Comic Book Review: Captain America #31

The Revolution is completely in love with Brubaker’s Captain America. This title, along with X-Factor, are probably the two Marvel titles that I look forward to the most each and every month. What Brubaker has managed to do on Captain America since the death of Steve Rogers has been nothing short of brilliant. I expect more of the same with Captain America #31. Let’s go ahead and do this review.

Creative Team
Writer: Ed Brubaker
Artist: Steve Epting

Art Rating: 9 Night Girls out of 10
Story Rating: 10 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 9.5 Night Girls out of 10

Synopsis: We begin with Sharon Carter battling a voice in her head that is telling her that she killed Captain America and that she must do as she is told. Sharon agrees with the voice in her head. We see Sharon walking down an alleyway.

We cut to Bucky having a flashback to fighting alongside Captain America during World War II. Dr. Faustus’s voice narrates the flashback. Dr. Faustus mentions how Bucky was just an orphan who had become hardened after his father’s death. That Bucky was raised on a military base as an orphan and become the base mascot. That Bucky was mean and a bully and always got in fights.

That when Bucky teamed up with Captain America, Steve reminded Bucky of his father. That there was a true courage inside of Steve Rogers. And that after fighting alongside of Steve, the two of them became brothers. And that made it even more painful when Steve turned traitor and sided with the Nazis. We see Captain America yelling “Heil Hitler” as he guns down Bucky.

We cut back to Dr. Faustus’s lab where Bucky breaks free of Dr. Faustus’s mind control and says that all of that was a lie. Bucky tells Dr. Faustus to get out of his mind. Dr. Faustus instructs the nurse to double Bucky’s dosage. Dr. Faustus tells Bucky that they are going to start again.

We shift to the Falcon waking up on the SHIELD Helicarrier. Tony Stark and Black Widow are by Falcon’s side. Tony fills the Falcon in on how Dr. Faustus used mind control to get Sharon Carter to kill Steve Rogers. That Dr. Faustus also used mind control on other SHIELD agents and that is how Crossbones and Sin managed to escape. Tony says that Faustus and Red Skull are working together. Tony then questions why Sharon stunned Falcon and Black Widow rather than killing them. Falcon asks if that even matters. Tony replies that it might.

We slide over to Red Skull addressing the Kronas security force comprised of two thousand men who have all been treated with Dr. Faustus’s gas. That the SHIELD agents who have come over to their side will be watching at a remote location on a secure broadcast.

Red Skull then addresses his troops and tells them that together Lukin and the Red Skull shall lead them to victory. That they shall write America’s epitaph in its own blood.

We cut to Bucky in another flashback. This time he is fighting alongside the Invaders. Dr. Faustus’s voice narrates this flashback as well. Dr. Faustus goes on how being a part of The Invaders always made Bucky feel inferior. That the rest of the members were gods while Bucky was barely human. Bucky was just a killer of men. We see Captain America slaughtering Germans saying that the only good Kraut is a dead Kraut.

Bucky snaps out of the flashback and tells Dr. Faustus that his trick will not work. That The Invaders were true heroes. Bucky tells Faustus that he is wasting his time and might as well shoot Bucky in the head right now.

Dr. Faustus refuses to concede defeat and tells Bucky that they need to talk about the day Bucky died and Captain America did not. We flashback to Baron Zemo’s hidden fortress with Bucky and Captain America aboard the remote plan that was one of the Allies’ new secret weapons. Steve tells Bucky that Bucky has to deactivate the bomb. That the prototype cannot be destroyed.

Bucky says that he can’t diffuse it. Steve snaps for Bucky to do his job. Steve then lets go of the plane and falls to the water. Steve says that only the one of them who matter is going to survive this mission. Bucky yells for Steve to wait for him. The plane explodes.

Captain America goes missing and Bucky falls into the hands of the enemy. Bucky is brought back as the Winter Soldier and is turned against his own people. It is a fate worse than death.

Faustus comments if only Steve let Bucky leap free of the blast. That Steve survived. That Bucky lost body parts and died in the freezing water. That Bucky was worthless, unappreciated and unwanted. The only time Bucky was really valued was when he was the Winder Soldier.

Suddenly, Bucky snaps and he is the Winter Solider once again. The Winter Soldier barks at Faustus why he is tied up and why is Faustus staring at him. Winter Soldier tells Faustus that he knows who Faustus is and that Faustus works for Lukin. That the Winter Soldier will follow Faustus’s orders.

Faustus then frees Bucky from his restraints. Faustus then says that he must make sure that Bucky truly is the Winter Soldier once again. That his old programming from Lukin really did take control once again. Faustus gives the Winter Soldier a gun and orders him to kill the nurse.

The nurse turns out to be none other than Sharon Carter. Sharon begs for her life and pleads for Faustus to call off the Winter Soldier. Faustus tells the Winter Soldier to kill Sharon Carter. The Winter Soldier answers back “Not a problem.” The Winter Soldier then aims his gun and pulls the trigger as Sharon screams “Please! NO!” End of issue.

The Good: Fucking brilliant. Captain America #31 was a phenomenal read. Brubaker continues to absolutely blow me away each and every issue on this title. And just when I think that Brubaker can’t get any better, he goes ahead and does just that. Captain America #31 was simply perfect from start to finish.

This was a wonderfully plotted and paced issue. Brubaker is a master at letting plotlines simmer under a low heat for a long time until the story comes to a frantic boil. Brubaker has an incredible sense of rhythm as each issue ebbs and flows in such a pleasant manner.

Brubaker is a fantastic long-range plotter and is so talented at creating incredibly deep and complex long term plotlines. Brubaker doles out the story in Captain America #31 in his usual controlled and measured pace that builds tension with each and every page until we arrive at the jaw dropping ending. Hitchcock would enjoy how Brubaker is able to generate incredible tension without resorting to over-the-top action and theatrics. Brubaker is a very subtle writer and enjoys delivering an extremely emotional and powerful read in a delightfully subdued manner.

As usual, Brubaker’s dialogue is wonderfully crafted. Each character has their own distinct personality. The dialogue has a natural and realistic flow that pulls the reader into the story.

Brubaker serves up an incredible character study on Bucky. This is such an emotional and raw examination into Bucky’s psyche. I continue to be amazed how Brubaker has managed to take the dorky Golden Age sidekick Bucky and transform him into a complex and tragic urban legend called the Winter Soldier. Bucky is now one of my favorite characters in the 616 Universe.

I love Brubaker’s modern spin on Bucky’s character. It makes perfect sense that Bucky would be a killer. Any non-powered teen that would be sent to fight in a war with Captain America on numerous covert missions would have to be an incredibly feared and dangerous assassin.

I loved the amazing insight into Bucky’s tortured mind that Brubaker gives us through Faustus’s attempts to convert Bucky back to his Winter Soldier programming. It was riveting watching Faustus prey on Bucky’s weaknesses as he deconstructs Bucky’s psyche.

Bucky puts up an incredibly heroic fight as he remains committed to the valiant memories of Steve Rogers and The Invaders. However, Bucky is a badly scarred and damaged man. And in the end he can’t overcome his pain, hate and anger that plagues his soul.

The scene where Brubaker has Faustus reconstruct Bucky back into the Winter Soldier was positively poetic. It is understandable that Bucky would feel inferior to the other Invaders. That Bucky would feel expendable compared to Steve Rogers. That ever since Bucky “died” his life has been a horrid nightmare while Steve went on to live the life of a true American hero. Brubaker does a fantastic job with Faustus distorting Bucky’s death in order to push Bucky back into his Winter Soldier programming. It was an incredibly powerful scene.

Brubaker shows the reader that Bucky did die. That he was reborn as the Winter Soldier who embodied all the negative emotions that Bucky harbored while he was a teen sidekick. The Winter Soldier is Bucky without his inhibitions or the positive influence of Steve Rogers. Bucky is truly a violent killer who has been used as a weapon to inflict massive damage on the country that he once fought for. Such a terrible fate has left Bucky a broken man.

I also liked how Brubaker shows the reader the strong bond between Steve Rogers and Bucky. That Steve went from Bucky’s father figure to being his brother. That the bond between Bucky and Steve was something incredibly rare and strong. And being so close to a man who seems so perfect like Steve Rogers only makes Bucky feel even that much more of a failure with all that he has done as the Winter Soldier.

I liked the scene with Tony, Falcon and Black Widow. Brubaker does a great job with Tony’s character. Brubaker doesn’t demonize Tony in some cheap manner like JMS. Brubaker continues to position Tony as the hero who is going to come up with the plan to allow Falcon and Black Widow to save the day. Clearly, Tony has not given up on Sharon and believes that Sharon may still be partly in control of her mind at some level. That explains why she didn’t kill Sam and Natasha.

Brubaker gives us a neat short scene with Red Skull addressing the Kronas soldiers. Evidently, Faustus’s gas is being employed to make these soldiers loyal zealots to the Red Skull’s cause. And it is interesting to note that the speech was broadcast to the SHIELD agents who are thinking of joining the Red Skull. The broadcast was supposed to be a secure broadcast. But, you know that it is going to get uncovered by Tony. Thanks to the Extremis virus, there is no form of communication that can escape Tony’s watchful eyes.

Brubaker completely blows away the reader with a phenomenal hook ending. Pure genius! This is one of the best endings to a comic book that I have read in a very long time. The reader is stunned as the camera pulls back and we realize that the nurse is Sharon Carter. The reader is then shocked and on the edge of their seat as they see the Winter Soldier calmly take the gun with no hesitation and fire off a shot. The reader is left helplessly wondering what just happened.

And I definitely cannot wait to see what happens next! Did Bucky shoot Sharon? Did Bucky shoot Faustus? Is the gun full of blanks or was it truly loaded with live bullets? So many questions. I’m sure Brubaker will have a curve ball headed to us with the next issue.

The art in Captain America #31 is wonderful. We get plenty of fabulous Steve Epting goodness. Epting is a talented artist whose artwork is the perfect match to the tone and mood of Brubaker’s story.

The Bad: No complaints with this issue.

Overall: Captain America #31 was truly a work of art. I don’t know what else I can say about this issue. It was stunning. Brubaker continues to utterly amaze me with his wonderfully dense, complex and emotional reads that he manages to deliver each and every month.

I always praise David’s X-Factor as being Marvel’s best written comic book. I’m afraid that I’m going to have to change my opinion and now give that distinction to Captain America. There really isn’t another Marvel title that can match Captain America in terms of the quality dialogue, plotting, pacing and character work that Brubaker is cranking out. Seriously, if you aren’t reading Captain America then definitely do so. This title is absolutely worth every penny of the cover price.

4 thoughts on “Comic Book Review: Captain America #31

  1. There are a bunch of different possibilities for the cliffhanger, obviously. One matter is that either it’s not actually Sharon, or the gun is filled with blanks, because the bad guys have gone to way too much trouble to keep their hands on her for this to be their endgame (plus, metatextually, she’s the most consistent castmember in this book). Now, accepting that, any number of things could happen. One thing that I’m fairly certain will not happen is the gun being loaded and Bucky shooting Doctor Faustus, because that would make Faustus look like an utter moron, and Brubaker generally writes his villains as smarter than that.

    Anyway, the usual “it’s great, if you’re not buying then shame on you” comments all apply here. What I wouldn’t give for a bad issue, to at least get to say something different.

  2. We see Captain America slaughtering Germans saying that the only good Kraut is a dead Kraut.

    This has been such a great series and then Brubaker had to spoil it this issue by having Cap say something like this. The Captain America I grew up with would never have said “the only good Kraut is a dead Kraut” or any other racist remark. Now, I realize that such sentiments were common during WWII, even in comic books; but I still find this disturbing. It is like having Superman making racist remarks. It just isn’t done… or shouldn’t be.

  3. Hmmmm. That’s what I get for quick-reading comics in the store. I was so annoyed with that particular line of dialogue, I didn’t buy the book. I guess there’s something to be said for not taking things out of context.

  4. Gotta be blanks. If Faustus isn’t one hundred percent certain that he turned Bucky, then he would be an absolute idiot to give Bucky a loaded gun. Besides, Faustus has used that trick before, when he brainwashed the 1950s Cap, and had him shoot Jack Monroe.

    Anyway, good issue. Glad to see that Stark is getting wind of all the stuff that the Skull and Faustus have been up to behind the scenes.

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