Originally slated to end with this issue, "Captain America: Reborn" has stretched to accommodate one more. Regrettably, the rest of Marvel's publishing business can't be so flexible. As of this month, Steve Rogers has already started showing up in Marvel's books, alive and well. Still, let's be fair, the ending of this series wasn't blown by Steve's appearance in the"Avengers" annuals, or "Iron Man," but in its own title. It is called "Reborn," after all.
At this issue's opening, Steve finds himself back in his original body, in the present. The only problem is that he's sharing it with the Red Skull, who has control over their shared frame. Steve's imprisonment is well-rendered, illustrated by the image of an America completely subsumed by Nazi rule -- a fitting metaphor for Steve's situation, as well as an accurate portrayal of what the Skull himself is aiming for. These sequences, while not dazzlingly original ("trapped in someone else's brain" is a bit too familiar a concept for superhero comics) are lifted by the ideas and artwork.
Elsewhere, Bucky-Cap finally gets his chance to fight the Skull head-to-head -- but when the Skull is wearing Steve's body and uniform, he understandably falters. The Skull gets some good rants along the way, but there's a larger problem with the issue. At this point, it feels like there are no surprises left, and the action comes across as rather mechanical. The issue's biggest twist, in fact, is so utterly out of left-field that it's hard to feel anything other than bemusement. MODOK's popularity has been capitalised on time and again by many writers (usually for comedic purposes). The appearance of the MODOKs lacks teeth as a result.
They do, at least, give the heroes something to fight. The action set-pieces are great, with Hitch's cinematic visuals incorporating a variety of recognisable landmarks. As the stakes ramps up towards the final page, there's a definite sense that things are drawing to a close. Unfortunately, the issue itself offers little in the way of movement. It's too early for an ending, but too late to introduce any new significant story elements, so it's hard not to feel like this issue will sit far more comfortably as part of the collection.
Sadly, that realization will come as small comfort for those who have waited six weeks since the last issues. Although there's nothing wrong with this issue, whatever suspense existed in "Captain America: Reborn" to begin with has long since evaporated. It's undeniably good, but when a comic leaves you with a feeling best expressed by the sentence "how much longer to go?," well, that's not exactly a classic issue in the making.