Comic Book Review: Captain America: Reborn #4

The Revolution has been summarily unimpressed with Captain America: Reborn. This has been a largely shallow and painfully slow and plodding story. This has been quite a surprise to me since I have absolutely adored Brubaker’s run on Captain America. Hopefully, Brubaker can kick it up a notch or two with Captain America: Reborn #4. Let’s go ahead and hit this review.

Creative Team
Writer: Ed Brubaker
Pencils: Bryan Hitch
Inks: Bruce Guice

Art Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10
Story Rating: 7 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 7.5 Night Girls out of 10

Synopsis: We begin with Red Skull, Sin and Crossbones arriving in Latveria. The Doombots greet the guests and take them to their master: Dr. Doom. Crossbones punches a Doombot who tries to touch the Red Skull. Doom appears and says that he would have Red Skull and his lackeys killed on sight if Doom were not a man of his word.

Doom says that he has aided Arnim Zola in rebuilding the device that Doom had already built for Red Skull. Doom calls Zola a careless fool. Doom says that Osborn has reported that the final piece to the puzzle is now in his control.

Doom leads the Red Skull to Arnim Zola’s lab. Doom points to the newly repaired machine and says that soon they will find Red Skull’s Captain America.

We cut to Steve Rogers still tripping through his timeline. The strain is beginning to wear on him. Steve says that he is a man who cannot feel fatigue yet the time tripping is starting to wear him down mentally and physically.

Steve thinks how revisiting various losses in his past simply reopens old wounds. Steve wishes he could save the ones around him from getting killed, but that Steve can barely go through the motions to save himself from getting killed.

We cut to Ms. Hand sitting in a room with Sharon Carter who is in shackles. There is a television on in the room playing Norman Osborn’s press conference. Norman states that they have captured the second shooter in Captain America’s assassination. That is all Norman will say citing national security reasons to keep the rest of the information about the shooter a secret.

Sharon tells Ms. Hand that she does not care what Osborn does to her. Sharon says that she already knows why Osborn needs her.

We hop over to Hank Pym’s lab in the Infinite Avengers Mansion. We see Reed and Pym working away on trying to figure out what happened to Steve’s body when it disappeared from the casket. Reed says that he thinks Steve is out of sync with their reality and that Sharon is the key to bringing Steve back.

The Vision then walks in and says that Reed’s last statement just triggered a message from deep storage in his memory banks. Vision says that the message is from Steve Rogers.

We cut to “elsewhere” and see Clint Barton, Captain America and Black Widow attacking an armored HAMMER mobile data collector. Our heroes beat up the HAMMER soldiers. Captain America then questions one of the HAMMER soldiers about where HAMMER is keeping Sharon Carter. Captain America threatens to shoot the soldier’s knee off if he does not answer the question.

We slide over to Pym’s lab with Reed and Pym watching the Vision’s recorded message from Steve Rogers. Reed says that when Sharon destroyed the Red Skull’s time machine that it cut Steve loose in time. Reed says that there are nano-particles in Sharon’s blood stream that act as chronal tracers. Reed says that Doom’s work was brilliant.

Reed says that Steve was frozen in a single moment of time, but now Sharon and Steve are literally pulling toward each other through the time stream. Reed says that they have Sharon’s blood sample and that they can now track them, too.

We shift to Latveria where we see the HAMMER plane with Ms. Hand and Sharon in it landing at Doom’s castle. The Doombots escort Ms. Hand and Sharon to Arnim Zola’s lab.

Once Sharon enters the lab she sees Red Skull standing there with Dr. Doom. Sharon screams “Oh God, no! I killed you! I freaking killed you!” Red Skull laughs at Sharon and begins to gloat.

Doom cuts Red Skull short and says that he has no patience for Red Skull’s dramatics and that it is time to place Sharon into the machine. Sin and Crossbones then hook Sharon up to the machine.

We zip back to the English Channel in 1945 which is the moment when Bucky gets killed. Steve is horrified and begs to not have to relive the moment where Bucky gets blown up. Steve says that he has to save Bucky this time.

We see Bucky jump onto the plane with the bomb in it. Steve jumps after Bucky. Before Steve can reach Bucky, Steve begins to fade away and fall through time.

We see Steve being pulled through the time stream on fast forward. Steve sees clips of his past rushing past him. We then see the Red Skull suddenly landing on Steve and attacking him. Steve thinks “…what is this…? What—” Steve then gets a vacant look.

We cut to Steve’s body appearing on the machine in Arnim Zola’s lab. Zola exclaims that the machine is working. Doom spits that of course the machine is working.

We see Red Skull’s body lying on the floor completely lifeless. Steve Rogers begins to get up off of the machine’s table. Doom tells Steve to take it easy. Doom says that he still has a deal to keep with Norman Osborn. Steve says “Of course…yes…”

Sharon stammers “What did they do?” Sharon then screams “Steve!”

Steve looks at Sharon and his eyes glow read. Steve (now the Red Skull) says “No…Not Steve, I’m afraid. Not Steve Rogers at all.” End of issue.

Comments
The Good: Captain America: Reborn #4 was my favorite issue so far in this mini-series. Brubaker did a nice job with the character work on Doom and Red Skull. It was interesting seeing these two egomaniacs trying to tolerate each other.

Doom had his proper haughty attitude. I liked the dismissive comments that Doom continually leveled at Arnim Zola concerning Zola’s intellect and scientific prowess.

Brubaker certainly got the point across that when it comes to scientific genius that Reed is the only other person in the 616 universe that can rival Doom’s intellect. And speaking of that, I appreciated the little nod of respect that Brubaker has Reed give to Doom and his work with the chronal tracers within Sharon’s body.

I also like how Brubaker shows that despite being a villain, Doom is a man of honor and is a man of his word. Despite Doom’s dislike for Zola and the Red Skull, Doom fulfilled his part of the bargain and lived up to his promise. I also enjoyed how Brubaker has Red Skull, Doom and Norman Osborn all working in concert with each other. Brubaker shows that when the major power brokers of the 616 Universe actually work as a team then they are pretty tough to stop.

Naturally, the reader is left to wonder what Norman gets out of this entire deal. How about the Red Skull posing as Steve Rogers and publicly endorsing Norman Osborn as the leader of HAMMER and the only true and officially recognized version of the Avengers?

I absolutely loved the ending to Captain America: Reborn #4. Brubaker finally rewards long time readers like myself with the big payoff that he has been building toward ever since prior to Civil War. It was fascinating and exciting to see everything finally slide into place and get the big payoff that I have been so patiently waiting for over on Captain America.

Brubaker has excellent long term vision and knows how to craft intricate plotlines. Still, I was unsure if Brubaker could deliver a sufficient enough payoff. This moment has been in the works for two years. That is a long time and the build-up was done in a fashion that truly increased the tension and anticipation in the reader.

Often writers are unable to properly deliver a satisfying payoff after such a long build-up. Well, Brubaker certainly delivered the payoff in Captain America: Reborn #4 in a most satisfying manner. At least he did for this long time Captain America reader.

Red Skull taking over Steve Roger’s body was a brilliant idea. Brubaker is an excellent plotted and long time readers can appreciate how everything since the beginning of Civil War on Captain America has been steadily and logically building toward this moment. I broke out into a huge smile with the final page of this issue as both the reader and Sharon fully realize that the Red Skull is now in Steve Rogers’ body.

The best part about this ending is that the possibilities are endless. This twist should provide Brubaker with so much fertile ground to cover over in Captain America. I cannot wait to see Bucky as Captain America having to battle Red Skull in Steve Rogers’ body. That should be fantastic. The psychology behind that conflict will be endlessly entertaining.

I would be thrilled if Brubaker would let Red Skull remain in Steve Rogers’ body for a good length of time. Unfortunately, that probably won’t happen. This will probably be undone in the next issue or at least by the time Siege rolls around.

Brubaker crafts plenty of solid dialogue in this issue. I particularly enjoyed Steve’s narration as he tripped through time and had to relive his various losses and failures. Particularly well done was Steve’s narration during the scene where he had to view Bucky getting blown up once again.

Bryan Hitch and Butch Guice combine to deliver an excellent looking issue. Hitch unveils his usual dramatic cinematic shots at several points in this issue. This approach gives Captain America: Reborn #4 a much larger than life feel to it. Hitch does a fine job laying out this issue. The final moments where Red Skull takes over Steve’s body were done in a quite an interesting and artistic manner.

The Bad: Unfortunately, Captain America: Reborn #4 still possessed its fair share of defects. The pacing on this title continues to be atrocious. This issue creeps along at such a ridiculously decompressed pace. Captain America: Reborn has been such a slow and lumbering story. The reader gets the strong sense that there was only enough content for three issues and that Brubaker mixed in plenty of fluff in order to stretch it over the course of five issues.

Captain America: Reborn #4 was also a thin read. There was simply not much depth or substance to this issue at all. All Brubaker has going in this story is the one basic plotline about pulling Steve out of the time stream and placing the Red Skull in Steve’s body. Brubaker normally has multiple plotlines cooking in an average story arc over in Captain America.

The scenes with Steve tripping through time have gotten stale and feel mostly like Brubaker is stalling and is just giving us filler. Also, Steve’s travelling along his timeline is a simple concept that is not particularly creative as we have already seen it in other stories before.

Captain America: Reborn is a pretty skimpy story with that does not offer anything near as substantive as what Brubaker has normally given the reader during his excellent run on Captain America. Given the pace and the shallowness of Captain America: Reborn, it becomes apparent that this story would have made for a much more compelling and interesting read if it had simply been a three issue story arc over in Captain America. Forcing this story to be a “big event” stretched over the course of five issues was unnecessary.

I am also unsure if new readers, who have not been following Brubaker’s Captain America run, would find Captain America: Reborn that interesting. Captain America: Reborn is simply another story arc that was designed to tie together some long running plotlines from over in Captain America.

Captain America: Reborn seems more like it was written for the enjoyment of readers who have been following Brubaker’s Captain America run since the start. This fact only furthers my belief that Captain America: Reborn should have simply been a story arc inside of Captain America itself.

Overall: Captain America: Reborn #4 was a slow read that was salvaged by some nice character work and a fantastic and exciting ending. I would certainly recommend that readers who have been following Brubaker’s run on Captain America purchase this issue. However, I would recommend that everyone else simply wait for Captain America: Reborn to come out in trade format. Captain America: Reborn is simply too slow and does not have enough substance or excitement for me to recommend buying it in the monthly format.
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Rokk

4 Comments

  1. Ugh… what happened to the beautiful art??? The last 2 panels that you show make Cap's body seem contorted. And not in a good way. If it was a female, her body would be posed in nice angles. Just cause he is going thru the timestream, doesn't mean we can't get some nice shots of the chunk of hunk that cap is. Maybe a nice panel like those nice open-mouthed pouting poses artists usually have females in when they are unconscious….
    -Seafire

  2. I don't think you'll be seeing the Red Skull-as-Cap deal for very long (though I like it – and it rather harkens back to that brief moment in CAP, what, 25? where Cap and Skull were identical). Probably just for one good, long fight. But I could be wrong and would rather like to be.

  3. Brubaker writes some MEAN supervillains. I absolutely enjoyed every scene with Skull, Zola and Doom. Watching them throw poisonous barbs at each other like bitchy schoolgirls was brilliant. I think that those scenes proved even more than Bendis' Cabal scenes that supervillains will always fail because they just can't get along.

    About the ending, I don't know why, but I smell a red herring. Maybe I'm jaded, but I feel like that in last part it was actually Steve Rogers who came back and is pretending to be the Skull so he can take down everyone by surprise. Anyway, we all know that this ends with Steve officially returning right in time for Siege to start so there goes the surprise.

    Which is a shame since this series was kept in relative secret, considering the current status of the industry, so having so little surprises left in store for us is a bit underwhelming. Oh well, maybe I'm wrong and there are a few surprises along the way, but I don't think there will be anything wow-worthy.

    Oh, and Hitch rocks. Even when he doesn't take like four months to complete an issue, his art is just great. With all those cinematic shots, it's more a portfolio than a comic book, and I mean that in a good way.

  4. I've been a fan of Hitch since he broke out with some DC Annuals in the early 90s, but why does he keep throwing "Ultimate" Cap into this book? There's a certain look that 616-cap has that is consistently defined in each time period.

    I mean, what does he think that "A" stands for? "France"?

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