Captain America #30

by

Or – “This Just In! Former Captain America Steve Rogers is STILL Dead…”

CA11.jpg

Let’s say you were living in the year 1985, enjoying Mark Gruenwald’s run on Captain America Volume 5. He’s been crafting interesting stories every month (even the stuff with Flag-Smasher) but suddenly, a time machine appears, and out steps a wild-haired madman who tells you of the far-flung autumn of 2007! “Uhhh… Marty! Marty! We’ve got to do something about the future!! Captain America is dead! Bucky, the Falcon, and Sharon Carter are headlining his book! We’ve got to go… Back To The Future!!!!” Would you expect during this conversation that the stories would actually be not only good, but REALLY good? ‘Cause if not, then expect Biff to give you a few quick raps on the melon… “Hello? McFly?”

Previously, on Captain America: The Superhuman Registration Act split the superhero community down the middle, with Iron Man standing for law, and Captain America CA1.jpgespousing the belief that those who forsake liberty for the sake of safety are neither free nor safe. Captain America realized at the end of the battle that the general populace of the Marvel Universe wasn’t behind him at all, and turned himself in. After being soundly attacked by one Sally Floyd, who pointed out that the only thing that matters is being part of the crowd, Cap was killed during a prison transfer. Now, in the weeks after his demise, his friends and comrades each have a different idea of how best to uphold the legacy of Captain America. The Falcon wants to find his killer. Agent 13 is forced to work with him, by hypnotic control of Doctor Faustus. Iron Man refuses to name a new Captain America. And The Winter Soldier wants to assassinate Iron Man… Worst of all, Sin and the Serpent Squad have been able to free Crossbones from custody, thanks once again to Faustus (disguised as SHIELD psychologist Dr. Benjamin.) Tony Stark has discovered Benjamin’s treachery, and sends agents to check out his home…

IMAGE REMOVED BY MARVEL LEGAL DEPARTMENT

While Tony realizes that someone has infiltrated his agency, The Winter Soldier has broken into the Kronas Corporation, headquarters of Aleksandr Lukin, a former Russian general whose mind is now the home of the Red Skull. Ready to confront the Skull, he ends up facing Crossbones and Sin. “I’m an idiot. Rushing in blind.. I deserve to lose this fight. But I’ll be damned if I’m going to.”

IMAGE REMOVED BY MARVEL LEGAL DEPARTMENT

Heh. Gotta love the tough-guy talk… James Buchanan Barnes turns again, and reaches out to grab his opponent by the throat. “You… You shot my friend. And I don’t HAVE many friends.” The former Bucky raises Crossbones up by the throat, holding him in mid-air, his bionic arm slowly squeezing, as if weighing how easy it would be to crush his murderous throat.

IMAGE REMOVED BY MARVEL LEGAL DEPARTMENT

And even though Winter might think of it, he can’t follow through, instead throwing Crossbones to the floor, leaving him with the sure revelation that he owes Bucky his life. “Ahh… That’s more like Rogers,” smirks the Red Skull, but Winter Soldier whirls, pins him to the window, his rage finding a better target. “You’re the one who deserves to die!” The Skull simply stares him down, saying “Deserve. Is that really a word you want to use, Winter Soldier?”

IMAGE REMOVED BY MARVEL LEGAL DEPARTMENT

Okay, as much as that moment worked for me, the whole “mental shutdown word” is the first moment that felt even a little cliche in this storyline. But, it came in the middle of a good scene, so I’ll allow it. (Like my opinion matters…) Across town, Sam Wilson (The Falcon) has a conversation with his partner Redwing, in which they discuss their injuries (Sam’s burns and Red’s wing are both up to speed) and Falcon reveals that his new costume was destroyed, so he’ll have to go back to his old one. Awesome! He hears someone entering, and whirls with his handy grappling hook, another bit of old-school…

IMAGE REMOVED BY MARVEL LEGAL DEPARTMENT

Is that not the cutest Black Widow you’ve ever seen? Of course, her changing haircuts throughout the Marvel U. are one of the mysteries of decompressed storytelling, but Steve Epting makes me just not care. As for Falcon’s recent partner, Sharon Carter, she’s finding out first hand that just because you’ve hit rock bottom, doesn’t mean you can’t start to tunnel…

IMAGE REMOVED BY MARVEL LEGAL DEPARTMENT

Oh, no. Didn’t you ever watch an Afterschool Special? Every time you have sex in a storyline it leads to pregnancy! Especially if your boyfriend dies in an accident! Kristy MacNicol should have been a warning for you! Sharon’s new hell is competing with Winter Soldier’s, as he awakens in a room filled with monitors, each one broadcasting the death of his best friends on endless loop. If that weren’t bad enough, his only companion is a man who always smells of failed deodorant and cherry-pipe tobacco…

IMAGE REMOVED BY MARVEL LEGAL DEPARTMENT

“…I’ll know you better than you know yourself.” With that ominous exhortation, we return to Tony Stark, a supposed futurist who didn’t see a pretty obvious assassination attempt coming. Even he realizes that he screwed up, and calls up all the footage from all the cameras that saw the shooting, and realizes that not only did it take place at the perfect point, when all the cameras were looking the wrong way, that someone else might have had plans up their sleeve that day…

IMAGE REMOVED BY MARVEL LEGAL DEPARTMENT

That click you just heard was Tony finally putting two and two together and getting something other than “Incarcerate your friends for fun and profit!” As he realizes who actually fired the fatal shots, he tries to contact the Black Widow and warn her what’s about to happen… about 30 seconds too late.

IMAGE REMOVED BY MARVEL LEGAL DEPARTMENT

Interesting… Apparently Steve’s last wish implies that he wants Bucky to be the new Captain America, as many of us have been suspecting would happen all along. I don’t know about you, but I’m looking forward to Sam Wilson slapping the monocle right off Faustus smug, fat face…

This entire arc has been very well done, and even with the main character dead, it’s still a story about Captain America. The writing maintains the suspensefulness that has pervaded this book since #26, and I’m really enjoying the character work (Bucky’s targetless rage, Tony’s grief clouding his much-vaunted predictive mind, Sharon’s horror at being controlled) as well as Epting & Mike Perkins art. The return to Falcon’s old design (sadly without the shirt open to the waist, as all Black characters had in the 70′s) is nice, and I’m a bit psyched to see how this one all comes together, especially if Winter Soldier is going to take over for Captain America. The only complaint I have (and it’s a minor one) is how long it’s taking for this storyline to unfold. This apparently takes place right after the shooting, before Iron Man’s appearances in Avengers, Mighty Avengers, and Iron Man, already a chronological nightmare. Still, that’s a minor whine, and an external one at that. Captain America #30 scores a very impressive 4 out of 5 stars, and I’m hoping somebody punches the Skull so hard his little Doctor Seuss mask explodes.

4stars_1.jpg