Review: Captain America – Reborn #1 (of 5)

by

Or – “This Just In…  Former Captain America Steve Rogers Is Still Dead, Perhaps.”

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The first thought that I had upon picking up this book, alleged to be a huge bombshell and to reveal the giant hidden workings of the Marvel Universe and the Red Skull’s mind?  “Man, this Bryan Hitch art looks exactly like his Ultimate Captain America.”  Is this mere coincidence?  Or harbinger of something more going on within the book?

 

Previously, on Captain America – Rebirth:  Some time ago, Steve Rogers was killed, inadvertently triggering a media frenzy.  CA2.jpgBetrayed by one of his oldest allies, Rogers had turned himself in to the government, which then immediately botched his prisoner transfer (I blame Iron Man) allowing the triumvirate of the Red Skull, Doctor Faustus and Arnim Zola to have him shot.  The reactions to his untimely demise have been mixed, with his old partner Sam “The Falcon” Wilson seeking out the killers, his girlfriend Sharon “Agent 13″ Carter wracked with guilt at having pulled the trigger, his kid sidekick Bucky taking up his mantle and shield of Captain America.  Steve’s assassination led to great changes and revelations in the Marvel Universe, and after a year of mourning, Sharon Carter suddenly regained a bit of hypnosis-repressed memory.  She realized that the gun she used to shoot Mr. Rogers wasn’t standard SHIELD issue, and that (combined with the attempt by Faustus and Zola to strap her into a mysterious device cobbled together out of time machine created by Doctor Doom) makes her realize that there may be a way to recover her lost love from the clutches of Pluto…  but at what price?

We start with a flashback, D-Day, June 6th, 1944.  Allied forces mustered an invasion of Normandy, dropping hundreds of thousands of soldiers on enemy soil in a bid to turn the tide of World War II.  In the Marvel Universe, this invasion was spearheaded by Captain America (wearing a modified version of his battle costume that is very reminiscent of Bryan Hitch’s Ultimate Captain America designs) who leads the soldiers onto Omaha beach.  “Always the first into battle…  Always leading the way…  Always the victor,” intones a mechanical voice from offscreen.  “That is the story everyone knows about the life of Captain America.”  The voice goes on to say that the story is full of lies, and moreover, the story of Rogers’ death is just as false.  The voice continues to explain what has happened, including the ascension of Bucky to Captain America’s mantle.  At the same time, the selfsame Bucky Cap is invading Norman Osborn’s floating helicarrier, in search of the a mysterious item kept in storage since the day of the murder.  Not far away, in the laboratories of Henry Pym (no idea whether this is before or after recent issues of Mighty Avengers) Sharon Carter and The Falcon ask for help in tracking down the truth.  Sharon explains what happened in the lair of Zola, and how she was sure that they were bringing back Steve Rogers. 

She explains that Cap and the Black Widow have broken into the helicarrier to find the remains of the device that Zola was using, but Hank warns them about one thing.  “[The plan is] resting on Norman Osborn not knowing what he’s got…  And it’s generally a bad idea to underestimate Norman Osborn.”  At the same time, this wisdom is born out as Captain American and the Widow are attacked by HAMMER forces, as well as Dark Avengers Ares and Venom in the bowels of the carrier.  The source of the beginning mechanical narration is revealed, as Norman Osborn is shown conferrin with… Arnim Zola about the assassination, and how it was designed not to be fatal, but to lock Captain America’s body in space/time.  “So,” replies Norman, askin the 10,000 dollar question, “The real Captain America ISN’T dead?”  “He was,” say Zola.  “And he wasn’t.”  Norman realizes the ramifications of this, and asks where Captain America is now that Sharon destroyed the machine.  “Steve Rogers has become unstuck in time,” says Zola, as we cut back to Normandy.  Steve witnesses the endless bloodshed with horror, then is sent back to the day his mother died…  He pops forward in the timestream and nearly gets mown down by a German bomber, with Bucky saving him at the last second before he wonders with horror, “What’s happening to me?” 

There are a number of interesting things going on in this issue.  The continuation of Sharon Carter’s character arc is nicely handled, as we’re once again shown what made her SHIELD’s finest.  The art is well-handled throughout, and Bryan Hitch delivers.  Zola and Osborn have a long conversation that explains how Marvel’s claims that Cap was really, most sincerely dead, even though this loophole to resurrect him exists that almost works for me.  It’s the almost that ends up being the downfall.  I’m reminded of the moment after “The Other” where Peter Parker and Tony Stark have a pointed on-panel conversation explaining a seeming plot inconsistency after which they both look at the reader as if to say “So stop complaining about it already…”  My gravest reservation, though, comes from the previous fifty issues of the Captain America title.  Brubaker has gone to great lengths to give us a Captain America story that is set in the shared universe, but keeps the characters on a more ground-level footing, as befits a character whose powers are entirely those of the pinnacle human.  It’s been a very down-to-earth story about a man who fights for what he believes in, the manner of his death, and the reaction of his loved ones to their grief.  Now, we’re presented with an out involving time travel, and the effect is quite jarring.  The idea that Steve has been stuck in a recursive loop of his own life isn’t without interest, but I don’t know that I like the “peanut butter in my chocolate” effect it has on the story so far.  Brubaker’s storytelling was so effective in the death issue and in the last two that bringing Rogers back feels premature.  Add to that my problems with the “Ultimazation” of Cap’s costume (and didn’t we see the same “Cap at Normandy” scene IN the Ultimates a couple of years ago?) and my enjoyment of the issue was very muted.  This issue is an interesting start, but it’s telling a story that I don’t feel ready for, and telling it in a manner that feels like it’s taking cues from a story I’ve already read.  Captain America – Reborn #1 earns 2 out of 5 stars, and mixed emotions overall from me.  Much as with Flash – Rebirth, the story is well handled, but I don’t like the timing and I keep coming back to troublesome bits of plot…

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