After the end of “Thunderbolts” #144 turned out to be a well-executed (though disappointing) piece of misdirection, my attention was focused even more on “Captain America” #607 — the place where the real Baron Zemo would undoubtedly get some page time after his star turn in issue #606.
And that was thankfully what I got. With Steve Rogers now back in the universe, Brubaker is free to start deconstructing Bucky’s position as the new Captain America, and who better to be his in-universe proxy than Baron Helmut Zemo, the son of the man who originally “killed” Bucky? Casting Zemo as a skilled manipulator keen to turn the heat on Bucky, Brubaker has given him the threatening, psychological air that a true arch-villain should have.
Indeed, with the Red Skull off the table, Zemo seems particularly well-poised to step into the breach as one of Captain America’s more formidable threats, and it makes for a fantastic reintroduction of the character. Specifically, Brubaker has emphasized the threat Zemo poses to Bucky, re-casting him as a villain for this Captain America, rather than the general “Captain America.” It makes sense and, in particular, it does a good service to Zemo, a character who deserves a strong reintroduction.
Captain America has had a fairly solid art team over the last few years, with the similar styles of Steve Epting, Butch Guice, and Luke Ross creating a consistent visual look for the title. Mitch Breitweiser’s style fits in well with the look of the series. The layouts are slightly more dynamic, and the panels more open, but the looser style actually fits well, particularly in the rather more action-packed moments.
The results of Bucky’s attempt to fight off his enemies while drugged lead to a situation that, alone, would not be particularly interesting — but combined with the emotional stress he’s under and the injuries to his comrade, it becomes a more credible threat. Similarly, the skilled deployment of a potentially d-list villain in the form of “Hauptmann Iron Hand” transforms a character who could easily be dismissed into a genuine danger. It’s masterful stuff.
Regrettably, the comic is slightly tainted by McKeever and Baldeon’s Nomad backup, which although a fitting complement in the early days, has veered away from the tone and subject matter of the title into less interesting territory. Nomad’s position on the fringes of the Captain America universe is increasingly tenuous, and unless Brubaker intends to bring her into the fold more convincingly, it’s hard to see why this backup continues to run, particularly with the launch of “Young Allies.” Not that I want to complain too much about having a higher page count for $3.99, but to be honest, it’d be nice if the backup counted a little more than this.