Waiting for the Trade: Captain America

Waiting for the Trade

Captain America: Red
Menace ultimate collection

by Ed Brubaker; illustrated
by Steve Epting, Mike Perkins, Javier Pulido and Marcos Martin

collects Captain America
15-21 and the Captain America 65th anniversary special


Why I Bought This: This
is the second of the Ed Brubaker Cap trades. Once I finally read the first one
I was like ‘hell yea, give me more.’ It also features the reintroduction of
Crossbones as a major antagonist and I always liked him in Gru’s run.


The Plot: The Red
Skull is dead but Crossbones and Skull’s daughter Sin intend to carry on his
legacy and make the world pay.


(spoilers below)

Chapter 1 – Sin has been turned into a teenager and given
false memories by SHIELD. Crossbones kidnaps and tortures her until she remembers
her origin. Then they hook up.

Chapter 2 – Crossbones and Sin are in Kansas robbing banks and killing cops when
they stumble upon an AIM agent, which apparently was part of Crossbones’ plan.
A week later Sharon Carter calls in Steve to help capture them since the
villains have been killing their way across Kansas all week. Sharon
also says they can stop by a town in Iowa
where Bucky may have been spotted. Steve and Sharon notice the town in Iowa may be a little too
perfect. The official story is an unknown drifter’s car crashed into a building
and blew up and then he stole a truck and tore out of town. Through
investigating Steve and Sharon learn Bucky as Winter Soldier fought a giant
robot in town and that’s how the building was destroyed. Steve is so happy to
learn Bucky is alive he kisses Sharon
and they fall into bed together for the first time in years. They are awoken
when AIM agents break into their room claiming to need their help. 

Chapter 3 – So the AIM agents explain this town is a front
for an underground research lab of theirs. Last week Bucky uncovered and
destroyed a bunch of their prototypes. Then on the heels of that Sin and
Crossbones arrived and took over the lab by force. They intend to use weapons
of mass destruction found therein to do bad things and the AIM guy wants Cap
and Sharon to
stop them. Sharon
radios in more SHIELD agents and they decide to raid the base. However we see
the villains were monitoring the whole thing and wanted to draw the attention
of SHIELD. We get a firefight that includes Sin turning on a group of hive-mind
soldiers known as MODOC but Cap takes them out single-handedly because he’s
awesome like that. In the aftermath Sharon
learns Crossbones & Sin did not steal a single AIM weapon but they did
kidnap a SHIELD agent in the melee. Back in the town Cap figures out why Bucky
came here: the inn he and Sharon stayed at is owned by the daughter of a woman
Bucky loved in World War II. Cap learns Bucky asked to see the mother’s grave
“before it’s too late” and realizes Bucky is going to try to kill Alexander
Lukin (the man who controlled him as Winter Soldier) and does not expect to
survive the attempt. Crossbones and Sin meanwhile torture the SHIELD agent into
revealing that Lukin is the one who ordered the hit on the Red Skull and they
too decide it’s time for payback.

Chapter 4 – A flashback World War II issue shows how Bucky
gets wounded in action and left in the care of the girl whose daughter we met
in the last chapter. Meanwhile Cap and the Howling Commandos have to stop the
Red Skull from excavating a weapon that we learn was built by a mysterious
Baron 500 years ago. The legend is the Baron came to this small German town
from a foreign land, where he ruled over them in a castle and built marvelous
farming machines, primitive flying machines and a giant robot to guard the town
from harm. Skull unearths the robot which proves to be the very first Sleeper.
Cap destroys it, blowing up the castle in the process though of course there is
no trace of the Skull’s body. In the present we see Lukin is overseeing a
similar excavation as he has the Baron’s plans the Skull stole back in the War,
and at the bottom of the plans we see the mysterious Baron was in fact Dr.

Chapter 5 – FYI Lukin and the Skull are sharing a body right
now. Two months ago Skull recruited a neo-Nazi who we learn is a descendent of
an unnamed WWII era ally of the Skull. In the present Cap arrives in London to
fill in former Invaders teammates Spitfire (super speed, still young) and Union
Jack (British super soldier, a descendent of the original) about Bucky being
back from the dead and Lukin. Bucky is also in London waiting for Lukin to speak at a
charity event in one week. Cap & friends break into Kronos (Lukin’s
company) facilities for intel. Meanwhile Crossbones and Sin hijack a private
plane to go to London.
Back with Cap and Union Jack who get ambushed by security who are fast enough to
take Jack down and give Cap a serious fight and then we see they are being led
by Master Man.

Chapter 6 – Lukin is watching everything and this is a new
Master Man: the neo-Nazi recruited by Skull last issue. Lukin has also set a
bomb on his boat that Cap and Master Man are fighting on so even if Cap
survives it will like he is pursuing an illegal vendetta against Lukin. Master
Man has Cap and Jack on defense though when Jack gets punched through a wall he
finds the bomb. Cap radios Spitfire in to assist and she evacuates the entire
boat before it detonates. Lukin releases the security footage of Cap and Jack
breaking into his boat to the media. The heroes are ordered to stand down by
MI-5 until Sharon
arrives and pulls rank. Cap is shaking down leads on Bucky, who meanwhile tails
Sharon and
learns what the heroes are up to. Sharon tracks
down the security force from last night only to find the dead bodies of both
the neo-Nazis and a bunch of RAID agents along with plans for an airstrike on London. Red Skull lets
Master Man know Cap finding the plans is part of his master plan.

Chapter 7 – Crossbones & Sin arrive in London
and decide to load their small plane with explosives and crash it into Kronas Tower
during the charity event. Cap wants all air traffic in London grounded but
being the plans they found are half burned and have no date on them all MI-5 can
do is increase airport security; Cap however is sure the charity event is the
day of the attack. Bucky investigates a lead in the London subway and is horrified by what he
finds. At the Charity event Lukin has spotlights and bi-planes circling his
building which Cap says is meant to distract the heroes so they will publically
fail again. Cap decides a blimp in the Kronas air show is the real weapon. On
the blimp Master Man and his thugs have killed the crew. Cap, Spitfire and
Union Jack confront him but in the melee the blimp catches fire. Winter Soldier
is about take a shot on Lukin but when he sees the blimp going down he drops
his gun to see if he can assist Cap. Steve orders the Invaders to bail out
promising that he can take down Master Man and steer the blimp into the Thames River
on his own. Steve successfully diverts the blimp but Master Man throws himself
and Steve out of it though Cap catches the edge of a building to save himself.
Just then Crossbones and Sin arrive and Lukin is worried as their kamikaze
attack is not part of his or Skull’s plan. However he presses a contingency
button and wakes up a Sleeper robot (which is what Bucky apparently saw in the
subway last issue). The robot takes out the plane (Crossbones and Sin had
already parachuted to safety) as Cap and Bucky look on in awe.

Chapter 8 – The Sleeper starts blowing sh*t up including the
Kronas building once Lukin is out of it. Cap attempts to take the fight to the
Sleeper while Sharon
runs Master Man over with her flying car. This also totals the car and leaves
her concussed, which is unfortunate for her because Crossbones & Sin are
right around the corner. Cap asks the Invaders to take on Master Man while he
deals with the Sleeper. Winter Soldier also attacks the Sleeper on his own and
quickly realizes he’s outmatched as this one is far more advanced than the
World War II flashback one in chapter 4. Cap saves him just in time and comes
up with a plan to pit the two villains against each other. The Invaders hit
Master Man with everything they have which only succeeds in enraging him. That
however works to their advantage because when he leaps at Spitfire she dodges
and Master Man ends up crashing through the Sleeper. Bucky tosses a grenade
into the hole and that destroys the robot. Meanwhile Crossbones is about to
execute Sharon
when the Red Skull shows up and tells him that is not part of his plan. Bucky
disappears in the smoke. The Red Skull releases a video taking credit for the
Sleeper attack, while Lukin holds a press conference condemning both heroes and
villains for letting their vendetta destroy large portions of London. Cap and Sharon head home, while Bucky makes contact
with Nick Fury for a new mission. In the cliffhanger Skull introduces Lukin to
Sin & Crossbones.

Critical Thoughts: This
is excellent. The only thing to really be said is everyone tells you Brubaker’s
run is great. And then you read it and it’s even better than everyone says.

I love this trade. In some ways I like it even better than
the first “Winter Soldier” trade. Sure that one is the bigger more important
historical story and its pushes Cap on a personal level like few stories ever.
I have not a bad thing to say about it. But for visceral action this story is
better. Bru’s spy espionage style works so well on this title and that tone pervades
every page of this but this time its being combined with a lot of traditional
comic book action elements and Silver Age Cap foes and it all blends together
perfectly so that if you are a longtime Cap fan it feels like you are reading
a timeless Cap story that also feelis fresh and modern.

This is best seen in those two final chapters which are just
everything I would ever want in a Captain
comic. I think Master Man has always been a strong second tier
villain for Cap so it’s good to have him back. I love the Sleepers. My love of
Captain America
is directly tied to Stan Lee’s original Sleeper story which I had a big giant
oversized coloring book of when I was a kid. I love Crossbones. He is one of
Gru’s better creations, and Brubaker keeps the spirit of the character the
same: ruthless, brutal and if anything more deadly. Lukin meanwhile remains a
compelling new villain and the gimmick of him and Skull sharing a body works
well. The suspense of all these different players converging on London is palpable in
chapter 6 and the two issue fight scene that follows is a classic.

In the first chapter I really like Crossbones narration when
he is watching old WWII newsreels of Cap. Although I will say the SHIELD can
turn people into teenagers thing is a WTF moment, especially since it is just
casually mentioned as something that happened off camera.

The two follow up chapters in Idaho with AIM are another really good use
of Bru’s espionage style. Sharon
also has never been written better than she is by Bru.

The WWII flashback adventure does nothing for me, but then I
don’t think I’ve ever read a Cap and Bucky in WWII story that I’ve liked from
Stan Lee through Mark Waid. In a lot of ways if you’ve read one, you’ve read
them all and none of them are very interesting. Though I will say I like the Dr.
Doom time-travel twist. I think that’s a fine way of explaining how the Skull
later built his own Sleepers at the end of the War.


Grade: A    Nuff Said.