Comic Book Review: Captain America #26

Marvel took some time off for Captain America in order to run a whole mess of special issues dealing with the death of Captain America. I am very curious to see what Brubaker has in store for this title now that Captain America is dead. I imagine that Sharon Carter, Nick Fury, The Falcon and Bucky will all now assume center stage on this title until Brubaker brings Steve Rogers back to life. Let’s go ahead and hit this review for Captain America #26.

Creative Team
Writer: Ed Brubaker
Artist: Steve Epting

Art Rating: 7 Night Girls out of 10.
Story Rating: 6 Night Girls out of 10.
Overall Rating: 6.5 Night Girls out of 10.

Synopsis: We begin with Sharon Carter talking with her friend Val. Sharon tells Val how she met with Tony Stark and demanded to see Steve’s body. Tony tells Sharon that it is going to be traumatic. Tony lets Sharon in to where SHIELD is storing Steve’s body. The fact that he is the only Super Soldier specimen means that he must be kept under lock and key.

We see Steve’s corpse. He has transformed into a withered old man. Evidently, after Steve died the Super Solider serum reversed itself. Tony says that SHIELD is running extensive tests to find out why this happened. Sharon mumbles how she cannot believe she did this. Tony asks her what did she just say. Sharon covers it by saying she cannot believe Tony would have done this to Steve. Tony says that he didn’t want this and that seeing Steve dead is killing him. Sharon slaps Tony across the face and tells him that he doesn’t get to say that.

Sharon then tells her friend Val that after that happened, she quit SHIELD. That without Steve there was no point to continuing.

We cut to the wake for Steve Rogers. The Falcon tries to comfort Sharon. Sharon is upset and is about to tell the Falcon that she was the one who shot Steve, when she is suddenly interrupted by Rick Jones. Rick starts talking to Sharon and the Falcon excuses himself saying that he has to leave. Rick tells Sharon that Steve loved her very much.

Sharon then goes to the restroom and stares into the mirror. She hears Dr. Faustus’ voice telling her to remember. She stares at her hands and begins to cry.

We cut to the Falcon flying through the air. He thinks how he couldn’t deal with the wake and had to get out of there and get some air. The Falcon flies by a vigil for Captain America in Central Park being held by both pro-Registration Act supporters and anti-Registration Act supporters.

We then cut to the Red Skull’s penthouse. Red Skull asks Sin if she has chosen her subordinates yet. Sin tells Red Skull that she is ready to move forward. Red Skull instructs Sin to commence her duties.

We see Red Skull then meeting with Dr. Faustus. The two men engage in a battle of egos as they trade barbs. Arnim Zola interrupts and tells them to stop bickering and see what progress Zola has made.

Zola has been busy reverse-engineering some of Doctor Doom’s technology. Zola comments that where Doom only sought isolated moments that time itself shall be open to them. Red Skull then reminds Zola that Skull is the leader and that there is no “us.”

Red Skull then tells Faustus to come with him. That Skull wants Faustus present at a meeting that Lukin has with the Secretary of the Treasury this afternoon.

We then cut to the “secret wake.” (Awww, isn’t that cute. The “secret” Avengers are having a “secret” wake.”) The Falcon is present. Luke “vagina kicking” Cage tells the Falcon that he can’t believe that the Falcon signed the Registration Act. Falcon retorts that he wasn’t going to let Steve get buried alone. That the Falcon told Tony Stark to give the Falcon Harlem and leave him the hell alone. (Huh? Is Tony the King of America and handing out fiefdoms to registered heroes?)

Luke comments that he couldn’t believe Tony was at the funeral. Iron Fist comments that he almost felt sorry for Tony until he remember that Tony sent him to the Negative Zone. Falcon says that he has no love for Tony, but that Stark didn’t kill Steve. Luke, in his infinite wisdom that he displays regularly over in New Avengers, comments that Tony put Steve in front of the bullets whether he meant to or not. That Steve lost his heart or else he would have never taken a hit like that.

Spider-Man sensing that Luke is about to make an idiot out of himself again, steps in and says that the video footage shows that Captain America pushes a cop out of the way of a bullet and saves the cop. That is the first shot. Then the crowd goes crazy and the rest of the shots start. That the strength-dampening restraints SHIELD had on Steve left him weakened. That Steve was still a hero right to the end. That he hadn’t lost anything.

The secret Avengers then toast the memory of Steve Rogers. Suddenly, the Falcon’s communicator starts beeping. The Falcon says that he has somewhere he has to be.

We shift to Bucky getting drunk at a bar. Bucky thinks how he didn’t have the guts to face his best friend for the past year and now he can’t even show his face at Steve’s funeral. One of the customers at the bar with a huge U.S. Navy tattoo comments how Captain America shouldn’t be allowed to be buried in Arlington. That only heroes should be buried there and not traitors. That Captain America fought against the will of the American people and dishonored the uniform he wore.

Bucky thinks how Steve would have debated the guy. That how a majority of people believe something doesn’t mean its right. That the majority of people once supported slavery. But, Bucky is not Steve. We see Bucky proceeding to kick the Navy guy’s ass.

A barroom brawl breaks out and Bucky ends up kicking everyone’s ass and is the last man standing. Bucky thinks how Steve would be so ashamed of him right now. Bucky thinks how Steve was his link and that he has nothing left without Steve.

Suddenly, Falcon appears on the scene. Falcon says they need to leave before cops show up. Bucky sees Tony Stark’s eulogy on the TV. Stark breaks down crying and can’t talk anymore. Stark goes and sits back down. Bucky thinks that he can’t bring back Steve and he can’t be the hero that Steve would want him to be. But, Bucky can do one thing. Bucky can kill Tony Stark. End of issue.

Comments
The Good: Captain America #26 was a slightly better than average read. Brubaker gives us some nice insight into how various characters are dealing with the death of Captain America. Brubaker is such a talented writer and knows how to deliver incredibly well developed and realistic characters. That talent really shines in this issue as we see how the different characters are handling Captain America’s death.

Of course, Brubaker serves up some wonderfully crafted dialogue. Brubaker gives us such a nice and naturally flowing dialogue that makes this issue a pleasure to read. Each character has a well developed voice. If you are going to deliver a dialogue heavy scene with almost no action then you had better have great chemistry between the characters and realistic dialogue that captures the reader’s attention. Very few writers can pull that off. Brubaker is certainly one of them.

I fell terrible for Sharon. Brubaker is doing a wonderful job showing how much grief Sharon is in. Sharon is pretty much totally lost and crippled without Steve. Sharon is normally such a strong and confident character. It is so strange to see her completely shattered and weak. I certainly never thought that Sharon would walk away from SHIELD.

The scene with Sharon in the bathroom was beautifully done and incredibly emotional. That is vintage Brubaker and really let the reader see the turmoil is consuming Sharon. The question is if Sharon lets what happen destroy her or if she gets her shit together and fights back against the Red Skull.

I like how Brubaker writes the Falcon. Sam is a true friend and even goes over to the Pro-Registration side in order to be at Steve’s funeral. Sam displays that being a true friend means you honor your friend’s wishes. Steve specifically ordered his team to stand down and to stop their pointless fighting and to try and work against the Registration Act from within the system. The Secret Avengers ignored Steve’s order. Sam, being a true friend, did what he had to in order to honor his fallen friend.

I continue to totally dig how Brubaker handles Bucky’s character. Brubaker has taken great effort in distinguishing Bucky from Captain America. This enables Bucky to move past just being seen as a junior and inferior version of Captain America. It is natural for sidekicks to be overshadowed by their mentor. Look at Robin. He will always be viewed as a cut below Batman.

Brubaker has quickly solved that problem with Bucky. Bucky is now his own man with his own personality and style of operating. Bucky is not Captain America Junior. Bucky is not longer a sidekick. Bucky is an engine of destruction. He is a killing machine. And Bucky operated completely differently than Captain America. Brubaker wisely shows how Bucky is different by showing how Bucky would rather kick ass than try and debate the Navy guy.

I dig how Bucky recognizes his own failings and how that makes him admire Captain America even more. Bucky struggles with the guilt of avoiding his best friend for the past year and not even having the guts to go to Steve’s funeral. And Bucky’s feeling of being totally alone and lost without Steve is perfect. This is exactly how Bucky should feel. This scene was so well done. Brubaker’s Bucky is a tragic figure. It is important that Brubaker keep him that way. That is a large part of Bucky’s appeal.

Brubaker delivers a good hook ending with Bucky vowing to kill Tony Stark. In Bucky’s warped mind this is all that he can do to deal with the situation at hand. Bucky is a living weapon. He needs a purpose and a target. Bucky is struggling to make sense of Steve’s death and desperately needs a scapegoat that Bucky can blame for Steve’s death.

Tony Stark is an easy and convenient scapegoat. It should be interesting to see if Bucky attempts to go through with this threat. And it should also be a cool fight. Bucky better try and kill Tony from long distance while Tony is out of his armor. Otherwise, Iron Man will wax Bucky’s ass.

I absolutely loved the unexpected twist that Brubaker surprised the reader with about Captain America’s corpse reverting back to a withered old man. How cool was that! Evidently, the super solder serum works in mysterious ways and the SHIELD scientists still can’t figure it out. This is a very intriguing plotline and I’m sure it is the genesis for whatever Brubaker will use as a plot tool to bring Steve Rogers back to life.

The Bad: Captain America #25 was a slow and plodding issue. I’m beginning to get weary of nothing but watching people morn over Steve Rogers. I know Captain America’s death is a big deal, but it seems like we are getting nothing but an endless amount of comic books all centered around various character ruminating and reflecting on the life and death of Captain America. It is getting to be a bit much. Enough is enough. I hope that this issue is the last of it. Especially since we know that Steve Rogers will make a dramatic return to life at some point.

Luke “I never met a vagina I didn’t want to kick” Cage continues to come across as a complete and total moron. Why anyone would follow this idiot is totally and completely beyond me. And Spider-Man pretty much calls out Luke in this issue and stops just short of telling Luke that he is babbling on like an idiot. I really wish there was a writer who could do more with Luke’s character other than giving us a stereotypical character who rants about “respect” and “the man.”

And, of course, by Marvel mandate we get plenty more Tony Stark bashing in Captain America #26. Everyone gets a chance to punk out Tony and in this issue it is Sharon Carter. Look, I know that Sharon slept with Steve and Tony hasn’t (or at least we don’t think he has) but to infer that Sharon had a closer relationship with Steve than Tony is completely asinine.

Tony and Steve have been together as Avengers ever since Steve was rescued from his block of ice. They have been incredibly close and respected friends who have fought side by side countless times. Honestly, the only character in the entire Marvel Universe that I would say has a closer relationship to Captain America than Tony Stark would be Bucky. That’s about it.

Tony comes across as a total dickhead, as usual. And everyone from Sharon to Luke Cage to The Falcon to Bucky take their turns totally trashing Tony Stark. Never mind that Tony isn’t even remotely responsible for Captain America’s death. I’m just getting a little sick and tired of the constant dumping on Tony Stark that takes place in every Marvel title outside of Iron Man.

And what the hell was the Falcon talking about how he asked Tony to give him Harlem and leave him the hell alone? What? Did America switch to a monarchy where Tony Stark is the King of the United States and is handing out fiefdoms to various super heroes to “own?” That made no sense and came across as completely idiotic. I imagine that the Falcon meant that Tony would allow Sam to the official registered hero for Harlem and would allow the Falcon to enforce the Registration Act as is necessary within Harlem. Okay, whatever. It still came across as rather silly.

And then Brubaker trots out the same piss poor speech about how the majority is not always right. And that slavery in America was a law once supported by the majority of the people. God, not this again. I have talked about this over and over and I don’t have the energy to address it again.

Suffice it to say, the Registration Act is not even remotely comparable to slavery laws. The Registration Act is not unconstitutional because it doesn’t violate any of the Constitutionally protected classes established by the Supreme Court. Slavery laws do.

And the entire rationale that just because the majority passes a rule doesn’t mean its right and therefore you can engage in armed conflict is insane. It is called a fucking Democracy, people! Am I the crazy one here? A Democracy is pretty simple to understand. The will of the majority is what becomes the law of the land. That’s it. That is how it works. I guess the minority should be allowed to run roughshod over the majority. I guess that the minute that a law is passed that any minority voting group dislikes then they are completely within their rights to engage in physical conflict. That is nuts.

Last time I checked, we were supposed to be an intelligent and advanced society based on a system of laws and principles. That if a bill is voted into law then the people who were against that law then have to first, accept that the bill is now law and follow the law. Second, the people opposed to that law can then work to change the law or get it repealed through legal means. Non-violent protests, boycotts and rallies. Try to elect politicians and appoint judges who would repeal or amend the law. That is how an advanced society that has a Democracy works.

The Secret Avengers are analogous to the Pro-Life supporters who believe they are justified in killing doctors who perform abortions. The law is wrong, therefore they are justified in lashing out in a violent manner. No. What you do is work to elect politicians who are Pro-Life and appoint judges who are Pro-Life in hopes that one day you can try and get Roe v. Wade overturned. That is how it works in a Democracy. You don’t just take to the street and start beating the hell out of people and cause massive amounts of property damage just because you don’t alike a perfectly Constitutional law being enacted.

Overall: Captain America #26 was both a wonderful character study with excellent dialogue and plenty of emotion. Captain America #26 was also a plodding and slow issue that continued to re-hash worn out themes from the Civil War in a completely illogical fashion. Personally, the less idiotic supposed legal debates about the Registration Act the better. And the less Tony Stark bashing the better. Let’s just get on with dealing with the true villain here: The Red Skull.

If you loved all the endless and circuitous debated about the Registration Act then you’ll love this issue a lot more than I did. If you are more like me and are worn out and tired with the entire beaten to death Civil War plotlines then you probably won’t be a huge fan of this issue.

6 Comments

  1. On the Stark-bashing. I think there’s an important distinction between what characters say and what the author is objectively saying: Bucky, Falcon, the New Avengers, et al. blame Stark; of course they would; Sharon blames him, as I see it, at least in part because of her guilt. It’s also worth noting that, aside from Carter, nobody knows about the ‘second gunman’, so, from their perspective, Cap was killed by a sniper as he was led into a courthouse at Stark’s order. They don’t know that the Skull had Carter, and could conceivably have killed him anywhere. Like Bucky’s choice at the end of this issue, it’s not strictly rational; Stark is an obvious candidate for other people to blame.

    I thought Tony was portrayed fairly sympathetically in this issue; he has been acting like a bit of a dick lately line-wide, so that’s inescapable, but he’s clearly anguished over what happened. He’s not the manipulative sociopath “Iron Fascist” who pops up in books like Black Panther or The Amazing Spider-Man.

    As to the issue of continuing mourning, I think it’s important to note that this is the first issue of Cap’s title to come out after his death; “Fallen Son”, and all those other titles are separate from this story. It would have been better if this had come out a month ago, instead of now, after so many other titles have had their say on Cap’s death, but it’s important for this title to have an issue about it.

    Also, Mike Perkins did about half the art for this issue (he and Epting will be splitting up each issue from now on, instead of rotating arcs).

    As for the “is Tony King of America” question; from the looks of it, apparently. He has seemingly pro-consular authority over the entire Initiative, and can imprison whoever he wants in the Negative Zone, so I imagine that he could dole out superhero duties to whoever he wants.

  2. From what I understand, each issue of this arc will have sections focussing on different characters, so Epting will be doing one character’s story (Bucky, I believe) and Perkins the Sharon/Falcon story. Brubaker says it’s to allow Epting to stay on the book for longer periods, since he’s not exactly fast.

  3. And the entire rationale that just because the majority passes a rule doesn’t mean its right and therefore you can engage in armed conflict is insane. It is called a fucking Democracy, people! Am I the crazy one here?

    Yes, I agree with you. If you go by this rational, you can argue that even though the majority of Americans now believe the war in Iraq is going badly & wish to see our troops come home, George W. Bush is entitled to ignore them and continue on as is because he believes he’s right & everyone else is wrong.

    Democracy is characterized by a balance between the rights of the majority and the rights of the individual. Both are important. The tyranny of the majority is a danger, but so is the tyranny of the minority or the individual. It is important to respect the importance of both individual and group rights.

  4. On the Democracy question, you’re correct that a pure democracy is rule of the majority.

    But America is not a pure democracy. The Founding Fathers feared the “Tyranny of the Majority,” and established a system of checks and balances that weigh public opinion with the rights of individuals.

    That’s why you have to wonder why there aren’t Constitutional challenges to the Registration Act – given that gun lobbies have launched lawsuit over lawsuit regarding any legislation regulating and registering gun ownership.

    You can argue that the Registration Act doesn’t discriminate against a group, but others may view it differently. Actually, the most interesting approach appeared in New Avengers when Danny and his attorney challenged the definition of powers, etc.

    Anyway, thanks for initiating a thoughtful discussion.

  5. Nothing Stops the Blob June 5, 2007 at 8:15 pm

    If Marvel were playing the Registration Act as though this were the “real world”, where laws are created for a specific purpose and have fairly well-defined parameters for enforcement, I would totally agree with your anger over the New Avengers. Vigilantism is a really bad thing in a civil society, and if Marvel were being realistic it would be almost impossible to oppose reasonable regulations.

    But Marvel hasn’t been playing fair and emulating the real world here. Instead, Tony Stark (and, to some extent, the other Mighty Avengers) have been able to do whatever they’ve wanted, interpreting and redefining the law to suit their immediate goals. Masked vigilantes are not a Constitutionally protected group, but they’re still entitled to the rights of American citizens, including a trial by jury. How many of those did you see in the course of getting all of those people into the Negative Zone prison? Hell, even Guantanamo has some legal proceedings in place. Another example of how screwed up the SRA has to be is She-Hulk’s reaction to being drafted by SHIELD. If even Jen Walters, a lawyer specializing in superhuman law, didn’t realize that registering would mean automatic conscription into SHIELD (which is supposedly a United Nations agency in the first place, and therefore shouldn’t even be a beneficiary of an American law), I think it’s safe to say that part wasn’t actually in the original law.

    Based on the portrayal of the legal system in Civil War, institutional responses to this act have either failed outright or been pre-empted. That leaves opposition from outside the system as the only alternative. Which softens my reaction to the New Avengers, even though I’m generally annoyed with hardcore vigilante characters like the Punisher.

    Although dammit, I still like Luke Cage 🙂

  6. Every issue, Marvel changes the Act again in order to fit their needs. It seems as if their original concept of the Act wasn’t offensive enough to many readers so Marvel is constantly changing it until it is totally outrageous and completley undefendable and every reader will be against it.

    That is the main reason why I am so annoyed at many of the titles Marvel is publishing nowadays and have decided not to purchase most of them. It is utterly impossible as a reader to form any sort of reasonable opinion or viewpoint regarding the issues addressed in these stories when the writers & editors keep presenting a totally inconsistant, constantly changing basis for how the SHRA supposedly works. It’s turned into a big joke.

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