Friday, April 27, 2007

The Death of the Dream (Marvel comics)
Captain America #25 When: April 2007
Why: Ed Brubaker How: Steve Epting

The story so far...
The world was turned upside down for Captain America when the Red Skull and his associates began toying with everything that has defined him, but nothing cut as deep as the return of his former sidekick -- Bucky Barnes.

Having survived the accident that supposedly left him dead in the icey waters that froze the Captain, Barnes has lived a life of servitude to the communist Russian regime. Standing as an affront to everything he and Captain America once stood for.

Despite his past, Winter Soldier finds himself in the employ of the underground Nick Fury, former Director of SHIELD.
Having surrendered to pro-registration forces in the superhero Civil War, Rogers finds himself paraded before a jaded public and media, unbeknownst to all as part of a sinister ploy set in motion by the Red Skull.

Captain America is dead.

Previous Form:
Winter Soldier (#56): Bucky has a victory over Wolverine.
Crossbones: Crossbones has not yet been featured on the site.

Tale of the tape...
Strength: Crossbones 4 (Steroid Popper)
Intelligence: Winter Soldier 4 (Tactician)
Speed: Draw 3 (Trained Athlete)
Stamina: Winter Soldier 5 (Marathon Man)
Agility: Winter Soldier 2 (Average)
Fighting Ability: Draw 4 (Trained Fighter)
Energy Powers: Winter Soldier 3 (Explosives)

Captain America doesn't really have a lot to do with the measuring of this particular fight, and because I got the second-print, the cover image kind of makes this null and void -- but I just wanted to picture exactly what we're fighting for.

This is a big deal! This is two characters essentially fighting over the man who defined their existence. For Crossbones, Captain America has been his chief rival and target for roughly two decades now.

For Winter Soldier, it's been sixty years since he became relevant by the Captain's side, and even though we now have an entire secret history tacked onto the side, as we've seen in recent stories, and as you would expect: He's still Bucky Barnes, and Cap, for better or worse, is still a huge part of who he is.

So when it comes to Winter Soldier Jon Woo-ing his way into a fight against a chopper riding Crossbones, this is the the blood that's between them. They might never have met before, but this one is personal before it even gets started. Crossbones didn't get the killing blow, but without him Cap would probably have a good shot at being alive right now.

When it comes down to it these guys are pretty well matched.
Crossbones would generally be considered the stronger of the two, although, with the cybernetic arm, the Winter Soldier isn't out in the cold.
Physically he'll have no trouble holding his own against Crossbones, who almost represents Bane in an equation flipped from Batman, with Cap being the one with chemical enhancements.

Winter Soldier arguably has the greater fighting skills, although again, Crossbones shouldn't be considered any slouch. Likewise, their arms skills would be noteworthy, comparable, and without the constraints of a conscience.
It seems characterization has pushed Winter Soldier into the anti-hero role more than the villain, but that conscience has at least been lacking for the larger part of his lost history, as far as we know. And he was pretty brutal against Wolverine [Wolverine #39].

Mind you, if you want to talk brutal, try being part of killing Captain America.

The Math: Winter Soldier (Champion Class)
The Pick: Winter Soldier

What went down...
With Nick Fury in his ear, Bucky Barnes abandons plans to abduct Captain America from SHIELD custody, and leaps into pirsuit of the sniper shooter.
Meanwhile, The Falcon circling in the air does much the same with less specific inklings.

Winter Soldier smashes his way into the shooting building, but by the time he gets there Crossbones is already gone. At that point Falcon torpedoes through a skylight, swooping in to slam Cap's former partner into the wall.
The two quickly clear up their situation, allowing Fury to direct them to Crossbones, who is making an airborne getaway in a phony press chopper.

Falcon carries the Winter Soldier, while he draws his pistols and opens fire on the helecopter. His hard nosed tactics surprise Falcon at first, but given the circumstances, he doesn't seem to mind staying his course.

With the chopper incapacitated, Crossbones opts for an offensive defensive, leaping out of the failing bird to collide with the Winter Soldier in a mid-air tackle that wrenches him from Falcon's grip.

The two smash through an Iron Man pro-registration poster, before coming to a crash landing atop one of the many New York buildings below.
Crossbones' nifty mask is tore by the impact, and he suffers the hardest landing, hitting head-first into a bricked obscruction.

The Soldier is much more fortunate, rolling through it to reach his feet rather swiftly. Crossbones scoffs the Soldier's credibility as a "good guy" as he staggers to his feet, walking into a cybernetic left from the former Bucky.

The two tustle across the rooftops, the bulkier Crossbones resorting to a feeble defensive against the highly motivated Winter Soldier.

The Soldier hoists the would-be assassin against a rooftop wall, and pounds at his body, interrogating him for the whereabouts of the Red Skull.
Crossbones, bloodied and bruised, remains defiant, "Go die... Oh wait... You already did... Heh..."

Crossbones suffers for his insolence, highlighting Winter Soldier's response about his status as a "kinda" hero. Falcon swoops in as the blood flies.

He warns of incoming SHIELD Cape Killers, and as emotionally charged as Barnes may or may not be, Crossbones is already beaten. Completely uninterested in being dragged down into the SHIELD pro/anti affair, Winter Soldier willingly takes leave of the rooftop, leaving Falcon to claim the collar.

Forgot my sworrrrrd!The hammer...
Full props to Winter Soldier on this one, with the chemical assist from Cap's more recent ol' pal, The Falcon.

Y'know, just to start off on a tangent, I'm listening to Vokuro (a song by Björk), which has a very sincere dirge quality to it. The mournful kind, not wacky New Orleans style, and I have to admit, I kinda regard this almost as a soundtrack to the concept, if not any particular scene depicting the death of Captain America.

I guess this is maybe a little bit like the Thom Yorke-Black Adam connection mentioned during another review [52 #44]. Given that Cap #25 is such an action packed issue, maybe you'd like to give Vokuro a listen over the ending credits.

I kinda weighed in on the subject during the last Winter Soldier entry [Wolverine #39], when it probably would've been much more relevant. Unfortunately I'm not one to spend fifty bucks on a single issue, and it took a while for the second-print to come in, but I'm glad I finally got it.

In typical Ed Brubaker style, the finished product failed to live-up to the hype, without actually being a bad or disappointing read. As with a lot of Brubaker gems I find the concept outweighs the execution, which is appropriately subtle, but also really quite thin when one actually delves into it, elbows and knees.

How do I feel about Captain America being dead?
That's such an interesting question to ask me. I don't know if I could ever give a really solid, concrete answer. I'm a bit in both camps. I've been reading the adventures of these characters stretching back to before I was born, and losing one of the golden boys, and one of the few enduring Golden Age Marvel characters just seems like such a waste, and a disappointment. Especially to see him go out under such mundane conditions...

On the other hand, I'm a little bit progressive, and I kinda like the idea.
The consistent negative feeling I get, which I mentioned around the time of reaction in the other review, is that it just doesn't seem like it's going to stick.

The only thing I begrudge more than the decision to kill Colossus off (and the means under which it happened), is the fact that he came back. I'm one of those guys who really resents the cheapening of death in this medium. So, as pleased as I would be to have Cap back, I think there would always be a resentment.
A resentment that is perhaps hypocritical when mirrored next to my feelings on Superman, who is today alive and well, despite taking the dirtnap in another media grabbing milestone event.

A preview of Cap #26 reveals a scene with Cap's body, which has apparently undergone considerable degeneration since his death, perhaps as the reaction to his deadcells no longer responding to the properties of the Super Soldier Serum.
Although, in a canon where Spider-Clones were personified by a dusty demise whenever impaled by gliding vehicles, one can't help but feel the speculation grow stronger of a planned return.

Red Skull's death in issue one of Brubaker's run also makes for compelling argument, given that our favourite well-dressed Nazi villain orchestrated the assassination. Yes, alive and well, having lived inside another body thanks to the logic-defying properties of the cosmic cube.

I digress, and maybe, at 1:40am on a Friday morning I'm not sure where to go from here. Which in some ways seems to be the case for Marvel, it almost seems. Given the media attention it seems almost baffling that more hasn't been done with the event.

Granted facsimilies and the corpse proper have been seen in the pages of various core titles, but that aside, reactions have been limited to things like the Fallen Son mini-series, which appear to be a steady contrast in 'doing it right' where extending concepts goes. A contrast to what DC has achieved with their World War III mini-series, which spins out of the pages of 52.

Could it be the tacked on one-shots are to compensate for a void left in the wake of media relations forcing the company to stick to the decision longer than originally planned? I don't know. This is blatant and poorly informed speculation, but that doesn't mean it isn't food for thought.

So think away my friends, while I try to get a good enough sleep to come back in slugging form to catch-up! Afterall, with Spider-man 3 now in cinemas, it seems almost offensive that we've already missed the first instalment of Web-Slinging Wednesdays!

Before I go, I do remember that I did want to mention the Winter Soldier briefly.
As I mentioned, I do feel Brubaker's concepts generally outweight the material itself, and Winter Soldier seems to continue the theory. In a world of limited budget and tonnes of enticing paper-backs, I dropped off the Cap wagon, and subsequently missed much of the Winter Soldier's return and rise to prominence.

Even so, it strikes me as horribly abrupt for the character to go from Soviety killing machine, to potential candidate for a successor to the Captain America mantle. Like Daredevil in jail, this seems like a great idea, without the stones to fully apply the necessary time to make the transition work.
Perhaps if the story telling didn't feel so condensed and tight in span, then maybe it could pass easier. When I think back to the glory days of reading unfolding stories in Spider-man, I don't exactly think of taking ten years to bring a character back from the dead, establish his history, and redeem him.

I guess it's just one of those things. A potential chink in Brubaker's armor, which seems to have been so sheened by hype, it's gone relatively unnoticed.
Boy, DC really dropped the ball on this guy, didn't they?

I'll be back for the final Monday post for the Latepril posts very soon!
In the meantime, if you're checking out the site, particularly if you're interested in this big issue in particular, drop a comment and lemme hear what you have to say! I feed off of your energy, y'know. That's why I'm behind! Step it up!

The Fight: 5 The Issue: 6

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