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Captain America: Reborn #6

Posted: Tuesday, January 26, 2010
By: Dave Wallace

Ed Brubaker
Bryan Hitch, Butch Guice (p & i), Paul Mounts (colours)
Marvel Comics
Editor's Note: Captain America: Reborn #6 arrives in stores tomorrow, January 27.

Captain America: Reborn #6 doesn't contain much in the way of surprises. There's no clever twist here that's going to make you look at Ed Brubaker's Captain America run in a new light, or put a fresh spin on the Steve Rogers guest-appearances that we've been seeing in so many Marvel books lately.

That might come as a disappointment to some readers--but they're probably the same ones who bought last month's Who Will Wield The Shield? one-shot in the knowledge that it would give away the ending of Reborn, read it, and then complained of being spoiled. The real enjoyment here isn't in seeing what happens, but in how it happens--and Brubaker, Bryan Hitch and Butch Guice maintain the same level of quality of storytelling here as they have in previous issues.

The fact is, there's nothing wrong with the events of this issue playing out as expected. Frankly, even without the rescheduling decisions that saw Steve Rogers appear elsewhere in the Marvel Universe before this series wrapped up, it was obvious from the first couple of issues (and even the book's title!) where this story was headed. Happily, Brubaker doesn't feel pressured to throw in an unpredictable twist at the end of the story for its own sake, preferring instead to give the story of Captain America's rebirth the finale it deserves.

More specifically, this issue (originally planned to be just half of issue #5 before the page count expanded, demanding a sixth issue) unsurprisingly feels more like the second half of the finale than the whole thing. All of the setup for the big throwdown between Bucky, Steve, the Red Skull, the Avengers, and other assorted heroes and villains was accomplished in issue #5, so this issue has the luxury of simply bringing us the fight that we've been waiting for, and cleaning everything up afterwards.

That's not to say that there aren't some small unexpected touches. The finality of the Red Skull's fate wasn't something that I saw coming (even though the issue provides a neat escape hatch for that plot development a few panels earlier), and there's a satisfying moment that sees the creation of a new female version of a classic Marvel villain (which should please those readers who enjoyed the likes of Lady Bullseye in Daredevil and the female Loki in Thor). Finally, there's an unsettling scene in which Steve shares his glimpses of the future with the reader, without making it clear whether this is a hint of what's to come in Brubaker's Captain America run (in which case, it looks as though things are going to move in a more sci-fi-oriented direction, which might be interesting), or just a vague bit of foreshadowing of a new threat. Either way, I'm intrigued.

I haven't mentioned Bryan Hitc'ís artwork yet, which is a serious omission, as it plays a large part in the success of this issue. The book's visuals are as polished as ever, and it's testament to the smoothness of Hitch's collaboration with Butch Guice that it feels impossible to tell where Hitch's pencils end and Guice's inks begin. Regardless, it's great fun to see these two illustrators take on the more extreme elements of Brubaker's script with gusto, such as the onslaught of M.O.D.O.K.s, the giant robot body that one character briefly inhabits, or the shameless "hero shot" of Steve and Bucky getting ready to go to work. Intricate background detail also adds a sense of time and place to proceedings, with many of the Washington backdrops evoking Hitch's great work on the closing issues of Ultimates 2.

If I have any criticism of Reborn, it's that it might have worked better as a climactic arc of Captain America than as a miniseries in its own right. The story relies too much on what's gone before in Brubaker's magnum opus to be able to stand as a self-contained story, and we equally don't see any real exploration of the impact of Steve's ordeal on his character here (although presumably we'll see that in his ongoing title). As a high-profile arc of the Captain America title, this story probably would have been lauded as a high point of Brubaker's run on that book. As a miniseries in its own right, however, it's "merely" a fun action-packed blockbuster of a superhero story, executed by creators that clearly know how to bring the story that they want to tell to life, but who aren't going to be breaking any new ground whilst doing so.






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