose death was revealed when Cap returned in issue #4 of The Avengers (the original run) in the mid-'60s, although his "death" occurred in 1945.

So this is a character who's been dead for 60 years, and one of only two early Marvel characters who got killed and actually stayed dead (the other one being Spider-Man's Uncle Ben, of course). When the story of his return started to unfold under Brubaker's run, I resisted. I didn't want to like it. Bringing a character back from the grave is tricky business, and few writers have the touch.

But then the story started to unfold, and despite myself, I was enjoying it. The story had enough comic book logic to work, and the story kept me guessing. Then, after Cap's "death" (wink, wink), it became obvious that the best candidate to take up the legacy was Cap's original partner, newly reborn as the Winter Soldier.

Brubaker has woven a complex story, following the machinations of the Red Skull and his agents, including Dr. Faustus, Arnim Zola and the Skull's daughter, Sin. On the hero side, we have the new Captain America, the Falcon, the Black Widow and Agent 13. This issue brings all the storylines together as the "final battle" (wink, wink) unfolds.

I don't mean to overlook the contibutions of artists Steve Epting and Luke Ross. Their depiction of this complex story has been outstanding, with a look that seems surprisingly dark for a book like Captain America - but it perfectly matches the serious tone of the story. The art captures the feel of watching an exciting film, with excellent camera angles, great action sequences and some tender moments.

This continues to be one of Marvel's best books, and if you haven't been following along, the next issue begins a new storyline, so it's a good jumping-on spot.

Of course, there's still the question of when the original Cap will return, or if he'll return - but you have to figure, if Bucky can survive, it should take more than a few bullets to kill the real Living Legend.

And Ed, I promise not to be angry when you resurrect him.

Grade: A-

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