(This is actually “vol. 16” in Ed Brubaker’s run, but this is what they’re calling it on the spine.)
Reading this left me hugely depressed for reasons not wholly related to the story within the book. It’s pretty standard as far as these things go: Steve Rogers, now back as Captain America, finds out that one of his old comrades from WWII has suddenly reappeared in the present day. The fact that this man, Codename: Bravo (no, really), is back at all is surprising since he was previously stranded in a dimension between reality along with a couple soldiers and some agents of H.Y.D.R.A. Now that he’s out, Codename: Bravo is working with Baron Zemo and the Hydra Queen to bring our world into new dimension.
Why does he want to do this? As we’re told, Codename: Bravo and the people who survived the incursion into that space found that they were able to shape it and create a virtual utopia based on their idea of the American Dream. Once they were cast back out into our world and saw the sorry state of affairs it was in, this disillusioned him to the point where he was now willing to work with former enemies to give everyone the world of their dreams. Codename: Bravo is also more than a little bitter at Cap for, in his words, “falling down on the job” and letting our world come to this (of course, he could still be pissed at the super soldier for stealing his girl; but that’s just a detail).
The problem is that when Codename: Bravo starts ranting about Tammany Hall and the corruption of the pre-Depression era in comparison to our own, I found it hard not to sympathize with what he was planning. We get to see a little of this utopia that was created and it’s pretty great just in the casual way travelling to the moon is handled and in how it doesn’t need people like Captain America anymore. Yes, Cap finds a hole in this world, but that only seems to appear because Codename: Bravo wanted it that way. So it would appear that this is a fully-functioning simulacra of reality that represented a utopia for all. Sure, the man running it was a little crazy bitter, but I’d have taken him up on his offer.
Especially in the middle of this election season. I see the news every night and despair at the state of politics in this country. You’ve got a Republican party that’s equal parts religious zealotry and well-oiled machine catering to the “one percent” and there’s still a lot of average Americans out there who can’t see that they don’t have their best interests at heart. Mind you that while the Democrats give every impression that they want to try and do the right thing, they haven’t been able to find a way to out-think or out-maneuver the obstructionist tactics of the opposition in Congress. It’s getting to the point where I’m beginning to doubt that even the “giant space squid attack” from “Watchmen” would bring everyone together (assuming, you know, that it would work in the first place). At this point it’d probably take some sort of giant ecological collapse (which may even be in the offing) or for the Mars Curiosity rover to discover that there’s GOLD and OIL under the surface of the red planet. Which I’m sure would stimulate corporate interests more than Helium-3 would.
So you can see I’m upset at the state of the world to the point where I’m sympathizing with a madman who wants to remake our reality. It doesn’t help the story being told here that Cap, Sharon, Nick, and Sam are all one step behind the bad guys as usual and that the enemy’s plans aren’t really thwarted in the end. I fully admit that I’m buying Brubaker’s “Cap” now out of obligation to see it to its (now visible) end, and there are clearly steps being taken here to set that final arc up. At least Steve McNiven makes it all look great for nearly the entire book, except when Guiseppe Camuncoli is called upon to finish off a few pages in the last issue. He’s a bad stylistic fit but that’s on the editor who picked him to fill-in in the first place. Plus, just about anyone would look bad next to McNiven’s clean, bold style.
It’s looking increasingly clear that “Captain America Reborn” makes for a good jumping-off point for Brubaker’s run with the character. Pretty much everything after that has been disappointing on some level no matter how I try to rationalize it. This is no exception, but it at least manages to be different by tapping into a greater disappointment I feel in our country’s political system. I’m not sure whether that’s something to be proud of or not.