The new Captain America series under the direction of Ed Brubaker and Steve Epting has been phenomenal. Starting the series by killing the Red Skull and embarking on a massive story line involving the Cosmic Cube and the return of James ‘Bucky’ Barnes as the Winter Soldier was a master stroke but the big story was the death of Captain America and Bucky’s attempt to fill his mentor’s shoes.
Brubaker stepped it up a notch by returning Steve Rogers to life, but not exactly in the way that anyone imagined.
Captain America: Reborn
A 5 part miniseries by Ed Brubaker, Bryan Hitch and Butch Guice
Any comic book reader will tell you the death is never the end on the world of comics. Even so, many of those same fans feel cheated when their heroes return from the dead. This may be due to the large amount of poorly orchestrated deaths and even worse rebirths that comic fans have had to endure over the years. Even if a death is well done, often the character’s return is a let down or vice versa. Green Lantern Hal Jordan’s death was a disappointment and his multiple returns to the DC Universe were embarrassingly bad until Geoff Johns got his hands on him. The same can be said for Hawkman whose death was a convoluted mess yet the hero’s return from oblivion was very impressive. Of course he died all over again… you may have missed it since it took place in Final Crisis.
In the case of Captain America, his death story was incredibly moving and impressive and Marvel knows it. As the series was raking in readers each month it was hardly a publishing stunt to kill of the main character. In fact, Brubaker said that Steve Rogers’ death was part of his plan after taking over the title. A casualty of the Civil War over the Super Human Registration Act, Captain America was defeated not so much by the opposing force led by former compatriot Iron Man (they even shared a comic together once upon a time!), but by his own inability to understand the will of the people he had sworn to protect. As the SHRA’s support grew and split the people of America in two, Cap devoted his attention to defending the freedom of all Americans and missed the fact that they were genuinely scared of the super-powered beings who lived amongst them. It took a moment of clarity in which Cap suddenly became aware of the death and destruction that his crusade against the Registration Act was causing to convince him to back down.
But Captain America’s decline was not over yet. On his way to court, however, he was gunned down both by a sniper and at close range by his former lover Sharon Carter. Since that time last year readers have been waiting for Steve Rogers to return to life.
In the character’s absence, the Marvel Universe has become volatile. Inexplicably Norman Osborn (formerly the Green Goblin) has been exonerated for his life of crime, ousted Tony Stark and declared him an enemy of the state, reformed SHIELD as HAMMER and assembled his own team of Avengers who are secretly super villains.
Seeking to fight the war that Rogers started, James Buchanan ‘Bucky’ Barnes has taken on the mantle of Captain America. Thwarting the Machiavellian plots of the Red Skull designed to destroy America from within and battling phantoms of his dark past, Bucky has become a hero in his own right and earned the title of Cap’s uniform. That being said, all readers have still been waiting patiently for Steve Rogers to return. As noted earlier, I have yet to see both super hero’s death and return as knock-out stories. This may be the exception.
The 5 part series just started this week is an indicator of just how brilliant Brubaker and Marvel Editorial has been regarding the return of their most beloved character. There was a brief moment not long after Rogers’ death when readers thought that the character was not dead after all and was in fact held by SHIELD. This turned out to be a ruse on Tony Stark’s part to draw out the New Avengers. Later, it was thought that Rogers was alive and in the thrall of the Red Skull. This turned out to be the ‘other’ Captain America from the 1950′s, driven mad by the Super Soldier Serum. With two possibilities debunked, what was left?
It turns out that the Red Skull, along with Emil Zola, was attempting to use a unique combination of hi-tech machinery (including the ‘gun’ that Sharon Carter used on Steve) to bring him out of time. While it is still unclear why the Red Skull was doing this, it is apparent that the experiment was a failure and has left Steve Rogers ‘unstuck in time.’ Bounding from one period of his life to another, the bewildered super patriot is slowly but surely on his way back ‘home,’ but how he will get there and what he will do after he arrives is anybody’s guess.
The death and rebirth of Captain America seems to mirror the states of the nation in America… so it won’t be an easy process but it is sure to be fascinating.