Or – “Brubaker Broke Rule #1: Bucky Stays Dead.”

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And yet, I enjoy it. I don’t know if it’s the fact that Cap himself is now deceased or if it’s just one of those ideas that is better in the execution than the conception, but so far, the return of James Buchanan Barnes has been very well handled. In the wake of the assassination of Captain America, the entire Marvel Universe looks like a whole new animal, and the Winter Soldier has set his sights on the biggest game of all: Tony Stark, Director of SHIELD. But before he gets to that particular bullet, he has an errand or two he wants to run…

CA1.jpgPreviously on Captain America: Shots rang out from the Grassy Knoll (which is Sharon Carter’s new nickname) and an American icon fell. His former partners (The Falcon, The Winter Soldier, and Sharon Carter) have felt the loss especially sharply, each dealing in his own way. Sharon has quit SHIELD, and told Director Stark exactly what she thinks of him (and many of us share her sentiments.) Falcon has met with Avengers both New and Mighty, and has registered with the SHRA (against his better judgement) to be allowed to speak at Steve Rogers’ funeral. As for the Soldier, he found himself in a barfight, laying a mighty smack down upon a few dozen idiots whose only real crime was loudly speaking their idiotic opinion. After that catharsis, the former Bucky knows what he has to do… he has to kill the man responsible for allowing the lax security that got his friend killed. He must kill Tony Stark. As for the Director, his plate is entirely full…

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Tight the security might be, but it’s not better than Nick Fury’s gadgetry. Bucky walks through their security brimming with weapons, and sporting an artificial arm that could crush skulls like eggshells, but the scanners say he’s clean. He enters the Captain America room, noting the security measures closely, watching each guard’s pattern. An old lady tells him how her father was saved by Captain America, and he knows damn well that it’s a lie, as Cap wasn’t present for the battle she mentions, but he leaves her illusions alone. “I don’t crush her memories. I would never do that to someone else…” Looking into the case, he realizes the truth: this shield is not real.

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While he plans how to retrieve the real shield, Sharon Carter has problems of her own. She sits on the edge of her shower, gun to her chin, telling herself to pull the trigger. “You don’t deserve to live now. And you know it.” But she cannot follow through, and the mocking voice of Dr. Faustus echoes in her head. “You can’t pull that trigger any more than you can TELL your friends what you’ve done.” She smashes the mirror, as if breaking the glass will undo her mesmerization. Returning to her living room, she is stunned to see The Falcon climbing through her living room window, and nearly shoots him. (That’d be ironic. Maybe she can go find D-Man and go for the hat trick?) Falcon doesn’t bring good tidings though, with word of the Winter Soldier’s mission.

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Falcon confirms that the real shield is not on display, and that Nick Fury seems to have knowledge that Bucky wants to kill Stark. THAT, my friends, is why Nick is the best spy ever, assessing Bucky’s actions and figuring his next move flawlessly. Falcon mentions that Winter Soldier has already compromised some of his assets, and we cut to a SHIELD lab, where a Nick Fury LMD has been disassembled after attacking several agents. Gruppenfuhrer Stark wants to know the hows and whys, but the techno doesn’t have any clear answers for him…

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I myself am not clear who has been controlling the android, but since the shield is shown in the next room, and the techno mentions loudly how their security is probably compromised. Tony tells him he ain’t got no problem, and Tony’s on the motha#&@#, and to just go back in there, chill out, and wait for a specialist who should be coming directly. Not long after, we see The Winter Soldier watching them, knowing that they’re spooked, and that they’ll move the shield. He is impressed to see that, while Tony can’t handle a simple prisoner transfer, he’s at least learning from his mistakes…

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Leaping into action, he quickly disabled the car before it takes to the air (It’s a SHIELD flying car, for those who weren’t sure) and readies himself to take on the agent inside. W know that it’s not Winston Wolfe and his Acura, but Bucky wonders to himself, “Who does Stark TRUST to transport that shield on their own?” The answer is startling to Winter Soldier, to the agent, and especially to an old continuity maven like myself…

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And suddenly, I remember why I like Ed Brubaker so much. Natasha is a RUSSIAN superhuman (in leather panties) and her origins are tied to the Cold War. We have that weird X-Men story from forever ago where we SEE her alive in 1942, meaning that she has to be much older than she seems. Given that the fall of communism in Russia was over a decade ago, we have to figure that she IS a very experienced field agent, but even *I* was surprised how quickly this all made sense. Especially that the Soviets would have coordinated their various superhuman efforts, and that Winter Soldier might have had interactions with Natasha. It also raises a huge question: why DOES she look so much younger than she actually is? Story hooks galore, as well as some nice characterization, from one little panel…

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The Widow warns him to stand down, not wanting to hurt him, but his mind is made up. The Winter Soldier engages her in battle, marveling at how fast and talented she is. “But I don’t worry too much. I helped TRAIN her.” He thinks back to how Karpov (the corrupt Russian who fished him out of the ice) ran the Red Room as well as his own services, and how she “made him remember what it was to feel human. And they punished us both for that, in different ways. Fighting her now is like punishing myself all over again.” What is Bucky referring to? Hold on to your Marvel handbooks, retcon fans, ’cause we’s gonna commence to flashin’ back!

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That flashback actually takes place later, as the Black Widow remembers him while recovering from the beating he’s about to give her. A good solid bionic arm shot to the head renders her unconscious, and Bucky takes the shield. “I’m sorry, Natalia. I never wanted to get you in trouble. But I guess that’s all I’m good at.” I have to say, I love this development, if only to allow Black Widow some new “screen time.” Falcon and Sharon arrive too late to stop the fight, and set off on the Winter Soldier’s trail. When the Widow awakens, she is distracted by her memories of a lost dalliance, as Iron Man tries to debrief her from the mission. She confronts him about the Soldier, angry that he KNEW who he was and didn’t tell anyone, but Tony is more interested in their shared history. She says it’s less a history than a boy-meets-girl, boy-trains-girl, boy-kisses-girl, boy-is-punished-by-Soviet-overlords, boy-is-stuck-back-in-cryonic-storage, girl-finds-him-and-is-horrified kind of thing. Y’know, like West Side Story, only with cyborgs and gymnast super-spies? Moreover, she knows what Bucky thinks of the Iron Dictator…

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She warns Tony that Bucky blames him (rightfully, in my opinion) for Steve’s death, and that, logically, he’ll be coming for Tony next. Now it’s down to a race: can Falcon and Sharon convince Bucky that he needs to back down before he gets killed by SHIELD, or worse, succeeds in assassinating a high-ranking American agent? Even if I’m irritated at Stark, I don’t want to see him shot in the street, and I don’t want Winter Soldier to have to deal with even more baggage…

This issue was, frankly, stellar from top to bottom. Steve Epting’s art is wonderful, with Black Widow looking dangerous AND attractive (and more than a little bit like Lexa Doig in some panels) and the combat sequences excellently done. As for the story, it’s excellent, with little treasures on every page. The reveal of the previous relationship between Black Widow and the Winter Soldier is so simple, yet so appropriate that it fits perfectly. Many times, backstory retcons need a suspension of disbelief, but this one is a perfectly organic development which raises interesting questions. Sharon’s anguish over being forced to murder the man she loves is simply awful to behold, and I wonder if she’s ever going to really recover from this kind of violation. Either way, this issue had me from the moment in the museum where Bucky showed (for the first time since his resurrection) a real sense of caring and compassion, leading me to think that if they do make him Cap (as so many of us suspect they will) that he’ll do the role justice. This issue is even better than the last, which I liked greatly, and rates 4.5 out of 5 stars…

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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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20 Comments

  1. davek
    June 21, 2007 at 3:29 pm — Reply

    “Even if I’m irritated at Stark, I don’t want to see him shot in the street, and I don’t want Winter Soldier to have to deal with even more baggage…”

    You know, me too. Me too on the whole sentiment – Winter Soldier is a brilliant creation, I’ve never liked Falcon as much as I do in Brubaker’s interpretation and the whole plot/pacing just hums like a finely-tune engine. In the midst of all this post-Civil War nonsense, I really find myself embracing Brubaker’s narrative.

    It’s a toss-up for me – I’d like Barnes to become the next Cap, but I like the character as he is, too. With an edge, that he might have to lose if he carried the shield. I’ve often said Falcon would be a great Cap, as well. Hawkeye would’ve been nice, too. But I think Cap has become far more relevant in his death – a King Arthur who has gone to Avalon, while his knights deal with his absence.

  2. Sean Curley
    June 21, 2007 at 5:05 pm — Reply

    Regarding the LMD, it’s the one that Bucky and Fury hijacked way back in issue 23 (and later appeared in issue 24). So that’s the major asset that Bucky compromised.

  3. June 21, 2007 at 7:30 pm — Reply

    > and told Director Stark exactly what she thinks of him (and many of us share her sentiments)

    > Gruppenfuhrer Stark [for the 50 millionth time]

    > the Iron Dictator… [for the 50 billionth time]

    > She warns Tony that Bucky blames him (rightfully, in my opinion)

    WE GET IT ALREADY.

    – Z

  4. Maximus Rift
    June 21, 2007 at 8:08 pm — Reply

    It’s weird that I’m enjoying this book more without Steve than with, but I really am.

    And I don’t think that W will kill Tony. He’ll come close, but will probably decide not to and realize that there still a bit of “hero” left in him.

  5. Brother129
    June 21, 2007 at 9:32 pm — Reply

    So do we think Nick Fury’s re-appearance will be part of this Skrull mega-event Marvel’s planning? I was really confused by the anroid sequence in this issue. Why did you call that X-Men issue weird? I thought it was one of coolest comic stories I’ve ever read…

  6. Brent F.
    June 21, 2007 at 10:21 pm — Reply

    There never was a real Nick Fury, he has always been a Life Model Decoy. The LMDs were created by a plumber named Bob Coleman in Rhode Island and he can only remember how to make one when he’s drunk.

  7. June 21, 2007 at 11:00 pm — Reply

    > and told Director Stark exactly what she thinks of him (and many of us share her sentiments)
    > Gruppenfuhrer Stark [for the 50 millionth time]
    > the Iron Dictator… [for the 50 billionth time]
    > She warns Tony that Bucky blames him (rightfully, in my opinion)

    WE GET IT ALREADY.

    – Z

    Mm… I’ll stop when Marvel does. :)

  8. June 21, 2007 at 11:09 pm — Reply

    There never was a real Nick Fury, he has always been a Life Model Decoy. The LMDs were created by a plumber named Bob Coleman in Rhode Island and he can only remember how to make one when he’s drunk.

    Why am I frightened that Marvel will actually GO with this origin?

  9. Brent F.
    June 21, 2007 at 11:19 pm — Reply

    Because it sounds like something Marvel would write and then retcon away and then retcon into the Ultimate universe permanently until they make Bob a goth chick who works at Hot Topic and has a MySpace profile that proves she is a loyal American.

  10. June 22, 2007 at 12:54 am — Reply

    Ah…don’t you just love it whena ‘Toughguy’ American agent goes up against the Red-Haired Russian Babe that once he loved? Brock Samson would be…um…indifferent.

    I wonder if Bucky was Natalia’s first…

  11. June 22, 2007 at 7:01 am — Reply

    I wonder if Bucky was Natalia’s first…

    Given that she seems to be an awkward teenage girl and her status as a human weapon in the care of totalitarian schmucks, it seems likely.

    But how, exactly, is Natasha staying young? If she was a child in 1941 (and apparently they’re revisiting that story in the near future in Wolverine) she’s got to be at least seventy now.

  12. Salieri
    June 22, 2007 at 7:05 am — Reply

    You’d of course understand why Bucky and Natalia hit it off – she was rescued by Cap and Wolvie from getting ‘The Echo Treatment’ from the Hand back in 1941. Bendis made a reference to it in a Flashback in ‘House of M’.

  13. Brent F.
    June 22, 2007 at 7:15 am — Reply

    More healing factors anyone? We’re passing them out like hotcakes!

  14. June 22, 2007 at 7:40 am — Reply

    When I heard about all this Bucky/Winter Soldier nonsense, i cringed. After seeing the direction Brubaker is going with it, I am actually liking it… and letting us know that Bucky bagged Natasha seals the deal!

  15. Maximus Rift
    June 22, 2007 at 10:07 am — Reply

    I don’t think Natalia has a healing factor. It’s probably a super-soldier serum that worked only once… for now. They had W for a long time, so it’s completely plausible they could have reversed engineered the formula.

    I hope that Sharon gets some kind of payback for getting used like she did. I also dig her ’60 disco costume.

    As for the new Cap, there will be FOUR Cap Americas in the future with one of them being the Red Skull in disguise. The 3 other Capt. will try to stop him and fail, until Steve shows up from the dead and beats RS at the last minute. :P

  16. Brent F.
    June 22, 2007 at 4:34 pm — Reply

    So in other words there will be a Reign of the Captain America’s?

  17. Tom Grice
    June 23, 2007 at 12:33 pm — Reply

    I hope that Sharon gets some kind of payback for getting used like she did. I also dig her ‘60 disco costume.

    Disco was in the seventies, but her outfit is a throwback to the classic look done by Steranko in the 60’s. (wow, I am old!) And this was never intended as a “hahha I will nitpick post” but rather as a chance ro make Matthew feel as old as I did reading this post.

  18. June 23, 2007 at 8:29 pm — Reply

    Disco was in the seventies, but her outfit is a throwback to the classic look done by Steranko in the 60’s. (wow, I am old!) And this was never intended as a “hahha I will nitpick post” but rather as a chance ro make Matthew feel as old as I did reading this post.

    Yeah… you suck. Of course, I was just reading issue #233 and thinking how I need to dig up a copy of #234, the issue where Sharon died. Not only that, she stayed dead for like 20 years! That, my friend, is how old we are.

  19. June 23, 2007 at 8:31 pm — Reply

    So in other words there will be a Reign of the Captain America’s?

    Well let’s see…

    Patriot=Young Clone of Cap.
    Winter Soldier=Cyborg Cap.

    All we gotta do is get the Falcon some big ugly armor and resurrect Jack Monroe to the “Eradicap” and we’re in business…

  20. June 27, 2007 at 11:15 am — Reply

    No…we’ve already got Punisher as ‘Eradicap’.

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