Sunday, February 05, 2006

This Comic Was Good - Captain America #14

The most impressive thing about Captain America #14, to me, was how it managed to be one of those "all things to all people" comics. It had character pieces, but it also had a lot of action. It had human drama, but it also had magical/mystical events. It had very nice art by Steve Epting (ably colored by Frank D'Armata). It was a good story for new fans, but it also threw in enough stuff to appeal to hardcore continuity fans. Most importantly, for a story that has been going on for awhile, it had a conclusion. In fact, all in all, the only negative I found in this comic was not even IN the comic (more on that later).

Marvel has been using "Wanda did it" recently to explain some continuity errors, but in Captain America, Ed Brubaker has an even better deus ex machina, in that he has one that actually fits within the plot of the comic! The storyline, since #1, has involved the Cosmic Cube, and it allows Brubaker a great deal of leeway in doing basically whatever he wants, while still existing to appease any fan who takes issue with any liberties Brubaker has taken. For instance, if you have a problem with the unlikeliness of the Russians rescuing Bucky in the first place? Hey, it may be unlikely, but it happened BECAUSE of the Cosmic Cube. This also is a nice backdoor for anyone who really has a big problem with Bucky not being dead. One could just say that Bucky DID die, but General Lukin used the Cosmic Cube to change history so that he lived. You could also say that Bucky always lived, but I like the backdoor of the Cosmic Cube to explain it to any fan who has a problem with it.

Brubaker handled Falcon and Sharon Carter very well in this issue, I thought. And he hit every note well in the Bucky/Cap confrontation. Good stuff.

As mentioned above, the art by Steve Epting was very strong. He handled the action sequences well, and did a very nice job on the two-page spread where Bucky remembers who he is. Nice work.

The ending of the comic was such a nice geekfest. In the very first issue, Brubaker had Red Skull killed off. So his "return" was both quite welcome and worked well in the story. All in all, Brubaker has delivered us a modern Captain America, while emulating Jim Steranko and giving us Englehart-esque twists. I do not know if you can get much better on Cap than to be like Steranko and Englehart (granted, I really enjoyed Stern and Waid's Cap, and this comic is not like those comics, so I guess my whole point is kinda stupid, but let it just be said that I like Brubaker's Captain America a good deal. It is not MY fault that Cap just happens to have had a lot of talented people work on the book using much different styles!!).

Now, as to my one gripe - the cover used a sample of Captain America Comics #27 by the late, great Alex Schomburg...and it was not credited!! I thought that that was fairly lame. Not a huge deal, but weak nonetheless. It was a cool cover, but come on, if Epting can get a credit on the cover, so should Schomburg!

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Anonymous Iron Lungfish said...

This would've been an alright ending after a six-issue arc, maybe. But to go through fourteen issues and end up with "Winter Soldier on the loose, relevant bad guys still out there, Cap still angsty" really doesn't cut it. I realize Brubaker cut against convention by not taking the easy way out and just offing Bucky again, but he succumbed instead to the more pernicious and Bendisesque habit of giving no satisfying resolution while piling loss after loss on the main characters. So what happens next? Do these people expect me to buy Cyborg Bucky as a regular recurring character who's just going to pop up and hang out with the Avengers eventually? Am I expected to buy the the Cyborg Bucky mini now? The Cyborg Bucky ongoing? "Cyborg Bucky: Origins"?

I miss the days when you could read a single story arc - or hell, a single comic - and get a single, discrete story with a beginning, a middle and an end, that wouldn't just be satisfying to read but would feel different from whatever was going to happen next month. The Winter Soldier has plowed on for so long it's just sort of smeared the last year and a half of Captain America into a greyish blob: a thick, goopy mix with the same ingredients spread uniformly thoughout. You have your Luskin here, your Red Skull there, your angsty Cap memories here, your Cyborg Bucky stuff over there. My kingdom for a writer who knows how to finish a damn story. It's not Brubaker, so this is where I get off.

2/05/2006 03:15:00 PM  
Blogger Brian Cronin said...

I will concede that having the end of a six-issue arc being the reveal that Bucky is alive IS a bit of an odd bit of structure.

And I do agree, this story has gone on for awhile. That is why I'm pleased it is finally drawn to a conclusion. One that I am satisfied by (although I understand your reservations about it).

2/05/2006 03:49:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Let's look at the balance sheet.

Lost: A time-honored symbol of the men who lost their lives in WW2, and of the Golden Age of Comics, and of innocence in general. One of the few lasting and meaningful deaths in the entire superhero genre.

Gained: A Wolverine clone. Cold-blooded assassin? Check. Result of sinister government program? Check. Forced to do things against his will? Check. Partially metal body? Check. Mysterious past? Check.

And what's worse, it's a Wolverine clone with an even worse hairdo than the original.

Perhaps the origin story was well done, but people are going to start regretting this. And sooner rather than later ... I hear the Buckster is scheduled to make an appearance in--wait for it--Wolverine.

2/05/2006 10:22:00 PM  
Anonymous trilobite said...

Also, the explanation for Bucky's survival made exactly no sense. While that didn't, strictly speaking, happen in this issue, it was the setup, and tainted the whole thing.

1) Why was his only injury losing an arm? He didn't miss the explosion due to some mysterious ground zero effect, because he did lose the arm. But no other injuries. Even his unconsciousness seems as likely to have been due to immersion as to impact. How? Are we to conclude that in the few seconds Cap lost sight of him, he gnawed through his arm to free himself, dropped off, and was underwater when the bomb blew?

2) The Russkis then go to great lengths to fix him up because ... he can pass for American and use a gun. Umm. That can't be THAT rare a combo. Especially when using Bucky means trusting vital missions to someone who might turn on you at any moment, should his memory return.

3) Oh, and the whole point of him passing for an American was that he would be unremarkable, able to slip in and out without notice. Which is reeeally easy to do when you've got a big ol' metal arm. Hey, it worked for that guy who took out the Kimball family, but generally, not so much.

Basically, this was a remarkably stupid story, padded out to obscene length.

And as iron lungfish says, now what do we do with him? Other than reveal that he's Rick Jones's true father, I mean.

2/07/2006 11:03:00 PM  
Blogger Brian Cronin said...

The whole "not making sense" part is explained by the Cosmic Cube.

It happened because Lukin and Red Skull MADE it happen using the Cosmic Cube.

2/08/2006 01:29:00 AM  
Blogger ninjawookie said...

I didn't start reading Captain America until Brubaker was on it, on the whole I enjoyed it quite a bit, unfortunately i don't think i have enough emotional investment in the characters to go wow//

Then again Capt. America I loathed until i read this arc, so I guess it's a start.

I wonder if this will be my next Catwoman?

2/08/2006 09:38:00 PM  

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