Or – “The Strange Case Of Mistimed Resurrection…”


I am often accused of overthinking things, especially when it comes to comic reviews.  Many times, I can’t process a particular book or story without comparing/relating/contrasting to something else.  For me, the dual returns of Steve Rogers and Barry Allen are nigh-impossible to read without comparing.  Both books feature characters whose deaths were memorable, meaningful, and upsetting to negate; both books have been extended by an issue in mid-run to try and do the story justice; and both characters (in my opinion) left behind proteges whose stories will be weakened by the return of their mentors…  I wasn’t 100% thrilled with Flash’s #5, so how does Cap’s #5 measure up?

Captain America – Reborn #5 (of 6)

CA2.jpgWriter: Ed Brubaker
Pencils: Bryan Hitch
Cover Art: Bryan Hitch, John Cassaday, David Finch

Previously, on Captain America – Reborn:  The assassination on the federal courthouse steps was just the beginning of the Red Skull’s plan to humiliate and torture his lifelong foe…  Rather than flat-out murder Steve Rogers, the Skull called in favors from Doctor Doom, from Arnim Zola, from Doctor Faustus, to build a trap wherein Steve’s girlfriend pulled the trigger, and Rogers himself was sent through a recursive loop of his own life and times, forever trapped in his past.  The Skull planned to use Sharon Carter (the aforementioned girlfriend) as some sort of constant to capture Rogers, and to use the Captain America of the 1950’s (aka The Grand Director) in a scheme to seize political power.  Sharon screwed up the first half of the plan by destroying the time machine Zola had built, and James Buchanan Barnes threw a wrench in the second half of the plan by taking up the mantle of Captain America himself and defeating the GD Cap on national television.  Still, the Skull was able to salvage part of his plan by yanking Steve Rogers’ body out of the time stream and transferring his own consciousness (trapped in one of Zola’s android bodies after it was extricated from the mind of Aleksandr Lukin…  It’s a pretty long story…) into Rogers’ own red, white and blue bod…

We open with Steve Rogers, still lost…  but this time in a weird pseudo-reality that combines elements of the 30s and 40’s into a melange of New York, albeit a New York where Nazis seem to have won.  Bryan Hitch does a really interesting job with the panels here, tilting the axis of his grid to reflect the off-balance nature of this world (an old Rod Serling trick.)  Steve Rogers is forced to run from Nazis until he finds a grotesque parody of the Uncle Sam recruitin posters, emblazoned with “Uncle Skull Wants YOU!”  Rogers suddenly knows the truth, thinking “I know EXACTLY what this is.”  Onboard an AIM transport ship, The Red Skull parades about in his new super-soldier body, much to the consternation of Sharon Carter.  Sharon keeps entreating Steve to come overcome the Skull, to take control, but takes a boot to the face for her trouble.  She then changes tacks, asking the Skull why he’s willing to work under the two-bit bureaucrat like Norman Osborn.  Skull’s plan is simple:  Capture Bucky and the renegade Avengers, then bring them to the President and announce that the real Captain America has returned.  The Avengers (The Vision, The Falcon, Ronin/Clint Barton, The Black Widow, The Wasp and Captain America IX/James Barnes) try to engage the AIM ship, and end up getting shto down in the middle of Washington, DC.  Again, the visuals are note-perfect, as Hitch’s “wide-screen” Ultimates/Authority style gets a real workout in the shots of the Quinjet crashing in the reflecting pool by Washington Monument.

The beekeepers of AIM engage the Avengers, but it’s a pretty uneven fight, as The Red Skull crows to Sharon that she’s nothing but bait.  Even trapped in a strange mindscape, though, Steven Rogers is no pushover, and breaks through a wall, leaping into a metaphorical void where he finds the mind of the Red Skull.  “You should’ve known better, Skull,” says a determined Captain America.  “I’ve been escaping from your traps for DECADES.”  Arnim Zola and Crossbones release their cadre of MODOK androids (it’d be better if they were Elvis MODOKS, but beggars can’t be choosers) and Captain Skullmerica and Sin step off their ship to take down the Avengers.  Sin is easily dropped with a shield to the face from Captain Ameribuck, and the two Caps face off.  I have to say that I find the full-page panel of both men punching the other in the face simultaneously pretty ridiculous, though, with splattering blood and twisted anatomy (to fit the constraints of the page.)  Captains Skullmerica and Americbuck fight it out of the steps of Lincoln Memorial, and the Red Skull takes the upper hand (thanks to Sin shooting Barnes in the back during the fight.)  At the same time, the Skull is forced to fight Steve Rogers for control of Steve’s body, laughing that Bucky is unable to actually go all out against his best friend.  Bucky pulls his Luger (and why would he use a German gun, again?) and prepares to shoot Skull in the face, but…  it’s the face of Steve Rogers.  He who hesitates is lost, and Captain Skullmerica uses the legendary shield to sever Bucky’s cybernetic hand.  With the glee of final triumph written all over his face, the Skull gloats, “Time for a NEW morning in America,” lining up for a second strike, aimed to remove Bucky’s HEAD…

This issue is a good one from an action perspective, with an all out battle between robot monsters and the Avengers, the fight between Cap and Red Skull in Steve’s mind, and the fighty-fighty of battlin’ Caps against a backdrop that represents liberty itself.  That said, there’s not a lot OTHER than the action going on here, as Steve’s participation is kind of tangental to the action.  Bryan Hitch’s art is always good, but here he reaches heights that I haven’t seen since The Ultimates Version 1 a few years ago.  I can certainly see why they chose to expand this series, though, as finishing everything up in this issue could easily have made it all cramped.  This issue, like Flash Rebirth #5, features a battle between resurrected hero and their definitive villain, but  here it works better for a couple of reasons.  Brubaker doesn’t spend a lot of time analyzing WHY Steve Rogers would stand against the Red Skull, it just has him do it, and more importantly, has him do it definitively.  We’re in the home-stretch of the return, here, and it should be super-dramatic, the last fifteen minutes of an action movie.  ‘Course, The Siege one-shot two weeks ago featured Steve post-Reborn, and the New Avengers Annual LAST week featured Steve post-Reborn, undermining the effect of the climactic battle for control of Steve’s body.  Obviously, Marvel couldn’t delay all the crossovers just because they added an issue to this mini, but timing once again has damaged my reception of what could have been a hugely successful issue.  Still and all, Captain America: Reborn #5 is well-drawn, and well-written, ditching a lot of the characters who had been carrying previous issues to bring Steve Rogers straight into the fray, and earns 3.5 out of 5 stars overall.  With any luck, we’ll get the end of this story before Steve returns to wide circulation during ‘Siege.’  (I don’t know that I’d hold my breath, though…)


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. astrodinosaurus
    December 18, 2009 at 10:02 pm — Reply

    The Luger is a good brand(And one he is very, very used to)…Being a superhero you have to be at 100% or else people die..would be rather dick-ish of him to buy American then huh :D ?

  2. December 18, 2009 at 11:18 pm — Reply

    The Luger is a good brand(And one he is very, very used to)…Being a superhero you have to be at 100% or else people die..would be rather dick-ish of him to buy American then huh :D ?

    Why would an American kid who spent 50 years as a Russian killer for hire use German arms? Colt .45, son. Mike Teevee would have gotten one, as soon as he turned 12.

    • astrodinosaurus
      December 19, 2009 at 9:37 am — Reply

      Well he must have picked it up during the WWII…(a lot of allied soldier picked up German weapons and used them)…and used it ever since..I imagine the Russians confiscated his Colts and/or Smith & Wessons.

      Besides Guns are like cars… Pretty much everyone uses Russian, Chinese, German(Austrian) or American across borders. Its like when you buy a car and its either German, Italian or Japanese..wait where have I seen those 3 countries grouped together before … Aaaaand we have gone full circle!

  3. Greg A
    December 19, 2009 at 9:00 am — Reply

    Unfortunately, the epilogue “Who Will Wield The Shield” comes out 12/23 before the release of issue six. According to Brubaker a slightly larger page count resulted in Hitch falling behind schedule. That old chestnut “when it’s collected and in a few years, nobody will even remember it was released out of order” was used–I don’t quite buy that because more than twenty years later I still remember it took nearly a year for the last issue of Camelot 3000 to come out. Heck, I still remember the new red/silver Iron Man armor made its first appearance in West Coast Avengers #1, instead of Iron Man #200 because of some scheduling mixup.

    I agree the Return of Steve Rogers feels more satisying than the Return of Barry Allen. Pre-return,in both instances I found Steve Rogers and Barry Allen more interesting dead as inspirational figures in than alive.

    Of course, Steve’s return has been planned from the beginning, so it has had to opportunity to build to this point in Captain America: Rebirth. Barry’s return not only feels like an editorial mandate, but it’s tied to chaos (trying to think of a polite word) of Final Crisis, so I think return is tainted.

    Ultimtely, it comes down to the villain. This is definitely not the first time a Captain America has fought Red Skull to the death. It’s definitely not the first time a Captain America has fought a Captain America. Heck, it’s not even the first time Red Skull has taken over Steve’s body. At this point we know Steve and Skull don’t like each other, we really don’t need it spelled out. In Flash Reborn, I’m still trying to figure out Professor Zoom’s motivations other than “I’m a villain, grrrr”.

    Here’s hoping the post Rebirth, Reborn adventures of Barry and Steve match the expectation created by these minis. To paraphrase Malcolm in Jurassic Park, “DC and Marvel were so preoccupied with whether or not they could return Barry and Steve, they didn’t stop to think if they should>’

  4. arcee
    December 19, 2009 at 9:43 am — Reply

    Excellent review, as always.

    I think when all is said in done, Bru’s ‘Bucky takes over for Cap’ run will find a place high up there with the gold standard ‘Wally for Barry’ during Waid’s tenure.

    Bru’s ‘secret’ IMHO was he made Buck a success – Bucky might’ve had SOME doubts, struggled more than Steve and made some ajustments but it was not whiny or a paralyzing ‘fear’ of failure attitude I sometimes get from Dick as Batman.

    I know it might be a bit unfair – he doesn’t have a Damien/Robin to contend with – but to be clear I simply liked Bucky’s attitude as written.

  5. Brother129
    December 19, 2009 at 10:49 am — Reply

    For whatever reason, I actually didn’t like the art too much on this issue. It felt somewhat rushed to me and actually had me wondering what Steve Epting is up to. I get why they extended the series (after reading your review) but seeing THREE appearances of Steve Rogers in other Marvel books over the previous two weeks messed me up. Now I’m ready for the series conclusion and this Siege business to get on with the getting on…

  6. December 19, 2009 at 1:54 pm — Reply

    Good review. You just missed one little thing; Steve and Bucky BOTH appeared in FULL UNIFORM in Invincible last week (or two weeks ago?).

    My gripes with this series other than the pay-off already being known are as follows:

    This could have been Captain America #601-606 or 7 or 8 or whatever. Marvel was just greedy to get the sales by labeling it as an “event,”

    Would’ve preferred if Steve just stayed dead, but eh. Who will they bring back next? Thomas and Martha Wayne? Uncle Ben?

    Bru could have explored Bucky as Cap longer. Morrison is promising at least another year of Dick/Damien.

    But that’s just my two cents.

  7. December 19, 2009 at 4:14 pm — Reply

    Would’ve preferred if Steve just stayed dead, but eh. Who will they bring back next? Thomas and Martha Wayne? Uncle Ben?

    I’m pretty certain that Marvel won’t bring back Thomas and Martha Wayne. Everything else is pretty much up in the air.

  8. Navarre
    December 19, 2009 at 4:57 pm — Reply

    I have given up on dead comic characters staying dead. But this was all part of the story. It was never “Steve died and now let’s bring him back.” as much as another insidious Red Skull plot. … but, of course, it still made for good marketing, hmmm?

    Either way, Steve Rogers is back and that is all that matters to me.

  9. astrodinosaurus
    December 19, 2009 at 5:07 pm — Reply

    What will they call Steve now…or Bucky. Who keeps the “Captain”?

    • Navarre
      December 19, 2009 at 8:09 pm — Reply

      Steve Rogers *must* be Captain America. It is the natural order of things.

      Bucky has proven himself a great character though and, no matter what name he uses, will add much to the story.

  10. December 19, 2009 at 10:13 pm — Reply

    Steve Rogers *must* be Captain America. It is the natural order of things.

    These are the sort of thought processes that mean that there will never be meaningful change in comics. :)

  11. Navarre
    December 20, 2009 at 9:47 am — Reply

    I support meaningful change. But I don’t think we should replace Jesus with Justin Timberlake either.

  12. Brother129
    December 20, 2009 at 6:37 pm — Reply

    Jesus??? Is that Norman Osborn’s secret weapon? How could I have missed it!?

    • Navarre
      December 20, 2009 at 7:18 pm — Reply

      That might actually be the one twist no one saw coming.

  13. Thelastavenger
    December 21, 2009 at 3:36 am — Reply

    Bucky uses a Luger because it’s ironic.

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