June 30, 2009

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Captain America Red Menace Volume 2

Written by Ed Brubaker
Illustrated by Steve Epting and others
Marvel

The second half of the pun-laden arc title continues with Cap ending up in the UK trying to keep Bucky from killing General Lukin. He meets up with some superheroes but manages to look bad while trying to get into Lukin's suspicious dealings. Lukin and his sometimes silent partner have other plans, however, and soon no one's letting sleeping dogs lie.

Faced with a common foe, can Cap and Bucky work together again (just like Winnick already did with Batman and the Red Hood)?

As with the first part of this arc, I am convinced that either a) Brubaker really hates Steve Rogers, b) Joe Quesada really hates Steve Rodgers, much like he hates Mary Jane Watson, or c) this is not Captain America, and we'll find he's been captured, brainwashed, etc., possibly during Bendis's Skrull saga.

No matter how good the story, I can't help but feel like this is not Captain America fumbling his way through the world. I don't care that he was frozen in ice, even in loose Marvel time he's been around in the world for about 10 years or so by now and therefore would be able to understand and adapt to what's going on far better than Brubaker's letting him. This constant being led about the nose by Sharon Carter and not being able to plan beyond the moment is not the Cap we know and love and I'm sorry, there's no way that Bucky's return would shake him up this much.

That's why I'm hoping that Bru's grand plan is to have been leaving hints all this time that we're not really dealing with Cap, and at some point, we'll get the Return of the King, so to speak. [Edited to add: I guess we are, but not quite how I expected.]

As far as the story goes, the Lukin-Skull interaction is brilliant, the plotting of the action is top notch, and the ending fits nicely with what's been happening. I do feel like the UK heroes were used as placeholders rather than for their actual value as heroes and we could have lived without them, but it was nice of him to include UK people in a story taking place there. (How often does Marvel remember they have heroes in other countries?) I have no problem with Brubaker the storyteller--were this a non-canon book, I'd really enjoy it. However, this particular arc feels like he lifted the Cap-Bucky part right out of Batman. I know there's only so much that can be done in a comic book, but still--having them partner against the odds but split without any resolution? Using maneuvers they did when they were partners? DC should look into copyright infringement on this one. I expect more of Brubaker.

Because this played out like a comic I already read that came out first and involves characters that have established histories that while I don't expect them to be followed in lock-step should at least be respected or given a good reason to be disregarded, I can't help feeling somewhat disappointed. Until we find out this is not really Cap, of course, and then I'll be happier with these. [Guess that's not happening, is it?]

This set of issues wasn't as strong because it felt more like an echo of a storyline done elsewhere. But overall, Brubaker's a hell of a writer and it shows in his storytelling. As per usual, if you can stand the changes in character, you'll like this just fine.