Or – “Former Captain America Steve Rogers Is Still Dead…”

CA1.jpg

…and it’s starting to look like that’s permanent.  (Or at least as permanent as anything ever is in comics.)  The first mission of the newest Captain America is over, the threat of the Red Skull has been pushed back, James Barnes has renewed his affections with Natasha Romanova, the Black Widow, and has been introduced to the Marvel Universe proper, thanks to the Secret Invasion crossover.  We find ourselves at a crossroads, faithful Spoilerites, but J.B. is starting to realize that the life of a Captain America doesn’t allow for a lot of woolgathering…

CA2.jpgPreviously, on Captain America:  James Buchanan Barnes was thought dead for decades, and served mostly as a metaphor for the greatest failure of Steve Rogers’ career as shield-slinger.  Turns out, though, he was thrown from the plane that seemingly killed him, scooped up by a Russian nuclear sub, and brainwashed into  working for the USSR as the Winter Soldier, assassin to the stars.  Barnes was freed from his programming just in time to watch his oldest friend gunned down on the steps of a courtyard, the victim of the Red Skull’s machinations.  Stealing Steve’s indestructible shield from SHIELD (is that irony or just foreshadowing?) he sets out to avenge the death of his pal.  With a little help from Steve’s old friends, and a shiny, shiny costume, the former Bucky has done what only Wally West has successfully pulled off before: filling the shoes of his former mentor.  Now that his trial by fire is complete, the man once known as Bucky has to process his past before setting out into the future.

This issue starts in 1942, on the streets of Shanghai, as the Invaders infilitrate China on a secret mission of grave importance.  Captain America and the Human Torch burst into action, as Bucky covers their advance with a submachine gun.  Bucky mows down Chinese soldiers (at least I *think* they’re Chinese soldiers) as the scene cuts to the Brooklyn apartment that James inherited from Steve Rogers.  “Can you EVER sleep?” asks a voice from behind him, and Barnes turns to find a very naked Black Widow beckoning him back to bed.  Barnes proves that he’s superhuman, indeed, by rebuffing her advances, and she laughs at his distraction.  “Of course…  It’s all real for you now.  And they all know you’re here…”  I have to say I really like the humanization of Brubaker’s Black Widow, a character who never sounds quite right under the pen of Bendis.  We see flashbacks to Captain America’s unseen missions of the last month, and James claims that all his acceptance comes from people trusting the word of the Falcon, reminding her that he was a killer for years.  “You are not responsible for the Winter Soldier’s actions,” she chides him, “You’re no more to blame than Sharon Carter is for what happened to Steve.”  Bucky decides he needs to get some air, and gets ready to dress.  “Will you wait for me?” he asks, and Natasha smiles.  “If you’re lucky…”

Elsewhere in New York, a man in a trenchcoat approaches a security guard, asking questions in French before super-kicking him through a plate glass window.  (Apparently, they’re not a tag team anymore…)  The coat falls, and we see that the assailant is none other that Georges Batroc, known to those who hire mercenary thugs as Batroc The Leaper.  As he enters the facility, a silent alarm goes off, setting off an alert on the onboard computer of James Barnes’ motorcycle.  Batroc exits the facility with his objective, as Bucky sweeps in quickly and knocks his thugs down.  “Still can’t quite get into the swing  of this whole ‘public hero’ thing…  My old habits die extra hard, I guess.”  Uncostumed, our Captain America is overmatched by Batroc’s thugs, and the villain gets away (but NOT before figuring out that his opponent is Captain America.)  James calls in his girlfriend for backup, and thanks her for her help with the authorities.  “That could have been…” he begins, and she finished, “…an international incident?”  Flashing back to 1942 again, we see Bucky saving a young man named Zhang Chin from captivity, which is probably going to be important later.  As for Batroc, he quickly sells the photos of the man under the mask of Captain America to the highest bidder, a mysterious man who recognizes the face.  The face of the Winter Soldier…

The visuals this issue were stunning, a fascinating job from Luke Ross, whom I think has replaced Steve Epting on the book.  (The pencillers tend to rotate on Cap, so I’m not entirely sure.”  Ross delivers the goods, with a tortured James Barnes, a formidable Batroc, and a dead sexy Black Widow, both in and out of costume, and his technology is first-rate.  Brubaker again shows the good stuff in his dialogue, with Bucky trying to come to grips with going from kid sidekick to contract killer to patriotic icon of millions.  Overall, it’s a nicely done issue, with some fun moments sprinkled throughout, and I’m glad to finally see James Barnes starting to make his way out of the shadow of his predecessor.  Captain America #43 earns 3 out of 5 stars, an intriguing start to a new storyarc for Marvel’s newest Captain America.

3stars.jpg

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.

Previous post

Review: Hellboy: In the Chapel of Moloch

Next post

Loeb and Alexander Out of Heroes

6 Comments

  1. johnny
    November 3, 2008 at 12:40 am — Reply

    best sean michaels reference in a comic review ever

  2. Sanlear
    November 3, 2008 at 8:22 am — Reply

    “and it’s starting to look like that’s permanent. (Or at least as permanent as anything ever is in comics.) ”

    Kudos to Marvel for keeping him dead this long. Barnes has become a good replacement, and I hope they don’t bring Rogers back anytime soon (which suprises me as I was far from happy when they first killed him off).

  3. Carl
    November 3, 2008 at 8:08 am — Reply

    Was it the window of a barber shop?

  4. November 3, 2008 at 10:20 am — Reply

    This was another excellent issue, one that warrants more than just 3 stars, in my opinion. To clear up the artistic duties a bit, Ross has been added to the rotation, now consisting of Epting and, well, Ross. I don’t think Butch Guice was ever a permanent artist. He just helped Epting make his deadlines after Perkins left the book. Ross is a good fit here, though, and Frank D’Armata’s colors bridge the gap between Ross and Epting very well. In fact, this is about the only book where I actually like D’Armata’s work.

  5. ~wyntermute~
    November 3, 2008 at 7:12 pm — Reply

    […] before super-kicking him through a plate glass window. (Apparently, they’re not a tag team anymore…)

    Damn…. two of y’all already beat me to the punch…er… kick?

  6. November 4, 2008 at 9:47 am — Reply

    This was another excellent issue, one that warrants more than just 3 stars, in my opinion. To clear up the artistic duties a bit, Ross has been added to the rotation, now consisting of Epting and, well, Ross. I don’t think Butch Guice was ever a permanent artist. He just helped Epting make his deadlines after Perkins left the book. Ross is a good fit here, though, and Frank D’Armata’s colors bridge the gap between Ross and Epting very well. In fact, this is about the only book where I actually like D’Armata’s work.

    Mmm… That’s a good point. Sometimes an issue is well-done, but you don’t really have a moment that catalyzes it into awesome for you. This was a good issue, better than ‘Meh,’ not quite to ‘Yeah!’ but probably deserving of more than 3 stars.

    That said, it’s my policy not to change my scores in retrospect, since it makes me look wishy washy. :)

You know you have something to say, say it in the comment section