Brubaker's work on Captain America has been appropriately lauded, but there's one thing it's been fairly short of -- jumping on points. Brubaker's stories have heavily referenced both themselves and decades' worth of "Captain America" history. Barring the "death of" way back in issue #25, it's been a relatively hard book to simply pick up and read.
Thankfully, Brubaker seems aware of that. Perhaps anticipating that the "anniversary" issue #50 will spark a little more interest than a usual one, this issue is a stand-alone story tying together Bucky's past and present by meditating on his various birthdays over the years.
It's interesting to see the past as Bucky remembers it, with the corn-fed, Nazi-bashing 1940s superheroics contrasting with the current high-tech terrorism that he faces. It also gives Bucky the similar iconic look at his origin that his predecessor enjoyed. Everyone knows how Steve Rogers went from being a weakling to becoming Captain America, and this issue shows how Bucky himself has a similar, low-key origin.
Rounding out the pagecount are two additional backup stories. The first of these is by Marcos Martin, which is actually more along the lines of an illustrated prose piece. The story recaps the familiar history of the character, up to and beyond his replacement by Bucky -- nothing particularly new there -- but that's not the point of the story. The real reason it exists is to showcase the fantastically inventive and expressive artwork of Martin himself. One of Marvel's best finds in recent years, Martin conjures some fantastic pages, such that it's almost a shame to see text on them.
The second backup is a strip by Fred Hembeck, which references the oft-forgotten Cap-impersonator from "Strange Tales" #114 - the "first" 60s Cap, as he puts it. In a "piece to camera" the Acrobat muses over his past in the traditional Hembeck style. Overall, it makes for an enjoyable supplement to the other two stories, and if a comic's going to cost $3.99, then this is the sort of extra material I wouldn't mind paying a little for.