MAJOR SPOILERS EXTRA: Captain America #25

by

Or – “No Joke From Me This Time…”

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Yes, once again I am compelled to do this on the day of release, and once again I must warn anyone reading this that I *WILL* be spoilering large aspects of the story. This will be a full review of Captain America #25. If you don’t want to know what happens right now, DO NOT CLICK the “more” link. This is your only warning, as I’m still completely in shock at the events of this issue, and what few filters I may have aren’t filtering worth a rot…

ca1.jpgThis is a hard issue to read. Even knowing what was coming (and wasn’t THAT a surprise when I logged onto Yahoo news), I still had trouble gettting through this one. We start the issue with sixty-year-old newsreel footage recapping the origins of the man called Captain America… Scrawny 4-F nothing Steven Rogers volunteers for an experimental (possibly fatal) Super Soldier experiment. Rather than dying, he is imbued with speed, strength, agility, possibly even some sort of enhanced mental acuity, but none of this is as impressive as the man himself… A believer in liberty, a supporter of the American way (regardless of the current fashion), a man who will always stand against injustice, greed, cowardice, and evil. The gold standard by which other superheroes can be judged, who has overcome poison, injury, even wounds that should have been fatal. The man who stood toe to toe with Thanos and refused to back down, even though it meant his own death. The man whose life has been symbolic of the truly democratic notion that everyone has something to contribute… Captain America: The Sentinel of Liberty.

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Wow. I can get a little purple when I’m in hero-worship mode, can’t I? It’s okay, so can Ed Brubaker. Granted, he’s MUCH better at it than I am. The newsreel is replaced by a newsfeed, and an anchorwoman who vaguely looks like Meredith Vieira reads the update: Captain America has surrendered, the war over registration is finally over. She recaps the events of Civil War, then throws it over to their field correspondent, who is on the scene live, as Captain America is being marched (in chains!) to his arraignment. This amazes and infuriates me. Doesn’t ANYONE remember Jack Ruby? This has fiasco written all over it. Cap detractors and supporters alike have gathered, and the crowd grows every minute. Stuck in the middle, feeling like Abraham Zapruder, is Sharon Carter, agent of SHIELD, and Captain America’s one true love…

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Suddenly, the perspective shifts to Sharon’s memory, thinking back to her childhood, watching old newsreel footage of Cap with her aunt Peggy (another retcon, as thirty years ago Peggy was Sharon’s SISTER, but the march of time doesn’t make that believable anymore), remembering how she met Steve as a young SHIELD agent. And SHIELD isn’t the only one with operatives on the scene, folks, because Sharon is being watched… by James Buchanan Barnes, Bucky to his pals. Bucky is livid that Captain America is being forced to make this “walk of shame,” and then he recalls what it was like to work with Cap, a great man who nonetheless considered Bucky a friend, and an equal. This writing is, quite frankly, pretty awesome, putting Captain America in both human and historical perspectives at once. The crowd surges when Captain America appears, and even the abundant security forces have trouble keeping order.

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Is it just me, or does Cap look a lot like George Eads of CSI here? And who IS that sniper, anyway? We’re not sure, but we find out who’s behind this horrifically bad idea of a public prisoner transfer: The Red Skull and Doctor Faustus, old-school Cap foes who define evil on a global scale.

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One rifle wound in the shoulder… but someone IN THE CROWD follows up with three more bullets to the gut. I know NOTHING about security, nothing about tactics, nothing about strategy, and I can tell you this: THIS WAS NOT NECESSARY. If we take it entirely at face value, somebody in security royally #!@ed up. Red Skull’s influence notwithstanding, surely SOMEBODY in the government knew this was a disaster waiting to happen. If we look at it as a comic book reader (which is tough, because the entire issue is incredibly engrossing) it looks like enough of a setup to find several different ways out of what comes next…

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Steve lies bleeding, but the only thing he can think of is the welfare of others. THAT’S the Captain America I know and love. While Sharon tries to save Cap, Winter Soldier/Bucky is on the move, racing to find the shooter, but finding only a busted skylight. Unfortunately, Steve has more than one partner who wants to find the shooter, and suddenly The Winter Soldier is divebombed and knocked flat by Sam Wilson, The Falcon. Falc pins Bucky to the wall, suddenly realizes who he is, and seems nearly homicidal himself…

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Falcon realizes that Bucky couldn’t have done it, anymore than he himself could have pulled the trigger. Suddenly, Nick Fury is on Winter Soldiers communicator, and the two men step up to the plate. If Steve is really gone, then we’re probably looking at the two likeliest candidates to replace him. Fury points them in the direction of a fleeing helicopter, and Bucky disables it with a shot. Suddenly, Red Skull’s enforcer, Crossbones leaps out of the ‘copter, tackling Winter Bucky, and careening the two of them through the sky, through a billboard of Iron Man, and landing on a rooftop. Winter Soldier overpowers Crossbones, and we see Bones’ partner Sin watching. She is ordered by radio to finish HER portion of the mission, even though she wants to save her boyfriend from a serious beating. The ambulance screams through the night, and the paramedics are losing their patient. Steve looks up, and mutters “Sharon… so pretty… you… take my… breath…” And with that, the red, white and blue Avenger dies.

The Falcon watches a news talking head numbly, as she announces that Captain America was dead on arrival. He thinks back to his history, how much Cap has done for him, and for the world, and simply can’t wrap his mind around a world without Steve Rogers in it. Neither can Sharon Carter, trying not to burst into tears in a nearby ladies room. A nurse hails her, saying the doctor wants to tell her something. Which doctor, asks Sharon? The closeup reveals Sin in a fright wig, who replies “Doctor Faustus. He says — remember.” Sharon collapses as suddenly, her mind is filled with images…

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Oh, no… A million things must be going through her head, but here’s what’s going through mine: NEVER TRUST DOCTOR FAUSTUS. I don’t know if I believe a moment of what she’s seeing here, but I have to admit it makes a sick kind of sense. Who else would have been able to get that close? Even as inept as SHIELD may be, you have to figure they’d at least have SOME sort of hold on firearms in the crowd, wouldn’t they? Faustus is a mesmerist, yes, capable of hypnotizing people into doing his bidding, but moreover, he’s a liar who counts on no one knowing what the truth really is. On a factual level, Sharon has to realize that this could be some sort of trick, just as I do. But, for all my logic, I didn’t just have a perfectly clear memory of killing the man I loved. And here comes the page that made me tear up…

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It’s the fact that you can see his face that got me. I’ve seen literally THOUSANDS of comic book deaths, and nothing has had this kind of resonance, not even Barry Allen. They really did it. I don’t know where this is going, I can’t even fathom it right now. I feel stupid for saying this, but it feels like a real person is gone, sort of the way I felt when I heard that Bill Hicks died. It’s not an immediate sort of grief, it’s more a sense of loss for the world.

I knew this was coming from media reports all morning, but even so, it got me where I live. I haven’t been this engrossed in a comic in a long time, and the emotional impact of what happened in this issue is staying with me. I’m hoping that the Marvel Universe feels the pain as well. In fact, it’s such a powerful issue that I can’t be angry about the big swerve at the end of CW, or about the bastardry of Iron Man, or even muster up any real frustration with the powers-that-be at Marvel. This is their big fillip, the hole card they’ve been hinting at for two weeks now, and instead of coming in a huge “event issue” of a crossover, it happened in his own book, with beautiful characterization, the use of his supporting cast and friends, and some very pretty art. I’ll probably regret it later, but right now, just on the basis of the jaw-dropping power of this book, I’m going to give it five stars.

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