Or – “Former Human Torch Jim Hammond is STILL…  Inactive?  Broken?  Ah, Hell…”

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It’s always sad to realize that a beloved joke has died…  We are gathered here to mark the passing of “Former Captain America Steve Rogers is STILL dead…”  A hearty joke he was, always ready to liven up a review, or kill seven seconds in a podcast.  We will remember “Former Captain America Steve Rogers is STILL dead” not for what he did, but for what he stood for.  Repetition.  Repetition.  Repetition.  Jocularity.  Repetition.  Stealing from Chevy Chase, back when he was still funny.  And repetition….  And we know that “Former Captain America Steve Rogers is STILL dead” may be gone from our presence, but he will never be gone from our hearts.  Or, honestly, from our Captain America reviews, because let’s be honest here:  I’ve never been quite as funny as I think I am, but I’m considerably funnier than you think I am.  Amen.

Previously, on Captain America:  The Winter Soldier killed a lot of people, and it’s only natural that, CA2_1.jpgeventually, one of those kills would come back to bite Captain America on the tuchus.  In 1950-something, James Barnes was brought out of cold storage for a mission in China that led to the death of an innocent woman, the wife of a mad Chinese scientist named Zhang Chin, a transgression which the not-entirely-good doctor has never forgiven.  Recent months have brought Dr. Chin back to prominence, along with the super-soldier that he created (The Man With No Face) to steal a particular item from SHIELD custody:  the mechanical corpse of the original Human Torch (who was neither human, nor really a torch.  Discuss…)  With his cards on the table, the former Bucky pulls a gutsy move, putting on his Winter Soldier gear and intentionally getting himself caught to figure out Chin’s next move.  Unfortunately, his ace-in-the-hole, Prince Namor of Atlantis, gets captured as well, and is used as a guinea pig for Doctor Chin’s ultimate weapon: a Human Torch virus that causes innocents to burst into flame…  Will Bucky fiddle as the Sub-Mariner burns?  Lay on, MacDuff, and don’t spare the spare ribs!

Sub-Mariner has one lucky thing going for him: being aquatic in nature, he is held in a tank of water, which slows down the virus greatly.  Captain America calls Chin a sicko, and gets cuffed about the head by the much-stronger Man With No Face.  He asks what in the hell the old man is working on, and the crazy man carefully explains what he has done: Population Control.  He’s finally discovered a way to “save” the planet from the billions of people sucking it dry.  “By wiping us out?” asks Cap weakly, and the professor smiles.  “Don’t be ridiculous,” he chides.  “Thirty five to fifty percent SHOULD be sufficient.”  Captain America calls the old man a hypocrite, pointing out that he would kill billions, yet still hold a grudge about the decades-old death of one woman.  “People as a mass mean nothing…  They’re statistics….  But her?  I knew her…”  Before Crazy Old Coot launches into a dance about how the aliens is comin’ to steal all his chiclets, a familiar red-white-and-blue shield is launched into their midst, smashing the glass that holds Namor at bay, while an electric charge takes out Mr. No Face.  The Black Widow enters, guns blazing, to free her guy, while Prince Namor breaks himself free.  Subby begins smashing the entire lab as the Widow and Cap escape…

It’s a pretty tense few moments as they chase down the monstrous Doctor Chin, trying to keep him from releasing his airborne Human Torch virus and killing everyone in a 700 mile radius.  The Man With No Face intercepts them, but before he can attack, Namor arrives.  “Finally!  Someone worth fighting!” cries the Sub-Mariner, and they roll around a bit.  Captain America is on the wrong end of an old-school countdown clock (just like the Rockford Files!) but he finds that the device is locked into place.  Bucky smashes the box holding the virus with his shield, stopping the machine at the last second, as Doctor Chin collapses.  The Man With No Face hurries to the side of his fallen leader, finding that the old man is finally dead, and lamenting that he can’t be the last one alive.  “You won’t be,” replies Namor as he snaps the Super-Soldier’s neck with his bare hands.  The former Invaders find the body of their old comrade, and bring it home for a hero’s burial at Arlington National Cemetery, and Captain America explains to the Black Widow that, in order to become worthy of his new uniform, he needed to do something.  “More than anything in the world, I needed to SAVE something from the past for a change…”  We end with Cap at the Torch’s graveside, saluting his lost comrade.

This is another excellent issue from Brubaker, giving us a Captain America story that almost completely avoids the long shadow of Steve Rogers, and still plays upon the history of the character in ways that none of the other candidates for the shield could have.  Namor is played brilliantly here, The Black Widow is smarter than anyone else in the book (“I am a spy, James,” she says after not only figuring out his plan, but tracking him down and saving his ass), and Captain America’s characterization is flawless.  Butch Guice turns in an impressive art job (which, honestly, looks more like the regular art team of Epting and Ross than like anything I’ve seen from Guice before) and the issue goes down smooth like a pint of Guiness.  Captain America #48 continues the build toward 50 in stellar fashion, and delivers the goods on all fronts, earning an impressive 4.5 out of 5 stars.  It’s hard to avoid comparison to the previous Cap, but issues like these make it unecessary to worry about the changes…

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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.

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5 Comments

  1. Young
    March 31, 2009 at 1:15 am — Reply

    Loved your review as usual, but unfortunately, you picked the wrong word to spell incorrectly – “repetition” is the correct spelling, not repitition, and no amount of repetition will make it right ;-)

  2. DMC
    March 31, 2009 at 8:41 am — Reply

    WOW……I thought it was the same artist all this time.

  3. March 31, 2009 at 11:19 am — Reply

    Apparently Guice, Ross and Epting all contributed to this issue. I can pick out the Luke Ross pages, but I can’t spot the difference between the Guice and Epting ones.

  4. Dave
    March 31, 2009 at 8:47 pm — Reply

    I was all digging this issue too until I read the latest Daredevil issue and read dialogue between Matt and Dakota that was veeerrrrrrry similar the one between Cap and Widow in this issue. The timing was unfortunate….

  5. March 31, 2009 at 10:12 pm — Reply

    Turns out this was actually a Chinese plot by Doctor Chin to undermine our spelling with eeeevil.

    Or, also, I’m a moron.

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