The Heroic Age begins for Captain America with this splendid opening issue featuring the return of Baron Zemo to the pages of Captain America (it's been nearly 250 issues since Cap has fought Zemo in the pages of Cap, I believe). Writer Ed Brubaker gives us an interesting take on Baron Zemo, especially in relation to the current Captain America, James "Bucky" Barnes. As for the art - it's Butch freakin' Guice, of course it looks good.
Man, just riffing on that Guice thing, has there been a writer with as long a run on a title as Brubaker who was blessed with this much consistency in the art? The three regular artists on his run have been Steve Epting, Mike Perkins and Butch Guice (plus a handful of issues by Luke Ross)!! Not only are all three of those artists great, but they all also have a similar visual style (likely developed when all three worked together at CrossGen, which is when Epting and Guice both became even GREATER artists than they already were and Perkins first made a name for himself in the States). Even Ross has been able to adapt his style accordingly. It's a real boon to a run when the whole thing has a consistent style (especially if it is a GOOD consistent style).
Anyhow, as to the issue itself. It opens with a look at Baron Zemo, who is the son of the original Baron Zemo, the guy who everyone thought for sixty years had killed Bucky. So right off the bat, Zemo and James have something major in common - they're tied together by that deed (perhaps the most significant "victory" the elder Zemo ever had) and the fact that they're both successors to their famous mantles.
Here's the opening...
Isn't that a damned striking opening?
This leads into Falcon worrying about James, who just last arc was forced to fatally wound the 1950s Cap...
Most of the issue is a gripping examination of the psyches of the hero and the villain of the book.
You have Falcon (Sam Wilson) and Steve Rogers (the previous Captain America) dealing with James as they try to see how he is doing (meanwhile, we get a nice dual voice thing going on with James - what he is telling Steve and Sam and what he is actually thinking.
Meanwhile, Zemo is studying James and collecting a team designed to taking him down, including the Fixer (from the Thunderbolts) and an old Nazi villain, as well as the Red Skull's daughter, Sin, who Brubaker notes has worked with Zemo before. In fact, there's a number of little continuity nods in this issue. That's the kind of continuity nods that I love - ones that help the depth of the piece but are not necessary for an understanding of the comic. If you know about Zemo's history with the Fixer or with Sin, then great, that's some added depth. If you don't, no problem. Similarly, James has a dream that is an artistic homage to Jim Steranko's famous Captain America run - but you don't need to know that for the dream to make sense to you.
As you can see from above, the art by Guice is excellent as always. Just thought I should say that again.
So yeah, this was a very strong issue - a great deal of character development while still very clearly advancing the plot of the comic. Well done.