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Captain America #610
posted December 8, 2010


Creators: Ed Brubaker, Butch Guice, Rick Magyar
Publishing Information: Marvel, comic book, November 2010, 44 pages, $3.99
Ordering Numbers:

This comic book was sort of a mess as a vehicle for adventure comics set pieces. This a shame in that I generally admire Brubaker's superhero comics work, and I remember the action sequences being a particular strength of the best issues in Brubaker's laudable, now half-decade run with Marvel's costumed icon. There was a two-page spread in one of the earliest Brubaker-written Captain America comics of the red, white and blue superhero hitting an elevated train that was as viscerally pleasing as any such sequence in recent memory. This issue, not so much. The plotting feels slapdash, although it could be that I'm not picking on previous issues' depth and context. In this issue the latest iteration of Baron Zemo (a nephew? a grandson? a favorite intern?) seems to have it in for the Bucky Barnes version of Captain America for some still not all the way clear to me reason. Zemo goes a long, long, expensive and extravagant distance to basically call Barnes an unrepentant dickhead, getting beat up in the process. For God's sake, he could have just sent a text. Arcade would have been dismayed by the excess expenditures here. In the final issue of what I'm guessing was a multiple-issue mini-saga, Bucky basically has to run towards the same place multiple times, fight people when they're impeding his progress, yell things back at people's obtuse accusations, fly around strapped to a rocket and then, finally, wait for his girlfriend to give him a ride home. It's a narrative structure that should be familiar to anyone that attended public high school. The best part is when Bucky spends a half-page doing what looks like Marvel's version of that old Eco-Challenge proto-reality show (which someone at Marvel needs to do explicitly... in the Savage Land. You're welcome, writers). It feels far removed from the tight super-spy thrillers the best issues of this series have provided the last 60 months or so.

imageThe lack of moments for me to grasp onto in terms of the action scenes did force a moment of reverie, in this case on the potentially rich thematic set-up Brubaker's now established with one of Marvel's trickier characters. I have to admit, I really like what he's done. At its most basic and big and romantic and modern superhero-y, making Bucky Barnes into Captain America summons to the front of the stage an entirely different vision of America than that represented by the Steve Rogers version over the years -- one more troubling to traditional mores than anything one might see on a picket sign held by a background character in a crowd scene. You actually have to read the book and think about it for a few moments to suss out the implications, though.

In the 1960s conception of the Captain America character, a mostly innocent Steve Rogers felt guilty about a final mission failure in a way that set him at odds with America's general satisfaction with World War II's final outcome. That naivete later clashed with 1970s-era American cynicism in a way that suggested our nation's worst sins were something not American, or at least they stood apart from our better nature. Brubaker's Bucky Barnes, on the other hand, did horrible things during World War II, was tortured, failed in that final mission even more directly, and subsequently spent the entire Cold War and its immediate aftermath in a dimly-remembered haze of state-sponsored murder and black-op style bad deeds. That is a bold-strokes reworking of America's relationship to the Last Just War and everything that followed, and in a day when essayists can openly discuss World War II as a war that ended in a draw, it's a conception of America with a certain amount of cultural juice. If the Secret Empire storyline happened in today's comic book, Captain America might look on in horror as that criminal society's leader pulled off his hood to reveal that he was that other Captain America. I just hope Brubaker is interested enough in the final outcome to see things through. It could be something.