REVIEW: Fear Itself – Captain America #7.1

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Or – “The History Book On The Shelf, Always Repeating Itself…”

Steve Rogers is ready to bury his friend and partner yet again.

I wonder if he’ll angst about it for fifteen years like the last time he thought Bucky dead?

FEAR ITSELF: CAPTAIN AMERICA #1
Writer: Ed Brubaker
Artist: Butch Guice
Colorist: Bettie Breitweiser
Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna
Editor: Tom Brevoort
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Cover Price: $3.99

Previously, in Fear Itself – Captain America:  James Buchanan Barnes has fallen in battle, killed by the agents of an Asgardian deity gone rogue.  The battle against The Serpent had other casualties (Avengers Tower and Thor among them) but none were quite as brutal or anti-climactic as the loss of the incumbent Captain America.  Steve Rogers has taken up his shield again, and the battle has been one, and now the time has come to clean up and bury the dead…

AND THEN, THE REVEAL…

The story starts with Steve Rogers practicing his Bucky eulogy, making all the usual references to their service together, and Bucky’s inspirational tendency to throw himself into battle alongside superhumans and get away with it.  Nick Fury arrives, there’s some careful banter, and the other shoe drops:  “There’s something I gotta tell you…  And I ain’t sure how,” admits Fury.  Cut back to the midst of Fear Itself #3 (which again begs the question of what took four more issues to tell, but that train has sailed, I guess) as a grieving Black Widow watches agents of SHIELD evacuate her boyfriend’s corpse from the battlefield that used to be Washinton, DC.  Butch Guice’s art is pretty effective here, with dark shadows and high contrast everywhere, and a tearful Black Widow clearly wracked with emotion.  Then, the med tech cries out:  “Sir, I’ve got a pulse here!”  It only takes a moment for Nick Fury’s wheels to start turning, and as we cut back to the present of the tale, Nick’s story is interrupted by a high-velocity Captain America fist.

BUT WILL IT FLY OFF THE RAILS?

Steve’s outrage will probably be matched by the internet’s, as Nick tells a very well-crafted tale (albeit one that doesn’t fit with the tone of Fear Itself, to be honest, especially given the high-profile “death” of Thor at the end) explaining what really happened with Bucky, a story that involves an LMD, a bait & switch, and the last remaining dose of Nick’s Infinity Formula.  Yes, Faithful Spoilerites, you can start your snarky remarks now, as reports of the Winter Soldier’s death were somewhat exaggerated.  Bucky himself arrives to explain the rest of the tale, spinning out of the Gulag storyline in Cap’s old new title (as opposed to the weird virtual reality storyline in his new new title, where they have pointedly avoided any questions about what may have happened to Bucky over the last 4 months).  Guice gives us some lovely visual, including a very Kirby-esque fight between Fury and Rogers and a truly stunning couple of panels with an ethereally beautiful Black Widow.  As things end, Steve is Captain America again, the Avengers hold a wake (Hawkeye gets some good lines in) and the Winter Soldier returns to the road to track down menaces that only he can find, remnants of the same Cold War networks that he worked in for so many years…

THE VERDICT: ANSWERS  A FEW NAGGING QUESTIONS…

The main problem with this issue?  It serves as a launching point for a new Winter Soldier limited series, and is a lot of prologue for an epilogue.  Add to the fact that it pretty much has zero to do with the Fear Itself OR Captain America titles, and that it’s 4 dollars for 22 pages of story, and the book has quite a handicap to overcome.  Still, it’s better than it could have been, thanks to Bru and Guice, and it puts Bucky in a place that is more natural a fit than as a shiny Alex-Ross-designed-Captain-America-with-a-gun.  The seeming no-selling of the death of Captain America makes sense in retrospect, as well, although it still seems a bit too convenient for my tastes.  (Fury actually lampshades this by saying that he had the LMD in reserve because of Bucky’s recent imprisonment in the Russian gulag, but I find it a bit hard to swallow.)  Still and all, Fear Itself: Captain America #7.1 does several things right, just enough to overcome most of my ill will, and serving as a good launching point for the coming W.S. limited, earning 3 out of 5 stars overall.  Had the book been less overpriced or contained more content, it could have earned one full star more, and had the title not been an annoying mishmash of nothin’, it could have hit 3.5.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

Faithful Spoilerite Question Of The Day:  Is it just me, or is the worst part of this issue’s revelation the fact that Marvel editorial have just set in motion literally THOUSANDS of internet smart-mark comments about how death in comics is never permanent blah blah blah fishcakes?