Or – “Former Captain America Steve Rogers Is STILL Dead, But That Could Change At Any Moment…”


 The most recent Previews gives us the news that this series will be running an additional issue before the Captain America series restarts in January with #602.  (It’s really NOT #602, by the way…)  Steve Rogers’ return to the land of the living is pretty much fait accompli, and the solicitations have already given us hints of what he’s going to do once he’s actually returned from the bleedin’ choir invisibule.  Of course, the main problem we have is that at this point in time, HE’S NOT ACTUALLY BACK YET.  Wanna see how this all works out?  Read on, MacDuff, and let slip the squirrels of war.

Captain America – Reborn #4 (of 5)

CA1.jpgWRITER: Ed Brubaker
PENCILS: Butch Guice & Bryan Hitch
COVER BY: Bryan Hitch

Previously, on Captain America – Reborn:  The conspiracy around the death of Steve Rogers has been made public, and now virtually everyone is aware that his death was more complicated than it would have seemed.  Granted, thanks to the omnipresent corduroy-headed Norman Osborn, most people believe that SHIELD agent Sharon Carter shot him, rather than that the Red Skull, Doctor Faustus, Doctor Doom, and Arnim Zola engineered a strange device that actually broke his mind loose from his temporal body, and sent Steve Rogers rocketing through his own greatest hits montage, reliving the moments of his life again and again, forced to face his own greatest failures (like the time Bucky got blowed up real good, or the time that Richard Nixon tried to kill him and then committed suicide, or the time that Rob Liefeld drew a big ol’ Nazi eagle on his head) in an endless cycle of violence.  Steve gathered enough of his wits to ask the Vision for a favor during the Kree-Skrull war, while Reed Richards and Henry Pym worked together with the New Avengers to try and decode what’s going on with certain nanites (ugh) in Sharon Carter’s blood…

Herr Roten Schadel (aka Johann Schmidt, the Red Skull; or to be more precise, the mind of the Red Skull in a mechanical body that Arnim Zola has created to house him) and his retinue step off a plane on the steps of the Latverian capital.  Sin and Crossbones bull their way through various guards to find the lord of the manor, one Victor Von Doom, who has reassembled the time device that Zola and the Skull tried to retrieve Rogers with previously.  As for the man himself, Captain America is stuck in a Steranko issue of his own title (probably somewhere around Vol. 1 #110, if memory serves) fighting alongside perennial sidekick Rick Jones as Bucky.  Steve’s despair is growing as he cycles back through time and space again and again.  His sadness and loss over Bucky feel as strong in the reliving as they did in the living, causing Captain America to fray more and more at the seams.  In the present, Norma Osborn holds a press conference about his heroic capture of Sharon Carter, while Sharon herself is ferried away by HAMMER administrator Victoria Hand.  Sharon isn’t worried, though, as she thinks she knows the game that Osborn is playing…

Working  together to piece together the mystery of where Steve has gone, having figured out that time travel is involved and that Sharon is somehow the key to it all, Reed and Hank pore over their sample and vials.  The Vision overhears a few phrases, and a deeply buried memory file disencrypts itself, and he shares a the message that Cap gave him last issue.  While the brains do their bit, new Captain America James Barnes, old Hawkeye Clint Barton and the only real Black Widow, Natalia Romanova are getting their hands dirty, blowing up a HAMMER convoy to get intel on the whereabouts of Sharon Carter, whose destination is revealed as… Latveria.  Carter is absolutely stunned to see the Red Skull alive (seeing as how she killed him months ago, causing Zola to have to download his mind blah blah blah fishcakes) and her heart sinks as she is again strapped into the Cap-Locatin’-Sci-Fi-Device.  While Reed Richards suddenly realizes that he can track Sharon with her blood sample, Captain America is forced to relive the mission on which Bucky was lost  all those years ago.  Zemo rages, Bucky leaps, the drone airplane takes off, and Steve falls…  But unlike the first time he lived through 1944, Steve falls not into the Atlantic Ocean, but through time itself, reliving his life in fast-forward, passing through his history (though, sadly, not using the original art montages that Marvel has been doing lately, something I would have enjoyed seeing…)  As he falls, though, he is set up by the Red Skull, and finds himself locked in a strange (possibly metaphorical) combat.  In Latveria, a body slowly materializes on the time platform, causing Sharon to cry out for her beloved.  “Not Steve, I’m afraid,” replies the voice of the Red Skull, as a smile crosses Captain America’s face.  “Not Steve Rogers at ALL.”  Tiny Red Skulls glow in his pupils, in case you missed the subtlety here.

Ed Brubaker is a very, very good writer.  His story of the events leading up to the return of Bucky, the conspiracy, the death of Rogers, the ascension of former sidekick to center stage was riveting, and even when it sagged, you desperately wanted to know what came next.  This story, for a number of reasons, is denied that sense of uncertainty, that confusion over whether it’s real or not.  I suspect that this return is what Marvel really wanted to tell when this whole thing was put together, but they did their job TOO well.  They involved me so much in what Steve meant, how he died, how his friends mourned, that the revival itself just falls a bit flat.  Bryan Hitch and Butch Guice provide some good art in the issue, although I felt again that Hitch was falling back too much on his design work for Ultimate Cap in Ultimates.  All in all, this issue is well-done, but for some reason, I just couldn’t get engaged by the story.  The announcement that we’re going another issue of this series before Captain America relaunches bothers me, and I am not excited about the return of Steve Rogers the way I was excited about Bucky taking up the shield.  All too often, I’m the guy who sits in the comic shop and talks about how things were better when we had the West Coast Avengers, or when the JLA was in Detroit, or when Wonder Woman was a kung-fu fashion designer, and I am slowly becoming resolved to treating Brubaker’s last fifteen or so issues as just another interesting long-dead chunk of comic-book ephemera.  “Remember when Bucky had that funny black suit and stuff?”  Captain America – Reborn #4 does it’s job well enough, but for some reason it just doesn’t come together for me, earning 2.5 out of 5 stars overall.  It’s a well-written and nicely-drawn book, but somehow it’s not the book that I wanted to read…


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. JB
    November 4, 2009 at 6:21 pm — Reply

    Very nice review, and I completely agree with you on the resurrection of Steve Rogers.

    It just feels inappropriate and, to be frank, quite stupid of Marvel to bring back the old Captain America, after having done such a good job of selling us the new one.

    Now I’m not a longtime comic book reader, and I read more DC than Marvel, so maybe I’m not as attached to the good ol’ Steve Rogers as others are. But, again, it makes apparently no sense, since it basically just cancels out the amazing work that’s been done on Bucky’s taking up of the mantle (or in this case, the shield).

    And the worst part is that I actually believed it : “Former Captain America, Steve Rogers, is STILL dead.” It was such a bold move, so well-executed…

    But I guess it’s just like Bruce Wayne’s “death” : it’s bound to be temporary, and the once-sidekicks are doomed to again retreat to the sidelines. No matter how much we want Dick and Bucky to earn the mantle for good, you can’t fight editorial mandate…

    • Cap.Fan
      November 6, 2009 at 6:23 pm — Reply

      No one but no one can ever replace Steve Rogers as Captain America. I’ve been reading for 40 years. Steve is the only one who has the lifetime experiences and fully understands not only the great power the super soldier serum gave him but the responsibility of being Captain America. Steve was right to go against the super human registration act too. Steve has to return and MUST be Captain America

      • November 6, 2009 at 9:52 pm — Reply

        No one but no one can ever replace Steve Rogers as Captain America. I’ve been reading for 40 years. Steve is the only one who has the lifetime experiences and fully understands not only the great power the super soldier serum gave him but the responsibility of being Captain America. Steve was right to go against the super human registration act too. Steve has to return and MUST be Captain America

        See, we hear a lot about this “experience” thing. :) But Steve was only Cap for three years before being frozen. Bucky technically has MORE field experience, what with his years of assassinations and such… Everybody has their favorite, surely. My favorite Captain America was William Naslund, but that’s just me…

        • victor
          November 7, 2009 at 2:46 pm — Reply

          Tru dat!
          I’ve always laughed at how in comics others caharacters bow down to SR’s “endless experience” like he was fighting during all thos decades since his inception. He was FROZEN for like 90% of is existence. As you stated he only actually fought for about 3 years. MANY soldiers have WAY more combat experience than SR. This includes MU soldier superheroes like Bucky and yeah my nutty story pic for an interesting Cap…Frank Castle. Sure an FC cap would ultimately implode (or not) but damn what a ride that would be.
          SR is official. I think he is great and he turned really hardcore in civil war. I mean the man became an anti-establishment revolutionary (like the original american founding fathers who were branded terrorists). SR/cap + a cool war= OFFICIAL.
          BUT I remember the John Walker cap and how I intitially thought “STUPID” but gradually it was like “this is kinda cool”. Obviously even at its coolest moments SR was still the true cap to me but only because the story was written that way. JW was designed to fail as cap to show how SR is the real deal. My point is that if a writer wrote a character that was legitimately supposed to by design replace SR…I think it could be done and work. Maybe begrudgingly at first but damn ANYONE who rocks that shield and comes with the ideals is going to have a tough time not eventually earning the title of cap and maybe making fans move past SR.
          I reitterate: I understand that this will NEVER happen. Cap is permanently slaved to SR.

  2. victor
    November 4, 2009 at 8:04 pm — Reply

    Yeah its pretty tired stuff. An entire series of “spins” red herrings bait and switch etc. etc. screen writng 101 scripting devices. Very adept in a technical structure kind of way but minus any originality or creativity. This applies not just to “reborn” but the entire current MU and DCU. Everything reads like a comics historian’s “and then what if?…”
    Buckamerica was derivative to but still was the best thing to happen to Cap in decades. it took bravery and guts and was true to the cap mythos while also being a progression of it. But it was too brave too ballsy. Marvel ultimately got scared folded and went screaming back home to the safety blanket of the status quo.

  3. arcee
    November 5, 2009 at 8:29 am — Reply

    My opinion is that the entire run has simply become a victim of its own success.

    Go back just a few years and NOBODY could’ve predicted that returning Bucky from the dead and then REPLACING Cap with him would be anything but an enormous failure.
    Brubaker proved many naysayers wrong and then he did the unthinkable and made Bucky a great Cap. So much so, Cap’s return seems too soon!

    I can’t agree with the whole attitude of many readers bemoaning lacking originality or creativity. A hero dying and the sidekick taking over isn’t something played for ‘keeps’ (that much) since – well – Wally took over for Barry.

    And besides, the ‘good guy’ always ‘winning’ could be construed as fiction without originality or creativity too but that’s simply formula.

    Bru earned his kudos, did something a LOT of people were against and made it work (story wise and sales wise) – and there’s the originality and creativity.

    • victor
      November 5, 2009 at 9:51 am — Reply

      I agree with most of yourcomments Arcee.
      BUT I thought Bucky’s original death was a bad move (it was actually a contrivance tacked on to the Cap mythos to tie up his WW2 loose ends and reboot him for modern times) I thought his “convenient” death did the character a disservice (boy did he go out like a scrub lol). Bringing Bucky back was a no-brainer for me that I’m surprised took a writer so long to do (they sort of tried with the whole Rick Jones and jack Munroe Buckies). Bucky’s death was certainly part of the lore but not an intergral linch-pin of Cap’s orgins or character like say Uncle Ben being dead is for Spidey. Bringing back Uncle Ben would essentially negate Spidey’s reason for exisiting (like if Cap found out he’s actually not really American or something). Brubaker gets props for fixing the Bucky glitch in the Cap matrix.
      Making Bucky the new Cap took some inspiration though and doing at the expense of Steve Roger’s life was even nuttier. But it made sense. Bucky was doing as a teen what Cap was doing as an adult…and as his partner! Bucky was there from the beginning and sans the SS serum could legitimately claim to being more bad-ass than Steve Rogers (at leats the WW2 Steve Rogers).
      That being said I do not have a problem with formula and do not think that formula is necessarily the antithesis of creativity. Good guys winning is certainly a formula but creating a plausible scenario to convincingly execute that formula takes WAY more creativity than the scenario of the good guys losing (that’s just a matter of imitating CNN).

  4. arcee
    November 5, 2009 at 12:03 pm — Reply

    Your point about Uncle Ben is spot on! I don’t think ANY writer could bring him from the dead and make it work. His passing is too much the lynch pin of the transformation of Peter Parker into Spider-Man.

    First Sidebar: Re: Jack Monroe. I LOVED that character and wasn’t too thrilled about his demise, still am not. I understood the need for it story-wise but that just goes to show you that even I had some misgivings with the Winter Soldier story as it played out.

    Brubaker dared to take on the second best known ‘Sacred Cow’ in Comicdom that, as years went by, lost its sheen. In an interview he remarked on how he went to get ‘that Bucky issue’ and was told how there wasn’t one and that it happened ‘off panel.’ In a way, a brilliant loop hole that he took full advantage of.

    Second Sidebar: He also answered that question in the back of everybody’s mind, what was a kid doing in a war zone anyway? Making him a scout-assassin-Army Ranger was a retcon worthy of an Alan Moore and Geoff Johns.

    Bru also did something (done by Waid in Flash before) unique and made the ex-sidekick, now occupying the mentor role — a success! No small achievement since we readers are biased knowing full well that Bucky can never be Steve. And Bru essentially said, “OK, now that’s out the way, THIS is how Bucky can be Captain America.”

    Third Sidebar: For me the moment was when Bucky/Cap stabbed Crossbones in the thigh.

    It’s what DC – in comparison – hasn’t really done too well with DG taking over the Batman role. I say ‘too well’ because there ARE things to praise.

    And one other trap that Bru didn’t fall into was allowing too long a learning curve upon taking the mentor role. Especially since, as a sidekick, it reflects POORLY on the mentor if the student isn’t up to snuff. Sure, be unique in your methods, be cognizant of the differences during the transition, but the grade here is pass or fail. No excuses.

    True, Bucky doesn’t have a Damien to contend with but the focus should be always on Dick dealing (like Bucky) and not whining (unlike Bucky) and – dare it be said – actually being better at it than the mentor.

    • victor
      November 5, 2009 at 5:46 pm — Reply

      Great insights.
      I’m pretty sure someone is writng the 12 part story where Spiderman unmasks his greatest nemesis and it turns out to be Uncle Ben. Pete would beat his Uncle senseless to the mantra of “with great power…” and “you taught me to stop you Uncle Ben” with tears in his eyes. Great writing. NOT. Sadly it’s remote possibilty.

      I agree that Bucky is in some real ways built to be a better Cap than Cap. He is essentially a child prodigy warrior who spent his entire adolescent and adult life fighting alongside the the world’s greatest soldier in battles that were FOR KEEPS against powered and superpowered combatants. The learning curve for him wielding the shield should be automatic. Brubaker did a reat job selling him as a great new better cap. To bad about that Reborn story though lol.
      How old was Bucky when he first got started? I think Bru said something about his take being that he was 17 to 18 ‘ish at the beginning and 20-21’ish when he “died”. This would justify (at least legally) him being able to serve as a military special op. This would also make cap only 4-6 years older than Bucky. More of a big brother and partner than a father and sidekick dynamic.
      Robin on the other hand is stuck as a sidekick for life. He can’t ever be Bats as bats is not really a mantle to be passed along to anyone. The bat name is a collection of neurosis’ that manifest as an alter ego. DG can no more be bats as he could be bruce wayne. Cap is symbol of immortal beliefs that HAS to have a bearer. There’s gotta be a Cap. Even the Flash is an avatar of a universal force that needs a host (and there is the whole gift/burden family history thing). Bats is not bigger than Bruce Wayne. I like Steve Rogers but he’s kind of not as important to cap as a war an enemy and an ideal. Steve could have been ANYONE with ANY story. Coulda’ been a baseball player or a mailman or a writer ANYONE who loves america. I think the chracter was designed that way. Slaving Cap to Steve is understandable but it does paint the character into a corner. Any honest fan would begrudginly admit that even John Walker as cap was actually working out until they made him a nut.
      I just wish if Marvel is gonna keep Cap SR that they at least realize HE NEEDS WAR. He’s a soldier and is just not that relevant without one. You saw how he ROCKED in Cival War (and that was barely a war). Bru is flirting with it but intrigue and espionage are not a war. I know we are all PC but please will someone invent an evil country or something? Even aliens will do at this point. Cap is the super soldier not super hero. Hey I love cap fighting with the avengers in super skirmishes but when he’s warring the character shines on many levels. I’d like to see a pocket continuity of him warring against a dedicated threat ala Rom the Space Knight. Bru already built a nice little suburb of MU cap continuity that is independent yet overlapping but Red skull and Sharon Carter are getting old fast.

  5. arcee
    November 5, 2009 at 10:23 pm — Reply

    I agree with some of your points in part, especially the Sharon and Skull part.

    I know we’ve kinda went off topic but for me, DG should play Batman just as Englehart wrote Bruce in Detective a few decades ago. BW was just as driven and dark as any incarnation afterwards (or before) but he was still human. Ever since Miller showed him as uber-obsessive (to the point of near insanity) people have forgotten this classic depiction that was just as valid without going to extremes.

    Using a movie reference to help illustrate my point, Bucky is more like Mark Wahlberg in “Shooter” and Dick Greyson is more Errol Flynn as “Robin Hood.”

    Both have battle tested leadership skills; both have shown they’re prodigies in their respective areas; both can get grim and serious if and when the situation needs them to be.

    One definite advantage of Bucky being dead for so long is that it saved him from years of the mistreatment by writers that DG has suffered. Only NOW, with other versions of Robin (Tim Drake), writers exploit the potential of a competent sidekick/partner. If you haven’t already please go to Englehart’s run on Detective and watch how a “mature” Robin saves Batman from Hugo Strange. It’s that kind of Robin that would have no trouble taking over the mantle of the cape and cowl.

    It’s been great corresponding with you. Be seein’ you.

  6. victor
    November 6, 2009 at 1:26 am — Reply

    That’s fair. The Englehart incarnation of bats is one that is plausible to have a successor for. DG was certainly a child prodigy in his own right and obviously groomed to “graduate” to a higher tier. His “promotion” to Nightwing was an extention of this. Him as batman can work if you can sell the idea that the world (or at least Gotham) not just BW and friends NEEDS a batman. Not as easy a sell as America needing a captain america but a sell nonetheless. The other tough sell is showing that not only can DG be bats but he can own the cowl and cape at the expense of retiring BW as a character. SR as cap was kinda of a nice transition into buckamerica cause much if not all that could be said about SR was said. He LOVES america and he is anachronistic. We get it we can move on (if we choose to). BW as bats we get to…he has ISSUES and he has more issues. But issues are easier to revisit and spin yarns about than not having issues. And while it is not by any means impossible its less attractive for writers to move on from BW if they think there is more to say about the character.
    Honestly I ultimately have to kind of change my mind and agree with you. When I first heard DG was standing in as bats I thought “finally…this should be hot”. Deep inside I’m all for DG as Batman. I watched the character grow up and its cool to see him come into his own. Hell lets try something different. We know in our heart of hearts that the status quo is king. Hal Jordan is GL again Barry will probably be Flash again BW will be bats and SR will be cap. But the temporary changes are plenty of fun.

  7. secret wars
    December 11, 2009 at 11:27 am — Reply

    I read the replies. A lot were centered around how much expirience cap has vs. Bucky. It’s laughable. I didn’t see Bucky in the krull skree war. Bucky lead the Avengers, Earth’s Mightiest Heroes…gimme a break..Think of this.. Who led EVERY MAJOR HERO (with the exception of Magneto and the X-men) During the secrtet War? Bucky? Cmon Expirience is quantifiable in years served. Leadership is determined in deeds done. Major Advantage Rogers!

    • December 11, 2009 at 8:22 pm — Reply

      I read the replies. A lot were centered around how much expirience cap has vs. Bucky. It’s laughable. I didn’t see Bucky in the krull skree war. Bucky lead the Avengers, Earth’s Mightiest Heroes…gimme a break..Think of this.. Who led EVERY MAJOR HERO (with the exception of Magneto and the X-men) During the secrtet War? Bucky? Cmon Expirience is quantifiable in years served. Leadership is determined in deeds done. Major Advantage Rogers!

      I have one question of those who insist that Steve has to be Captain America… Were you reading the book before Brubaker? Did you ever drop it out of boredom? Was there never a point where you felt like things were coasting? I know I’ve been reading Cap off and on since 1977, and there were a lot of issues that just felt “blah.” When people start opining about ‘The One, True, Cap,’ I just wonder if they’re talking about the actual book or about their nostalgic feelings for one character.

      • victor
        December 12, 2009 at 4:12 am — Reply

        Kyle Rayner GL
        Wally West Flash

        Fans were RABID for their exploits for YEARS.
        I think Marvel really is making a serious business mistake by cutting Bucky Barnes Cap run so short. With all the extra sales The Seige will admitedly generate they would be even greater Bucky helming it as Cap. You just can’t beat the electrifying intrigue this character has captured.

    • victor
      December 12, 2009 at 4:07 am — Reply

      How can anyone argue the point that SR is the MAN? Look I’m an SR fan and will ride with dude till he dies (which I did lol). His legends and epics will remain in the annals of MU lore FOREVER. He is firmly enshrined in the Pantheon.
      BUT I will say that from a POINT OF ORGIN SR began his modern Cap career with much less than BB. If SR could turn into a virtual modern Cap god after just 4 years of thumping in WW2 just IMAGINE what BB could do as a modern Cap after his 4 years of WW2 plus several decades of Winter Soldiering.
      Again SR is a god but he grew into that. BB could to the same and is STARTING with more experience to enable him to do so.
      PlUS while not nearly as bad as the Batman god worship (“Alright Bats is the Man I get it! Can we Move on?”)the SR Cap worship has been done to death. His story has been told (for now). Can we at least get a 10 year break from SR like we got from Hal Jordan and Barry Allen? I think people are responding so positively to BB Cap because it enriches the mythos and actually makes SR even cooler (the Authurian spirit of Camelot/america who has transcended our plane and may one day return).
      He’s just returning to fast is all.

      • December 12, 2009 at 10:27 pm — Reply

        How can anyone argue the point that SR is the MAN?

        Well, let’s see… Steve is one of NINE Captain Americas that Marvel has produced stories regarding (ten, if you consider fifties Cap a second character.)

        The most moving Captain America story I ever read featured William Naslund and Jeffrey Mace as Captain America, detailing the reasons why the switch in identities took place. It stands up against Cap Vol. 5 #25 for moving C.A. stories, if you ask me.

        Also interesting: John Walker’s descent into madness as Captain America… Bucky’s battle with the Man With No Face… Jeff Mace’s last hours of life… Roscoe’s heroic sacrifice… The Nomad arc… Etc., etc., etc. Steve is a good character, don’t get me wrong. But the thought process of “one, true” anything tends to lead to boredom. Barry Allen died for a reason, and so did Steve.

        • victor
          December 13, 2009 at 5:49 am — Reply

          I definitely stand corrected. There is certainly a rich cap legacy beyond SR. I’m just biased towards him for the obvious reasons of him being the first, most used and most featured in “super powered” adventures of the caps. I think SR and I think of Cap leading the Avengers and beating universe conquering menaces. Admitedly this only makes him the man if you are mostly about fantasy and juvenille wish fulfillment (which I confess I am). If one is a Cap fan on the basis of stories with more “human” emphasis a person can easily argue that other Cap incarnations are holding the crown.

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