July 1, 2009

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Captain America: The Death of Captain America Volume 1

Written by Ed Brubaker
Illustrated by Steve Epting and Mike Perkins
Marvel

This continues to be the best comic doing things I absolutely hate about modern comics, namely tossing about old characters with no respect for what has come before in order to tell the story the writer wants to tell. This is not Captain America by any stretch of the imagination, quite literally so by midway through the trade. However, Brubaker is such a good writer that once I beat down my anger at what he's done to Cap (something I have to do every time I pick up one of these trades), I settle in to enjoy a quality read.

The damned thing is called "Death of Captain America" so I don't think I have to dance around the fact that, post Civil War, Cap prepares to be tried for the crime of believing in individual freedom and dies making one last heroic act--saving the life of one of his jailers. Sharon, his on again, off again love, is the first to the scene. Just what happened? Let's just say that for Sharon, a character Brubaker's been pushing around since day one, has the knife stuck in her and twisted by some old foes.

While the heroes try to decide what to do next and Sharon tries to deal with some severe problems, bucky, the Winter Soldier, moves into action the oln yway he knows how--out of pure hatred. He's got two objectives in mind--kill the two people he blames for Steve's death. Going off the grid and away from Nick Fury, Bucky works his way inside on both fronts, with a problematic relationship added on by Brubaker. (I just can't make the timeline work, even on a sliding scale.) Soon he's about to finish part one of the job--but can he? Is he the Bucky who sided with Cap in WW2, or the ruthless killer we met at the beginning of the run?

Meantime, Cap's other friends are working to find Bucky before he kills anyone, but they're always one step behind. Iron Man finally connects the dots, but by the time the pieces are in place, it may be too late. This half of the arc ends on a great cliffhanger for both angles, a tribute to Brubaker's handling of things.
It's weird reading this stuff even as Cap is about ready to return, but the fact that the story really feels like Brubaker meant to keep the death permanent makes me like the story even more. The characters operate under this assumption rather than trying to keep up hopes of his being alive (contrast this to Robin's reaction to Bruce's death) and all of the players work the death from their own angle. While I may not agree with the characterizations, it's absolutely crystal clear the motivation that drives Bucky, Tony Stark, Crossbones, Sharon, and the rest of the players on the chessboard. Except for maybe the Red Skull, but then again--would you have that any other way?

It will probably take me awhile to get in the second half of this story, but much as I'd love to, I can't buy every comic I like to read. If you're a fan of good comics and can stand the usual past continuity disclaimers, I think you'll like this one almost as much as I do.