It almost reads like an anthology, but the reality of it all is that this issue contains three stories that are running in parallel. Ed Brubaker splendidly weaves them together, one through another, to make this issue seem larger, fuller, and more dynamic than pure stats would reveal.
This is a comic that contains thirty pages of story under a $3.99 cover price. That cover bears an image of Bucky-Cap and Commander Rogers with a banner advertisement for the Captain America feature film. The thirty pages of story, all written by Brubaker, contain seventeen pages drawn by Butch Guice, six by Mike Deodato, and seven by Chris Samnee.
The lead-in is the second part of the Gulag story, pitting Bucky against Ursa Major. Continuity nuts (or fans of the Soviet Super-Soldiers - is that one and the same?) get the answers to the "whys" and "hows" surrounding that match-up that was established in the massive special-sized previous issue. They also get a much more bear-looking Ursa Major from Butch Guice. Mike Deodato handled the art in the previous issue and his Ursa looked more like a sloth than a bear. No mistaking the bear here. After his scuffle with Ursa Major, Bucky begins to discover things he would rather not know about the Gulag he is trapped in, but Brubaker hatches those ideas and weaves in more Marvel Universe cohesiveness along the way.
The middle tale in this issue features art by Deodato. He draws Sharon Carter and the Black Widow as the duo tries to find a trail to follow that will in some way exonerate Bucky. I'm not a Deodato fan, but in this story, he is given a chance to draw what his fans like him to draw: women. Brubaker writes strong women with sterling motivation, which is interesting to juxtapose with Deodato's spine-crackingly tough postures as the spy gals slink through the shadows.
The pinnacle of this issue, for me, is the Chris Samnee story. He is given the chance to draw Steve Rogers in a pensive mood during a pair of meetings with Edwin Jarvis and Henry Gyrich. I haven't seen any characters that Samnee cannot tackle magnificently yet, and this story is definitely not the exception. I enjoyed - no I thrilled to - Samnee's work on "Thor: Mighty Avenger," especially as he had opportunities to examine the Marvel Universe. This story gives him the chance to do just that by having Rogers visit with two of the most critical civilians in Marvel comics.
This issue is one great way to follow up on the celebratory issue that was "Captain America" #616. It touches on the past, present, and future of the Captain America legacy and the men who bore it. It doesn't, however, openly welcome everyone in. Some of the stories are deeper than the fistful of pages devoted to them in this issue. That's not to say this comic is impenetrable, but it certainly helps to have some familiarity with the situation before diving in.
All the same, this issue doesn't feature that legacy being filled. The Captain America costume lies empty in this issue and no shield is slung. Brubaker does an applaudable job handling the myriad stories, but I'd like to see more Captain America in my "Captain America" comic. I have no doubt Brubaker will get there, and I am certainly looking forward to that. In the meantime, "Captain America" promises to deliver three stories that have dynamic effect on the legend.