Pick of the Week
What did the
Art by Steve Epting
Cover by Steve Epting
Size: 20 pages
I may be a big fan and appreciator of comics, but there are some characters I just never really took a shine to. Superman, Thor, Batman and yes, Captain America. Sure I knew their origins, powers and back stories and I’ve even read them from time to time, but for some reason I never really connected with them on any visceral level. That’s still the case for many of these iconic characters. Sure, I’ve read many of the most recent, classic takes by talented creators and in some cases, I’m reading these characters today on a weekly basis. But that connection still isn’t there…except for Captain America.
Ed Brubaker, Steve Epting and Michael Lark did the unthinkable. They made me care about Captain America.
It pains me to think about it (because it reminds me that I’m getting old), but it must have been 6 or 7 years ago when I first caught wind of what Brubaker, Epting and Lark were up to on Captain America. My iFanboy compatriots were avidly reading it and I heard grumblings of “Winter Solider” and “Bucky,” and let me tell you, these were not words that interested me. Brubaker was bringing Bucky back? *eyeroll* But then someone got me the first collection of their work on Captain America and I gave it a read and then I got it. Connection made. I understood the legacy and the patriotism and the inspiration that Captain America could be. The strong blending of modern super hero storytelling and retro classic war stories was impossible to ignore. I was hooked and then I found myself caring about Captain America.
Captain America #19 marks the end of an 8 year run on Captain America as written by Ed Brubaker. Think about that for a second. In this day and age and in this current market of comic books, the fact that one writer has kept a singular voice on a book for 8 years is a huge accomplishment. But as any good comic book reader will tell you, it’s not all about the writing as comics is a visual medium. Brubaker was joined by many great artists during this run, but it was the work done with Lark and Epting that defined the look of Captain America and the world he existed in for many of us modern/current readers, so it’s fitting that here with Captain America #19, Brubaker is joined by Epting again to give one final bow.
As Marvel begins to transition from Marvel THEN! to Marvel NOW!, we’re going to be subject to parade of final issues. Hell, many of the books I read from Marvel this week fell under that category and it’s easy to fall for the emotional ending of a story, but what Brubaker and Epting did in Captain America #19 was less of an emotional goodbye, as it was a classy ending to what’s been a legendary run.
After such a long run, there’s a ton of material to look back on. The aforementioned return of Bucky in the form of Winter Soldier, the “death” and inevitable return of Captain America, Bucky’s tenure as a new Captain America, the return of the 1950s Captain America and so much in-between. For this last issue, Brubaker takes the tragic ending to his recent storyling involving the 1950s Captain America and uses it as a backdrop for Steve Rogers to reflect on what it means to be Captain America. Traveling through the ages from the depression, through World War II, to the 1950s to the modern day, we gain insight on how Steve Rogers looks on the mantle of Captain America and the heavy burden that comes with it. Over the past few years, we’ve discussed and explored the concept of Captain America. How important is Steve Rogers to Captain America, or can any man fill those boots and inspire? This issue may not bring that argument to rest, but we learn what Steve Rogers believes and for now, that’s enough for this reader.
While I’ve enjoyed recent issues of Captain America off and on over the past couple of years with artists like Chris Samnee and Alan Davis, it hasn’t felt the same without Steve Epting. With this issue, it felt like a breath of fresh air. Now THIS is what Captain America looks like. So much of the work of Steve Epting on this title has been defining for me and will forever shape my mental image of Captain America. Much of that look is also thanks to Frank D’Armata who has made his mark as well in what is shaping up to be a great era of colorists. D’Armata’s colors have been the anchor on top of the various artists, keeping that classic tone to the book. Every time I see Captain America on a motorcycle now, it will compared to that image by Epting and D’Armata and this issue is no exception. Ranging through the various eras in one issue, each moment and each panel carries that weight that Epting and D’Armata brought to those early days of the run. Captain America #19 simply felt like coming home.
Now sure, Brubaker may have skirted close to the world of meta references with this issue. First by referring to Jack Kirby and Joe Simon’s Captain America’s comics in the 1940s and then again with the finale of the issue as we the reader could draw comparisons to Steve Rogers comments about the mantle of Captain America to Brubaker’s role as the writer of Captain America. But you know what? Who cares. This is comics and both moments not only made me smile but added to the richness of the story and the moment. If anyone has earned the right for a little bit of meta, it’s Brubaker.
It’s rare that we see a clear-cut “The End” at the end of a comic book, much less one from a singular writer who’s stayed with a title for as long as Brubaker has. But that’s what we saw today and with that comes the end of what will be looked back on as the definitive run on Captain America. It may not be “The End” for Captain America, but it is “The End” for Brubaker and Epting on the character and for that, I salute them. For a job well done and doing the unthinkable, making me care about Captain America. Thank you.
It’s really all about Baron Zemo, but whatever…