Pick of the Week

05.20.2009 – Captain America #50

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Avg Rating: 4.3
iFanboy Community Pick of the Week Percentage: 12.2%
 
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Size: pages
Price: 3.99

Man, this is the kind of comic book I live for.

I’ve been reading comic books now for over 25 years and this is the kind of issue that keeps me coming back, this is the kind of story that I think of when I remember my favorite comics, this is the reason why I care so much about these characters.  

At the end of the day, comic books all come down to character, and it is issues like Captain America #50 that drive that point home.

At the end of the day we have to care about these people that we read about week in and week out.  If we don’t, why bother?  I only remember the big battles in the context of the people involved in them and the effect that they had, or the heroism displayed, or the loss suffered.  The moments that stand out are very rarely the titanic punch, but rather the insight into character.  The only thing I really remember about Infinity Gauntlet is Captain America standing up to Thanos in the face of certain death.  With Crisis on Infinite Earths, the scene that stays with me the most is Barry Allen deciding that if he had to die saving the world, so be it.

Those are the scenes and the moments that make reading these comic books every week worthwhile.  Following these people for years – even decades – and having it all culminate in one perfect moment.  That’s the payoff.  That’s the good stuff.

And how do we get there?  With issues like Captain America #50.

James Buchanan “Bucky” Barnes has been through a lot these last few years.  For the past 40 odd years the comic book reading community thought him dead.  He was blown up by Baron Zemo’s rocket that sent Steve Rogers into the North Atlantic only to be frozen and retrieved by The Avengers decades later.  The death of his best friend and partner was Steve Rogers’ greatest failure, the one thing that would always haunt him.  Except that Bucky didn’t die.  When the rocket exploded he too was sent into the water – minus an arm – and retrieved by the dastardly Soviets who then repurposed him as The Winter Soldier, a deadly and covert Soviet killing machine.  Brought out of suspended animation, The Winter Soldier was saved by Captain America who used the Cosmic Cube to restore Bucky’s memory.  But the old friends and partners never got their just reunion as shortly thereafter, Steve Rogers was killed.  And not long after that, James Buchanan “Bucky” Barnes became the new Captain America.

For the last year Bucky has been struggling under the twin pressures of his new identity and the burden of having all of his memories restored.  He now remembers all of the vile things that he did as The Winter Soldier and reconciling that with the fact that he now carries Steve’s shield has been difficult.

Captain America #50 is broken up into two parts, the first part being the main story that is exists on parallel story tracks.  In the present day, and on his birthday, Bucky is attacked by a far-right militia group called The Watchdogs who don’t accept Bucky as the new Captain America.  They think that Bucky is a pretender to the throne and they want to make him pay.  In the midst of this attack, we flashback to the important birthdays in Bucky’s life – an origin of sorts – as we see the troubled teen during World War II who is selected to fight along side Captain America.  One of the things that I’ve enjoyed most about Ed Brubaker’s (sort of) retconning of the Bucky story is that he has turned him into a complete and utter badass.  Brubaker posits that there is a reason why this kid was chosen to put on a flashy costume in the middle of a war.  He could kick ass and take names just as well as Steve could, and he had just as much of a right to be there.

We get lots of good action in both of these stories and I have to say that at first when I saw Luke Ross’ name as artist I winced because I wasn’t all the impressed with his previous issues of Captain America.  I thought his action was a bit stiff.  It’s definitely not the case here.  We’ve got dynamic, high flying action and great character stuff in the art.  This is especially true in the final scene of the first story, in which Bucky has returned home to Brooklyn after defeating The Watchdogs only to walk smack into the middle of a surprise birthday party thrown by the New Avengers and his girlfriend The Black Widow.  The art almost completely changes in these two pages.  It features a much brighter, happier color scheme.  If you’ve read Captain America for these last few years you know that Frank D’Armata’s wonderfully dour color scheme has defined the look of this book.  But in this last bright scene the change is so strong and sudden that it’s brilliant.  Bucky realizes that Steve’s gift to him was not only his returned memories but that Steve also gave him the family he never had.  It’s a wonderfully touching scene that owes all of its emotional impactfulness to the writing and the art.

And as if that wasn’t enough, the second half of Captain America #50 features a history of Captain America written and drawn by the divine Marcos Martin.  Not only is Martin one of my new favorite artists, but these 14 pages show a layout and design sense that blows 99% of all other comic book artists out of the water.  I sat and marveled at some of these pages.  The last 14 pages are just gorgeous.  I’d love to own any one of them.

There are rumors flying all over the internet – as rumors are wont to do – about Steve Rogers’ imminent return to the land of the living.  I’m not really going to get into that here other than to say that as much as I love Steve Rogers (he is my fourth favorite character in all of comics) and want to see him back as Captain America, I don’t think it’s time yet.  It’s too soon.  Captain America #50 shows that there is a lot left to explore with this new/old guy.

Conor Kilpatrick
Honestly, the New Avengers are just freeloading at this point.
conor@ifanboy.com


Comments

  1. The whole book start to finish was one of the better ones I’ve read in a long time, and the Martin work at the end was beyond amazing.

  2. Good Review

    Arent the Avengers always loitering somewhere?

  3. Yeah, the last few Cap issues before 49 were starting to feel like they were dragging, but 49 and now this issue have proven Brubaker still has plenty for his Captain America story.

  4. Martin’s pages were mind-blowing.

    I really loved this issue too.  Great choice!

  5. This was an excellent issue. I only know bits and pieces about both of these men, but the character exploration in both stories made me a fan of both Bucky and Steve.

    Great review.

  6. an Ed Bruabker POW? that’s a hell of a graduation present Conor! haha

  7. Too bad the next omnibus only goes to issue 42=(.

  8. Hey! it’s my birthday too this week. Just another way i’m like Captain America 

    Isn’t the character’s birthday/anniversary issue a wonderful device? i don’t remember it being used before but i am having a hard time believing that.

    just like in real life, it’s a reason to reminisce while considering the next chapter of the book or your life.

  9. @Ruo….When was that announced?

  10. No argument with this pick. Ross did an excellent job with the art on this book and Brubaker is Brubaker (re: awesome).

     

  11. Solid pick, not my favorite this week, but certainly not one I can argue with. And while I like Martin’s art… I wasn’t as blown away with the back-up in this as others seemed to be. ::shrug.:: And in all honesty, I thought it was Tim Sale when I first slipped through the issue, Martin didn’t click with me until I saw the reuse of art from the Cap. 70th anni one-shot.

  12. Very strong review Conor.

    I haven’t read #50 yet.  Honestly I haven’t liked CA since issue #28 or so.  I dropped it once, then picked it up again once Marvel buzzed about issues 50, 600, 601, The Return, etc.

    I really liked issues #1-25 though, totally exciting reads.  But I feel bored by recent storylines.  I wish the art teams could do more exciting things, like M Martin for example.  I’d rather have him doing exciting looking art.  Or a Joe Quesada for example.  And a writer with more exciting ideas.

  13. Conor loves suprize parties.

  14. Another solid issue of this series. My favorite comic this week was definitely Final Crisis Aftermath: Dance, which I absolutely loved.

  15. Funny story: literally right before clicking on this page, I read a post where someone was complaining this issue was ‘filler’ and I thought, ‘oh, I bet Conor liked it!’  And sure enough!

    I loved this issue, too.  I thought it did a great job of recentering Bucky’s character and reminding us what he’s about.  Whether Steve returns anytime soon or not, I feel like there’s got to still be room for this character.  Also, Invaders!  Toro insiting on getting a cake for Bucky was awesome.

    I do wish they could have gotten Epting for the art — but I know he and Brubaker are working on other things.  And the point about the coloring in the scenes with the New Avengers is a great one.  I wish they looked that good in their own book.

  16. Funny?

  17. I’m reading this in trade so my pick was Four Eyes.

  18. @s1lentslayer – Awesome.  You may be the only guy on the planet reading Captain America in trades and Four Eyes in issues.  You are so rare you should be slabbed.

  19. I do it because I feel like smaller ones need love in issues whereas I can trust the big two to make it to trade:)

  20. Cool.

  21. @edward  Funny because Conor has written about how he loves stories that other people write off as ‘filler.’  I’m in the same boat.

    incidentally, my POW was ‘Four Eyes,’ which I’m pretty sure has been my pick every time it came out.  I don’t blame people who are trade-waiting but when you can get it, get it!  It’s so good.

  22. Paul Montgomery Paul Montgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

    Filler rules.  

  23. Are Filler Rules anything like Cider House Rules?

  24. Also: I SO want that Martin page of the Winter Soldier silhouette casting the long "Bucky" shadow. So awesome. T

    his was a good pick. Luke Ross kinda came into his own in the action scenes, didn’t he? His Cap looked spectacular flipping around on those initial pages.

  25. I don’t think Brubaker is going to leave Bucky "happy" for very long.  Love the use of the camera phone and emailing it to Clint right away.  Too bad he didn’t tweet it.
     
    Great issue 
  26. This was very good, but I must say that FF 566 was better. It had a few "oh shit" moments that really put it over the top, while this was solid character insight with nothing to jump out at you really. Again, not bad by any stretch, just not as good as FF.

  27. You properly know already But John mentioned the show and Josh’s interview with Geoff Johns on the Wordballoon podcast this week. He’s a heck of a guy, innit ‘e

  28. Good choice.

  29. great review.

  30. This was a really solid issue, and I loved, loved, loved the recap by Martin.  Leave it to him to take those stories and put them with great pin-ups.  I would probably do just about anything for a Martin penned WWII era cap book.  For reals.

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