Comic Picks By The Glick

Captain America: The Trial of Captain America

November 1, 2011

Here’s some bad news and a spoiler for you:  I’ve heard that Bucky dies in the “Fear Itself” crossover.  Now for some worse news:  I’m not sure that’s entirely a bad thing after reading this volume.  At first I was disappointed to learn that the character’s fate would be determined outside of his series and out of the hands of Ed Brubaker, the writer who brought him back, but after these last two volumes a change is clearly needed.  Things start off promisingly enough with Bucky turning himself into the authorities, Steve Rogers, the Falcon, and the Black Widow readying his defense through means both legal and otherwise.  However, Sin, the Red Skull’s daughter, sees this as a chance to ruin the legacy of Captain America and after Master Man breaks her out of the asylum, sets about bringing her plan to fruition.

I’m certain that Brubaker knew that Bucky was going to die in “Fear Itself” while he was writing these issues.  If you look at it like that, one could assume that this was his way of bringing the character to his lowest point before he goes out in a blaze of glory.  It still doesn’t excuse the fact that all of the good guys are made fools of by the villains here.  Sin and her cohorts run rings around Bucky and co. throughout the arc and even if she doesn’t manage to kill any of the good guys, she still manages to score a prominent symbolic victory by defacing one of our national landmarks.  Hell, the only reason Bucky even makes it to the final confrontation is because Dr. Faustus “lets” him go.

Brubaker has written great stories where the villains are calling the shots, most notably in “Sleeper” and “Incognito.”  He has even written entertaining comics where superheroes come off as heroic, recently in “Secret Avengers” and “Steve Rogers:  Super Soldier.”  However, the reason the former comics worked was because their protagonists either weren’t heroic, or had their moral compasses severely compromised.  The thrill there was seeing how they were going to survive in virtually unwinnable situations.  Here, these characters are presented as real heroes, the paragons of physical and mental strength, the kind of people we should strive to be like -- and they are made out to be complete fools here!  Even the supposedly heroic act by Bucky at the end of his trial is all for naught as it is instantly washed away to set up the next volume.  If Brubaker is intentionally trying to erode the heroic and respectable nature of his cast, then mission accomplished.  Still, his efforts to try and subvert the paradigm of the superhero story have not resulted in an entertaining one.

It’s the last story here, “Around and Round” that shows how change is coming to the series.  After an ex-special forces soldier named David Rickford is set up as an ersatz Captain America, Rogers starts investigating who was behind it.  Before he can get too far, David is captured by A.I.M. and the man has to intervene.  The action was familiar, but fun and even if he wasn’t cut out for the job I liked David’s heroic attitude and the talking-to he gave Rogers after the rescue.  Forces (both editorial and otherwise) are conspiring to put him back in the Captain America uniform, and that seems like a good thing after what we got here.  I’ll be buying the next volume to see how Bucky’s story ends, at Brubaker’s hands at least, but it’s only because I’ve followed it so far as it is.

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