Or – “Do Not Fear Death So Much, But Rather The Inadequate Life…”

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Berthold Brecht said that, and it serves as a pretty fitting epitaph for our Steve Rogers, as well as a cautionary tale. It works as warning to Tony Stark… as a cold comfort to Sharon Carter… as a benchmark for Sam Wilson. And for James Buchanan Barnes, it’s a horrible and isolating reminder that the most heartless cliché of them all is “It’s never too late.” The Marvel Universe is in mourning, but there’s still work to be done, and while nobody here seems to want the Adamantium shield, Captain America’s job is hardly done.

Seems like FOREVER since the last issue, doesn’t it? Previously on Captain America: Anthony Stark might as well have just put a gun to Steven Rogers’ head. With the Civil War finally over, the new leader of SHIELD got so busy with boffing She-Hulk and CA1.jpgpaying the supervillains to do his bidding, that he neglected to provide enough security to protect Cap during what should have been a routine prisoner transfer. To protect his police escort, Captain America took a bullet to the shoulder, but was then surprised by three more shots directly to the chest. Even he wasn’t as surprised as the shooter, though, his escort and on-again/off-again girlfriend Sharon Carter, acting under hypnotic instruction from Doctor Faustus, a schmuck who’s been wearing the same pin-stripe suit since 1968. Faustus, however, was working for/with The Red Skull, Cap’s greatest nemesis, who finally has his revenge on the super-soldier. Former partners The Falcon and The Winter Soldier (once known as Bucky) have banded together to find the person or persons responsible and make certain that they pay, but I’d wager Sam and Bucky have different ideas what that justice entails. The issue starts with Sharon Carter and Contessa Valentina Allegra De Fontaine Griffith Joyner Kersee Cougar Mellancamp on their way to the wake, as Sharon explains how she just quit SHIELD. “Dugan told me it didn’t go so well,” prods Contessa, and Sharon agrees, remembering that her first words were “Stand down NOW, or I will PUT you down, sir. I don’t CARE if you outrank me…”

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You tell him, Sharon! And right here is the point where Brubaker throws me the first curve. We didn’t SEE Captain America’s body move from the morgue to the helicarrier. Loophole #1 for future writers needing one. As for “what’s happened to him,” it’s strange, but makes perfect sense from what we’ve seen of the always unpredictable Erskine formula: with the cessation of bodily function, the Soldier Serum has stopped augmenting his physiognomy. Those of us who read Stephen’s sneak peeks have seen it, and if you haven’t, the terrible truth is visible here. Some years ago, after the controversial “Streets of Poison” storyline that likened the serum to a performance-enhancing drug, the serum was retconned as a mutagenic agent, allowing for the Red Skull’s cloned bodies to have similar super-soldier attributes. It should be noted, however, that for the serum to reverse itself, it has to be teratagenic rather than mutagenic in nature. Sarah would never forgive me if I didn’t mention that… And I’m not certain, but I am seeing a subtle “Messiah On A Crucifix” sort of positioning to the remains. Sharon is horrified to see the body, and whispers “What did I do?” Tony catches part of it, and questions her, but she immediately turns on him.

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Contessa cannot believe she assaulted the Director. “You did NOT!” she cries. But Sharon did, and then she tendered her resignation. They arrive at the wake, and find that a great many of the other mourners have arrived. I pick out Matt Murdock, Ben Grimm, and Dum Dum Dugan quickly, as well as a stupid haircut that may be the Wasp. Already there is Sam Wilson, the Falcon, who for the first time in a long time wishes he couldn’t fly. “By the time Sharon shows up, I feel like I’ve been here for hours, having the same conversation over and over,” he thinks. Sam’s speech at the funeral was beautiful, she says (I am a little annoyed that we didn’t get to see it…) and he asks her about quitting. A funny moment occurs (“Life does not cease being funny when people die any more than it ceases to be serious when people laugh.” – George Bernard Shaw) when Sharon berates Dugan for blabbing, and he drunkenly responds, “I was just TALKIN’ to the guy!” Rick Jones interrupts their reunion, (and I think the man I thought was Murdock is actually Wonder Man) but Sam has to run. There are OTHER engagements he needs to honor tonight. Rick and Sharon have a moment of awkward small talk (“So, did you hear I’m playing a set later?”) and he does that thing we all do when faced with our mortality, trying to set the record straight. “He really loved you You knew that, right?” Sharon knows, but she quickly makes her exit to the ladies room, and breaks down crying… She can’t even look at herself, all she remembers is the voice of Doctor Faustus, telling her to remember, the hypnotic trigger that made her shoot Captain America. While Sharon cries, Sam flies, arcing over the city to his other commitment…

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Thank gawd they got him out of that horrible Jurgens-era armored suit. Gyaah. I’d rather have seen the green and brown than that thing. And the “hard light” wings are cool, if a bit hard to understand. Sam’s remark about “all the wrong people were there” should tell you exactly where he’s headed, but first we check in with the evil masterminds behind the murder: The Red Skull and Doctor Faustus. Skull’s daughter Sin is livid that the media won’t even mention the name of the shooter, her boyfriend Crossbones, but the Skull chides her for short-sightedness. He sends her off an as-yet-unknown mission, and then goes to check in on his subordinates. Doctor Faustus asks him rather politely if he’ll be at their session tonight, and the Skull informs him that he’ll be where he wants, when he wants. “Don’t ask for help, and then spit in my face, Skull. I’m not the one sharing his mind with another man.” Rage fills the eyes of the Skull, and he says nothing for long moments. When he does speak, it’s obvious he’s barely controlling his vitriol. “If I didn’t need you, I’d RIP your fat guts out for speaking to me this way.” Faustus holds his ground, responding “If we didn’t need EACH OTHER, I wouldn’t be speaking to you AT ALL.” Their headbutting is suddenly interrupted by Arnim Zola (as Salieri put it so aptly, “the man with a camera for a head”) who has news…

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Well, it’s not what I feared (cloning) but it is still disturbing. Much as Kirk wondered what God needed with a starship, I wonder what nefariousity the Terrible Trio would be up to with a time machine. The Skull (as General Lukin) has a meeting with the Secretary of the Treasury (!!) that afternoon, and needs Faustus to assist him, so we return to The Falcon, who is, as I expected at the “Secret Wake” with the New Avengers. Luke Cage, the NA leader, laments the fact that he didn’t get to stand up and say a few words at the funeral, but again compliments Sam on what he said… (WHAT DID HE SAY?? Darn you, Marvel!)

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Luke looks familiar there, but I can’t quite put my finger on it. As for The Falcon, he looks very ‘Arsenio Hall’ in the third pane. Anyway, Sam agrees that what happened with Tony was “weird” (and yet again, what was it??) but points out that Stark didn’t kill Cap. Luke makes the point that I keep harping on, that Iron Man PUT Captain America in front of the bullets, whether he meant to do it or not is somewhat irrelevant. Peter Parker remarks that Cap saved the cop in front of him, and was a hero to the end, while Jessica Drew points out that the booze ain’t gonna drink itself. Falcon’s wristband beeps, and he suddenly, once again, realizes that there’s somewhere he needs to be. In a skeevy dive bar somewhere in New York, one James Buchanan Barnes is trying to watch the funeral of the man he calls “my best friend, who I hadn’t had the guts to face for the last year.” The bartender calls it a tragedy, while a drunken bum at the bar says it was all faked. Unfortunately (for his teeth, I mean) a burly biker-type with a Navy tattoo thinks it’s time for his opinion to be heard…

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The Winter Soldier, on the other hand, doesn’t debate. He launches into action (seen way up top) and lays the smackdown on THE ENTIRE BAR out of grief and frustration. As he fights, he knows it’s the wrong thing to do, he knows that Captain America would have tried to stop him, he knows he’s just having an emotional reaction. Worst of all, he thinks…

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Heh. Sometimes morons need an @$$-kicking, too. Bucky also compliments The Falcon on his words at the funeral, (“We gather not to bury Steven Rogers, but to priase him…”) but Sam is pretty sure that they need to get the %#@& out of there. After all, a former assassin for the Russian Mafiya, listed as having died in 1944 but still only in his twenties is bound to raise a few questions. Hell, I’ve read his story every month, and I still have my questions. Bucky agrees, but does the honorable thing by paying his tab. He then suddenly sees the television, and at least ONE of the questions brought up about the funeral is answered…

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Anybody else willing to chip in on bullets? I’ve got twenty bucks I could toss in a hat. Remember what I said about different paths to justice? Falcon and Winter Soldier represent two different pieces of the Captain America experience, and got two different sets of training from him. Bucky got the “how to survive in a war” portion, where you are forced to kill or be killed. Falcon got the “how to survive without starting a war” portion of the training, and frankly, I hope that his orientation overrides Winter’s. It’s not that Iron Man doesn’t NEED killing, but it’d totally wreck Bucky, and they only just brought him back from the dead. They better have a more competent character arc planned for Mr. Barnes than “kills a guy and becomes a villain.” Dead sidekicks who come back as gun-toting leather jacketed maniacs are getting a little passé. Isn’t that right, Jason Todd?

As for me, this issue works well, but I can’t help but think it would have worked even better had it been closer to the actual shooting. Did Marvel hold it in reserve to retool events in the book following the unprecedented news coverage, or was the creative team late? I’m not sure. Heck, they may have PLANNED it to ship like this, but if they were going to ship late anyway, I wish they’d have finished the “Fallen Son” one-shots first. This issue cements Sharon, Sam, and Bucky as our new protagonists, sets up a new status quo, and deals with the “is it really him?” issue decisively. I’d have preferred to see more of the funeral (maybe it’s in one of the one-shots?) and certainly would have liked for there to be less ambiguity about when and where the body has been, but all in all, it’s a good issue. There’s some tension, hints of Red Skull plotting, a good barfight, and Iron Man both loses it and gets a richly deserved slapinnaface. Still, anything that makes Tony Stark look even a TINY BIT more sympathetic has my vote, and ranks this one a solid 4 stars out of 5. Had they shown what Falcon said, or given me a stronger belief that the body couldn’t have been tampered with, I might have gone 4.5…

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The Author

Matthew Peterson

Matthew Peterson

Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture!

And a nice red uniform.

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29 Comments

  1. Josh
    May 24, 2007 at 1:52 pm — Reply

    The delay was due to the one-shots being released. I think Brubaker said he’s already got the next three issues in the can just waiting to go to the printer.

  2. Brent F.
    May 24, 2007 at 2:03 pm — Reply

    I think Bucky would be a superior successor to the shield than Clint Barton, but I’m worried that if he was chosen to become the new Captain America that he would just be written as the 616 version of Ultimate Steve Rogers.

  3. May 24, 2007 at 2:20 pm — Reply

    The delay was due to the one-shots being released. I think Brubaker said he’s already got the next three issues in the can just waiting to go to the printer.

    If that’s the case, why are we seeing this issue with only three of the five one-shots out? Confusing, confusing Marvel printing practices..

  4. davek
    May 24, 2007 at 2:20 pm — Reply

    For my money, Matthew, the Falcon looks more like Jesse L. Martin from Law and Order, which is a-ok in my book. That would be a dandy little bit of casting, actually.

    When reading this, I immediately thought three things:

    1. The Captain America series is the only series that consistently shows Stark in a SHIELD uniform, which is offsetting in its way. It just goes to show how little internal continuity exists in the Marvel Bullpen, even amongst themselves, although it’s appropriate for the series and its depiction of characters.
    2. Yeaaaaaah, that Faustus-Zola-Skull trio. That’s a team-up that’s going to last. Jesus, Van Halen reunite with fewer issues. Skull, I hate to break it to you but… THE MAN’S GOT NO FRIGGIN HEAD! No head! See that? That’s Head by Kodak there! Sure you’ve come back from the dead… but you had a head! Call me kooky, but any man who stops and thinks, “You know… I don’t really need a head,” and then cuts it off, and THEN KEEPS LIVING, maybe his needs deserve a little consideration too, sport.
    3. Although I agree with Barnes, that Cap wouldn’t want him to follow this line of thinking, that’s he wouldn’t approve, and that ultimately it’s going to cause a lot of problems, when I read that final tagline, my first and only thought was… “Absolutely goddamn right.” Is the right thing for him to do? Absolutely not. Is the right thing for Cap’s memory? Absolutely not. Would I personally consider such a thing if it were one of my closest friends, being eulogized by a person who had in an indirect hand in his death? Absolutely goddamn right. Really. They could have gone so wrong with bringing Bucky back…. and yet, he’s near perfect in what he is and how he should be.

  5. May 24, 2007 at 2:21 pm — Reply

    I think Bucky would be a superior successor to the shield than Clint Barton, but I’m worried that if he was chosen to become the new Captain America that he would just be written as the 616 version of Ultimate Steve Rogers.

    My associate Dusty seems to think that is the ultimate (no pun intended) goal, to give us a Captain America who’s “edgy” and “proactive” and “other buzzwords used by mindless marketing drones.” At least the creative team seems to respect that the character deserves a good sendoff…

  6. Mark I.
    May 24, 2007 at 2:24 pm — Reply

    If they had tried to write a nice speech for Sam it ran the risk of being cheesy and not at all inspiring. Doing it off-camera is fair.

    I think time-travel is a red herring here to give a fake hint about how Cap’s going to come back.

    I also think that yep, this IS leading to the sidekick becoming Cap–after the Buckinator fights his way to Stark and decides that “Killing you is what I want…but it’s not what HE would want,” we’ll see a poignant close-up of the shield in Stark’s possession. Stark (and Sharon will be there to make her confession as well,) will hand the symbol of Captain America over and badabing, badaboom, new Cap. Not terribly unpredictable, but as long as it’s well-written, who cares?

    I’m just saying I was hoping for a little mystery and suspense here, but the way they’re centering the book now it seems like they’re just going with the obvious. Only a major-league swerve makes Bucky anything other than Captain America by the end of the year.

  7. Brent F.
    May 24, 2007 at 2:25 pm — Reply

    BTW, Luke reminded me of Suge Knight.

  8. May 24, 2007 at 2:35 pm — Reply

    “Contessa Valentina Allegra De Fontaine Griffith Joyner Kersee Cougar Mellancamp”

    Bravo.

  9. Tally
    May 24, 2007 at 2:55 pm — Reply

    I’ve said before…dead cap=LMD. Did Tony buy his nanobits from Lukin…lol? I’m guessing Nick Fury and Cap will pop up shortly..and I REALLY hope Tony Stark winds up face down under the Hulk’s heel..in tiny pieces. The Iron Man movie will be about 15 minutes long at this point. More fun from ol’ Joey Q… trashing Marvel’s icons one at a time..who’s next? Millie the Model turns crack whore? Geez…

  10. May 24, 2007 at 3:05 pm — Reply

    For my money, Matthew, the Falcon looks more like Jesse L. Martin from Law and Order, which is a-ok in my book. That would be a dandy little bit of casting, actually.

    There it is! Sadly, I mostly remember him as the guy from Rent or Ally McBeal’s boyfriend… But that’s a good call.

  11. May 24, 2007 at 3:07 pm — Reply

    “Contessa Valentina Allegra De Fontaine Griffith Joyner Kersee Cougar Mellancamp”

    Bravo.

    Thanks. It was originally ““Contessa Valentina Allegra De Fontaine Griffith Joyner Kersee Cougar Mellancamp Merill Lynch Pierce Sacco and Vanzetti” but A: good comedy comes from knowing when to stop, and B: I’ve already exhausted my George Carlin swipes for the day. +:)

  12. Brent F.
    May 24, 2007 at 3:08 pm — Reply

    I hope Marvel doesn’t announce another “status-quo” altering company wide crossover soon. With the House of M, Onslaught’s return, the Silent War, the Civil War, and World War Hulk occurring in a relatively short span of each other by Marvel’s time line you’d think normal humans would have cut their losses and abandoned Earth via an Asteroid H or something.

  13. May 24, 2007 at 3:20 pm — Reply

    I hope Marvel doesn’t announce another “status-quo” altering company wide crossover soon. With the House of M, Onslaught’s return, the Silent War, the Civil War, and World War Hulk occurring in a relatively short span of each other by Marvel’s time line you’d think normal humans would have cut their losses and abandoned Earth via an Asteroid H or something.

    Once again, Marvel is promising to rock the Marvel Universe to its very core, and it is all wrapped up in New Avengers #31. Marvel has sent Major Spoilers a sneak peek of this issue that may be worth picking up – I’m just hoping the cover doesn’t spoil too much of the issue for you.

    NEW AVENGERS #31
    Written by BRIAN MICHAEL BENDIS
    Pencils and Cover by LEINIL FRANCIS YU
    There are no coincidences. There are no heroes who won’t be affected. There is no escape. When you’ve finished reading New Avengers #31, you’ll realize why this is the one issue you just can’t miss. The superstar creative team of Brian Michael Bendis and Leinil Francis Yu have been thrilling critics and fans alike with their new direction for New Avengers, but you never saw the last page of this issue coming!

    And the Marvel Universe will never be the same.

    Again.

  14. Tally
    May 24, 2007 at 3:30 pm — Reply

    Damn…I ALMOST miss Jim Shooter…lmao. At least the characters maintained some form of consistency. Perhaps because the next big thing wasn’t the driving force…and no one wrote for a trade. They just did decent stories…heck, DC is just as bad…

  15. May 24, 2007 at 3:34 pm — Reply

    Brent F.: I think Bucky would be a superior successor to the shield than Clint Barton, but I’m worried that if he was chosen to become the new Captain America that he would just be written as the 616 version of Ultimate Steve Rogers

    Matthew Peterson: My associate Dusty seems to think that is the ultimate (no pun intended) goal, to give us a Captain America who’s “edgy” and “proactive” and “other buzzwords used by mindless marketing drones.” At least the creative team seems to respect that the character deserves a good sendoff…

    That’s my take on it too. There’s been talk about Joe Q making the Ultimate universe the main line for Marvel, but instead they seem to have decided to Ultimatize the 616 branch instead. Everyone’s an asshole except for a handful of put upon characters, the government controls the superheros, and the world is generally shitty and “realistic”. No way 616-Cap could tolerate the new world without bastardizing his character, so Brubaker, who does love the character, mercy-kills him and replaces him with Bucky. Much more movie-ready background, no more speeches just kicking ass (mind you, I love Bucky, just not as Cap.)

  16. Brent F.
    May 24, 2007 at 3:34 pm — Reply

    I don’t think DC is just AS bad. Certainly some of their titles are written for trade, but there are some that you can just pick up mid-way and still enjoy.

  17. May 24, 2007 at 3:42 pm — Reply

    Damn…I ALMOST miss Jim Shooter…lmao. At least the characters maintained some form of consistency. Perhaps because the next big thing wasn’t the driving force…and no one wrote for a trade. They just did decent stories…heck, DC is just as bad…

    In Marvel’s defense, there is a segment of the comics reading populace that demands this sort of thing.

    Of course, since Marvel BUILT that segment with a constant diet of this, I can’t work up a lot of sympathy for them. It’s all about ‘the next big thing’ with each plot building on the last. I blame it all on “24” myself.

  18. May 24, 2007 at 3:44 pm — Reply

    That’s my take on it too. There’s been talk about Joe Q making the Ultimate universe the main line for Marvel, but instead they seem to have decided to Ultimatize the 616 branch instead. Everyone’s an asshole except for a handful of put upon characters, the government controls the superheros, and the world is generally shitty and “realistic”.

    Dark and gritty is back again, and if the late 80’s are any indicator, it’ll probably get worse before it gets better, but the industry works in cycles… If nothing else, I’ve got 6 issues of a nice Spirit revival, and I can do more Hero Histories…

  19. davek
    May 24, 2007 at 3:54 pm — Reply

    “who’s next? Millie the Model turns crack whore?”

    What, is Frank Miller in town? Wakka wakka wakka.

  20. Brent F.
    May 24, 2007 at 3:56 pm — Reply

    I think you should write a Hero History article on Iron Man, educate us on how he went from being a drunken skirt chasing jerk to a sober maniacal skirt chasing monster.

  21. May 24, 2007 at 4:40 pm — Reply

    Brent: I think you just summed it up – get Tony liquored up, and 616 will return to status quo.

  22. May 24, 2007 at 4:43 pm — Reply

    Same thing happens with me, except I also need fajitas…

  23. May 24, 2007 at 4:48 pm — Reply

    I think you should write a Hero History article on Iron Man, educate us on how he went from being a drunken skirt chasing jerk to a sober maniacal skirt chasing monster.

    Tony Stark
    He’s a heel
    He’s a cool exec
    With no heart, just steel.
    As Iron Man,
    All jets ablaze,
    He’s a big red fascist
    With repulsor rays!
    A blaze of power!
    Iron Man!
    Curtailing Freedoms!
    Iron Man!

  24. May 24, 2007 at 4:52 pm — Reply

    Brubaker, like Moore, Gaiman & Morrison, knows the secret of good superhero comics writing: try to make it look as real as possible. Here, I see no Devil Dinosaurs, no Mole Men Monsters & Robots with Double-D Cup Chests, no (*sigh*) Ninjas (though they can be quite fun), no Giant Wolves & Viking Demons, No Armies Of Super-People Suddenly Turning Up In Times Square, No “I Just Ruptured Your Left Testicle”. Any aspect of ‘Super’ that can be written out, such as Iron Man’s armour, goes. Any aspect that can be made to look more realistic, like Bucky’s training or Steve’s super-soldier serum, is kept in.

    The characters, as seen last issue, are human; as I’ve stated again and again, Steve Rogers was not killed by an ugly monster like a certain super-powerful alien crybaby was, he was shot like any human, in the street. which just goes to prove that it’s a REAL death.

    …Just thought I’d mention it.

    Also: I like how we were fooled into the ‘Arnim Will Clone Cap!’ belief.

    I also enjoy how I’m sneaking into these reviews, one sentence at a time. Who knows, I ever get a scanner and I could start doing Retro Reviews…

  25. May 24, 2007 at 4:57 pm — Reply

    I also enjoy how I’m sneaking into these reviews, one sentence at a time. Who knows, I ever get a scanner and I could start doing Retro Reviews…

    You’ll have to fight me for 3-D Man and Bouncing Boy. And I don’t think people were fooled into thinking Arnim will clone Cap, but when Zola arrives, clones follow. It’s sort of his schtick. Devil Dinosarus, Mole Men Monsters, Robots, D-Cup chests, Ninja, Giant Wolves and Viking Demons have their place in the world, and can all be great fun. They would, however, not work in the context of a story where they’re desperately vamping to not remind us how many of Steve’ friends, neighbors, girlfriends, SHIELD directors, teammates, casual acquaintances and even haberdashers have easily skirted deaths that were MUCH more complicated than this…

  26. May 24, 2007 at 5:02 pm — Reply

    …Which, of course, is why ‘Fallen Son’ #2 didn’t work for me. At least, on the MA side…

  27. Mark I.
    May 24, 2007 at 5:24 pm — Reply

    The beauty of Arnim Zola is that his head is 1080p HD-ready. Other than that, BAH.

  28. Baal
    May 25, 2007 at 4:14 am — Reply

    Who thinks Sharon is innocent? After all, this is a sci fi universe she lives in and if our version of CSI could tell Cap was shot at point blank range then why hasn’t SHIELD? I think she’s been made to think she shot Cap to cripple her and keep her from interfering with the Skull’s next few moves.

  29. Brent F.
    May 25, 2007 at 11:35 am — Reply

    Tony Stark has SHIELD preoccupied with working on ways to help prove he is innocent, making himself look like one of the good guys, and feeding his sense of vanity by building a Iron Man themed hellicarrier. They needn’t be bothered by petty jobs like investigating the death of an American hero.

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