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A Review: Captain America & Bucky #624

JayJay recommended that I review this book because it’s been getting a lot of positive buzz online, much of it with regard to the allegedly well-portrayed romance at the core of the story.The Cover

Baffling.

The logo pops pretty well and is readable. It incorporates Captain America’s shield. “Captain America & Bucky” it says, which would lead one to figure that this book is about those two.

I’m familiar with a great deal of comic book material but not some of recent vintage. I don’t know who the male character pictured is. A Soviet, I guess, from the red star on his shoulder and the hammer and sickle in the background.
If I don’t know who the guy is no new reader would have a clue.

And the female character? How many non-comics readers know of Marvel’s Black Widow?

We comics-savvy types know that the female character is dressed like the Black Widow and has reddish hair. I’m not sure it’s her, though. She doesn’t look like the Black Widow I remember, facially or any other way. Doesn’t have the figure. And her head is too big.

Her girlish figure and proportionately large head cause me to suspect that maybe she’s supposed to be a young girl. A very young Black Widow, maybe?

But the drawing is pretty bad. Hard to tell whether the artist meant for the character to look young or it’s just bad draftsmanship. Look at her face and head. Distorted, poorly constructed. And extra cartoony compared to the rest of the image.

The Black Widow is Russian, so the hammer and sickle background makes sense, especially if this issue takes place when she was young.

I think a lot of people even some people like me, who know comics but aren’t up to date might think these two are the villains of the piece.

What we have here is another pin-up in a seemingly endless parade of pin-up covers. The male character looks sort of dangerous and menacing, which supports my villains-of-the-piece theory. I don’t know what to make of her. Her pose is strange. What’s she doing? And her expression…? What it’s meant to convey is unfathomable.

His upper arm overlaps hers in a bad way. His bulging muscles, colored, shaded and rendered similarly to her shoulder create a minor visual conundrum. Bad composition. Not disastrous. Just not good.

I would never pick up this comic book because the cover is bland, uninformative and not compelling. That would be a shame, because some nice art and some good words can be found inside.

The cover was by Ed McGuinness and Morry Hollowell.

The Interior

The inside front cover says this:

“1941. ORPHANED AFTER THE LOSS OF HIS FATHER, JAMES “BUCKY” BARNES BECAME THE MASCOT AT FORT LEHIGH AND GAINED A REPUTATION AS A NOTORIOUS TROUBLEMAKER (my italics for emphasis). AS WORLD WAR II LOOMED, BARNES WAS SELECTED FOR A ONE-OF-A-KIND SPECIAL ASSIGNMENT WITH THE ARMY: TO BE THE NEW PARTNER FOR STEVE ROGERS, AKA CAPTAIN AMERICA. AFTER SURVIVING COUNTLESS HIGH-RISK OPERATIONS, BUCKY WAS ULTIMATELY LOST, PLUNGING INTO ARCTIC WATERS AND PRESUMED DEAD…

Who writes these intro pieces for both Marvel and DC? Does anyone edit them?

I write these blog posts fast. It’s all first draft, no editor. JayJay catches a few things, occasionally, but she’s no copy editor or proofreader. Ask her. I know misteaks creepe inn. But wouldn’t you think publishing houses with allegedly professional editors and proofreaders would see to it that intro copy for publication was on point and precise?

Is the assertion that Bucky was a troublemaker germane to this story? If not, editor Lauren Sankovitch, why is that tidbit mentioned? P.S. It doesn’t turn out to be germane, in my opinion.

Think about what is said in this intro. Bucky Barnes was a “notorious troublemaker.” So they reward him with a one-of-a-kind special assignment. Why would the U.S. Army select a troublemaker for an arguably important position? Were there no well-behaved, athletic, young orphans available?

As I recall, the original Bucky caught Steve Rogers changing to his Cap costume and more or less blackmailed Cap into letting him become Cap’s assistant. That, at least, makes some kind of sense in comic book logic, thank you, Joe Simon and Jack Kirby.

Anyway….

No splash. The story opens with a panel showing an urban street scene with 1940’s or early 1950’s American cars in evidence. Captain America comes crashing out of a window several floors up and makes it safely to the street. Gunmen in the room Cap abruptly left fire at him. Bullets bounce off Cap’s shield.

Astute readers who bothered to read the inside cover intro copy might realize that the captions are Bucky’s narration. Comics-savvy me figured that out. Some civilians might not get it.

Page two begins with a caption that says “1958.” Cap is running past a newsstand. The newsstand vendor pulls a gun, intent on shooting Cap. Cap notices him, attacks him, disarms him and sticks his own gun in the guy’s face. The vendor’s dialogue has angle brackets around it: “<No! Please don’t!>” A caption tell us that the vendor is speaking Russian, so even new readers or civilians, who might otherwise be puzzled by the angle brackets or ignore them have a fighting chance of grasping their purpose. Good.

Cap cold-bloodedly shoots the vendor.

Now that seems unusual.

It must be pointed out that we don’t actually see Cap’s shot ripping into the vendor, but the evidence is pretty convincing: Cap’s gun pressed against the guy’s face, Cap firing and the vendor lying on the street as Cap turns away. I believed it.

Then a car races towards Cap. Cap fires his gun at an overhead power line, severing it. He hurls his shield at the car’s windshield. The driver says “<Oh, no.>”

Cap’s shield smashes the windshield causing the car to swerve and crash into a hydrant. The street is awash with water from the broken hydrant. Gunmen pile out of the wrecked car. Cap answers the “<Oh, no.>” that he could not possibly have heard: “<Unfortunately, yes.>”

Cap is poised to plunge the sparking end of the power line into the pool of water in which the gunmen from the car are standing.  Turn the page….

Zap! Fried gunmen. Cap calls them idiots.

An unreadable sound effect presages an entrance. I eventually figured out it was “KLIK.” The sound of a gun being cocked?

A beautiful, reddish-haired woman in a black dress confronts Cap. She wears a pillbox hat with a net veil. She is armed with a pistol and a grenade. Cap says, “This isn’t supposed to be a live ammunition exercise.”

Now, wait a minute. We have seen sparks fly as bullets glanced off of Cap’s shield. Cap severed a power line with a shot from the same gun he stuck in the face of the vendor. Plenty of live ammo used, so…. What’s the point here? That it wasn’t supposed to be a live ammunition exercise but everybody ignored the rules? Or what?

Cap and the pillbox hat woman have a momentary stand-off. It is interrupted by a man who seems to be in charge.

As Cap mentioned, turns out it was all a training exercise. For the gunmen, who we gather are Soviet spies, and I suppose for Cap and for the pillbox hat woman, too.

The pillbox hat woman is called “Black Widow” by the man in charge. “Cap” is called “Winter Soldier” by the man in charge and then by Black Widow. Winter Soldier? Okay. Winter Soldier strips off the top half of his Captain America costume revealing one metallic arm emblazoned with a red star. He’s the guy from the cover!

Black Widow doesn’t look like the female character on the cover. Her mother, maybe. The jury is still out about the identity of cover girl. Even for comics-savvy me. Seriously. These days, when Miles Morales is Spider-Man and I’ve totally lost track of who Superboy is, I’m suspicious of everything.

Winter Soldier is criticized for being overly brutal.

The question of whether or not live ammo was supposed to be used or not is moot, but we do learn that Black Widow’s grenade is a smoke-generating fake. Was her gun loaded like Winter Soldier’s and at least some of the gunmen’s? Who knows?

So, what was up with the live-ammo-or-not thing? Beats me. Instead of being fully focused on the story, in the back of my mind I’m searching for significance in it. Bullets flew, but Black Widow’s grenade was fake. What does it mean? Nothing discoverable, to me, anyway. It just seems like sloppy writing and lame editing.

The exercise is over. The narrative captions start up again, and we segue into the Winter Soldier’s personal flashback to his origin. Here it is:

Ed Brubaker and Marc Andreyko wrote this story. They do some things well. They construct scenes well, for the most part. They get information across efficiently, for the most part. The dialogue is terse and functional, though fairly naturally so. The characters are people who would speak tersely and functionally. Story architecture I’ll get to later. (A clue: There is none.)

But this page is where they lost me. Or maybe where Marvel Comics lost me. Story-wise, I mean. Marvel Comics lost me job-wise on purpose in 1987.

Obviously, now, the narrator is Bucky, the character briefly introduced on the inside front cover. It is revealed that Bucky is Winter Soldier. If new readers paid attention to the inside front cover and the first narrative captions, they would have a shot at understanding what is revealed here. If not, Heaven help them.

Now obviously the narrator, Bucky remembers his pre-Winter Soldier past.

First giant logical problem: Nothing in this story contradicts my understanding or would inform a new reader that Bucky is any more than an athletic young man who had undergone some serious training. Not a super soldier or super-human in any way. So why would the Soviets invest a great deal of effort and expense bringing him back to life, replacing what he’d lost (an arm, for instance, with a robotic arm), and programming his blank-slate mind so that they could use him for their own purposes? The glib explanation offered is that they recognized his value to their cause.

What?

What exactly was his value to their cause?

Surely, in all the Soviet Union, there was a strapping young man with all his limbs intact who could be trained.

How much training could Bucky have had? So much that he had no equal, no potential equal among the millions of young Soviets? So much that it made sense to rebuild and program Bucky rather than spend a similar time intensively training someone else?

They trained the Black Widow, didn’t they?!

It’s not as though they used Bucky’s previous identity as a propaganda tool. It apparently was kept secret that Winter Soldier had been Bucky. Especially from him.

And the name “Winter Soldier.” What? That term was coined in the early 1970’s. It was a reference to the whistle-blowers who alleged Viet Nam War atrocities. It was derived from the introduction of a pamphlet Thomas Paine wrote in 1776.

A Soviet operative in 1958 called Winter Soldier doesn’t make a whole lot of sense and could be offensive to some people.

Anyway….

Winter Soldier is a Soviet “secret weapon” in the Cold War, as is Black Widow. He kills people for the government. One would assume that she does too, though she isn’t shown doing so in this story. They are clearly romantically attracted to one another. They have this scene together:

Think about these two people who are romantically involved. Two killers. I guess they can work it around in their heads that they’re each merely doing their duty. Like soldiers.

He’s attracted to her, a killer. But he’s programmed. Killing is okay with him, and hey, she’s cute.

She’s attracted to him. But he’s excessively brutal, remember? Even in a training exercise. A pretty nasty, despicable customer.

She’s apparently fine with that.

Whatever turns you on….

And she doesn’t have the excuse of being programmed.

What kind of person is she?!

Second giant logical problem: Winter Soldier and Black Widow know the overlords they serve are callous bastards who have “eyes everywhere.” They know that, if their secret affair were discovered, they’d both be “sent to Siberia. Or worse.” They both fear the government they work for.

So why do they serve these harsh taskmasters who keep their relationship confined to secret trysts? Are they that dedicated to communism or the Soviet Union? Do their jobs pay that well? What?

Why don’t they use their considerable talents to escape the oppression they suffer? Could it be that they enjoy their work and the benefits are good?

I don’t know.

Winter Soldier is sent on an assassination mission. A complication arises. The intended victim has his young daughter with him. Winter Soldier shows a hint of humanity. A crack in his programming? He is reluctant to risk harming the little girl. Fortunately, Black Widow has, without authorization, tagged along. She takes the child aside and comforts her as Winter Soldier finishes the vic off with his knife, in grisly fashion.

Hey! This mission takes place in West Berlin! Both Winter Soldier and Black Widow surely could easily seek asylum in the Free World. Nobody uses that term anymore, but I will.

Nope.

I’ll speculate here that Winter Soldier’s programming prevents him from doing so and Black Widow won’t go without him. But the issue is never addressed.

Winter Soldier is enraged at his bosses for not informing him that the target’s child might be present. Things are tense.

We learn in an offhand comment that Black Widow “belongs” to some other dude, the “Red Guardian.” No further mention of him.

The writers take us into another flashback page:

Huh?

“…Cap fixed me.”

What?

Okay, there’s a red-gloved hand holding a glowing cube. Comics-savvy me guesses that Captain America somehow used the Cosmic Cube to undo what remained of Winter Soldier/Bucky’s programming and restored his memory. Must be some fancy dancin’ in that tale.

What would a new reader have made of this?

Many would pitch the book at that point and never bother with comics again. “I don’t get it. What the @#$%&?”

We aren’t clued in as to when the Cosmic Cube thing happened. Guess you had to be there.

Cut to Bucky, no longer Winter Soldier, and Black Widow visiting Bucky’s younger sister in a nursing home.  In the United States, one would surmise. From the apparent age of his sister, “Becca,” it must be close to the present. If Bucky was, say, 16 at the beginning of WW II, Becca would have been, what 14 or so, maybe? Less? So if she’s 80+, as she appears, this must be 2011 or no more than a few years earlier.

Bucky looks like maybe he has aged a little. Black Widow looks like she may have aged a little. If they were in their 20’s in 1958, they’d be in their 70’s when Becca was 80-something and in a nursing home. What’s up with that?

I wonder if the writers have had experience with Alzheimer’s patients. I have. Becca’s dialogue is bad and so, so wrong.

But whatever.

Then, Bucky and Black Widow ride off on a motorcycle. She says, “Now let’s go catch some bad guys…”

The end.

Sigh.

This isn’t a story. It’s all exposition. All set up. None of the potential conflicts offered along the way go anywhere. The potential rift between Winter Soldier and his bosses? The potential clash between Winter Soldier and whoever the Red Guardian is? The many, many potentials of the dangerous romance between Winter Soldier and Black Widow?

Nothing.

Seems that all things are swept aside by the deus ex machina of the Cosmic Cube. And suddenly, we’re in the present, or near present.

I guess the story happens next issue when Bucky and Black Widow catch some bad guys.

I wonder if Captain America is actually in the next issue of Captain America & Bucky. More than his hand in a flashback, I mean.

Brubaker and Andreyko seem to have some useful skills. With a good editor, they might be dangerous. Sorry, Lauren.

The art by Chris Samnee is very, very good. Appealing, clear and effortlessly readable. The coloring by Bettie Breitweiser is very good. Clear. She creates the illusion of depth. Lots of gray, but these days, everyone seems to overuse gray. It’s the color du decennie.

Captain America & Bucky # 624 doesn’t feature Captain America or the Bucky I know—false advertising—but it is enjoyable and has some good things to recommend it.

NEXT:  I Don’t Know – Something Groovy

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146 Comments

  1. Anonymous

    How would a new reader know who The Black Widow is and what the Cosmic Cube is? They might just recognise them from Thor, Captain America and Iron Man 2 films.

  2. You forgot to mention how awkwardly she's holding that gun…
    For how closely they appear to be standing together, her forearm would need to be crammed directly behind and into his upper arm, and her wrist cocked to hold her gun at such a perfect profile view (to the viewer). No one who handles a firearm regularly holds one so uncomfortably. Completely unnatural.

  3. Anonymous

    @Neil – your description of the new Andrew reminds me of the Preacher Cassidy 1-shot. When he meets up with a vampire who is kind of an Interview with the Vampire wanna-be. About halfway through the story, Cassidy figures it out and says, "I got it! You're a wanker. Noun: he who wanks"

  4. If I'm going to look a modern coloring, the coloring from Neal's studio seems to be the least offensive to me. I'm not saying it's what I want to see, it just doesn't look as bad as what other colorists seem to be doing. Even JayJay's recent digital coloring looks far better than what what most digital colorists are spitting out. I'd direct you to some unpublished samples of what JayJay has done but I'm too lazy to find a link.

    But yes, I wish they would refrain from recoloring the original stories.

  5. Dear Anon – "It's really 2 different conversations – to dismiss them all as old disgruntled fans completely distracts from the conversation about what is good and bad about current comics "

    This is true.

    Dear Neil – good god you're right about I, Vampire.

  6. Anonymous

    When I say "big seller" I'm talking any form of entertainment. After all, is there any "big sellers" in comic books today?

    It's not that I'm a Silver and Bronze Age snob. I wish the comics today were better. I wish I did enjoy them. I just read the first two issues of "I, Vampire". I really enjoyed the original DeMatteis-Sutton run in House of Mystery. Gone is the Andrew Bennett dressed like he walked out of the French Revolution, which was at least unique and interesting. The "new" Andrew walks through both issues with his shirt off and a stake in his hand. Before I read the issues, guess what I was hoping the "new" Andrew didn't do. Yep, walk around shirtless with a stake in his hand. They are so concerned with being "edgy" and "bad-ass" that they end up being "irrelevant" and "cliche'".

    Neil

  7. Anonymous

    Defiant – don't get me started on recoloring of old trade paperbacks. Neal Adams, for all his wisdom, is a chief offender in this

  8. Quality aside, a lot of what Jim advocates is not just good story & plot. He advocates that the creative elements market the book within the context of those elements. He advocates that comics prep the reader to understand the context of the words and images they will be reading. He advocates that images communicate what is relevant to the story. He advocates that images flow in a manner that keeps ANY reader engaged. He advocates that comics end on a note that entices a reader to come back.

    It was suggested that I should buy back issue collections if I'm displeased with current collections. My answer to that is that I'm a collector as well as a reader. As a wild guess, I have probably 10,000 comics in my "collection". If I am just looking for stories to read, I have enough unread comics in my possession to read until I'm old and grey. When the number of consumers was lower, I could buy comics in bulk for a dime a piece or less, Why would I buy two $16 reprint collections when I can buy 600 comics for that much or less and make a gamble on something equally as good? From what I can tell, comics can be bought even cheaper in bulk today. The simple fact is that I don't have an interest in amassing worthless stacks of paper in my house and paying top dollar. I can go online and read public domain comics archiving the history of the hobby for free. Essentially, as a collector, I want the comics I buy to not only be good, but also retain value.

    Comics are much like sports cards in the sense that if a player is doing well in the current season, the value or his card increases. If a comic title or character is doing well or getting good media coverage (in movies or on television), then the back issues have a demand amongst collectors. Very little being published is doing well enough for back issues to retain value. Comics like Walking Dead do not appeal to me in the least and I can assure you they will be no hotter than X-Files comics are now after the TV exposure has run it's course.

    Mainly what I'm saying is that if new comics are not appealing to the masses of POTENTIAL consumers and collectors, the back issue market dwindles and any good stories I buy are overpriced kindling for a fire a month after I buy them. I don't need a good story that badly. I want to collect comics that retain value so that when I get old and grey they have not been simply a siphon for my funds and burden to my family who has them when I'm gone.

    For now, it's just wiser in my opinion to reread the 10,000 comics I already own. My Hulk #181 cost me what… 25¢? Cold day in hell before I'll spend extra money to buy stories I didn't think were good enough in the 70's.

    I say make comics interesting for those potential readers and COLLECTORS today. Entice collectors to collect back issues. Publishers need to quit sabotaging the value of the comics that made me care about collecting. They do this by reprinting them with with inferior unappealing coloring (or black & white) reproductions. I don't really have an interest in supporting them if they are devaluing the collectibility of comics I've already bought.

  9. Anonymous

    Michael Bay is a very good analogy – because many writers today, like Bendis, Millar, and others, spend more time trying to come up with "wow" and "kewl" moments than they do trying to frame a solid story.

    I don't mind discussing the notion of nostalgia. But to pass off the older readers who have strayed from current comics as all wanting their characters to be like they were in yesteryear distracts from the fact that many current comics are really awful

    It's really 2 different conversations – to dismiss them all as old disgruntled fans completely distracts from the conversation about what is good and bad about current comics

  10. Anonymous

    Anonymous,

    I agree with you. Most big sellers today are not very good. Trying to read modern comics is comparable to watching a Michael Bay or Roland Emmerich movie; I can't get through them. Like Huey Lewis said when he and the News had their first number 1 album. "I thought we were better than that!"

    Neil

  11. p.s. "It's impossible for me to be subjective about other eras. The characters just don't feel right to me, but it can't be the fault of any creative team, entirely."

    Obviously, I don't include any of the Lee/Kirby/Ditko/Heck/Buscema/Thomas stuff, here. Silver-Age Marvel was the foundation stone. I may prefer how, say, Daredevil and the X-men came off during "my" era, but I don't mean to say I consider those later stories as more definitive than the originals.

  12. Dear Rob

    "The best time will always be when one is youngish. My personl favorite time is 1987-1993. To others that's horrible, and so is everything from Secret Wars on. To others, only the sixties is good."

    There is truth in what you say here. I often find myself discussing this with a circle of friends who all got into comics the same time I did (1978 to about 1991). I carry the conceit, sometimes, that the comics I read then (and that came before it) were just "way better, damn it!" But really, with some exceptions (Superman, for one – I only read it when Byrne did it, then discovered the Weisinger era in reprints/ tpbs, and that remains my favorite, and ditto for Batman in the 70s, which I just love. Anyway.) when I think of the "definitive versions" of the characters, I sometimes have to admit: the versions I pick bear a striking resemblance to all the writers and artists I read during my introduction/ falling in love with the characters. (Miller's Daredevil, DeMatteis' Cap, many more.)

    I was lucky in that my age-of-imprinting fell on Jim's watch at Marvel, I've got to say. (I never realized how much until the past few years, when I began reading more behind-the-scenes stuff. And earlier this year, with this blog, of course) It's impossible for me to be subjective about other eras. The characters just don't feel right to me, but it can't be the fault of any creative team, entirely.

    I'd like to believe it! After a few beers, I will, I'm sure.

    But this discussion on Cap got me thinking, especially about this. Would DeMatteis' Cap feel like the definitive Cap to someone who only got into Captain America from The Ultimates? maybe that's not a good one-to-one example, but you know what I mean. When I want to see the Marvel guys act the way they make sense to me, I read Secret Wars, any of the aforementioned, or Claremont's X-Men. (And, tho I certainly don't respect the things Doug Moench has said about Jim and Shooter-era-Marvel, his and Sienkiewicz's Moon Knight – oy vey! Dynamite.)

  13. Anonymous

    I don't believe in objective analysis of a work of art. it either speaks to you, or entertains you or it doesnt. You can discuss why but there's no objectivity there. If it doesn't speak to me or entertain me, no discussion of why it does you particularly matters. and who is anybody to label what someone else likes as objectively bad? To some, Elvis was noise. to some Elvis was everything. it's all perspective.

    Great is in the eye of the beholder. That said, the # of people was brought up by others like Defiant 1 (as in most people have left comics)

    So if most people have left comics, and the minority that is left likes it, then that's an argument to you anonymous that this is great, i suppose. since it doesn't have mass appeal and isn't selling in the millions???

    Rob

  14. Anonymous

    I never go with the "a lot of people like it" argument. Most really great things do not catch on and do not have mass appeal. And a lot of sh*t (whether it be movies, music, or books) sells in the millions

  15. Anonymous

    Attributing everything to personal taste is a way of avoiding discussing objective analysis of a work of art

  16. Anonymous

    I said the people i knew, not Keil.

    Of course it comes down to personal taste. It's absurd to say otherwise. To some people. this is a golden age in terms of quality. To others, it is not. The best time will always be when one is youngish. My personl favorite time is 1987-1993. To others that's horrible, and so is everything from Secret Wars on. To others, only the sixties is good.

    Personal taste.

    I despise Ennis' Punisher and find it to miss the entire point of the Punisher's character and be quite out of character. You think otherwise apparently.

    It's all personl taste.

    There's been a lot of drek in every decade.

    Personally, the 70s is the weakest decade for the Big Two for me. Especially 1972 ish to 1978ish. Just terrible.

    But things appeal differently to different people.

    I think plots are more complex these days. I think characterization is stronger-character moments are much better done. Action scenes are done worse Art looks nicer. Storytelling through art is weaker. The books are less juvenile. They are also harder to penetrate if you're a new reader.

    You're going to find more people liking Brbaker's Cap than not though. Personal taste.

    Rob

  17. Anonymous

    Rob – growing up and gimmick covers are not the reason I have nearly dropped out of comics – it's the bad stories.

    Good writing and good stories appeal to me regardless of my age.

    And no, it does not come down to personal taste. A great deal of the stuff being pumped out of the big 2 is objectively bad writing – poor characterization, so on.

    Yes, the crossover gimmicks contribute to this – because writers cannot follow their own direction with a character, but instead have to write around events.

    But I look for good stories – stores that have a solid plot and that do not insult the reader's intelligence. They are more and more rare, particularity in the last 5 years or more. But things like Ennis' Punisher or Scalped are very good books that I enjoy and will endorse – regardless of my age. I don't need to hide in reprints – I'm not trying to capture the past, just trying to read good stories

    -Keil

  18. Anonymous

    People have abandoned comics, that is true. Most people i know abandoned them a long time ago

    Growing up or price was the #1 reasons. Also, gimmick covers, comics with no stories, manipulation into buying multiple copies, etc. Of course this was the 90s. when artists ruled.

    That said, whether someone likes or dislikes something, does not make them ripe for insulting them based on personal taste.

    Im sorry there are no comics being made for you. On the plus side, it's the "golden" age of reprints and there are more comics available from all eras than ever before.

    I have now read books i never thought i'd ever read.

    Rob

  19. Dear Anonymous (unsigned comment),

    Re: Keeping up.

    "I am the Lorax. I speak for the trees."

  20. Defiant1,

    Re: the current direction of comics.

    Insightful and well said.

  21. Anonymous

    A review from someone who didn't even know Bucky was the Winter Soldier. You act like this is some recent development. Yet it's been around since Ed Brubaker first started writing Captain America.

    And in case you were wondering, Tony Stark is Iron Man and Bruce Wayne is Batman. It can be hard to keep up, I know.

  22. Dear Dusty,

    RE: "I'm curious, Jim, did they finally explain how Natasha and Buck…errr… James… were lovers for all those years, yet Natasha, who was not only Russia's top spy, but also a SHIELD operative, and one time leader of the Avengers, with access to every file conceivable, had no idea that her lover was Captain America's long lost partner/best friend, who's 'death' haunted Cap for so many years? Terrible writing and terrible editing!"

    Beats me. Oh, what a tangled web they weave….

  23. Rob,

    I meet a lot of readers that like the current direction of comics. The simple fact is that the number of readers that have abandoned comics outweighs the number who like the current directions. Comics I like do not exist because the only voices being heard now by publishers are the ones from the comic fans that are left. I think more voices of dissent should be heard. My old comic book friends don't stop at comic book sites online. They have written them off entirely. I give applaud to the people here speaking their minds whether I agree with them or not.

  24. Anonymous

    Some of you need to take this a little less seriously if you're going to insult fellow readers because they may like a character or direction.

    Rob

  25. Not that they cared what I thought (since I refused to give Marvel any money as long as they had a character named "Winter Soldier" running around), but I really would have liked it if Falcon had become Captain America. Unlike every other character, including Steve Rogers, he actually deserves it.

    Civil War ruined Steve Rogers. It would be nice if someone at Marvel had realized that you can rebel against your government, you can protest, you can even have a big fight with a bunch of other superheroes and it's all forgivable. But inviting the soldiers of a hostile foreign nation (Atlantis) to attack your country is textbook treason. Of course, the entirety of Civil War would have been better if they had, you know, run the story by a lawyer to see if it made ANY sense at all, but that would be hard.

  26. Dan

    @Dusty…"The Winter Soldier was a great villain. Should have left him that way instead of thinking it was genius to appeal to the lowest common denominator, and make him yet another 'gritty' badass wannabe with a gun and an attitude."

    Agreed 100%. I loved the first 24 issues of that series–by far the best Captain America I'd ever read. Then, in an instant, it was he worst. Cap's death story was right on the heels of Batman's and it looked like a lame attempt to steal their thunder.

  27. Dan

    @Anonymous "@Dan. I just don't see how Bucky/Winter Soldier could have ever been Cap's greatest enemy. 1) He'd have to supplant his German mirror, the Red Skull,"

    Easy. Just don't focus on Red Skull stories. "Retire" the US-vs-Nazi theme.

    "2) His origin is so gimmicky"

    That doesn't matter.

    "3) And the long lost friend who is now my enemy– literally thousands of times before in comics."

    Everyone has arch enemies. The closer they are to the hero the stronger the tension. This has the added tension of conflicting ideologies. Those make the best adversaries.

    "4)Most of Cap's stories are behind him now. We are probably in the last ten or fifteen years as Cap as a character with ongoing adventures–his definitive villain will be from his las twenty years."

    So don't create a new villain because he only has ten to fifteen years worth of stories to be published? What sense does that make?

    On the contrary, this would propel Cap into a whole new era of stories for him. Cap never really took on the USSR villainy like he did Nazism. Winter Soldier would be the "Cap" of the revitalized communist movement. A clash of world-views, told on a higher level than just "beat up the robot with a nazi logo."

    To this day I don't understand why Marvel kept using Red Skull–a nazi villain–when communism was all the (out)rage.

  28. Anonymous

    Would LOVE to see Shooter review One More Day !

  29. Brubaker's first few years of Cap were the best the character ever was. After Cap was "killed", it was like some hack amateur took over. Brubaker, at numarvel's direction, was forced to go with that idiot big mouth Mark Millar's ideas of Bucky becoming Captain America. That was horrible storytelling, even by comic book impossibilities. A recently brainwashed assassin for the Russians, who just tried to murder Tony Stark because he was still very unbalanced was the only choice?

    And then, Brubaker tries to live out his own fantasies, and tries to change Bucky into James Bond (even started always referring to him as James…), and making Black Widow his bimbo, waiting at his home for him, naked, so he would get his sex reward for being such a "kewl" badass… Again, terrible writing. Terrible editing by Brevoort.

    I'm curious, Jim, did they finally explain how Natasha and Buck…errr… James… were lovers for all those years, yet Natasha, who was not only Russia's top spy, but also a SHIELD operative, and one time leader of the Avengers, with access to every file conceivable, had no idea that her lover was Captain America's long lost partner/best friend, who's 'death' haunted Cap for so many years? Terrible writing and terrible editing!

    The Winter Soldier was a great villain. Should have left him that way instead of thinking it was genius to appeal to the lowest common denominator, and make him yet another 'gritty' badass wannabe with a gun and an attitude.

  30. Anonymous

    @Dan. I just don't see how Bucky/Winter Soldier could have ever been Cap's greatest enemy. 1) He'd have to supplant his German mirror, the Red Skull, 2) His origin is so gimmicky–Cap is time displaced by seventy years now, so Bucky has to be revived zombie style and has to have a plot device move him ahead the same amount of time. Of course he has to know the Black Widow, who of course never mentioned Bucky's alive when she defected and Cap was pining away from his little boyfriend from the 40's. And of course, Bucky is no longer the kid sidekick, he's the super bad ass sniper. Blah. 3) And the long lost friend who is now my enemy– literally thousands of times before in comics. 4)Most of Cap's stories are behind him now. We are probably in the last ten or fifteen years as Cap as a character with ongoing adventures–his definitive villain will be from his las twenty years.

    I know a lot of folks think Brubaker's Captain America was good or even great; I just think it sacrifices something pretty great in itself–the tragic death of Bucky.

    Ramage

  31. re: "First you say you have zero sympathy for Japanese civilians, and immediately talk about how Japan treated their enemies barbarically."

    I guess I have less sympathy for civilians of the aggressor country. So my sympathy for the citizens of Dresden or Hiroshima is going to be less than for the ones of Warsaw and Nanking.

    re: "We currently have US soldiers who gun down Iraqi civilians in the street"

    Apples and oranges. The Japanese atrocities WERE the norm, and were encouraged, if not outright ordered. US soldiers shooting civilians for no reason is NOT the norm. In fact there was a rogue element who was charged with killing civilians for fun, and they are currently on trial for their lives. A US soldier accused of rape will stand trial. A WWII Japanese soldier will get a high five.

    In Iraq/Afghanistan it isn't in the ROE to indiscriminately shoot civilians. Our ROE has been so tight that we have soldiers dying because they won't risk artillery or air support too close to civilian structures.

    At any rate, it is disingenuous to point out rogue and screwed up elements in the US army who violate ROE, and compare them to the systematic killing of the Japanese army, authorized by their ROE.

  32. Anonymous

    Mister 44 – you're moving the goal posts now. First you say you have zero sympathy for Japanese civilians, and immediately talk about how Japan treated their enemies barbarically. I basically said, what do Japanese civilians have to do with barbaric Japanese soldiers or camp guards. Now you're changing it to war is hell.

    Yes, war is hell. The Japanese dropped black plague infested fleas on China. We currently have US soldiers who gun down Iraqi civilians in the street (watch The Wounded Platoon documentary). But what does that have to do with blaming Japanese women and children for atrocious treatment of POWs? You sound mixed up. By that logic, then US women and children are culpable for our soldiers raping women (however rarely) in Iraq

  33. @anon – War is hell.

    Civilian casualties are a reality of war. I am sure the civilians the Japanese army *slaughtered* didn't deserve their treatment either (Seriously – read up on the atrocities Japan committed. Watch a movie, something.)The Polish civilians didn't deserve their treatment from the Nazis, and later Soviets. The people of Stalingrad didn't deserve to be pounded into dust. etc etc etc

    We are spoiled with the relatively bloodless modern warfare. Our precision in artillery and air power is second to none. Collateral damage still happens, but it pales in comparison to any war before. Instead of squadrons of bombers, spilling out their guts in the hopes of hitting their target(s), and F-18 can deliver a payload with laser precision.

    So while I am not going to fist bump anyone over the idea of dead Japanese (or any other) civilians, I am not going to condemn their deaths either. You may also note the figure of 5 million Japanese dead from a traditional invasion. Much of that amount is civilian.

  34. Anonymous

    @Mister 44 – I'm not sure the Japanese women and children who got fried by the h bombs had anything to do with the Japanese's barbaric treatment of POWs – but, whatever dots you want to connect I guess

  35. Donald G

    Marc Miyake: It's really much too difficult to get into in detail, but the Black Widow is not subject to "Marvel Time". Basically, in the early nineties, Chris Claremont and Jim Lee did a story in Uncanny X-Men which dealt with an encounter little Natasha had with Captain America and Wolverine in August 1941 and the modern-day repercussions of that encounter.

    Per her most recent Official Handbook entry, Marvel considers Natasha to have been born ca. 1928 and orphaned ca. 1940. After the war, and while appearing to be in her teens, Natasha was recruited into the "Black WIdow" program. There, she was given a variant of the super-soldier serum which had the effect of slowing her aging process. This allows Marvel to keep aspects of her soviet spy backstory despite the passing of the USSR from history.

    Presumably, during her early Marvel appearances which must now occur after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, she was working for a directorate of the FSB instead of the KGB, albeit one with a hardline agenda reminiscent of the bad old days.

    Rob: In the revised continuity, Bucky was around 16 when he became Cap's sidekick, having been born in 1925, and was around 20 when he disappeared in 1945. For the past several years, Steve Rogers' year of birth has been assumed to be 1922, per the revised 21st century Official Handbooks.

    As for Bucky being a bit of a troublemaker, Mark Waid retconned him into being a bit of an "operator"/scam artist able to finagle things outside channels in a story published around the turn of the millennium in CAPTAIN AMERICA: SENTINEL OF LIBERTY.

    None of this takes away from the point that the histories of the heroes have become so convoluted that the reader needs an almost encyclopedic knowledge of at least the last two decades worth of stories to not be intimidated or lost in a modern comic book.

    It also doesn't help that the current editorial/publishing regime (Alonso/Buckley) has not adequately undone the mistakes of a previous regime (Quesada/Jemas) which removed vital storytelling tools with which to convey narrative information; for example, thought balloons, old-style third-person narrative captions, and explanatory footnotes.

    The books are not written for the hypothetical new reader nor for the lapsed reader who has returned to comics after a long absence, but rather for a dwindling and aging fanbase,

    They are also written to mimic the styles of television and movies emphasizing the visual and downplaying the narrative and literary conventions of storytelling instead of doing what comics do best which is melding the visual with the narrative.

  36. Anonymous

    I read a few posts here saying that they thought the interior art on this book was good. I would disagree. It resembles a lot of other Marvel art being used these days. It's gotten to the point where it's practically the house-style. It's sort of Mignola-esque and uses a lot of patches of black, and the people have an angular, boxy look to their anatomy. Mignola is the only one who can really pull that style off and make it look good.

    And don't even get me started on the horrific coloring of todays comics. UHG!!!

    Bill

  37. Regarding Bucky…

    I don't have a problem with him coming back or even explaining away the 50's with a Jack Monroe substitution. I was sick of rereading the story of his death. The concept of him being brainwashed and becoming an arch villain would be more interesting than what I saw in the comic reviewed. I also liked the concept of Nomad being a hero out of place and having a hard time relating to a world with different values. I see potential for both concepts.

    My grandmother used to talk about how many cents an hour she made working in the 1920's. I'd tease her and tell her she should have worked for McDonalds because they pay $5 or whatever an hour. She reply "There was no McDonalds!" and I'd reply "McDonalds are everywhere." The simple fact is that there is wealth of story ideas if you imagine what used to be and put a character's every thought and action in the past. Their friends and loved ones are gone. Nobody relates to the experiences they valued and the struggles they faced.

    Regarding Japan…

    The Russians were preparing to enter the war against the Japanese and they knew they couldn't go up against them on top of the countries they were already fighting. The bombs expedited the decision. War is war and death is death. It's an ugly thing no matter how people try to idealize it as patriotism. I hate that people died in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but eventually it was kill their people & criple their economy or they'd do the same to us. My grandmother's sister ran a missionary in Japan after the war. Her name is on a plaque somewhere commemorating when the US gave one of their islands back to the Japanese.

  38. DJ

    Hi Rob,

    You said:
    "and yet, I still looked up to Luke Skywlaker though he blew up the Death Star and killed thousands of people; sliced off arms, and casually knocked people into the Sarlaac pit."
    Um, maybe that says more about you and the time and place you grow up than it says about the heroic ideal. 🙂

    Never read Harry Potter, Wizards right? Okay, I'll give you that. Jedi Knights have the force, I forgot.
    Batman is a conundrum as a Super hero, as he is man, driven by force of will, to the peak of his powers, both physically and mentally. Because of his relationship with the Joker, which I touched on before (and I'm in danger of contradicting myself here), he fails to ascend to the level of hero. In this context, I feel he is justified in using lethal force. Besides that, I don't feel that Batman was ever created to be an inspirational role model, he is rather creepy.
    I wouldn't say Rambo, or John MacClaine are heroes, they are backed into a corner (the original Rambo at least), and have to use lethal force to overcome superior odds. James Bond is licensed to kill, to enjoy his adventures you have to accept that, he's no hero, in the same way, as say Conan is. Policemen, who carry firearms, are much like soldiers, ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances, it's personal preference whether they are heroes or not.
    They are not Super Heroes.
    It's about the ideal, not the execution.

    Cheers.
    DJ.

  39. When I interviewed for an internship with Marvel editorial earlier this year, I was told that among the responsibilities of the editorial interns, in addition to running various errands, that they have them do the placement of ads and write the recaps at the beginning of the books.

    Which, hey, that's a pretty nice opportunity to get to do some genuine editorial work as part of an editorial internship, but does seem to lead naturally to pretty spotty and inconsistent quality in those recaps.

  40. re: "The bombing of Japan"

    I have zero sympathy and a minor amount of empathy for the civilians for WWII Japan. Japan was barbaric in their treatment of the enemy – both soldiers and civilians. Read up on the Rape of Nanking for starters.

    The A-bombs were a gamble – a well played one. We had a traditional attack plan prepared – Operation: Downfall. IIRC the CONSERVATIVE numbers for dead (not just wounded) were 400K Allies and 5 Million (!) Japanese. It should be noted, these numbers weren't drawn up with the scenario "What if we don't drop a bomb, what would happen?" It was a realistic estimate on a very real campaign that everyone thought was going to be launched.

    The Japanese were training anyone who could hold a rifle, spear, or grenade to be prepared to fight to the last woman and child in defense of the homeland. One only looks at places like Iwa Jima to see how much death a doomed, out numbered number of Japanese are able to cause.

    Prior to the bombings, leaflets were dropped at perspective sites, basically saying, "We are going to bomb the shit out of you. If you have a problem with that, I'd GTFO." The second bomb was dropped 2 days later. These two bombs saved not only Japanese lives, but kept their country relatively intact – with factories etc that would be crucial for their post-war boom.

    Japan was working on a bomb as well – though they were veerrrryyyy far behind. But don't think that if they had the technology, they would not have used it.

  41. On Mr. Barnes' leaving Uncle Ben's behind among the characters who never come back…

    I think Bucky's return was a very rare instance of a resurrection done right. Before reading the story collected in that hefty omnibus, I was extremely hostile to the idea of such a retcon. I *hate* the turnstile nature of death in modern comics, and particularly the hypocritical nature of it. Back in the day, you might see Dr. Octopus go BOOM! at the climax of a story, but without a body to bury, we knew he just might come back some day. No harm, no foul. Today, you'd have "THE DEATH OF DR. OCTOPUS" written on the masthead of fifteen cross-over issues, you'd have mentions of the event in multiple media, you'd not only see the body but have Wolverine, Dr. Strange and Eternity all vouch that Dr. Octopus was really, really, really dead this time, and he'd STILL be back within two years.

    But I digress. In the case of Bucky, we had an actual plot tied to his return; it wasn't a case of "gee, I wish we hadn't killed character XYZ so impetuously, since we still have use for them" (the way Marvel treated Nick Fury). Plus, Bucky's return was a real resurrection: I mean, he was *really* killed when that drone plane blew up in 1945. The Soviets took his frozen corpse and resuscitated it, despite the tissue damage, and made him their trained zombie killer, enjoying the irony of using one of America's heroes to do it harm. And then, of course, he was used quite efficiently to hurt Captain America in a deeply emotional way.

    Bucky's personality was only reaffirmed, in the end, by the use of the cosmic cube. That gizmo can do basically anything, even what the Sovit scientists couldn't. (Used too often as a Deus ex machina the cube would become quite tiring, but here it was used in full agreement with established Marvel pseudo-science). Plus, since the cube was an integral part of the plot, its use did not come out of the blue and didn't feel forced at all.

    Would a permanent Zombie Bucky have been more interesting than a heroic Bucky returned from the dead? Quite possibly, as there are few heroes who go bad and stay bad (something that was suggested for Phoenix a long time ago, but never implemented). Would a cured Bucky who remains tortured by his years as a KGB assassin have been more interesting than a cured Bucky who becomes the next Captain America? Yes, possibly, too. I think so, in fact. However, I also think that Brubaker didn't plan Bucky's return for the very long run; he concentrated on telling one good story. Bucky's return may have lost its zest after a few years, since Winter Soldier was more interesting as a new, menacing entity than as just another revived hero, but as far as the story went, I think it was very well handled indeed.

    Let's compare that to Bucky's recent demise (and resurrection, again) in Marvel's latest crossover. The less said about *that*, the better.

  42. As far as I can tell, based on my reading of Civil War, Wanted, and Kick-Ass, Mark Millar is a nihilist. I don't think we should really judge ANY character he writes as definitive, unless it's his character.

  43. Anonymous

    I totally agree with Neil’s comments above about how “adult” sometimes mean a more immature way. Recently I had an argument with this guy who was saying how the Captain America movie was bad because Steve Rogers wasn’t this badass SOB that Mark Millar writes (he also mentioned Brubaker, but I feel that Bru has kept Rogers’ essence and only confronted that with more “real world” situations). To me, making Rogers a badass totally misses the point of who Steve Rogers is. He is the man who would jump to cover a grenade and save a couple of soldiers. He would be bullied time and time again to defend his ideals he would run, alone if necessary to rescue a bunch of soldiers declared MIA by the government. Such is the character of Steve Rogers. Any guy behaving as a bully in Ultimates or Civil War is just bad writing and reflect the writer’s own failures.

    -Freyes2011.

  44. I enjoy Mr. Shooter's critiques. I think they are mostly "on". I do think a paragraph or two in the beginning can really set up a story for new readers. It along with explanatory copy within are both under utilized.

    I would say he needs to lighten up on some of the "I don't know who this is or what is going on at this exact moment in time."

    First off, many stories do not flesh this out at the moment they happen. Something that may not make a lot of sense now may be fleshed out later. People like that mystery. Let's face it, when it comes to serial media, coming back to find out a new detail is a big part of the format.

    An example is the panel were Cap saves him with some glowing cube. I have no idea what the cube is either, what is doing, how, or why. But I have the knowledge that through this event he is no longer the character we saw before. Something changed and I have to come back to find out what.

    I think you also underestimate the public's willingness to not understand some of the details to enjoy the story – or action. Transformers made no damn sense, and being someone who knows some of the Transformers mythos, I still didn't know wtf was going on 1/2 the time or who was who. And from just a story angle, soooo many items just made NO. DAMN. SENSE. Not only did that movie make millions, but the sequel, which made even less sense, made even more money! And then they lined up around the block for a 3rd helping!

    I know – one shouldn't write for the least common denominator.

  45. Anonymous

    For the record, my reaction to the cover was, "Strange outfit for Captain America. And Bucky's a woman now? That's an interesting rewrite of continuity."

  46. Anonymous

    Ive felt lately that maybe its not that creators arent introducing new characters because of lack of creativity, but because they wont have full ownership of the character?

  47. Anonymous

    He actually died in the Silver Age and his death was a retcon. Bucky had Golden Age adventures after the war and adventures in the 50s (and Cap too).

    there was no big clamor for his return. That's why it was a surprise it worked as well as it did, and sold as well as it did.

    Rob

  48. On my more cynical days I think no one stays dead in comics because so few creators know how to create new interesting characters. Much easier to bring back an old fan favorite with some pseudo science explanation.

    There was a recent Secret Avengers issue that tried to deal with "death" in comics. The basic premise was everyone knew the characters would return but in the meantime it was painful for the characters close to the (not really) deceased. It was as ludicrous as you could imagine.

  49. Anonymous

    Bringing Bucky back was a bad idea for a number of reasons. The biggest IMO is that it was a testament that a major character could die, and stay dead. And the only reason that happened and stood for so long was because he died in the Golden Age , and when Cap came back it was really a clean slate. I'm sure most writers that have handled Cap over the last 40 years would have loved to be the one who brought back Bucky. They overcame the urge. Or maybe it was editorial, I don't know. But of course in the era of "more is better", they couldn't help themselves.

    Neil

  50. Anonymous

    ELS,

    Jason Todd (Robin) and Bucky were resurrected the same year, 2005. I have no idea if they were copying each other somehow or it was a coincidence. While they both came back tougher and older than before, Todd is pretty an anti-hero like the Punisher while Bucky is a regular hero

    http://www.comicsalliance.com/2011/07/07/bucky-jason-todd-history/ (a little funny)

    Rob

  51. Anonymous

    DJ

    Jedi Knights and Harry Potter wizards are clearly superheroic. heck, the HP kids are children-who kill bad wizards. Plenty of kids look up to them.

    and the rest of them are "normal people" the same way Batman is lol i.e. not really.

    and yet, I still looked up to Luke Skywlaker though he blew up the Death Star and killed thousands of people; sliced off arms, and casually knocked people into the Sarlaac pit.

    Rob

  52. ELS

    Wait a minute – is this a Marvel comic? How could it be? Wolverine wasn't in it!

    Mr. Shooter, thanks for a very educating review of a very bad looking book. Just a lot of dumb stuff that doesn't seem to tie together well and, as you noted, maybe Captain America could appear in his own book.

    Maybe they made Bucky a notorious troublemaker to equate with DC's having two of the Robins as notorious troublemakers…? Dreck following dreck, I guess. Dunno… I don't read much DC or Marvel anymore. I'm not their target audience… I used to be when they appealed to people who liked to read comics and were buying them, but I'm not that important anymore, I s'pose…

    I remain,
    Sincerely,
    Eric L. Sofer
    The Silver Age Fogey
    x<]:o){

  53. DJ

    Rob,
    None of these guys are "Super" Heroes.
    Most of them are just ordinary guys in extraordinary situations.
    The whole point of a super hero is to be inspirational, to be beyond human, beyond ordinary. Something for the young, awakening mind to look up to.

    DJ.

  54. Anonymous

    I dont know why comic book readers insist that their heroes don't kill -but only in comics.

    Other superhero like characters there is no issue.

    Luke Skywalker kills.
    Han Solo Kills
    Indiana Jones Kills
    The Star Trek guys kill
    Robin Hood kills
    King Arthur kills
    Pirate heroes kill
    Harry Potter children kill
    Hobbit characters kill
    James Bond, rambo, john mcclane, police characters, etc.
    not to mention vario

    I mean basically because the 50s instituted a comics code, we got it into our heads that heroes never kill. but of course they do. they kill bad guys.

    im not talking about murder. but when they have to, they do it.

    It's almost only in the comic books where not only dont they kill, but there's a big deal made about how there's a code of NEVER killing and where heroes are put into situations where they admit they'd let innocents die because they won't kill the bad guy.

    It's weird. and it's all because of the comic code and various other codes.

    Rob

  55. Anonymous

    Anonymous said…

    guy – you don't know your history. Even after we dropped the fist nuke, the Japanese still would not surrender
    ****
    Not exactly. There were rumblings that they may surrender and there were feelers out about conditional surrender.

    We dropped the second one (with threat of nonexistent future ones) to ensure unconditional surrender.

    But unconditional surrender did not have to be the goal.

    This is why among historians, the second bomb drop was far more controversial than the first.

    I have no problem with dropping the bombs. But to pretend there were no other options is simply wrong.

    But my point was, americans simply didn't care. nothing has changed. kill the enemy-tens of thousands instantly- and come home.

    Rob

  56. Dan

    AS for Cap the character, in World War II he represented the general attitude of the country–devoted patriotism. Most Americans weren't aware of the dirt behind the scenes.

    In the 70s, he represented America's general attitude of skepticism. From then to today we are aware of the dirt that goes on behind the scenes. And neither party has done anything to remove that negative perception.

    Marvel has separated Cap from "America" for that reason. Cap, like Superman, now represents the flag–not what's done in that flag's name. If Cap seems to lean away from your politics, it just shows how much of your politics you wish to read into the character.

    Cap (nor Superman) can return to his 40s symbolic self, because Americans are not their 40s selves–and haven't been for several generations.

    The mood of America is cynical these days. So her representatives will naturally reflect that.

  57. Dan

    First off, Winter Soldier could have become one of Marvel's all-time greatest villains. And Brubaker (or powers above him) BLEW IT.

    WS at least have been Cap's greatest adversary–the friend-turned-villain. It works on the personal level, the superhero level, and the symbolic level too. How can Cap fight his closest friend? And for Cap, "closest friend" means more than most. (Cap's from the 40s living in the 2000s. Few people can relate.) So Cap naturally will want to reconnect and rebuild that friendship. But he can't! The guy's a Soviet agent determined to destroy Cap. This is a cow that Marvel could milk forever.

    This story also moves Cap out of the "vs. old Nazi" rut that exists because the Red Skull has always been Cap's major villain. Now, we move on to the Cold War (which is being continued by nostalgic Russians). This is comparatively new territory for Cap. But this would require Brubaker bringing the propaganda aspect to the front, that Bucky was selected specifically as a blow to American (and Cap's) morale. And hopefully become the spark necessary to return Russia to its U.S.S.R. days.

    But…Brubaker screwed it all up. "Cap fixed me." No, the only INTERESTING part of bringing Bucky back was thrown in the trash all to quickly.

    Did anybody really even want Bucky Barnes to come back alive? Five people maybe? I dunno. But Bucky as hero again is a BORING story.

    Bucky as eternal Cap villain? Now THAT was interesting.

  58. Not having read the issue it's hard to say, but sounds to me like a general recap (pun intended) of particular stories that have been written over the last 6 years or so. In other words completely unnecessary.

    When what could have been done is something like a caption "Captain America and Bucky fought valiantly in WWII, assumed dead they returned years later and continue to fight the good fight for the U.S.A." Then you introduce Black Widow & Bucky saying lets go get the bad guys and have almost an entire issue of them doing that, maybe even have Cap in the comic.

    These long drawn out back story issues done so often by the big two are a waste of time. Have small recaps and unobtrusive mentions of past events in dialogue/captions and new readers might be interested in seeking out these older tales in back issues/TPB's.

    When I stated reading superheroes in the late 80's early 90's I hadn't any knowledge of character back stories. I knew they were there by the big issue numbers. Only when I liked the heroes current adventures did I feel the need to seek out past adventures. Which is how I assume most fans picked up the comic buying habit.

    Chris Samnee's art is probably the best to enter the mainstream in years!

  59. Anonymous

    If Black Widow doesn't age anymore then why not just do that with every Marvel character? Everyone can take the "magic anti-aging formula" and we don't need to bother updating back stories anymore (like Stark being in the Gulf War or whatever).

    t.k.

  60. There's a cafe here in Nyack called "The Runcible Spoon." Avoid it.

  61. Dear Jason,

    You are entirely correct and I was entirely wrong. RE: Viet Nam wars crimes, in relation to the "Winter Soldier Investigation": I should have said "alleged" rather than "revealed." (Though there clearly were some war crimes committed in Viet Nam. Show me a war that had none. On every side.) That's what happens when I write fast. Sorry.

  62. Dear Rob,

    RE: "This is not Black Widow's mother. This is Black Widow. She doesn't age

    Natalia and Natasha are the same person. Natasha is the informal version of Natalia. Like Jimmy is to James"

    You are entirely missing the point. Where, in this issue are those things made clear? That's the point.

  63. Dear Marc,

    You are wise. The more one thinks about the info in this info dump, the less it hangs together and the more questions arise.

  64. Dear Marc,

    Good point re: the typefaces for Captain America and Bucky.

    I try to react as I, a somewhat knowledgeable reader would, and as a new reader would. Knowledgeable me thought the female on the cover might be the Black Widow, but, honestly, I didn't know current Bucky continuity, and didn't think the guy was Bucky.

    Yes, why no Cap on the cover of his own book?

  65. Anonymous

    Ah, the "EDGY". When a remake is being done; I'm talking movies, music,TV shows, comics, whatever. The term "EDGY" comes up quite often. I consider a retcon a sort of remake, just FYI. Each and EVERY, yes EVERY, time I hear this term applied to a remake by the creators in a pre-release marketing way, it fails miserably. I'm sure some of you can give examples that succeeded. Fine. What generally happens is they throw out the essence of the character. Then they take away everything that makes the character interesting. Of course they have to make them younger than the original, and maybe change their gender and/or race. Then there is the need to make the character a physical bad ass, even if it totally betrays the character to the core. In other words, write the character like a 7th grade boy would. What's odd about this situation to me is that in theory they are writing the character more "adult", but in reality they write the character in a more immature way.

    Neil

  66. ja

    Just for the sheer fun of it, I'd love it if Jim went back in time and reviewed the first Rob Liefeld Captain America. Just to see how far Jim would get before he had an apoplectic fit.

    His comments on Captain America's rack alone (http://www.comicbookmovie.com/images/users/uploads/9043/captainliefeld.jpg) would be worth the read!

  67. The drawing of Black Widow on the cover is simply atrocious. Furthermore, the guy who does the interiors is much, much better than the cover artist. So why doesn't he do his own covers?

  68. Anonymous

    Jim, in an earlier reply, you mentioned that you had not read a lot of recent Captain America. I would really recommend John Ney Rieber's Cap series from 2002. The first arc in particular was really good. A little decompressed – but a really solid, somewhat complex (adult) story. It's the last good Cap stuff I have read. (Loeb's Captain America White looked promising, but the second issue never came out)

    -Keil

  69. Oh Van, I thought the same thing! lol.

  70. Mmmmmm… I know I shouldn't, but I like those Cheesy Bacon Bowls… Sporking terrific!

  71. You are absolutely correct, Carl, and if I had one I would dine on mince and slices of quince. ; )

  72. JayJay, surely you mean a runcible spoon.

  73. ja

    KFC has advanced to the more versatile Spoonfork. Forkspoon. The Hybrid Utensil. I have no idea what to call it. You can see it here:

    http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-6-X3xA7okbY/TqvqonOv-hI/AAAAAAAAEcM/KeQTr33Z2iU/s1600/kfc_cheesy_bacon_bowl_01.JPG

  74. Anonymous

    Jorts trumps them all

  75. The spife never became popular. Too many people were cutting the side of their mouth.

  76. Sporks have their place, but for pure food fun give me a spork. Spork, spork spork.
    Titanium Spork

  77. DJ

    I like Plastic Forks.
    Wasn't that Bill Sienkiewicz?
    Uh, no, Ted McKeever.

  78. Brunomac,

    The story above is about as edgy as the handle on a plastic fork. Your sarcasm is appreciated.

  79. I'd be royally pissed if I bought a Captain America comic and he wasn't in it. I bought a Silver Surfer comic about 10 years ago and he just flew around on a few pages and didn't do anything. I immediately wanted my money back, but instead I just threw it in a box and never even considered buying another Marvel Comic since then. Actually, I think that was the last "new" Marvel comic I bought.

    I did see a Captain America comic at a book store. I picked it up and I was intrigued that Jack Monroe was in it. I thought the "Nomad" character was a neat concept that had never been fully explored properly. I proceeded to read the comic and at the end Jack Monroe died. Wow, the one thing about the comic that made me want to read it ultimately made me never want to read another Captain America comic again. Thank heavens I didn't waste any money buying it.

    The art shown above doesn't interest me in the least. It looks extremely lazy. The excessive black ink in a noir style provides no detail. Obviously nothing in the panel is going to be relevant except the main characters. Why even have art if there's nothing relevant to see? Let some kid draw it with a sharpie and the art will be just as relevant. Stick men would be just as relevant. The coloring is equally useless. A page colored in nothing but blue? They might as well have printed it in black and white I've seen whole comics done in red or pink and in my opinion it's just a wasted expense.

    As with most modern comics, very little happened in the story described above. I have to wait a month to see a real enemy? I think they could've done me a huge favor and summed up everything that happens in about one page.

    And yes, the cover is terrible. Considering the comic had no story, they could have put anything on the cover and it wouldn't really matter. My suggestion would have been to make a cover with cute puppies. Escalate the Oxytocin levels in people and sell that. Ignore trying to promote the nothingness they put on the rest of the pages.

  80. DJ

    That's the problem with "realistic" comics.
    I like Ed Brubaker's work.
    He's compromised within the superhero context though.
    He writes well.
    Autobiographical stuff.
    Crime drama.
    Kitchen sink.
    Mystery.
    Vertigo.
    Superheroes?
    No.
    Frank Miller & Alan Moore proved that years ago.
    If any hero should kill, Batman should.
    Everytime he rounds up the Joker after he's killed another 100 people for a laugh, is another 100 deaths on his conscience.
    Batman should have killed the Joker a long, long time ago. Because of this, his whole Raison D'etre falls apart.
    I don't want to see my heroes killing.
    This is fantasy.
    I can read Garth Enniss if that's what I'm looking for.

    DJ.

  81. Anonymous

    guy – you don't know your history. Even after we dropped the fist nuke, the Japanese still would not surrender

  82. Rob, you are mistaken that we could have "only dropped one". Days passed between the first bombing and the second, to give the Japanese the opportunity to surrender. They didn't. It took the second bomb to force that.

  83. Anonymous

    There were solutions other than nukes. Such as say conditional surrender. Which every war other than WWII pretty much has had.

    or just dropping one. etc.

    They chose to do it because it was the enemy who started the fight and they didn’t want to waste more time on them. Nor were they feeling particularly charitable.

    I would believe Americans of today would for the most part feel the same way about Bin Laden.

    Rob

  84. Anonymous

    DJ,

    Well there are certainly many heroic soldiers and police who have killed. It would be an odd one who wouldnt Under any circumstances

    But part of it is the story one is telling.

    Cap for much of my prime reading yrs was a superhero who was fighting supervillains. As such, killing didn’t particularly seem appropriate.

    This Cap is written as a soldier, doing soldier stuff and.or someone fighting realish terrorists, real scum, spies, etc. Written in a more pseudo ‘realistic style, it would feel odd for him to make a big announcement of not killing.

    I don’t think he generally needs to kill but I also despise stories where he gets paralysed (or even Spider-man or something) when put into a position where he has no choice about the very thought of it.

    It makes them look ridiculous. I remember a Spidey story where 100 people were absolutely positively going to die if he didn’t kill the villain. He refused. He made the choice that he couldn’t kill no matter what. (through a fluke of course the villain did not kil them).

    Or the Cap story where he has no choice to shoot a terrorist to stop him from killing. And then cries and quits.

    That’s ludicrous and the character should not be put into that spot. The writer should just simply not put him into situations where killing is justified, not make the hero look ridiculous.

    Rob

  85. Anonymous

    @Rob – you're simplifying a bit. The nukes were a last-ditch solution to a Pacific campaign that would have cost an incredible amount of American lives

    I'm not sure you can find a true parallel to the current tactics that America has used (torture, secret foreign prisons, so on) in the post 9-11 era

  86. Anonymous

    Jim, great review! But don't blame Lauren. I understand that many of the "big-name" writers at Marvel these days have it in their contract that they are NOT to be edited. Or they have the final say in whether to accept any edits the "editor" makes.

  87. Anonymous

    I think the american people were very much ready to be cold blooded, Mike. and nothing has changed. we've been cold blooded about our enemis forever. When was it different? When we nuked two cities?

    Your opinion is your own but it certainly not the popular opinion.

    Rob

  88. Thanks, Jim, for an incisive commentary. Over the years, Marvel has published many stories where Bucky came back from the dead, but he was always revealed as an impostor or a robot. For whatever reason, the current "Bucky comkes back from the dead" story is the one that stuck (mostly because the writer now refuses to let go of the character!) There was always soemthiung that bugged me about the way Bucky came back thsi time, and you put your finger right on it. It makes no sense for the Communist to have fished a dead, limbless boy of the water and mold him into a bionic super-assassin. Comic fans are often required to have a willing suspension of disbelief, but that story really takes the cake!

  89. That reminds me. They need to remake "To Hell and Back" about Audie Murphy. He's Captain America, minus the Super Soldier Serum. Just a shrimpy little guy who barely got by 4F status, who took on what must have felt like the whole German Army…and won.

  90. Anonymous

    BOYCOTT THEM ALL!

  91. Mike, look up Alvin York. Or Audie Murphy. You think they stood up to give the enemy an even chance? No, they took their shot any way they could get it. And ultimately, that saved lives.

    Not gonna bother with the 9/11 bait.

  92. DJ

    Guess it depends on your definition of hero Rob!

    DJ.

  93. Hey Jim, don't you know It's edgy? Bucky is now…edgy! Black Widow, one time GF of various 2nd tier Marvel heros like Daredevil and Hawkeye, is now all…edgy! You can tell it's all like, edgy, right?

    Did I mention this comic was all edgy and stuff?

  94. Anonymous

    RE: cutting throats

    The methods that one employs is essential to defining their character. Cap was always the soldier who would go charging in face first, and not one who would use black ops methods. It is exactly this kind of distinction that helps define one's character. Lumping it all together as "means of war" is a way of ignoring those very distinctions. Even in real war, there are men who will not cross certain lines, and men who will. A nuanced and adult character development will not make excuses or try to blur these lines, but will seat the character exactly on one side of the line or other other – in order to solidify just what kind of character that person is

    I doubt that Brubaker really understood this when he decided to take Cap and Bucky down the road that he did. Now, many years and many accolades later – it will be hard to un-ring the bell that Brubaker stamped on these 2 characters

    -Keil

  95. Anonymous

    Ideals and heroes can still kill. Why leave Nazis alivee ? 😉

    Rob

  96. Mike

    The thing with Bin Laden, if it even happened the way we've been told (the story has changed enough times), was cold-blooded and all the hysteria afterward with everyone celebrating this "great victory" shows just how far America has fallen. Why couldn't he have been captured and put on trial? Did someone have something to hide, maybe?

    The War on Terror was BS from the start. 9/11 was a crime and should have been treated as such. But all the US govt wanted to do was invade other countries so they fabricated the whole War on Terror spiel, and then started the mass destruction abroad while setting up a security state at home to keep Americans down.

    Not to mention it's bankrupting the US.

  97. DJ

    Captain America is an ideal.
    As such he should be above killing.
    He is a superbly trained individual that is capable of disarming and subduing any opponent in combat.
    He is not real.
    Comics are not real.
    Captain America is a hero.
    A symbol to inspire, and aspire to be.

    DJ.

  98. Anonymous

    He wasn’t written as a cynic. But also not a gee whiz kinda character either. I mean he didn’t really remark on what Bucky was doing at all. It was just something that, I guess, was presumed needed to be done and not remarkable enough to note.

    I mean this is all in brief flashbacks and re-tellings as Brubaker reimagined Bucky somewhat to make him a little older, and to explain why the army would ever let this young guy onto the battlefield. (I'm guessing). It's not explored in depth from what I remember

    It's also a set up as to how he had these skills as the Winter Soldier

    Rob

  99. DJ

    Jim,
    Here's an idea.
    It's the 50th anniversary of Fantastic Four.
    Issue 600 has just been released.
    What say you try to make sense of Jonathan Hickman's rambling nonsense.

    Cheers.
    David J.

  100. Anonymous

    Yes, Nomad was killed essentially as a plot device

    He was a decoy for the reader and a way to get Cap emotional.

    His death wasn’t honorable or meaningful on its own.

    Rob

  101. Don't get me wrong. I'm not denying, in the reality of war, black operations aren't necessary, and neutralizing the enemy any way you can, in the end, saves lives. But it sounds like Captain America is being written as a cynic who will play along with people who try to hide from those truths. If he wasn't aware that Bucky was doing those things, well in some ways, that's even worse.

  102. Anonymous

    Bucky was not written as cold blooded

    Rather, Cap and Bucky are written as two men doing what they had to do to win against Nazis.

    This is not 1980s superhero never kills “I quit being Cap because I had to kill a terrorist” cap.

    This is soldier Cap. And soldiers kill when they need to.

    Example: The Seal Team that killed Bin Laden. Would Cap think they were not honorable? Or cold blooded? Probably not.

    This Cap would recognize them as doing what is done in war.

    Rob

  103. Anonymous

    I can tell you right now what is going on with that cover. Black Widow and Winter Soldier were drawn separately, and then all of the elements of the picture were put together (photoshopped or some other such program) to create the cover. When you look at the two characters as separate elements, it makes more sense how they came up with the "action" pose of Natasha vs the Cool, but Menacing image of W.S.

    But speaking of this, I read the latest fifteen or so issues of Uncanny all in one run this weekend. I have been reading Uncanny for 30 years, my first issue being #161. It was only because I've been reading the comics for that long that I had any idea what was going on. There were a couple of inspired moments, most notably during Gillen's run, but the rest of it was ridiculous, confusing and needed an encyclopedia or continuity to make sense of. And of course, there were no footnotes to let me know when the previous actions had taken place, so if I wanted to hunt down the issues where Colossus defeated the leader of Breakworld, I have to do some internet hunting to find out the issues wherein that happened. Also, I am all for comics and maturity, but why in the world does Uncanny, one of Marvel's flagship titles, have enough LSV to merit a teen plus rating? That's more than just the equivalent of PG-13…

  104. Anonymous

    What Brubaker established was the sidekick thing was just for the people back home for a role model for younger people to support the war effort,. In actuality he was Cap’s black ops support, willing to do sabatoge, slit throats, and what not while allowing Cap’s image to be preserved

    Rob

  105. Anonymous

    I thought undoing Bucky's death undermined one of the main motivations (and inner struggles) of Cap himself. After all, when they woke Cap up out of the block of ice back in Avengers #4, the first thing he said was "Bucky!"

    But – the throatslitting Bucky seems to undermine it even more. Why could Cap, an honorable man, feel deep remorse about the loss of a cold-blooded assassin

    answer: poor writing

  106. Anonymous

    Rob – thanks for the reply. I read that issue, and I thought the killing of Nomad was pretty cheap – and it did not seem to have much meaning.

    Perhaps, coming from the Marvel Team-Up #146 era, I care a little more about Nomad than the average reader – looks like his life was thrown away for a plot device

  107. Anonymous

    The covert stuff was all part of Brubaker's work on Cap since 2005. I doubt it is out of continuity since it was all succesfful And he continues to write Cap.

    You see it a bit in the movie version too

    Cap charges in flag costumed and Bucky takes out people is using a sniper rifle.

    Cap was aware of it. This version of Cap kills terrorists and killed Nazis, when necessary (unlike Gruenwald’s Cap who was paralyzed at the thought of killing).

    The idea was Cap was the symbol of America and the propaganda person. He couldn’t be slitting throats. So bucky would sneak in and slit the throat of the guard or something allowing Cap to charge in the front door as he tends to do.

    Rob

  108. That's good. I was going by something someone wrote earlier in the thread, and my recollections of something I read on Newsarama back around the Civil War period.

  109. Anonymous

    @Salamandyr

    None of that was covered in the previous three issues of CA+B. Except for being a bit older than he was in the original stories and a few minor things (he was chosen instead of discovering Cap's identity by accident, for example), Bucky's origin and WWII sidekicking activities are largely unchanged. Everything from his training to the "death" on the V2 was covered. So…it doesn't sound like your covert op stuff is still in continuity.

  110. Anonymous

    I forget the details but Bucky was ordered to assassinate Nomad to mess with Captain America. You know you read each issue and the Threat gets greater and greater and circles in on Cap

    Im sure they did it because he was both a known character to readers but also someone they had no plans to do anything with.

    The issues were pretty emotional. The dialogue was very powerful.

    Rob

  111. This, like many superhero comics today, reads like the lengthy pre-credit action sequences that preface Hollywood blockbusters today.

    Unfortunately, unlike those movies, the actual film never begins and we never learn who those characters were and why we should even begin to care about them.

  112. didn't NEED it.

    don't type angry.

  113. Captain America is the living symbol of America, and the most heroic Marvel hero because of that. You accept it or you don't. Millions of people, many of them not even American, accept it.

    How disappointed those people would be were they to see the work of the socialist idiots currently handling the material.

    The entirety of the overrated brubaker effort has been yet another attempt to Watchman-ise something that really didn't it.

  114. Anonymous

    Was there ever even a good reason given for killing Nomad?? Or was it just done for kewl shock value??

  115. Something that occurred to me just now…the retconned Bucky background makes Steve Rogers a stooge or a coward. Bucky was brought in to do all of those dirty, underhanded things that were "necessary", but Cap can't do, then doesn't that make Cap a fraud? Either his superiors kept it hidden from him, and he's an idiot, or it was the right thing to do to win the war, and Cap was too much of a coward to make the hard call and save lives. Either way, it makes Cap little more than a paper lion.

  116. Anonymous

    Thank you for another sterling review of a so-called "modern" comic masterpiece. As usual your insights were pretty much spot on.

    You especially hit on something I've wondered about since the beginning of the whole "Winter Soldier" thing.

    Which is… Why in the world would the Russians want Bucky so bad? Bucky?! Really?

    As you said. What made him any more valuable than any other well trained, athletic young male of the time? I mean, how much must that bionic arm alone have cost? Not to mention all the mind wiping and other training that was required to turn Bucky into the killing machine he apparently is today. Seems like a huge waste of time and money, if you ask me.

    No wonder the Soviets lost the cold war.

    Plus, I was strongly opposed to the notion of bringing Bucky back from the dead in the first. And to do it in such an implausible and hackneyed fashion does nothing to change my mind.

    Man! I hate the way people like Ed Brubaker, Brian Bendis, Mark Millar and others, have ruined comics with their so-called edgy and decompressed writing style. I guess "edgy" and "decompressed" are other words for "bad" and "boring".

    They've managed to somehow convince the modern comic-buying public that this crap they regurgitate is actually GOOD. That the discriminating, modern, "mature" comic-book reading audience prefers "stories" with no plot, that are just a series of poorly written scenes, featuring people standing around bantering and using lots of "snappy" dialogue. Wow! That certainly is edgy and cool.

  117. Rob, thanks for the info.

  118. I do find it hard to enjoy Brubaker's mainstream superhero stuff and it certainly isn't because I don't like mainstream superhero stuff. I'm sure he genuinely enjoys doing these books (he surely wouldn't have stayed on Captain America so long if he didn't), but I don't get that same infectious buzz that I do when I read something by Mark Waid or Grant Morrison or Scott Snyder or whoever. Hell, even Geoff Johns (when he's not decrompressing the hell out of everything).

    The thing is that I love Brubaker's Criminal and I quite like Incognito too. His new Image series looks like it will be a blast. But you couldn't pay me enough to read any more of his Captain America. I've tried a few sporadic issues over the past few years and it just is not for me.

    And please don't get me started on Bendis' Avengers…

  119. Anonymous

    They amended the art in the trade to remove the tea party references

    They said it was an error.

    Rob

  120. The character of Winter Soldier, as well as the aforementioned ersatz "Tea Party" group depicted last year, is actually the reason I don't really like Captain America all that much.

    Captain America is billed as the symbol of all that is good about America. The problem is, the author generally winds up using this symbol to attack whatever bugs him currently about the country (Tea Parties, the Iraq War, etc.). So America is constantly compared, unfavorably, with that paragon of virtue, Captain America. As a result, the book winds up teaching cynicism and disrespect to the nation and ideals that the character was designed to celebrate. This is called "making the perfect the enemy of the good".

    Of course, Cap's a fictional character, who and the US is a nation of 300 million people, not all of whom agree with the writer on what is "best" about America.

  121. Anonymous

    My Lai was an aberration?? Are you out of your mind

    Watch the documentary The Good Soldier, or The Wounded Platoon, or others

  122. Anonymous

    I have no idea when Bucky came back as Winter Soldier.
    ****
    Captain America #1 and continuing, (volume…5????) circa 2005.

    The Omnibuses dealing with his return have had the most reprintings of any of the Omnibuses Marvel has made.

    Rob

  123. An historical note, tangential to your post:

    The Winter Soldier conference did not "reveal" US atrocities in Vietnam, it ALLEGED them, with no supporting evidence.

    (The My Lai massacre was revealed by a journalist some years prior to Winter Soldier and was an aberration. John Kerry, Winter Soldier, and leftists in the US media and Hollywood spun My Lai as being typical, and that lie continues to this day in our culture.)

    John Kerry, in particular, put himself into a remarkably contradictory position, for which he has never been called to account. Either his testimony was true, and he was thus guilty of grotesque and heinous war crimes (or, being lenient with his testimony, he was at least an accessory to the crimes he claimed he had witnessed first-hand) — or it was not, and he perjured himself before Congress and slandered his fellow soldiers.

  124. Anonymous

    It's almost as if they want to retcon everything, yet rely on every reader being aware of every character's backstory pre-retcon.

    Neil

  125. Anonymous

    bmcmolo ,

    Jack Monroe (Nomad) died. When Brubaker started, there was an assassin who kinda looked like Nomad. We all assumed it was him and Monroe was shown acting erratically. But then he's assassinated-by a guy who kinda looks like him.

    Turned out to be Bucky returned from the dead, who was programmed by the Soviets and was on the loose.

    Rob

  126. Anonymous

    Im just adding Information for factual purposes. No need to be hostile.Maybe “you just don’t get” normal human interaction.

    Some of the information I gave should have been in the book

    And some of it is superfluous that doesn’t need to be addressed. A book can’t all be explanations of past events.

    The explanation about the Cap scene in the book, though, is accurate. Exactly the reaction Shooter had. “Why Cap being so brutal?” the reader asks. “Oh, it’s not Cap.”

    Rob

  127. Thank you. I agree…"Winter Soldier" is incredibly offensive. I can only imagine that they have gotten away with it because the people they offend aren't reading the comics.

  128. Anonymous

    The original Bucky Returns story was very good and credible I think it lost steam when Cap died and Bucky replaced him.

    The Captain America in the 50s recently returned and was beaten by Bucky. As Engleheart had retconned, he was an anti-communist psycho (apparently You had to be to oppose communism 😉 )if you remember

    In Brubaker’s story, he was again in suspended animation and is woken up now again and doesn’t understand what has happened to America and joins up with some anti-government protesting types (stand ins for the tea party) who are racists

    you may have seen the outrage hit the news when the bad guy racists were shown to be holding tea party signs by the artist. It hit the national news and Marvel/Brubaker apologized.

    rob

  129. Anonymous

    @Rob – you just don't get it do you. All of the things you are explaining were not in the story.

    Your impressions and your interpretations of what you imagined that you saw are not relevant to how well-told the story was.

    In fact, that you have to add all kinds of preexisting knowledge that you have, and that you have to explain things that were clearly not explained in the book – is just more testimony to the fact that the book was not well-written.

    If you like this Winter Soldier stuff, and you like Brubaker – just say so. But stop trying to convince us that we "just aren't getting it"

  130. Onion3000

    Sorry for the redundant post. I should have refreshed first, and read the subsequent explanations.

  131. Onion3000

    I notice that in the shower scene, the red-head is called 'Natalia', but in the cosmic cube sequence the girl is 'Natasha'. Is this the same girl or not? I'm afraid I'm a little out of the loop too…

  132. Anonymous

    The point wasn't to make you think it was happening in America

    The point was to make you think "wow Cap was being brutal to the Russians"

    and then you find out, oh, it's not Cap.

    Rob

  133. This is a steaming turd if ever I saw one…

  134. Anonymous

    This is not Black Widow's mother. This is Black Widow. She doesn't age

    Natalia and Natasha are the same person. Natasha is the informal version of Natalia. Like Jimmy is to James

    Rob

  135. Dear Jim,

    Some questions just came to mind. Why is Bucky dressed up as Cap in 1958? Is there a story-internal reason? The need to have a Cap costume in a Captain America comic doesn't count.

    Where is the training exercise? In the USSR? Having Russian-language text on the (fake?) newsstand vendor's merchandise (e.g., copies of Pravda) would have helped to locate the scene. Was the intent to make the reader think the opening was set in the US? If so, the angle brackets and caption shatter that illusion.

    Some speculations/suggestions: The Soviets were training Bucky to be a Cap impostor. Hence the costume. I would create the illusion that the opening occurred in on American soil, complete with English-speaking newsstand vendor, only to surprise the reader when everyone speaks in Russian "off the set."

    It just occurred to me that if Bucky were constantly being put into suspended animation, he wouldn't have much time to learn Russian. And the Soviets would just assign English-speaking handlers like Natalia/Natasha to him instead of struggling to communicate with him in pidgin Russian.

  136. Anonymous

    @Rob – if you have to explain all of that, then it wasn't in the story. Get it? It wasn't in the story

    @ceaser – part of me wants to tell you to hang in there. There are a very scant handful of decent books out (mostly by smaller publishers). Another part of me is rooting for the whole comic biz to implode and fail. That way, the Didiots and the rudderless Marvel crew will be swept out and new blood and new ideas will HAVE to emerge in comics

    -Keil

  137. (Continued from above.)

    I suspect somebody thinks nobody really reads those text blurbs anyway. And given today's insider readership, that's not entirely unreasonable. Still, the text itself is unreasonable. Troublemakers get rewarded? That doesn't match the Bucky origin I remember.

    The Cap I know doesn't shoot nonviolent people at point-blank range. An imposter. Can't be 50s Cap who was in suspended animation at this point. Bucky? Given Bucky's Soviet past, it's no wonder he can speak in Russian. I doubt Steve Rogers knew much русский язык back in the 40s.

    This Black Widow can't be the one in mainstream Marvel continuity, unless she's like Wolverine: super-old without showing it. Natasha's mother?

    You bring up a good point: why did the Soviets bother with Bucky when they could have had their own Bucky? The problem is that the writers assume the Soviets see Bucky the way they and the reader do: as a VIP in the Marvel Universe.

    Let's suppose Stalin was impressed with Cap and Bucky in the 40s. By 1958, Khrushchev could have had a whole squad of Soviet Cap/Bucky types. Totally loyal. No brainwashing or bionic arms needed.

    Ah, this 50s Black widow is "Natalia." Not Natasha. The mother hypothesis is looking good.

    "What kind of person is she?!" you ask. The sort that fans today are supposed to like, I suppose. Not me.

    "If not for Natasha …" (emphasis mine) — isn't her name Natalia? Paging the editor … oh wait, Natasha is the diminutive of Natalia in Russian. But how many English speakers will know that?

    Is the Cosmic Cube named in the comic? Is the real Cap's full body ever shown, or is that gloved hand all we see of him?

    I'm guessing Bucky didn't age because the Soviets put him in suspended animation for long periods. That begs the question of why they gave him so much free time to hang out with Nata-whoever.

    "I wonder if the writers have had experience with Alheimer’s patients."

    I don't think the accurate depiction of the elderly (or anyone outside certain demographics) is high on the priorities of mainstream comics creators these days.

    "Now let’s go catch some bad guys…"

    Wait … Nata-whoever is a good guy (gal?) now? Bucky was "fixed" by Cap. Was it established that Black Widow also turned a new leaf? Maybe that's the mystery? How she changed? How she hasn't aged?

    Sounds like the story is more of an info dump than a story. I like info. I loved Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe. But does an origin — particularly one that doesn't make sense — compel me to read another issue for $2.99? К сожалению, нет.

  138. Anonymous

    I can explain all of the positive buzz. It has Brubaker's name on it – so everything inside is perceived as gold based on Brubaker's name – not based on what is actually inside

  139. Dear Jim,

    I'm writing this as I read your post, seeing if my reactions match yours. I hope they don't because then my comment might as well be one big ditto mark!

    I never even heard of this title, much less this specific issue. Out of it, that I am.

    The logo pops, but "Captain America" and "Bucky" are in slightly different typefaces. Why not make them the same or very different if the intent was to signify two distinct individuals?

    I first thought the two on the cover were the Black Widow and Bucky. Doesn't Bucky now have a Soviet or Russian connection in his current backstory?

    A bigger question: Where's Captain America on the cover of his own comic? And what's the hammer and sickle doing?

    A smaller question: What is Black Widow doing with her right hand?

    According to "Marvel Time," Black Widow first debuted in the Marvel Universe around 2005 or something. Does the character make sense out of a Cold War context? She would have been a little girl when the Berlin Wall came down … 25 years after her debut was published!. As drawn on the cover — if the cover is set in the present (and I don't know if it is) — she wouldn't have even existed when the Berlin Wall came down. She would have been born in post-Communist Russia!

    I too thought the duo were villains.

    I'm tired of these standing-around covers. Show me a situation with the hero like on these old Tales of Suspense covers. But wait: Captain America against Communism? Wouldn't have happened in WWII. The anti-Communist Cap wasn't the Cap. The real Cap was on ice until around 2005 in Marvel Time. The Avengers would tell him the US was at war in Afghanistan and Iraq. The USSR fell long ago. So maybe this story took place while Cap was frozen … but that would have been before Black Widow was born … or are these villains trying to restore Communism in Russia today? Argh …

    (To be continued.)

  140. That was a great critique, Jim. The sort of logic breakdown necessary to make an "era" of a comic memorable, as opposed to jest being another comic. I love Chris Samnee's art. I really do, and believe in the talent of the two writers, but your thoughts are dead on. I wish you were editing me.

  141. Anonymous

    Stop buying them, and they will have to reconsider printing them. If you're that curious, go into your local Barnes & Nobles, which everyone treats like a library anyway, and read the comics there. I do not do this, but frequently see people doing it, and such is my view that Marvel and DC are corrupt and ashamed of the comic book medium (and secretely wish they were working in the film and television industry), that I wouldn't feel bad if you got to read one of those "stories" for free. -W.

  142. A quick p.s. – re: "cuz that's what they did in the 70s." I guess my putting it this way makes it sound like making sure every issue clearly introduces key characters, settings and concepts is just a fad, or sign o'the times, i.e. ubiquitous saxophones on 70s tracks. I don't think this is the case, actually. If anything, I find the "fad" to be the way comics are told now, and that someday, hopefully, clear and exciting storytelling will win.

    Like the scene in Some Kind of Monster where Kirk Hammett makes the excellent point (to James Hetfield's suggestion that "maybe guitar solos are obsolete") that omitting guitar solos from Metallica's songs will only make them sound "faddish," like they were following trends and not setting them.

  143. ok, I just Read Punisher # 2 because my buddy at 1 Million comics said it's a great series. Meh. And that is how I feel about almost every 'mainstream' DC or Marvel book these days. Jim, your breakdown of CA+B made me feel exactly the same way I felt reading Punisher#2. I'm 48 and I have loved comics for probably 41 of those years. But now I feel like nobody at the big 2 is flying the plane, and I feel cheated nearly every time I read one of their books. There are exceptions, what comes quickly to mind is the new Batman, and Moon Knight, but generally, wow, I kick myself for shelling out the dough.

  144. I thought the artist was Mazzuchelli from those excerpts.

    I haven't paid attention to Marvel in forever, but in the new endlessly-retconned-verse, what happened to Jack Monroe and 50s Cap? Can anyone tell me? I know I can just google it…

    When Jack Monroe came back in the 80s, that was great stuff. I thought the way it was handled was great. (Chapeau, as ever, to Mr. DeMatteis.) The impact of the character was predicated on Cap's losing Bucky / villains' playing with his mind and preying on his emotions of loss. Then, within years, Nomad under Gruenwald became utterly ridiculous. (Sorry, Mark.) And now this? I have no idea when Bucky came back as Winter Soldier. Anyway – this seems like a mess.

    I will say, though, that the "pitching to a new reader" paradigm seems to have been junked for some time now. For good or bad. (Mostly bad) Just saying – I don't think a disregard for such is a sign of editorial incompetence anymore than a record producer's competence should be judged by whether he/ she puts saxophones in every mix. (i.e. cuz that's what they did in the 70s.) I agree that every issue is someone's entry point; all I'm saying is, I don't think anyone plays by those rules anymore, so it's perhaps (perhaps) something to put to one side for reviewing…

  145. Anonymous

    Apparently, he was recently killed and brought back in the same storyline by injecting him with the Infinity Formula. So now presumably, like Fury, he will never age.

    Black Widow's revised origin makes her biotechologically enhanced so she too never ages. or barely.

    like cap and fury.

    Rob

  146. Anonymous

    I feel these days that those flashbacks and the like are meant to remind readers of what happened. They are not written for new readers.

    In the revised continuity, Bucky was not a kid sidekick but an adult (18/19), a little younger than Cap, who did the dirty things Cap, the symbol, could not do. Say slitting German throats or being a sniper. Presumably those are the skills the Soviets wanted.

    Yes, Cap fixed Bucky with the cosmic cube. Unfortunately, he had Bucky remember everything so he rememberes all his atrocities he did too.

    My understanding is Bucky was not used much by the Soviets. Ony important stuff. So they put him in and out of supsended animation which is why he hasn't aged much. As time goes on, they tell more of these stories in the past, and it seems he was used more than they initially told us

    Rob

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