After last issue's cliffhanger ending where Machinesmith disabled the super-soldier serum in Steve Rogers' blood, I joked online that Marvel couldn't keep the "Super-Soldier" subtitle for this series anymore and, boy, was I wrong. In the third issue of this mini-series, Ed Brubaker puts Rogers into a position that should make it easier for the bad guys to win and uses that to demonstrate just how resourceful and skilled the character is. This is turning out to be a character-defining series that tells you everything you need to know about the character, while showing you why he's such an enduring and fantastic character.
With Steve Rogers powerless and at Machinesmith's mercy, Brubaker gets a chance to show a side of Rogers rarely explored as he can no longer rely on his advance strength, agility, or speed. Planting the seed of Rogers's ability beyond the super-soldier formula in his childhood of being bullied pays off well later in the issue. Taking away the powers to show the true skill and ability is a classic way to get over a character and Brubaker does it with skill. There's a genuine tension as the issue begins until Rogers' narration makes it clear that there isn't anything to worry about: powers or no powers, he's still a badass.
Brubaker's Machinesmith comes across as a classic villain, playing to the readers with over-the-top explanations of his genius plans. It's a really fun take on the character, making it clear that he's brilliant, but also so arrogant that he can't help but fail in his goals. Machinesmith's henchmen are written a little too cheesy with their constant insults to Rogers, usually about his now-skinny frame. One or two comments would have been more appropriate than every sentence they say ending with an insult of some kind. It becomes absurd and tiresome quickly.
With Brubaker bringing a classic superhero sensibility to his writing, Dale Eaglesham is a great match on art, doing the same. His Machinesmith looks positively evil, but is taken to another level as he extends his neck and arms, various robotic tentacles floating around the room as he taunts Rogers with the details of his plan. The art makes a fun scene even more so with the giddy, uncontrolled look of Machinesmith.
His depowered Steve Rogers is also very well done as Eaglesham has the character present the same confidence and body language as he did with powers. Aside from the character being skinnier and lankier, you can't tell the difference from his usual appearance. Many artists would play up the difference, but by treating the character the same no matter what physical changes he's gone through, he sells the idea that Rogers' true strength and skill don't lie in his powers, they're in his experiences and training.
He may not be Captain America or even a Super-Soldier when this issue starts, but Steve Rogers is definitely incredibly capable and dangerous. Ed Brubaker and Dale Eaglesham deliver a fun, exciting superhero comic using a classic plot device that effectively makes Rogers look as fantastic as he's always described. Lately, there's been a lot of talk of how good Rogers is and this issue shows it.