Or – “This Just In: Former Captain America Steve Rogers IsÂ Still Dead…”
“…even though all appearances point to the contrary.”Â I was having a discussion with Tom Grice (Who is still WRONG, sir!Â WRONG! ) recently, regarding changes to our comic book purchasing habits, during which we both realized that we were slowly dropping a lot ofÂ titles that were “just plain superhero books.”Â I gave up on both New Warriors and Thunderbolts in recent months, and Tom had found himself culling hero books, but keeping titles like Scalped, Hellblazer, and other stories off the beaten path.Â When talk turned to Brubaker’s work on Captain America, we both agreed that “The Death of Captain America” has been less superhero book than spy thriller with elements of classical romance and soap opera, and that precise fact is what makes the book so enjoyable.
Previously onÂ Captain America:Â Steve Rogers is dead.Â In fact, he has been for over a year now, but he’s left chaos in his wake.Â Former partner The Falcon is searching for the man behind his murder.Â Ex-(and assassin) Sharon Carter dealing with the ramifications of killing the man she loves, albeitÂ under the hypnotic control of the evil Dr. Faustus (and also being pregnant by the deceased Captain.)Â Former kid sidekick James Buchanan “Bucky/The Winter Soldier” Barnes has finally convinced Iron Man to give him Steve’s shield, and with it he has (reluctantly) taken up the mantle of Captain America.Â Of course, The Red Skull and his minions (including Arnim Zola, the clone master, and the aforementioned mad psychoanalyst Dr. Faustus, as well as former Soviet taskmaster Aleksandr Lukin, in whose body the Skull is currently hiding out, thanks to a mind swap induced by a Cosmic Cube) have a plan of their own to replace Cap, and also to finally, completely crush the American for which their red-white-and-blue menace stood, by putting their OWN candidate in the White House!
The first thing I notice (and I think that most people will notice) about this issue is the art.Â Captain America has had a rotating team or artists for some time now, but Rob De La Torre’s art in this issue feels weirdly unfinished, with the inking giving an impression I can only describe as “patchy.”Â We start the issue with Red Skull’s infilitrator, Senator Wright, giving his platform speech, using buzzword after buzzword to catalyze the people of Chicago into supporting him.Â We cut to Captain America in the shadows, overseeing the proceedings, but it’s not Bucky Barnes in the suit.Â No, this is the Captain America of the 1950’s (also known as “The Grand Director” when he immolated himself several years ago) a wackjob who took on the life and face of Steve Rogers to emulate Cap at a time when he was frozen in an ice block.Â As militant separatists (or something) attack Senator Wright, Faux Cap leaps into action.Â
Halfway across the country, in Steve Rogers’ Brooklyn apartment, The Falcon and Bucky spar, while trying to piece together what they discovered last issue: a discarded Arnim Zola body in an abandoned Red Skull base.Â The two former partners of Cap fight on, worrying that SHIELD is too overloaded to help them, that Sharon Carter is still in the Skull’s clutches, when Falcon’s phone rings.Â It’s the Black Widowtelling them to turn on the television, so that they can see the “return of Captain America.”Â The former Commie-smasher saves Senator Wright from his would-be assassins, then endorses the candidate on a nationwide broadcast!Â The Falcon and Bucky are, naturally, enraged, but even they have to note that this Pseudo-Cap looks, moves, and sounds just like the genuine article.
Somewhere, far away, in an infirmary, Sharon Carter lies strapped to a bed in the Skull’s lair, marveling in horror that it’s only been a few short weeks since she killed Cap.Â In the next room, the Skull’s daughter, Sin, spits venom at her, promising that as soon as Daddy is finished with her, Sin is gonna kill Sharon slow.Â Even doped to the gills, Sharon realizes that she has to do something, and soon.Â A few days later, in Minneapolis, Senator Wright gives another big speech, but this time Mr. Barnes and Mr. Wilson are in attenndance.Â Bucky-Cap suits up and sneaks into the Senator’s hotel room,Â while at the same time, Sin is being released from her hospital bed.Â Before she can make good on her promise to kill Sharon, Sin is surprised to see up close and personal exactly WHY Ms. Carter inherited the SHIELD honorific of Agent 13 from Nick Fury.Â Sharon slips out of her restraints, downs the doctor in seconds, and drops Sin hard, smashing her face into a wall, and putting a scalpel to the little punk girl’s throat.Â “Let me TELL you what’s going to happen, ” snarls Sharon, as Sin looks shocked enough to pass Elvis through her colon.Â “You’re going to tell me where my clothes are, and then you’re going to walk me right out of this place…Â BITCH.”Â Oh, yeah…Â Sharon is HARDCORE.Â Bucky also gets a surprise beatdown, this one from Grand Director-Cap, who knocks him halfway across the room with a single shot.Â “You are going to die tonight,” threatens the Commie-Smasher, advancing on Bucky-Cap menacingly.
The tension in this issue was palpable, with the plotting and dialogue really giving us the full Monty for suspense, delivering a taut little tale that I greatly enjoyed.Â Unfortunately, Brubaker’s script was let down (just a little bit, mind you) by some overly muddy art by De La Torre.Â The promised battle between Caps has me looking forward to next issue, and hoping that, by some miracle, Jack Monroe might return from his seeming death to confront HIS ex-partner.Â Not gonna happen, I know, but a man can dream.Â Even with the letdown on the art side, Captain America #39 is a solid issue, earning a very respectable 3 out of 5 stars.Â In either case, the pacing on this tale has been excellent, and next issue promises to give us resolution to at least some of the threads brought up in the death issue, seemingly a million years ago.Â