With all of the political intrigue and clashes between past and present in "Captain America," it's easy to forget just how much of an action book it is. While action has always played a large role in the book, it's always overshadowed by Brubaker's wonderful characterization and innovative use of both Steve Rogers and James Barnes' pasts returned to haunt them. Well, issue 48 seems intent on reminding readers that this book can bring some serious quick-paced and expertly-done fights.
Professor Chin has stolen the original Human Torch's body to create a virus that will cause people to burst into flames in oxygen and is testing it on Namor in front of a bound Barnes. Brubaker made the interesting choice earlier in the arc to have Barnes return to his Winter Soldier garb in his first big adventure after establishing himself as the new Captain America, as a means to deal with his shady past as a brainwashed assassin, and, as such, this story is more conclusive than previous ones.
That Brubaker chooses to deliver an action-packed, solid finale is the latest surprise in a constantly surprising book. With readers conditioned to expect the latest round of stories to lead into another forty plus issue megastory, delivering some more 'old school' superhero sort of storytelling is just the curveball required. As well, despite Barnes not being in his Captain America uniform, Brubaker seems to understand the importance of establishing Barnes in smaller, self-contained adventures. That said, the race to the end of the issue is full of surprises and excitement.
Butch Guice handles the lion's share of the art here, but is backed up by other series regulars Luke Ross and Steve Epting. Only in a few spots is it apparent that multiple artists drew this issue, continuing the book's trademark artistic consistency that puts the rest of Marvel and DC's output to shame. The characters move quickly and fluidly, and it's a thrill to see Barnes, Namor, and the Black Widow kicking some serious butt.
If you look at the preview pages, you'll notice the use of four wide panels each page, but, what's really great is how that changes once the action begins. The shift in page layouts is very effective and is changed dynamically via Captain America's shield freeing Namor. It doesn't just break the glass. It breaks the rhythm and pace of the issue up until that point.
With great art, lots of action, and solid character work, "Captain America" #48 continues the series' unbelievably consistent and fantastic run. Brubaker and a trio of artists finish up James Barnes' first big adventure since establishing himself as Captain America and it's quite the success.