Waiting for the Trade – Captain America

Happy new year all

Waiting for the Trade

By Bill Miller

Captain America: Winter
Soldier ultimate collection

By Ed Brubaker and
Steve Epting.

Collects Captain America #1-9
and 11-14

 

Why I Bought This: I
mentioned this before but I actually avoided this book for a long time. I don’t
think I picked it up until 2012 or so. Because let’s be honest, the idea of
Bucky comes back from the dead as a cyborg assassin screams comic cliché/fan
fiction—on top of which I never particularly gave a crap about Bucky to begin
with. Chances are if you’ve read one flashback Cap and Bucky in WW2 story,
you’ve read them all; most of them involve old scientists in castles behind
enemy lines (according to Marvel, WWII was fought with more castles than the
middle ages). The net result is Bucky has always been just a plot point in
Steve’s backstory rather than an actual character so I’ve never particularly
cared when other writers would dig up his corpse for some flashback story or
heretofore unknown threat from the past emerging. Of course every review written
gushed over Brubaker’s run in general and this arc in particular. Being the Cap
fan I am I finally caved and bought this.
The Plot
Captain America’s world moves more fully into espionage and terrorism when a
mysterious assassin known as Winter Soldier kills the Red Skull under orders
from Russian general Alexander Lukin in a bid to claim the power of the Cosmic
Cube forcing Cap and SHIELD to investigate.

(spoilers below)

 
Chapter 1 – Years ago the Red Skull met Russian general
Alexander Lukin for the first  time as
Lukin sold him weapons following the collapse of the Soviet Union. Lukin also
has a frozen cyborg in his possession that intrigues the Skull, but Lukin says
he will only trade it for the Cosmic Cube. Skull notes he too is looking for
the Cube and if he got it he certainly wouldn’t trade it. Cut to the present
where the Skull has recovered an imperfect Cosmic Cube. He intends to jump
start its power by burning several cities to the ground. Steve meanwhile is
depressed about the death of Hawkeye and disbanding of the Avengers in “Avengers
Disassembled” so Sharon Carter checks in on him. She also notes his tactics
have been more extreme of late as he recently thwarted a hijacking of a train
and in the process hospitalized and killed the perps. Steve goes home and we
see the Skull has someone tailing him. Skull’s plotting is interrupted by a
phone call from Lukin who offers to buy the Cube from him. Skull turns him down
and is promptly assassinated by our mystery cyborg.

Chapter 2 – Crossbones is waiting on Red Skull to call. Cap
is having nightmares about Bucky dying in battle in WWII. Fury calls Cap to the
Hellicarrier where SHIELD has recovered Skull’s body. Their spy tech confirms
this is really Skull but Cap has his doubts. Cap flashes back to how he was
created to battle the Skull. Cap and Sharon
find some leads at the Skull’s house that lead them into the sewers where they
find Crossbones and some henchmen recruited from AIM however because of the
darkness of the tunnel the heroes never see Crossbones. After the heroes win
Crossbones overhears them talking about the Skull’s death. Fury’s forensic team
learns Skull had a Cosmic Cube and now it’s missing. Crossbones vows to burn
down several cities in memory of the Skull.

Chapter 3 – SHIELD is following more leads, while Cap keeps
having World War II flashbacks that end differently than they historically played
out. Union Jack reports Skull’s agents in London
were murdered and the firebomb stolen. Cap and Sharon track down and beat up the responsible
AIM agents, who stole the bomb because Skull’s henchmen within AIM stole it
from them first. Cap and Sharon spend some
downtime in Paris.
Meanwhile in Pittsburg Cap’s former partner Nomad is murdered outside of a bar.

Chapter 4 –Lukin’s Cube has very little power but it has
enough to help him in a corporate takeover meeting with Roxxon Oil. Cap
receives a call from Fury that upsets him and he departs immediately. Fury then
meets with Sharon
to reveal the assassin may be Nomad as his prints were found on the rifle used
to kill Skull though both feel that is awfully convenient. Cap is at Arlington Cemetery where the gravestones of two
former replacement Caps have been destroyed. Cap is attacked by Crossbones
while simultaneously having more weird flashbacks Crossbones beats Cap down but
denies destroying the graveyard, saying he got a call from a Russian telling
him where to find Cap. Bones realizes he has been setup as well and leaves. Sharon’s search for Nomad
has her find the unknown cyborg, who drops her with one punch.

Chapter 5 – Fury tells Cap the most likely Russian suspect
(based on Crssobones comments last chapter) is Lukin, who we are told heads the
international Kronas Corporation. Cap then tells a story of a WWII mission in Russia under a
Colonel Karpov whom Cap immediately dislikes because he tortures prisoners.
This is also the beginning of the Bucky was an assassin during the war retcon.
Anyway the mission goes south, Cap calls in the Invaders, and ultimately the
Red Skull is found in the village
of Kronas using a heat-beam
laser. The village burns to the ground and the weapon is destroyed but the
Skull escapes. After Cap left Karpov found the village’s soul survivor: a boy
named Alex Lukin whom he would raise and train. Of course Cap doesn’t know that
last part while Fury’s intel puts Karpov as 20 years dead. Cap heads off to
deal with his escalating weird memory problems while Fury has a classified
dossier that may “destroy Cap’s world.”

Chapter 6 – The mystery cyborg is in Philly setting a bomb
and leaving Nomad’s body behind as a scapegoat. He also had Sharon tied up in his trunk. We meet some
SHIELD agent whose been dating Sharon
and is worried she hasn’t checked in for 24 hours. Cap goes to Castle Zemo and
begins to remember being tortured with Bucky. His reverie is interrupted by
some Nazis who disappear as suddenly as they appeared. Cap begins to suspect
the Cosmic Cube is being used against him. He flashes back to Bucky’s death on
the plane with new details. He gets ready to fly home and is hit with a mental
image of Sharon
tied up. Cap arrives in Philly and easily rescues her. When he unties her she
tells him she’s seen Bucky (aka our mystery cyborg). Bucky could take a shot on
Steve but Lukin order him not to. Instead Bucky detonates the bomb just as Sharon’s new boyfriend
was attempting to deactivate it. The deaths caused by the explosion power up
Lukin’s Cube.

Chapter 7 – We see what Nomad was up to before he was
murdered. One year ago the super soldier serum in his blood began
disintegrating. As a result his powers, immune system and sanity will all fade
until he dies. He refuses to go to Cap and the Avengers for help. He eventually
tracks down Bucky v4.0 (a baby he used to dress like the original Bucky and
wear on a backpack while he fought crime in his 90s solo series) who is now in
first grade. He learns there are drug dealers operating near her school and
vows to take them down. For the most part he does pretty well except for when
he has blackouts and loses weeks and months at a time. And then one night is
waiting in a bar to meet with a source and Winter Soldier finds him and kills
him.

Chapter 8 – In 1945 a Russian submarine hears the Germans
broadcasting that they killed Cap and feel they are close enough to check it
out. In the present Fury presents Cap with photos of Bucky alive today as an
assassin and tells Cap that Bucky is the prime suspect in the firebombing of
Philly. Cut back to Philly the night before and Cap evacuates some survivors
and fights some AIM agents with their MODOC hive mind soldiers. In the present
Fury unveils the entire origin of Winter Soldier as a mythical KGB assassin
that is kept in suspended animation and only unfrozen for high profile
missions. Cut back to Philly where Cap saw a glimpse of Bucky at the end of his
fight though Winter Soldier did not recognize him and then disappeared. Back in
the present Steve flips out and breaks stuff as he accepts the truth, then
agrees to go on a SHIELD mission to capture Lukin—who they now fear has a
functional Cosmic Cube. Fury also tells Sharon
her boyfriend died in Philly. Flashback to 1945 where the Russians retrieve a
one-armed unconscious Bucky from the English Channel.

Chapter 9 – Crossbones breaks into a military base and
kidnaps a young girl. Cap and Sharon
have tension over the mission because she wants justice for her dead boyfriend
while Cap wants to save Bucky. Also this mission is off-book because Fury has
no evidence against Lukin–indeed all the evidence points to Nomad. They
assault the Kronas building on some private island off the coast of China.
When the heroes make it to the boardroom Cap loses his temper attacking Kronas
and screaming at him to tell him where Bucky is. Unfortunately the U.S. Vice
President’s Chief of Staff and the Assistant to the Secretary General of the UN
were both in a meeting with Kronas when this went down. They pull rank on Cap
and Fury who are escorted from the building. Meanwhile Crossbones reveals he
has freed the Red Skull’s daughter Sin.

Chapter 10 – Lukin is getting irritable and absent minded
and worries the cause is contact with the Cosmic Cube. At his home Cap receives
a top secret file on how Bucky was turned into Winter Soldier.

Chapter 11 – Lukin assembles a bunch of corporate heads to
auction of the Cube to, but it turns out to be a ruse and he uses the Cube to
brainwash them into signing over their companies to him. Later the Cube causes
him to have an episode and when his assistant tries to help him pick up the
Cube, Lukin goes all Gollum and murders him for touching the precious.
Meanwhile Cap, Sharon & Fury discuss the file, with Sharon still believing Bucky should be
killed. Steve leaves and recalls a mission with Bucky where they had to fight
zombie soldiers and how horrified Bucky was that American soldiers were used by
Nazis and forced to betray their ideals in life making Steve wonder if Bucky
would want to be killed after what’s been done to him. Steve’s reverie is
interrupted by the Falcon.

Chapter 12 – Steve talks over his troubles with Sam and the
two also note the Cosmic Cube never seems to grant wishes they way various
villains like the Skull expect, foremost among these examples being how the
Cube ended up making Cap and Falcon partners. Lukin meanwhile tasks Winter
Soldier with hiding the Cube. When Bucky leaves we see Lukin is hearing voices
who disagree with him. Cap, Falcon and Iron Man raid an AIM warehouse. They
capture a scientist and question him on how to track the Cosmic Cube. This
leads them to another Kronas facility, though for corporate reasons Tony Stark can’t
be part of an assault on Kronas. Cap radios where he is going to Sharon after he has
already left so the politicians can’t stop him this time. As Cap and Falcon
approach Winter Soldier gets a bead on them and despite a momentary hesitation Bucky
pulls the trigger.

Chapter 13 – Winter Soldier misses the mark when Redwing
warns the heroes to get out of the way. Cap’s shield then drives Bucky into
retreat. Sam takes on the generic thugs giving Cap a clear path to the long
awaited one-on-one showdown with Bucky. As they fight Cap tries to get Bucky to
remember. When that fails he drops his defenses to allow Bucky to pull the
trigger. Even that doesn’t work as Bucky shoots but Cap casually dodges and
then uses his Shield to take Bucky down and retrieve the Cube all in one throw.
Cap then uses the Cosmic Cube to restore Bucky’s memories. Sharon still wants justice for her friend but
Cap convinces her to drop it. Bucky tells Cap he’d have been better off dead
and in a fit off rage he grabs the Cube with his cyborg hand and crushes it.
This causes cosmic energy to pour out that seemingly disintegrates him. Cap
refuses to believe it, and indeed in the epilogue we see Bucky teleported
himself back to Camp
Lehigh. In the finale we
see Lukin talking to the voices in his head and when he looks in a mirror the reflection
that stares back is the Red Skull as their minds now share Lukin’s body.
Critical Thoughts:
If you haven’t read it, believe the hype for this is indeed as good as everyone
says it is. A good barometer is to watch the movie that bears its name. If you
liked the film then you will like this book. Best of all there are plenty of
similarities in tone but differences in details that you can watch the film and
still thoroughly enjoy this as its own experience.

The plotting is really good. One thing Brubaker does very
well is pace his reveals as he adds new intrigues or introduces additional
players so that this builds and reads far better than most comic book stories.
He is aided by Epting’s excellent cinematic art. All of the espionage elements
are plotted quite well, but it is the Bucky reveal done in stages that really
is superb. At the same time we got to see Cap’s reaction to it, so that the
second act with Steve over the edge and furious at Lukin is really good. Best
of all it feels in-character despite being new territory for Steve, which is
the best kind of character-based story-telling.

I supposed one could criticize this story by saying ‘well
it’s easy to build tension when you kill off longtime characters like Red Skull
and Nomad in the first three chapters’, but as with any story it’s the execution
that counts and in this case the way the murders unfold and reveal themselves
show much more narrative skill than simple shock value. Nomad is a character
that had not been relevant in a decade or two; and sure he is just killed in the
cliffhanger of chapter three at first, but then Bru goes back in chapter seven
and gives us a beautifully written standalone chapter on what the last few
months of Nomad’s life were like. As for killing the Skull, of course it is a
shock value up the stakes moment, but it also serves to deepen the mystery
since otherwise he’d be the de facto prime suspect in any plot with this much
scope and personal history for the protagonist.

I like the way Cap is written has having a network of
resources. Cap is often written as the most respected hero in the Marvel
Universe and an experienced soldier. So it makes sense that he would call upon
Union Jack or Iron Man or Falcon if they could be of help to him in a mission.
I think Cap’s often cooperative yet tense relationship with SHIELD is also
portrayed very consistently with established history in this volume. Certainly
the increased SHIELD presence fits into the espionage milieu Brubaker wants to
project.

One thing I don’t like is the Bucky was an assassin in World
War II retcon. It’s not so bad here, but future writers have portrayed Bucky as
borderline psychotic in newer flashback tales. I have two problems with it.
One, It undermines Cap’s character: as either he is a moron who doesn’t know
what his kid sidekick is up to, or he is complicit in letting a minor carry out
murders just so his own image isn’t tarnished—neither to me are acceptable for
Steve. Second, it undermines the impact of this story that Brubaker is telling.
If Bucky was always a psychotic killer then who cares if the Russians hypnotize
him and turn him into an assassin? Conversely, if Bucky was a superhero in the
past and now he’s been turned into a murder against his will that’s a lot more
powerful dramatically and tragic for his character.

Grade: A+.

 

 

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.
Doom.

 
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
America
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.

Waiting for the Trade – Cap 2 movie review and top 10 list

So I saw Captain
America: Winter Soldier
on Saturday but figuring Sunday was WrestleMania
day and no one here would care I held off writing the review for a couple days.
So as the local comic book reviewer I figured I’d post a review of the film and in honor of the movie’s awesomeness throw in a countdown of the best Captain America trade
paperbacks out there.

Anyway for once no spoilers below except for mentioning
one of the villains in the movie.

 

The Film Review

I loved it a lot. I might go so far as to say it is the best
of the solo-hero Avengers movies. Certainly the best since the first Iron Man.

First of all the action scenes are among the best in any of
the Avenger films and are the biggest improvement over the first Cap film. Look
I really enjoyed the original Cap movie–I think they absolutely nailed Steve’s
character and his origin was told in just about the best way possible–but the
action scenes felt very by the numbers. They were mostly short and to the point
and in many cases done in montages without any feeling of danger. This film is
all about the hand to hand combat that Cap excels in and all the fight scenes
just feel rougher and more visceral than really any of the Avenger films. So A+
there.

In terms of characters Chris Evans again nails Cap through
and through from his idealism and innate goodness to his ability to inspire
others around him. Falcon was an amazing surprise. In the comics Falcon is
something of a lackluster character but in this film he’s fantastic both as a
badass cool superhero and as a partner to Steve. I also liked the set-up for
Crossbones in this movie, showing through his fighting style the character’s
innate viciousness. Finally Winter Soldier, what a great action movie
performance as he just radiates danger in ever scene he’s in. Overall there
isn’t really a bad performance in this.

The plot: I liked it a lot. Without getting into spoilers I
thought the superhero movie as Bourne style spy thriller really worked. In fact
I enjoyed this more than any of the Bourne films. This is a film with a large
cast of players and a lot of twists and yet everything comes together
seamlessly with the characters staying true to themselves.

Finally I liked the theme of pitting Cap (and by extension America’s
idealism) against some of the modern security controversies of the day like
drone strikes and the Snowden-NSA scandal. The last Star Trek movie explored some of this stuff too, but I think this
movie does it better with Steve really just eloquently nailing the essence of
why people object to these things.

So overall an absolutely excellent film. Highest possible
recommendation.

 

And now my list of the 10 Best Captain America trades

10 – Secret Wars
– Yes I know this is a major crossover. But 1) I will always stand by this as
an excellent story—possibly the most fun comics can be, and 2) from a Cap
perspective this is the moment where he was first elected to be the lead hero
of the entire Marvel Universe; a position he’s held in just about every major
crossover since, and 3) the conclusion basically boils down to Cap vs. Doom
with Doom even admitting that of all the heroes–even more than Reed Richards–Cap
is the one he has to be careful of because damn right!

9 – Essential Captain
America
vol. 4 (
or if you prefer color Captain
America & Falcon: The Secret Empire
) – This is the famous Secret Empire
story that is used to explain the Watergate scandal in the Marvel Universe.
While some of it is dated and there is a weird subplot with Peggy Carter going
on in the background; most of the story still works well. You have to admire
the boldness of Marvel at the time to incorporatie major current events into
one of their stories. The Essential volume will also give you the follow up
story where Cap is so disillusioned he gives up his costume (found in color in Captain America & Falcon: Nomad) which
ends with a fairly famous Red Skull fight. Plus prior to the big Secret Empire plot
you have another fun grand conspiracy involving Yellow Claw that’s worth
reading.

8 – Captain America:
Hail Hydra
– This was a miniseries released when the first movie came out
written by horror novelist Jonathan Maberry (in fact this comic was so good I
picked up some of his novels and I’d recommend them too). Anyway Maberry crafts
a decades long conspiracy involving Hydra with each chapter taking place in a
different decade (real time) so you have Cap stumbling across it in the 40s,
following up when he wakes up in the 60s, running into it again with Falcon in
the 70s (between the pages of the Essential volume above), then again in the
80s when during Gru’s Cap No More story and finally in the modern era. The
story works fine on its own but is even more fun for the longtime Cap fan to
see how Maberry fits it into the different eras. Hydra’s origins also get a bit
of a retcon but for my money they have never been more effective as villains
than in this story.

7 – Captain America:
Streets of Poison
– This is an examples of how doing something different
can sometimes be really effective for a short term story. Here Gru basically
takes Cap’s entire cast and sticks them into Daredevil’s playground as Red
Skull attempts to takeover Kingpin’s territory and the result leads to all
sorts of action and unexpected fights: Cap vs. Bullseye, Cap vs. Daredevil,
Bullseye vs. Crossbones, Black Widow vs. Diamond Back. Just a lot of good stuff
that is surprisingly effective since DD is not usually high on my list of
heroes usually.

6 – Avengers: Under Siege
– Cap is such an integral part of the Avengers I felt at least one Avengers
story should be on this list. This one makes the cut not only because it is one
of the five best Avengers stories ever written but also because at its core it
is a Captain America story. The plot is Baron Zemo Jr. seeks to avenge the
death of his Nazi father at Captain America’s hands years ago and to do
that he hires an army of super villains to take down the Avengers for the
express purpose of getting to Cap and making him suffer. It’s excellent stuff
by Roger Stern, who is a legendary Captain America writer anyway so I’m
counting it as  a Cap story.
 
5 – Essential Captain
America
vol. 1
– This is Stan Lee writing the first Cap solo stories since World
War II. While Cap had already been thawed out in the pages of Avengers this is
where so much of the Cap mythos is created. We have the first appearances of
Cap’s current love interest Agent 13 Sharon Carter and his flashback World War
II love interest Peggy Carter. We have the whole Cap dealing with being a Man
Out of Time and joining SHIELD to find a place in the world that is a big part
of the new movie. We have flashback stories of Cap working with the Howling
Commandos that was in the first movie. We also have the return of the Red Skull
and the first appearances of Batroc the Leaper, MODOK and AIM. More than all
those famous firsts we have two really good stories in here. The first one
involves the first appearance of AIM, which is for my money the best of the
Captain America conspiracy stories. In a real rarity for the time period Stan
Lee crafts this year long story arc where Cap and SHIELD stumble onto this
shadowy group out for world domination. At first referred to only in whispers
as “Them” and “They” the threat and scope of their schemes continues to grow.
And as Cap begins to thwart their plans AIM just keep upping the stakes in the
things they throw at Cap—creating the Super Adaptoid, MODOK and ultimately the
Cosmic Cube. They are also the one who revive the Red Skull as they seek a way
to bring Cap down. Of course the Skull turns on them the first chance he gets and
steals the Cosmic Cube for himself in another famous story. The second big
story that I love in here is Cap vs. the Sleeper robots which is one of the
best examples of Cap facing a big high stakes end of the world type fight where
he is out of his depth power-wise and yet doesn’t slow down for an instant.

4 – Captain America:
Death of the Red Skull
– J.M. DeMatteis
had a really strong run on Cap that is often forgotten about because it took
place between Stern and Gru but his stuff is just as good as theirs. This is
best Cap vs. Skull fight of them all. Again almost a full year of story build
as the Red Skull is dying so he enlists his daughter and Baron Zemo to
orchestrate his grand revenge on Cap including kidnapping every civilian Cap
knows and poisoning him to goad Cap into a final battle. This is also the
origin of the Red Skull.

3 – Captain America:
Winter Soldier
Ultimate Collection
So this is the start of Brubaker’s run where he takes an idea that on paper
could have been such an obvious cliché and instead turns it into one of the
most gripping character driven yet action packed stories in Marvel history as
Cap deals with the Bucky’s return from the dead. The art is stunningly
cinematic, the stakes are high and the writing is rich (that Nomad chapter is
hauntingly effective). If you enjoy the new movie grab this one.

2 – Captain America:
The Captain
– (also known at the time as Cap No More). This is probably my
favorite Cap story because it more than any other shows how Cap is more than a
costume, a shield and some superpowers. Rather it is Steve’s strength of
character that makes him Cap. For those who don’t know the government orders
Steve to return to active duty, he refuses so they take his costume and shield and
give it to someone else. We then get almost two years of parallel stories
following Steve and all his former partners as freelance crime fighters while
John (US Agent) Walker
becomes the new Cap. My only quibble with this trade is I wish it started with
issue 327 (Walker’s
first appearance) and not 332 but it is still a masterpiece.

1 – Captain America:
War and Remembrance
– I’ve often said if I had to pick just one trade to
explain why Captain America
is my favorite A-list superhero this is the one.  And yet it is not even a story in a
traditional sense. It’s just eight issues of Cap by a short-lived creative
team. It doesn’t even have the Red Skull in it. So why is it number 1? First,
Roger Stern gets Steve’s character completely, utterly, perfectly. Secondly, it
is a sample platter of all of Cap’s best beats. Like World War II Cap? We have
the definitive version of Steve’s origin in the past and we have him fighting a
Nazi vampire in the present that is seeking revenge on Cap’s now senior citizen
World War II era teammates. Like traditional superhero action? Cap goes up
against Mr. Hyde and Batroc the Leaper in as good a traditional superhero story
as you will ever read (and what it is also probably Batroc’s defining moment).
Like the “never say die” Cap who fights foes out of his league? He takes on Dragon
Man in this story. Like spy Cap? Well then enjoy Cap and SHIELD taking on
Machine Smith while Cap uncovers some secrets from his origin. Like character
driven stories? Stern creates a real good civilian supporting cast for Cap and
shows the way Cap inspires the man in the street leading to the centerpiece of
this volume when Cap is asked to run for President of the United States.
This is perfection and comics rarely get better than this.