Take a good look at the title. Now take the first three words and remove them. Crossbones is what this comic is about. Captain America gets a few flashback panels, but this is firmly the story of Brock Rumlow. It’s one of the best Crossbones stories in a long time, and he’s had some decent stuff lately. But first you have to mentally remove that Cap from the title, or replace the ‘And’ with a colon. This is not a comic about a hero. This villain barely fits as an anti-hero.
Straight off the bat, William Harms writes a damn good Crossbones. The voice and the tough guy cliches all work, and this is your only excuse to use them. Crossbones is straight out of an 80s action flick, as is the mission, and Harms weaves it all together with Shane Black precision to not make it feel dated. This hard ass is fun, but it doesn’t feel like his mouth is running away. If anything he’s still restrained, just having fun. It makes a very bad person a very interesting lead to follow for the issue.
There are little cutaway pages of Crossbones’ past that inform us about the internal machinations of the character but that also affect the story by the end. In one of these pages, a junior Rumlow is chased and some White Supremacists save him with their violence. Shalvey’s depiction of Rumlow’s face when he realizes White Power is ‘teh awesomez’ is so insanely hilarious as to be perfectly fitting for this character.
The mission Crossbones has been dragged into has him wandering into an empty village. The tension ramps up as if it’s an urban horror flick. Hidden soldiers mistake Crossbones for a U.S.A super hero. Without missing a beat, Crossbones adopts the assumed role because it will lead him closer to his mission’s end, closer to getting to kill a worthy foe, and because it’s also a lot of fun. He name drops Avengers worse than Brian Michael Bendis, and the scene is funny without being played for laughs. The story trucks on in the face of something only we are giggling at. It’s hilarious and yet completely real for the character, and a perfect use for him.
Shalvey and Wilson use a few instances of white space to show death both literally and metaphorically. White bleeds to show a character not afraid of death, a town captured by it, a fleeting thought possibly remorseful about it, and an inevitability of it because it’s the better and quicker choice. The art team shows us a grim landscape but he does it best when he chooses to show us nothing at all.
In the end, this isn’t about the redemption of Crossbones. This isn’t him seeing the light of the world. It’s more him seeing the absolute black of the world and maybe thinking he’s only a dark shade of grey. He might not be perfect but he isn’t perfectly broken. This revelation won’t lead to him becoming a new man, I wouldn’t think, but it might make him a more useful character to have around the Marvel Universe. This is one of the definitive Crossbones stories and an issue that entertains on many levels. I’d buy many more like this to develop a true anti-hero.