With “Captain America” relaunched with a new first issue, his old title and numbering continues in what some call a ‘soft launch,’ something Marvel has done numerous times before with titles like “Wolverine” and “Dark Wolverine,” “The Incredible Hulk” and “The Incredible Hercules,” and, recently, “Thor” and “Journey into Mystery.” The shift here isn’t great, focusing on telling stories about Captain America and Bucky’s time in World War 2, something that could happen in any given issue of “Captain America” to this point. What’s lacking is the need, at least in this first issue. It’s a well-crafted comic, but why does it exist? What point does it serve, especially now that James Barnes is dead?
This first issue seems like the beginning of a “Bucky: Year One” mini-series, providing more depth into who he was before he became the sidekick of Captain America. Beginning in 1935 after the death of his mother, we see as he struggles to keep out of trouble to please his father, how he’s pretty much adopted by the army following his father’s death, and how he’s trained and chosen to be the partner of Captain America. Ed Brubaker and Marc Andreyko fill in the gaps in Bucky’s known origin, giving it some much needed flavor and an emotional connection between Barnes and the readers.
The way that Brubaker and Andreyko write a young Bucky is very entertaining with his hot-headed personality that’s quick to start a fight and also precocious in acting as the base’s source of contraband. His struggle with his temper and impulses give the issue its conflict, aside from the fights he gets in. He comes off differently here than in Brubaker’s “Captain America,” but in that way where you can see how he still struggles with these early impulses. The character feels very much like a less mature, less experience version of the man that recently acted as Captain America.
Not enough good things can be said about Chris Samnee and Bettie Breitweiser’s art. Samnee’s line work is so evocative and able to capture emotions and movement in single panels so well. Looking at his art, you get a sense that he’s managed to craft the perfect panel again and again, panels that stand by themselves as wonderful pieces of art and still manage to come together to tell the story. His use of shadow and light is one that’s connected more with mood and what the moment calls for than strict realism, lending his work extra emotional depth and power. Breitweiser’s coloring operates in a similar way, striving for as realistic a look as possible, but willing to skew things if it seems appropriate and will make the scene better.
What makes this comic necessary as an ongoing series instead of a mini isn’t clear yet. What is clear is that the character work and art are both top notch, making that question moot to a degree. As far as ‘soft launches’ go, only one issue in, I think we can consider “Captain America and Bucky” a success.