Or – “Things Never To Say To The King Of Atlantis…”


“Hey, man, nice ankle wings.”

“How do you make your head a perfect triangle like that?”

“Why are you dressed like Black Adam?”

“Is it true that you’d rather have the proportionate strength of a praying mantis?”

CA2.jpgPreviously, on Captain America:  Steve Rogers taught James Buchanan Barnes many things during their years as partners:  When to duck…  How to throw a shield…  Why guys in red masks are bad news…  And, apparently, he taught him that sometimes Captain America has to do things out of honor and duty that nobody really wants done.  This last lesson has come to serve him well, as a Chinese superhuman (sent by a scientist whose wife was murdered by the Winter Soldier back in the day) captures the body of Jim Hammond, the original Human Torch, with the express intent of using the deceased Invader as a weapon.  Captain America calls in an old favor, and Barnes and the Sub-Mariner together infiltrate the Chinese stronghold to find out what’s going on, knowing full well that his past as the aforementioned Winter Soldier makes the new Cap a walking target…

Still dressed in his old Winter Soldier gear, Captain America makes as big a mess as he can in the hopes of goading the lions out of their metaphorical dens.  “His operatives made sure I saw the Human Torch’s remains being stolen away,” thinks Barnes, “so I remind him exactly who the Winter Soldier WAS.”  The Black Widow, for her part, has figured out exactly what is going on, and the danger in which her erstwhile boyfriend has thrown himself, and so makes tracks to China to help.  Finally outnumbered, Bucky goes down under superior numbers, while Namor watches on silently…  but it’s all part of the plan.  “The rule of Atlantis… skulking in the shadows,” ruminates Namor as he waits for his part to kick in.  Turns out that Cap still has his head on his shoulders, as getting captured and taken to the Human Torch was all a part of his brilliant cunning plan (you could put a tail on it and call it a weasel!)

While Namor leaps into action (having the Sub-Mariner on defense proves that Barnes is either a tactical genius, or totally out of his mind) Bucky is tortured by Profesor Chin, who still blames him for the death of Chin’s wife.  Chin shows him a pair of his own agents, locked in tanks of some strange liquid, and Cap is appalled that he’d turn his own men into pawns.  “All failures are expendable, you know that,” chides the Professor, “you worked for the Russians.”  A flip of a switch later, and both men burst into flame, making Cap realize what has happened: Chin has weaponized the Human Torch, turns his powers into an almost viral infection causing spontaneous combustion.  Then, Chin unveils his piece de resistance: Namor, likewise bound and dunked in the strange liquid.  Barnes starts to plead for Namor’s life, but the Professor smiles.  “I told you, this isn’t about YOU,” as he flips a switch and Namor begins to ignite, boiling away the liquid in his container…

Ed Brubaker knows how to tell a story, and he’s actually making the flawed new Cap as much fun to read about as the patriotic icon of old Cap.  Bucky makes several tactical errors in this issue that we’d never buy from Steve Rogers, and yet the overall story still works.  I don’t buy for a second that Namor is in mortal danger (he is in liquid, after all) but it’s nice to see a dramatic reveal that goes right.  Black Widow’s protectiveness, Namor’s dislike of skullduggery, even Chin’s indignation at the presence of the Winter Soldier all work for me, and Butch Guice manages to overcome his own artistic twitches to deliver art that fits seamlessly with what we’ve seen in this series so far.  If there’s any problem with the issue, it’s that the stakes never quite seem high enough, even once the Torch virus is introduced, and that parts of this story feel a bit familiar if you’ve read Alex Ross’ “Earth X” (though these are mostly superficial similarities.  Still, it’s a good read, and Captain America #47 builds on the race to #50 with a strong outing, easily worth 3.5 out of 5 stars…


About Author

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.

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