What gets lost sometimes in the media hype of the death of Captain America in #25 is that the story was part ONE of a long storyline and that it was all tied into a over-arching story that Ed Brubaker had been doing since the FIRST ISSUE of his Captain America run, so now, 34 issues in, when Brubaker introduces the new Captain America (and here is the New York Daily News on THIS story, as well), the story is a lot deeper than a standard “Hero X is replaced by Hero Y” story (as opposed to Eric Masterson replacing Thor, John Walker replacing Captain America and James Rhodes replacing Iron Man, which were all done on pretty short notice), and the result is a good issue (although I wonder how many people buying the comic will actually read it to find out).
The work that writer Ed Brubaker has done with the character of James Barnes has been nothing short of exemplary, as he has not rushed anything with his character development. There are no sudden revelations for Barnes on his journey from becoming a hardcore assassin to becoming the replacement for Steve Rogers as Captain America.
The plot in the issue details the Red Skull’s current plans to destroy America, and it’s eerily feasible to see how the Skull has been able to destabilize the country, causing this to be a much larger villainous plot for Captain America to stop than is normal.
Another impressive thing with Barnes is how well Brubaker (and Daniel Way, as well) have integrated him into the lives of established characters such as Wolverine and Black Widow, and one of those characters, Black Widow, guest-stars in this issue, and she is used quite well (I especially loved the way that she tries to pull back to let the new Captain America have his moment in the spotlight).
There is a decent amount of this issue that is a little on the over-exposition-y side, and the scene where he shoots the bad guys in their kneecaps struck me as a bit perfunctory (I know we had to see him shoot someone EVENTUALLY to justify the fact that he is carrying a gun, but it seemed a bit too soon).
Otherwise, it was a strong issue, with very nice artwork by Steve Epting, with inks by Butch Guice, who it seems we have to partially thank for the renaissance in Epting’s artwork since Epting went to CrossGen years ago where Guice was working there, so it was nice to see Guice working directly with Epting. The art looked very nice (and they even took an interesting approach to the first scene where we see Captain America in full costume – it was an odd angle, which I appreciated – they didn’t go for the obvious shot).
The ending of the comic, in particular, was brilliant – as it was just the type of ending you’d hope for to hopefully bring in those new readers who are just sampling this issue because of the media attention.
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