Warning: This review will partly spoil a twist in this issue, so stop reading now if you're sensitive to that sort of thing!
The latest issue of Brubaker's Cap run throws a new player into the game. One that might well split opinion. The identity of the new "Steve Rogers" Sharon Carter discovered last issue is. . . Steve Rogers. But not that one.
It's the 50s version of Cap â€" the commie-bashing, name-changing, right-wing one who was created by a massive retcon and eventually became a villain called the "Grand Director" before "dying" at his own hand, though we now know that's not the case. But still, all this is explained in the issue. The big question is how we, as readers, feel about it.
On the one hand, it brings some fairly obscure and intricate continuity into what had, until now, been an arc of fairly straightforward, espionage-tinted superheroics. On the other, resurrecting a character that hasn't been seen in almost 30 years is certainly dangerous territory for Brubaker's otherwise fairly self-contained epic, but it's fair to say that by this point he's earned the benefit of the doubt. The recap here was enough to jog my memory and should be enough to contextualize the character for anyone unfamiliar with him, so time will have to tell how good a decision this is going to end up being.
The remainder of the issue shows more of the Skull's plan unfolding and throws in a brilliantly choreographed fight with AIM and Arnim Zola. It's very easy for these characters to come off as incredibly goofy and ineffective, but Brubaker has really taken the time to make them seem threatening. A scene where Zola transfers his consciousness into a new robotic body is worth the issue's price alone in squeezing that level of coolness out of a man with a camera instead of a head and a TV where his chest should be.
Brubaker's extensive use of Cap's supporting cast of villains is remarkable to see in action, in fact. He's brought together all the major ones in a totally organic way and their endgame seems so well-planned as to be unstoppable. It's hard to see what Bucky and the Falcon have ahead of them, but you can guarantee it's going to be fun reading about it.
If there's anything really wrong with this issue, it's that it's ultimately just another chapter in the wider story. Taken alone it's hard to read. Still, Brubaker and Epting are crafting a Captain America story that, by this point, can't fail to become legendary. It verges on being a definitive one for the character even though it doesn't have Steve Rogers in it â€"- at least, not so far â€"- and because it's being told outside the current Skrull-induced craziness of the modern Marvel Universe, it has near-perfect pacing that'll mean it should stand alone for years to come.