Review: Captain America #40

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

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But two guys are wearing his clothes and beating each other up.

Previously, on Captain America: 60 years of conflict have finally given the Red Skull the moment he’s CA4.jpgbeen waiting for:  Captain America is dead.  Of course, just being croaked isn’t enough for the man who was once Johann Schmidt.  The Skull’s plan continued well after the death of his old nemesis, with the resurrection and mental reconditioning of the OTHER Captain America, the nameless school teacher from the 1950′s who smashed Commies with Jack Monroe and later lost his mind, the better to destroy his old enemy’s reputation.  Luckily (for the world, not the Skull) former kid sidekick James Buchanan Barnes, once called Bucky, has ALSO taken up the mantle of Cap, and the two men are on a collision course.  At the same time, Sharon Carter (the former Agent 13 of SHIELD, still pregnant with Steve Rogers’ baby) has broken out of the hypnotic conditioning of Doctor Faustus, and has taken the Red Skull’s daughter Sin hostage, and is using her to escape from the clutches of Herr Schmidt.  The entire nation is now aware of the “return” of Captain America, and the stage is set for the Skull’s takeover, and the placement of his pawn in the White House, unless Bucky can stop it.

Of course, as the issue starts, he’s in no state to tray, trying out a window after a devastating right cross from the Grand Director Cap.  “Who the hell IS this guy?” thinks the former Bucky, “And how the hell did he just punch me through TWO walls?”  Faced with an opponent as good as he is, twice as crazy and twice as strong, Bucky-Cap is forced to go for a cheap shot, which enrages G.D. Cap.  “You’re even worse than he said!” roars the madman, backhanding Buck-Cap away with ease.  Knowing that his strength is in the shadows, Bucky-Cap taunts and runs, leading his counterpart on a merry chase across the rooftops…

While the pursuit continues in the skies, far below the earth, Sharon leads Sin down a flight of stairs, a scalpel pinned to the Skull-spawn’s throat.  “If you’re smart, you’ll just stop right here, Sharon,” goads Sin, and Agent 13 snarls, stabbing the scalpel into the girl’s neck.  “Too bad for YOU, then, Sin, that I’m WAY PAST STUPID from what you people have done for me.”  She reminds Sin that Daddy and his partners are well and truly tied up, what with the Cap on Cap violence going on, and shoves her down the hallway.

In the hidden lair of the Titanic Three (Bonehead, Fat Guy, and Gut-Face) Zola, Faustus, and the Skull pat one another on the back over how clever they are, as the Skull enjoys how easily G.D. Cap toys with Bucky-Cap, as Zola commandeers satellites worldwide to watch the fistfight.  The G.D.C. swings like the wackjob that he is, crushing masonry with his bare hands, foaming at the mouth, and Bucky takes an opening, hitting him with the full-force haymaker that his bionic arm can deliver…  but it’s all for naught.  The G.D.C. shakes it off, and smashes Bucky-Cap through a wall.  “I might have to SHOOT this guy,” thinks Barnes, as the G.D.C. rages.  “God, but you are a disgrace.  You don’t DESERVE to be wearing those colors.”  Bucky is shaken by how much the 50′s pretender sounds like his former mentor…

Back in the Skull-cave, Sin takes her moment, shaking up Sharon with some double-talk and smashing her in the face with her big rubbery head.  Sin slaps her around a bit, waiting for the guards to arrive before she starts to play with her like an obnoxious leather-clad cat.  At the same time, Bucky also turns the tide against HIS opponent, making the first inroads towards victory, and knocking down the G.D.C., then quickly unmasking him to find…  Steve Rogers.  He remarks that he can’t be Steve, and the brainwashed “Steve” starts to snarl, his world unraveling.  “You’re the guy who killed BUCKY!” he screams, and you can almost hear the gears in Bucky-Cap’s head.

Sharon has a similar epiphany, finally knocked Sin for a loop, kicking her in the chest.  Remarking on her scream, Sin sneers, “You got some lungs on you, girl.  Let’ see them up close and–”  Sharon knocks away her knife, wrestles her to the ground, and they struggle to recover the blade.  Up on the rooftops, no reindeer paws, but James Barnes shows his resourcefulness by yanking back his own mask to show the addled G.D.C. his face.  “That’s not… not right…  You’re a murderer… You’re not… You’re…”  Faustus and the Skull panic, screaming at one another to pull him out.  Bucky tries to convince him to join forces, but the recall signal causes the old man to punch him off the side of the roof…  into the waiting arms of The Falcon!  Sam and Bucky crash into a building, and Bucky tells Falcon that he really does deserve the hatred of Faux-Steve.  Back at Skull Headquarters, a guard rushes in with bad news, and they all head into the basement to find Sharon Carter…  with Sin’s knife protruding from her abdomen in gruesome fashion.  The Skull slaps his daughter down, as they rush Sharon away in the hopes that the baby hasn’t been compromised…

This issue is a pleasant return to form in the art department, as Steve Epting returns to picturating, and really makes the battle between the Cap-personators looks nice.  His Sharon Carter is the picture of determination, even if I am upset at how quickly Der Schadel Kinder took her down in combat.  The story has slowed a bit, with mostly emotional resonances, even in the dual fight scenes, and the ongoing implications that the allicance between Fat, Headless, and Arrogant may not be as seamless as one might have thought.  All in all, Brubaker still delivers the goods, even if it’s not my favorite chapter of the serial so far…  With the rather upsetting impalement at the end implying the probable death of Steve and Sharon’s baby, I’m left with a slight bad taste in my mouth which mitigates the star rating a bit.  Still, Captain America #40 is a strong issue, earning an above average 3 out of 5 stars and bringing us that much closer to the Skull’s ultimate goal… whatever it may be.

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