When I first heard that Marvel was going to kill off its iconic character Captain America, my immediate thought was “Yeah, right.” I thought the same thing years ago when DC announced that Superman was going to die. Call me a cynic, but after fifty years of reading comic books, I know that death is seldom forever in that world. (Aunt May and Norman Osborn, for example.) But killing off a character, even apparently, can make for a good story in the right hands.
When I decided to start reading Marvel Comics again, I knew I didn’t have the money, the time, or the desire to catch up on everything I missed since I gave them up in disgust more than a decade ago. I figured I’d read just enough older stuff to get up to speed on the current storylines. I wasn’t the least bit interested in any of the big mutant-related mega-crossovers, and from what I’d heard about the Civil War storyline, I didn’t really care about it, either. I knew pretty much what happened and knew that the assassination of Captain America was part of that plot. But since I wanted to start reading Cap’s book again (he’s one of my favorite characters and has been since I bought AVENGERS #4 off the spinner rack in Tompkins’ Drugstore), I backtracked and read the trade paperbacks ROAD TO REBORN and REBORN, figuring that would tell me all I needed to know about Cap’s return from the dead.
I was right, but those reprint collections filled me in everything else that’s been going on since Ed Brubaker started writing the character. Bucky Barnes is really alive? Nah, couldn’t be. But remember what I said earlier about death seldom being forever in comics. Yeah, Bucky’s alive, and the explanation is actually fairly plausible. Bucky even takes up the shield and assumes the role of Captain America after Steve’s death (not the first time by any means that somebody else has been Captain America, and probably not the last). But then Bucky, Steve’s former girlfriend and ex-S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Sharon Carter, the Falcon, the Black Widow, and assorted other characters discover that maybe Steve’s not really dead, and so we get an epic tale of the attempt to find out what really happened and set it right.
Clearly, Brubaker planned all this out years in advance, and I love that sort of long-range plotting. Sometimes it doesn’t pan out due to forces beyond the writer’s control (I still get emails from readers complaining that some of the series I’ve worked on didn’t wrap up well enough), but when it works, it’s great. And it certainly works in this case. Brubaker’s scripts are top-notch, and the art by Bryan Hitch and Butch Guice ranges from very good to spectacular, with only occasional lapses into sequences that are hard to follow. There are some great emotional full-page panels of Cap in action, too. If you’re a backslidden former Marvel follower like me who wants to start reading some of the books again, CAPTAIN AMERICA: REBORN wouldn’t be a bad place to start.