Hot damn, it's finally here!!! I've been waiting about a week and a half to get my hands on this comic book. I'm not going to bother with a long drawn out introduction because to be quite honest, I can't wait to start reading this comic. All you really need to know is that I am a huge fan of Captain America and that the main story is written by the incomparable Ed Brubaker. Now, on with the review!
-To keep things relatively simple, the bulk of this review and the analysis that will follow is going to be on the Ed Brubaker story. I'll hit on the extra material, but briefly.
-This comic takes place 1 year after the death of Captain America at the hands of his brainwashed longtime girlfriend, Sharon Carter and Crossbones. We kick things off with Sharon's story. Sharon has been slowly regaining her memories after her brainwashing at the hands of the Red Skull and Dr. Faustus prior to Cap's death. Lately Sharon has been recalling the assassination itself, and she can now remember shooting Cap point blank and then handing the gun off to another brainwashed agent of Faustus. Sharon tracks this man down and uses a device she received from Nick Fury that forces the man to remember what he was ordered to do with the gun after he took it from Sharon. Sharon finds the gun hidden away in the man's home, and upon looking at it she realizes that it isn't a normal gun... Hmmm...
-From there we head to the evil Cap(the former Grand Director)who was working for the Red Skull a couple of issues back. Evil Cap is rethinking his origin story in a little diner before he spots some punks trying to steal his costume and shield from his truck. Evil Cap launches himself into the punks and swiftly takes them down. After that, he hops in the truck and leaves, thinking to himself that he needs to find a place where the people haven't all turned into criminals... Good luck!!!
-Next up is a story about the female Bucky from the Counter-Earth Franklin Richards created after the Onslaught debacle. Huh, I totally forgot about her... Anyway, after some research, she discovers Patriot's(of the Young Avengers)secret identity and tracks him down at his home. Apparently, female Bucky wants to become the sidekick to the current Captain America. Patriot explains that Cap probably wouldn't be interested in having a sidekick, before inviting her to meet the Young Avengers instead.
-From there we head to Crossbones who is still locked in prison due to his involvement in Cap's assassination. A prison guard takes offense at the fact that Crossbones is gloating about his role in the assassination, and shoots him with a taser. The guard then gets up close and begins to beat on Crossbones, taunting CB with the fact that Sin is being held in the prison infirmary. Upon hearing this, CB shakes off the effect of the taser and snaps the guards neck, charging through the prison until he reaches Sin in the infirmary. The two Neo-Nazi's share a laugh over the fact that nobody knows what really happened the day of the assassination before the guards gas the infirmary to knock Crossbones out... Hmmm...
-Next up are the New Avengers. Bucky wants to attend the public memorial service bring held at Central Park in Cap's honor in costume, but the Black Widow manages to convince him of what a bad idea that would be. Widow reasons that Norman Osborn and his "Avengers" would launch an attack and innocent bystanders would be caught in the crossfire. Bucky and the other Avengers decide to go to the park in civvies, not wanting to soil Cap's memorial service with unnecessary fisticuffs.
-The Red Skull, stuck in one of Armin Zola's spare bodies, is also thinking back on his MANY battles with Cap. However, the Skull seems to know something nobody else does, as he states that someday everybody will see what he did, and then they'll all know the Skull was Cap's superior... Hmmm...
-This story draws to a close at the memorial service at Central Park. The Avengers have turned out(out of costume)to pay their respects, and are soon joined by the Falcon. The Sentry, Moonstone and Osborn hover over the crowd looking for the Avengers, and Osborn states his disdain for Cap to his teammates. Moonstone tells Osborn that the thousands who turned out for the service would disagree with him, and Sentry points out the Avengers to Osborn. Osborn refrains from attacking, instead landing on the stage set up in the Park and proclaiming his "respect" for Cap, deciding to use the service as an opportunity to boost his own popularity with the masses. Sharon Carter finds Falcon in the throngs of people and tells him that she believes they can still save Cap... Wha-huh!?!
-Next up is a story by Roger Stern(Cap's writer briefly in the early 80's)about Cap's old neighbors, Bernie and Josh. As a longtime fan of Cap, I quite enjoyed this story and give it a score of 8 out of 10.
-The next story was by Mark Waid(Cap's writer after Mark Gruenwald in the mid-90's). This story dealt with a collector of Cap memorabilia. For a score, I'd give it a 6 1/2 out of 10.
-Next is an article written by Joe Simon!?!? Woooo, I was overjoyed to read this! For those who don't know, Joe Simon, along with the King, Jack Kirby created Cap back in the early 1940's. That article was a real treat to read. Joe Simon... AWESOME!
-We finish this comic up with the reprint of Captain America #16 from 1942. This comic is notable because it's a VERY early Stan Lee work. As possibly the biggest Stan Lee fan out there, this was also a HUGE treat to read.
Hmmm... Where do I even begin? I'll start with the main story. That seems like a logical place to begin. I'll probably catch some flack for saying this, but this definitely wasn't one of my favorite Brubaker written comics. The story was just a bit too piecemeal for my tastes. Just when one snippet of story would get interesting, we'd hop over to another. Now before I get a mess of hateful comments, allow me to emphasise that Ed is one of my absolute favorite comic book writers today, and is a writer I regularly hand perfect scores to, so I say these words with the utmost respect. I would have preferred if this comic would have focused solely on Sharon Carter's journey. For example, when did Nick Fury give her that device? Why did she believe the gun wasn't normal before she even found it? I'd have much rather read about stuff like that instead of reading about Sin and Crossbones in prison.
Obviously this comic is the first step in bringing Steve Rogers back to life. As much as I love Steve(and I really do!), I have to say I honestly don't think he needs to come back yet. Cap's comic under Bucky has been excellent and I for one haven't missed Steve at all. I say that as someone who has amassed a very large collection of early Captain America comic books and is a Steve Rogers fan. This series hasn't missed a beat with Bucky serving as the title character.
So now the question becomes how exactly will Steve be returning and to what end? First off, the real question to ask is why would the Red Skull NOT be satisfied with the death of his longtime rival? It's obvious that the Skull did something that is going to result in the return of Steve Rogers... But what? Maybe the fake Cap isn't the Grand Director as we were led to believe, but is actually a brainwashed Steve Rogers... I really can't think of anything else off the top of my head. Cap's corpse was taken by SHIELD after his "assassination" and was seen decaying. The corpse was then given to Namor who buried it at sea. I can't wait to find out how the Skull pulled this one off! Cosmic Cube shenanigans? Cloned bodies? The old switcharoo? Who knows!
All in all, I really enjoyed this comic, and to me, it was well worth the hefty $4.99 cover price... However, there was one glaring omission here. There was nothing at all in regards to the late, great Mark Gruenwald... Mark wrote Captain America for a staggering 10(!)years, from the mid 1980's to the mid 1990's. Mark's run on Cap is my favorite, with Ed Brubaker's current work being a close second, and Steve Englehart's run being a distant third. I think it would have been appropriate if this comic had a reprint of one of the MANY great Cap comics that came out during Mark's lengthy run. The US Agent/Captain stuff, the first appearance of Crossbones, the Red Skull/John Smith stuff, the Flag Smasher-Cap battle, the AWESOME Acts of Vengeance battle between Red Skull and Magneto, Streets of Poison, Fighting Chance, the introduction of Jack Flag and Free Spirit, any of these issues would have been an excellent addition to this comic. Anyway, for this comic, I'll give an overall score of 9 1/2 out of 10. I wouldn't complain at all about Marvel jacking up their prices if all of their comics had this amount of great content in them. Very nice job here Marvel, I'm definitely impressed.