Or – “Bucky Barnes’ Birthday Bash A Go-Go!”


World War II is a watershed in almost every comic book continuity, from DC’s JSA to Marvel’s Namor and Cap, to the various unlikely heroes of Americomics, Project Superpowers, or even Image’s Super-Patriot.  The problem we run into is that the war now ended over SIXTY YEARS ago, and the ties to that long-forgotten time are looser than ever.  (Heck, even Frank Castle’s Vietnam was 40 years ago now…)  So, when your body is eighty, and your mind is twenty, but your robot arm is 55, you can imagine it makes holidays a bit tetchy.

CA1.jpgPreviously, on Captain America:  James Buchanan Barnes has traveled a long road to get to the star-spangled pants he currently wears.  Originally a pre-teen delinquent, he then became a kid sidekick, a superhuman, a soldier and finally a symbol of innocence lost and the permanence of death.  ‘Course, that sorta thing never lasts, so he was resurrected to become first a cyborg, then an assassin, then a super-villain, and finally ends up being saved from purgatory by his old partner.  The loss of Steve Rogers created a void that few men could fill, and Bucky has done as good a job as anybody could with the role, even helping to found a new branch of the Avengers, reuniting with his long-lost love and even regaining the respect of his old comrades in arms.  Now, on the day of his birth, Mr. Barnes finds the need to take a moment to reflect on times past…

“This is how it goes sometimes, when you’re Captain America,” says Bucky as he runs across the rooftops dodging heavy ordinance from flying bad dudes.  Dodging their attacks with nigh-superhuman skill, he even has time to remember his sixteenth birthday, spent in a military brig after a bar fight.  He is pulled from imprisonment and sent to England for special combat training with the SAS, explaining how a “camp mascot” could leap right into action alongside Captain America.  On his eighteenth birthday, Bucky found himself undercover with the Invaders, hiding in occupied Poland, while his fellow Invader Toro (the flaming boy, one of the first mutants in Marvel Comics, as an aside) tries to convince Cap and company to celebrate Bucky’s birthday.  Of course, Toro told somebody Bucky’s name to put on the cake, which led to an attack by Nazis!

Back in the future, the attackers are revealed to be the Watchdogs, a militia who nearly worshipped Captain America, but want to kill Bucky for one simple reason:  He isn’t the real thing.  “Believe me, I know that better than anyone,” says the new Cap, and reflects upon the last birthday he remembers, and how two days later he and Steve desperately tried to stop Baron Zemo’s buzzbomb from destroying London, leaving one frozen and the other in the clutches of Soviet masterminds.  Returning to his apartment, Bucky gets a big surprise… party!  The New Avengers, the Black Widow, and friends have made him a cake (complete with a correct number of candles for the year, making burning down the apartment a real possibility.  He starts to blow them out, and somebody (a blond in a ponytail, who may be Spider-Man’s date or might be Sharon Carter, I’m not sure) asks if he is gonna make a wish.  “Nah…  I’m good,” he smiles.  The rest of the issue is a beautiful retelling of the origins of Cap and Bucky and their history to date (Cliff’s Notes version) rendered and written by Marcos Martin, making me want to see more of his work.

With issue #600 in the wings, it’s obvious that this book couldn’t be the big giant anniversary extravaganza of Captain America.  Instead, it ends up be a big giant pean to James Barnes, something I like a bit better anyway.  The struggle of Bucky to live up to Steve’s reputation is one that really resonates, especially in the new topsy turvy Marvel Universe, and it’s good to see Brubaker focusing on the man behind the mask.  With rumors of “The Return” flying fast and furious, this is the perfect time for a little Bucky-centrism, and the story goes down smooth like good barbeque sauce.  Captain America #50 earns a well-deserved 3.5 out of 5 stars, giving fans new and old something to get excited about…


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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  1. gaumer
    May 20, 2009 at 8:24 pm — Reply

    The ending was very predictable but I still got that “Aw Shucks” feeling.

    And the blond was Mockingbird I believe. But with the way everyone is standing in that group panel it makes me think the Avengers are more like The Boys :)

  2. May 20, 2009 at 8:58 pm — Reply

    You are correct about Mockingbird, sir…

  3. Aubreii
    May 21, 2009 at 3:14 am — Reply

    ‘The Return’ of Steve rogers? Shame, I’m really liking Bucky in the role right now. LEave him dead Marvel!

  4. May 21, 2009 at 9:26 am — Reply

    It took me a minute to figure out if that was Mockingbird, as Clint was hanging on Ms. Marvel. Typically I’m not a fan of the fill in artists, but Ross did a commendable job stepping in for Epting this issue.

  5. May 21, 2009 at 9:28 am — Reply

    Admitably I picked this issue up on a lark. I haven’t really followed Cap other than during Civil War, but even so, this issue I found to be a great jumping on point. We did get a double dose of Bucky background, but it was done in a way that both brought new readers up to speed and seemed to (to someone who hasn’t been reading Cap in some time) fill out his character a little more.

  6. Kurt Fenreer
    May 22, 2009 at 12:45 am — Reply

    The last Captain America I bought was #25. I’ll buy the next one when Stev Rogers returns and fill in the gap afterward.

  7. NoGovtCheeseHandouts
    June 5, 2009 at 2:09 am — Reply

    “Far-Right militant group”…”their own crazy ideas about America and its values”. My how that was conveniently left out in the review. Hmm, Mr Brubaker, is that what the radical Far-Left Liberal-controlled University and College professors are STILL teaching kids these days? I see where all my hard-earned tax dollars are going in education. Indoctrinating America’s Youth with the Left Wing Agenda is okay. Still drinking the Red Commie Socialist flavor I see. Oh yeah I forgot: Spidey and Zobama are pals. So here I go, an Asian American Conservative with 8 years in the US Navy and comic book collector since 1984. Last time I collected Cap regularly was when Waid was writing him after Heroes Reborn.
    I bought this issue hoping to enjoy Bucky’s birthday story, which I did for the most part…I loved the ending of it and the Sentinel of Liberty that was attached. I am coming late into this Bucky Cap thing. I may pick up #600. Comics for me hasn’t been that enjoyable since the 2008 Presidential Campaign..and now seeing BHO’s mug all over the place, in comics and his wife dog, BO..comics just doesn’t do it much for me these days. I still want to get all of Steve Epting’s run on TPB.
    The Watchdogs is a good name for a “militia”. Just remember: the Minutemen watching the Nations’s Borders for illegals are patriots, not a rascist militia as the Left Wing is portraying them as and telling the illegals and thier contacts. Not all Right Wing Patriots are rednecks with guns and Bibles. There are a large number of legal immigrants from many nations who left thier home countries to get away from the very same Leftist agenda that Pres Elect BHO is doing to Amerika right now. Me, I’m an Asian-Amercan born on US soil of legal immigrants, who are also Conservative. Proud to have served and protect the US Constitution. No PC(politically correct)Welfare-State Handouts for me. I don’t need no stinkin’ reparations or PC ethnic college fund.

  8. Walker
    June 13, 2009 at 11:36 pm — Reply

    re. NoGovtCheeseHandouts comments:

    You do realize that the Watchdogs are a terrorist group funded and lead by the Red Skull? They were created by Mark Gruenwald in 1987.

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