Editor's Note: Captain America #36 arrives in stores tomorrow, March 19.
"The Burden of Dreams: Part Six"
In this latest issue of Ed Brubaker's epic run on Captain America, the new Bucky-Cap takes on his first real super-villains while wielding the shield. Last issue ended with Bucky staring down the Red Skull's daughter Sin, her "henchmen" the Serpent Squad and lurking around the corner, her boyfriend, Crossbones. Two issues ago, Bucky faced A.I.M. agents and disposed of them in his own unique way. Last issue, he tried his best to help stop the riots in Washington D.C., acting in a manner much more suited to Steve Rogers. Here, he is faced with his first real challenge. While he's still dabbling with C-list villains, Bucky is working his way up to a confrontation with the Red Skull himself. However, with the way this storyline has played out and the role split between the Red Skull and Alexander Lukin, I'm not sure if a classic confrontation between "Cap" and the Red Skull is really feasible given the tone and role of Brubaker's Red Skull.
This issue is filled with action more similar to that shown two issues ago. It also features some great inner monologue as Bucky continues to adapt and improvise, acting as Captain America. What's unique about Bucky playing the role of Cap for the time being is that when he adapts to a specific situation, he uses methods unique to himself as well as emulating methods and tactics that Steve Rogers would use. One thing that I really like about the way Brubaker is writing Bucky's character is that Bucky is hardly cocky or arrogant. Ever since he was brought back into the main universe he hasn't been cocky or arrogant, but his character has remained extremely consistent. This was also the case when Matt Fraction featured him in an earlier issue of Punisher: War Journal.
However, in this issue, Bucky does indeed let his guard down. It's not so much a result of arrogance as it is a bit of misjudgment. He takes down Sin and the Serpent Squad with his "trademark" move, tossing the shield and pulling out his gun. It's still really fun to see, but it's already getting a bit old. Regardless, Bucky is confronted by Crossbones, who attacks in a fit of rage over Sin being incapacitated. If I were writing an academic paper about how Bucky adapts to a situation, the fight between him and Crossbones featured in this issue would be one of my major points in proving my thesis. He tries fighting Crossbones "mano a mano," but the villain is much too powerful for Bucky to handle without a bit of an advantage. So Bucky does what he has to do in order to survive and adapts to the way Crossbones fights. In a way, Bucky kind of fights like professional wrestler Ric Flair. Flair's called "the dirtiest player in the game." His character often uses cheap shots to gain an advantage over his opponent. Staged or not, Flair's tactics are logical, and he employs such tactics whether he's playing a good guy or bad guy. Bucky does the same thing; he takes a few cheap shots at Crossbones, even stabbing Crossbones in the leg. Then, once Bucky escapes into Sharon Carter's hovercar, hijacked by Black Widow, he unloads a magazine clip into Crossbones' chest. Of course, overcoming the odds and the ability to adapt to any kind of situation is kind of required for a superhero, but the way Brubaker writes the inner narration and action, complemented by Butch Guice and Mike Perkins' great artwork, really stands out.
One scene I didn't expect in this issue came after Bucky defeats Crossbones. The Red Skull catches wind that "someone dressed as Captain America" has emerged. The beautiful thing about it all is that he knows it's Bucky. In fact, the Skull insinuates that Bucky-Cap is all part of his plan. Maybe Brubaker is really the Red Skull. Anyways, Bucky tries to play the role of Steve Rogers as he goes back out to try and quell the rioters. In my review of Captain America #35, I stated that the issue was missing a "big" type of feeling. In this issue, Bucky makes a much more public appearance as Captain America, trying to use the costume and the shield as leverage to get the people to listen. He's met with a great deal of resistance and plenty of "You're not Captain America" chants. The "Breaking News" bulletins of Captain America sightings finally take place, and I really like the realistic feel of these scenes. The public doesn't accept a new Captain America; they only see a whacko trying to be Cap, and of course, Tony Stark denies his existence. This kind of reaction feels right to Brubaker's tone and also right to the very idea of Captain America. Bucky can handle being Cap on the covert level, but as a public figure he lacks what Steve Rogers possesses: the iconic World War II history.
There's also a really mind-blowing ending to this issue. I obviously won't spoil anything about it, but it sure as hell raises a lot of questions surrounding everything that's happening. Of course, seeing as that the ending involves Sharon, she could be hallucinating or dreaming, but given some of the future solicitations of this title, eyebrows are going up very high.
There's really nothing else I can say about the artwork that I haven't said before. Butch Guice puts in work for the first half of this issue while Mike Perkins provides the second half. Their styles are so similar and so well done that the transitions are barely noticeable. There's also a surprising level of consistency in this issue. While Guice's line work is a little more detailed than Perkins', you can only really tell in the faces of the characters, but it's just a matter of each artists' style.
This issue is definitely stronger than the last issue. I didn't have the feeling of something "big" missing and I do like the way Brubaker writes Bucky's character. However, Bucky doesn't need to be Captain America to do what he does, especially since he's just going to remain covert for the time being. I'm curious as to how next issue will play out, given not only the shocking end of this issue, but the way that Bucky fluxes between acting in his own unique way and acting a little more like Steve Rogers, which for Bucky only gets him in trouble.
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