Captain America #28

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Or – “This Just In: Former Captain America Steve Rogers Is Still Dead…”

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That joke courtesy of the 1970′s, a time when Chevy Chase was actually funny. Ed Brubaker seems to be following through on his promise to make this death meaningful in more than just a “When will he be back?” fashion. The effect of Steve’s loss on his friends and coworkers is profound, with some seeking redemption, some seeking vengeance, and at least one seeking an outlet for his profound sense of guilt. If you had asked me ten years ago if I thought we’d ever see Bucky again, I’d have called you crazy. But seeing Bucky back in a story where CAP is dead, and having that story not suck is pure gravy…

Previously, on Captain America: The nefarious Red Skull, with the assistance of Arnim Zola, the mad geneticist, and Doctor Faustus, the wicked psychologist managed to do what CA1.jpgthe entire Axis army, The Masters of Evil, AIM, Hydra, The Secret Empire, The Lava Men, and the Femizons could not: he killed Captain America. In the wake of this world-changing event, the heroes of the Marvel Universe are in mourning, while Sharon Carter, former agent of SHIELD wants to seek down the persons responsible. But the fact that she’s kept secret (due to a hypnotic command from Faustus) is that she herself pulled the trigger on the shots that probably killed him. Meanwhile, the Winter Soldier (once Cap’s teen sidekick Bucky) has decided who is responsible for this tragedy: Anthony Stark, head of SHIELD. He’s made himself a two-fold vow: retrieve the real shield (mission accomplished) and KILL Tony Stark. This issue begins in a flophouse somewhere in New York, as Winter Soldier goes to ground… As he walks through the lobby, he hears two men discussing the recent events. “No, it wasn’t just murder!” insists the hippy desk clerk, “It was an ASSASSINATION, man… I mean, he was on his way to COURT, to speak on national TV and then… Boom.”

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Winter knows that the well-intentioned words are false, though, as he knows for a fact that the Skull was behind it. Walking up the stairs, he continues to ruminate, wondering if there’s even more to the story. After all, if SHIELD was providing security, then SHIELD could conceivably have been complacent, or worse a PART OF the conspiracy. Looking into the sky, he sees the hovering helicarrier (and doesn’t that speak volumes about the new totalitarian Marvel U?) and thinks that getting to it is the key. He worries that sacrificing the Fury LMD last issue might have kept the real Nick from getting onboard, but he felt he had to get the shield. Now, he wonders how to get on the ship, but remembers his late mentors words. “There’s gotta be a way. That’s what Steve would say. There’s ALWAYS a way.” In a SHIELD lockup on the helicarrier, Tony has called in an old marker to deal with the issue of Crossbones, the sniper who took the FIRST shot at Cap: Charles Xavier, the most powerful telepath in the world. (I wonder how that timeline works?) Charlie X is disgusted at what he finds, but can’t get anything substantial out of ‘Bones tiny brain…

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I wonder how Faustus managed to pull THAT one off? Hiding information from Professor X (who looks very Captain Picardy) is quite impressive. Another phase of the Skull’s plan takes place across town, as Sin and her new Serpent Squad attack a brokerage firm. Her agents consist of The Eel (presumably Eddie Lavell, the newest Eel, but he’s wearing the costume of the OLD Eelm Leopold Stryke), King Cobra (or at least someone wearing his costume, as Klaus Voorhees, the old King Cobra was one of the characters on the cover of Avengers: The Initiative… Makes me wonder if someone hasn’t taken up his old mantle?) and a new version of The Viper.

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I enjoy the old school feel of this, but I have a few problems with it. The old Viper was killed by Madame Hydra, who then stole the name to become the female Viper. I know she can still call herself Madame Hydra, but since there’s already another Cobra running around (in the White Tiger miniseries) and the new Eel is dressing like the old Eel, it just makes my continuity cop senses tingle. Regardless, they are successful in blowing up the server and causing a huge downturn in the Asian stock market, apparently to make her papa Skull some extra yen. As evil as Sin is, I’m enjoying her obvious enthusiasm for mayhem and anarchy. As for the good guys, Nick Fury is still desperately trying to track down the Winter Soldier and bring him out of the cold before he offs Nick’s successor as head of SHIELD.

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I think this is the first on-panel appearance of the REAL Nick since Civil War (assuming it’s really him.) The Falcon returns to Sharon, in her old-school Mrs. Peel catsuit, and reports that Nick still has no leads. “I still can’t believe he hid a communications hub on the roof of the Daily Bugle,” marvels Sharon. “The man has seriously got brass ones…” Falcon suggests that they bring SHIELD into the circle, but Sharon quickly shoots him down, driven either by her guilt or Faustus programming. She suggests instead that they track down The Red Skull himself, or at least one of his stooges…

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I’m stunned that Falc’ can fly with a woman on his back, even one as petite as Ms. Carter… As for the man who put her mental blocks in place, he’s been busy as well. somehow, he’s infiltrated SHIELD under a image-induced disguise as a psychologist. The obvious answer to “How Did They Break Through SHIELD’s Defense?” is answered, as Faustus prepares for another incursion…

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Whatever is happening, it’s happening soon… Sadly, though, Tony Stark won’t be prepared, as he’s busy turning down volunteers for the job of Captain America. “There is no job, Agent. And there will be NO new Captain America. The shield and uniform are retired.” Tony dismisses the agent, but there’s another appointment waiting: a Maurice Greely, an attorney who has a letter for him. A letter from Steve Rogers…

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Oh, my… I wonder what Cap’s wishes ARE? I suspect that there may be a new Cap, sooner rather than later. The main candidate for the position, according to my pal Dusty, is currently smacking down an AIM listening post in Jersey. They have a history of working with King Cobra (even though the book calls him Cobra, I’m going to use the King Cobra moniker, for person reasons, and because of the new idiot calling himself Cobra) and Winter Soldier hopes that he can knock out some information along with their teeth. After busting several heads, he gets a lead… They have no information on the Skull, but they HAVE had dealings with King Cobra and Sin, giving them a list of all the SHIELD monitoring stations in New York, and the names of all the agents at those locations! The Aim beekeeper swears he doesn’t know what it’s for, but we find out quickly… Sin and her snakes have busted into a listening post, and taken out the agents within. “Don’t get any blood on the uniforms,” orders Sin. “It’s best if our disguises are at least MOSTLY real.” King Cobra asks why the agent just let them in, and Sin smiles…

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I know that the ‘Sexy, Sexy Danger’ is a cliche, but I’ll be darned if that’s not an attractive picture, there. The issue ends on a cliff-hanger, with The Serpent Squad ready to infiltrate Tony’s little social club, and the Winter Soldier apparently hot on their tail. These intertwining espionage plots are getting really intricate, and every issue reveals a little bit more information that wasn’t obvsious from the start. It’s an enjoyable little puzzle, and Brubaker is handling it like a master.

The art by Steve Epting and Mike Perkins is fascinating, combining an old-school kind of Jack Kirby feel (with many of the costume designs hearkening back to the ancient Tales of Suspense stories) with a very modern and slick look. The entire storyline has been fascinating, making it clear the care and preparation that went into it. This is a very nice book to look at, as well, with an engrossing story, combining for a well-deserved 4.5 stars out of 5. It’s good to see someone working with all their might to make us feel a comic-book death as strongly as we would an actual loss, and I’m enjoying the run of posthumous issues greatly.

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