Page 45 Review by Stephen
Yowsa! Four previous softcovers in one, this reprints CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR and all three DEATH OF CAPTAIN AMERICA books. As such it is book three of Brubakers CAPTAIN AMERICA run following CAPTAIN AMERICA: WINTER SOLDIER then CAPTAIN AMERICA: RED MENACE which turned a tedious superhero series into a taut international espionage action-thriller with layers of conspiracy and a long-term game plan from a dead Red Skull inhabiting the mind of Russian General turned corporate businessman, Aleksander Lukin. What's more Steve Rogers became a complex individual with a vivid and intricate past which has come back to haunt him in the form of his wartime partner, Bucky, since brainwashed into becoming a covert assassin, and a credible love-life in the form of Sharon Carter who is in for a world of pain here.
The undermining of Sharon Carter, Steve Rogers' on/off lover, fellow SHIELD agent and unwitting instrument of his assassination, begins on the very first page, and it's gripping stuff.
In the first chapter the Superhero Registration Act is discussed passionately by those supposed to enforce the law, and it stars its own supporting cast while the good Captain fights the fight in the pages of the CIVIL WAR itself, so setting the stage perfectly for the next act here which featured that now-famous death. My notes asked, "What is the device good for one use only supplied by Victor von Doom for services rendered?" Get me, Im prescient!
The involvement of Armin Zola confirmed my suspicions about where the storyline was heading, and he's not the only old adversary to play his unique part in this gradually unfurling, devious long-term plan. Most interesting for those following the fortunes of former S.H.I.E.L.D. commander Nick Fury (SECRET WAR etc.) is the tactically brilliant way in which he inserts himself back into the main frame without emerging from hiding except in very plain sight. And that's not as cryptic as you might think, if you read it carefully. Gorgeous, shadowy art, like Sean Phillips bathed in milk. Hell, I know what I mean.
Then we kick into the titular death itself. Arrested after his surrender at the end of the CIVIL WAR, Captain America becomes an easy target for the Red Skull's allies who take aim and fire. But that's all a distraction, for his killer is closer to home. With the Captain pronounced dead on arrival, those left behind Sharon, The Winter Soldier, The Falcon, The Black Widow and Iron Man are at each others' throats, effectively crippling their ability to round on the real culprits and work out what's behind their manoeuvres. Steve Epting and Mike Perkins deliver spectacular art with such a depth that one wonders how this remains monthly.
Chapter three: possibly the cleverest and most fortuitously timed pages of the exceptional run so far as The Red Skull goes after America through its economy. Mortgage foreclosures? They're the headlines today. Guest-stars The Black Widow, the black Falcon, America's own Black Wednesday, and Iron Man.
Chapter four finale: keep it contemporary! The Red Skull, Armin Zola and Dr. Faustus bite through America's jugular vein: its economy. That's how you subjugate a country. Then they field their own Presidential candidate. Meanwhile ever since the very first issue of this series, the Red Skull has been trapped in the body of General Lukin who himself is still in there (it's nice to know they can share), but geneticist Zola has a plan. Oh, and a contingency plan in case that one fails. It fails, resulting in a truly satisfying last-page epilogue as this first major story arc all 42 issues of it concludes.
Stunning stuff and Steve Epting has done the nigh-impossible: make Captain America look cool, even in the rubbish new costume for Bucky designed by Alex Ross. His action sequences are spectacular, and when in quiet contemplation Epting's characters ooze humanity. Like Sean Phillips' art, everyone's almost permanently in half-shadow, and he's comfortable in the big city centres as he is on a country road or in a laboratory: everyone is perfectly, physically in place in their environment, which is no mean feat.