Or – “The Strange Case Of Mistimed Resurrection…”
I am often accused of overthinking things, especially when it comes to comic reviews.Â Many times, I can’t process a particular book or story without comparing/relating/contrasting to something else.Â For me, the dual returns of Steve Rogers and Barry Allen are nigh-impossible to read without comparing.Â 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…Â I wasn’t 100% thrilled with Flash’s #5, so how does Cap’s #5 measure up?
Captain America – Reborn #5 (of 6)
Previously, on Captain America – Reborn:Â The assassination on the federal courthouse steps was just the beginning of the Red Skull’s plan to humiliate and torture his lifelong foe…Â 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.Â 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.Â 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.Â 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…Â It’s a pretty long story…) into Rogers’ own red, white and blue bod…
We open with Steve Rogers, still lost…Â 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.Â 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.)Â 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!”Â Rogers suddenly knows the truth, thinking “I know EXACTLY what this is.”Â Onboard an AIM transport ship, The Red Skull parades about in his new super-soldier body, much to the consternation of Sharon Carter.Â Sharon keepsÂ entreating Steve to come overcome the Skull, to take control, but takes a boot to the face for her trouble.Â She then changes tacks, asking the Skull why he’s willing to work under the two-bit bureaucrat like Norman Osborn.Â Skull’s plan is simple:Â Capture Bucky and the renegade Avengers, then bring them to the President and announce that the real Captain America has returned.Â 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.Â 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.Â 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.Â “You should’ve known better, Skull,” says a determined Captain America.Â “I’ve been escaping from your traps for DECADES.”Â 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.Â Sin is easily dropped with a shield to the face from Captain Ameribuck, and the two Caps face off.Â 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.)Â 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.)Â 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.Â Bucky pulls his Luger (and why would he use a German gun, again?) and prepares to shoot Skull in the face, but…Â it’s the face of Steve Rogers.Â He who hesitates is lost, and Captain Skullmerica uses the legendary shield to sever Bucky’s cybernetic hand.Â With the glee of final triumph written all over his face, the Skull gloats, “Time for a NEW morning in America,”Â liningÂ 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.Â 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.Â 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.Â 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.Â This issue, like Flash Rebirth #5, features a battle between resurrected hero and their definitive villain, butÂ here it works better for a couple of reasons.Â 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.Â We’re in the home-stretch of the return, here, and it should be super-dramatic, the last fifteen minutes of an action movie.Â ‘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.Â 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.Â 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.Â With any luck, we’ll get the end of this story before Steve returns to wide circulation during ‘Siege.’Â (I don’t know that I’d hold my breath, though…)