If you went back five years in time and asked comic book fans which Marvel title had the best storylines, the chances are they wouldn’t say Captain America.
Steve Rogers had been a mainstay of the mighty house of Marvel since the 1960s, but while the publisher continued to churn out X-book after X-book ad nauseum, Captain America tended to hang around in the background.
He was a strong presence in the Avengers, but his solo title never set the world alight. Five years on and the world has changed in so many ways, and thanks to writer Ed Brubaker, Captain America is now one of Marvel’s must-read titles.
A lot of people (me included) thought the original notion of killing Steve Rogers off and bringing back Bucky would take an awful lot of explaining – which is a polite way of saying the idea stank. But now Steve Rogers is dead, which is more than can be said for other deceased super heroes and there’s a new Captain in town. The Man Who Bought America is the final part of the Death of Captain America trilogy and Brubaker ties up all the loose ends and draws this juggernaut of a tale to a close.
And what’s more, he doesn’t stretch credibility to breaking point – other writers should take note – or go for the easy way out, which is to bring Steve Rogers back from the dead for the mother of all confrontations with the Red Skull.
Brubaker has used the trilogy to flesh out the back-story of not just Cap, but Bucky Barnes and the Red Skull. Bucky has had some serious re-adjusting to do, not to mention a few personal demons of his own.
The cast list, which has included the Falcon, the Black Widow, Dr Faustus and many others, all had a decent crack of the whip. Given that many of the characters are either relics from the Second World War or the Cold War, they have fitted in remarkably well to life in the noughties and it was good to find out that Bucky would rather play cards for Euros than Dollars, because the currency is stronger. Now there’s a man who can roll with the punches.
The writer’s love of noir meant that all the drama was well paced and, of course, it was all aided and abetted by Steve Epting’s truly amazing art. In lesser hands, this series might have been car crash reading, but it has been one of the most intelligent reads from Marvel for many years.
The only gripe is that Sharon Carter (Agent 13) had a pretty rough time. Without wishing to give away too many spoilers, she went through the mill, and her own personal story is every bit as traumatic as Bucky Barnes.
It has taken almost four years for this story to come to an end, but it’s been one hell of a ride from start to finish. There have been plenty of twists and turns along the way and Brubaker has made every chapter as fresh and exciting as the last.
The question is where do they take the new Captain America next? Whatever happens, it better be good.
And if you enjoyed Brubaker’s work on Captain America, then check out his Criminal series – you won’t be disappointed!
6 January 2009