Comic Book Review: Captain America #33

Captain America continues to be one of the best reads on the market from either Marvel or DC. Brubaker’s work on this title has been simply stunning. Captain America #33 promises to be a huge issue as we finally get to see the long awaited showdown between Tony Stark and the Winter Soldier. Let’s go ahead and hit this review.

Creative Team
Writer: Ed Brubaker
Pencils: Steve Epting
Inks: Butch Guice

Art Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10
Story Rating: 9 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 8.5 Night Girls out of 10

Synopsis: We begin with Red Skull chewing out Faustus for letting the Winter Soldier escape. Red Skull says that since Bucky knows their plans that they will have to move up their timeline.

We cut to the SHIELD helicarrier where Bucky is being kept chained to a table in an interrogation room. Bucky’s metal arm has been removed. Two SHIELD agents watch Bucky on a monitor screen. The agents are stunned that the Winter Soldier actually exists.

We shift to the SHIELD scientists analyzing Bucky’s metal arm. The scientists discover that this is SHIELD design and that Bucky must be working for Nick Fury. Suddenly, Bucky’s metal arm springs to life and shocks one of the scientists. The arm then flies through the air and punches out the other two scientists. The arm then enters the duct work for the ventilation system of the helicarrier.

We slide over to the Falcon radioing Tony. Sam tells Tony to be careful with Bucky. Tony tells Sam to just concentrate on finding Sharon. Suddenly, the power flicks off on the helicarrier. The power them comes back online again. Black Widow radios Tony and informs him that the SHIELD agents guarding Bucky’s cell have been knocked out. That Bucky has broken free from his shackle and is missing.

Tony armors up and begins searching for Bucky. Suddenly, Bucky attacks Iron Man. Bucky tries using an EMP via his metal arm to knock out Iron Man. Iron Man is too crafty to be suckered by that move and temporary powers down and then powers back up after the EMP blast is over.

During the brawl, Tony repeatedly urges Bucky to stop fighting him. Bucky pushes Iron Man into a power generator of some sort that temporarily overloads the armor. Bucky then inexplicably is able to pop off the faceplate of Tony’s helmet. Bucky whips out his gun and points it at Tony’s face. Tony responds by placing his gloves on each side of Bucky’s head ready to turn Bucky’s head into goo with a repulsor ray blast.

Tony tells Bucky to stop fighting. That Tony is trying to honor the last wishes of his best friend, Steve Rogers. That Steve asked Tony to save Bucky from himself. Tony says that he has a letter that Bucky needs to read and that Steve would never forgive the two of them if they killed each other.

We cut to Tony and Bucky back in Tony’s office. Black Widow busts into the office with a regiment of troops. Tony tells Black Widow that he has the situation under control and that she can stay and the rest of the troops can report back to their posts.

Bucky reads Steve’s letter. Tony reveals that the Red Skull is the mastermind behind Steve’s murder. And that the Red Skull has infiltrated SHIELD. Tony admits that they don’t know what Red Skull’s master plan is. Bucky replies that Red Skull is inside of Lukin’s mind.

Tony then exclaims that while he and Bucky were fighting a news report was released involving Kronas. Tony brings up a news report on a TV in his office. The news report states that Lukin just died in a plane crash. Tony comments that now that SHIELD has Bucky, that Red Skull is trying to cover his tracks.

Tony then turns to Bucky and asks him if he is now going to step up. Bucky counters that Steve never specifically mentioned Bucky. Tony curtly replies that he knows exactly what Steve wrote. That it’s not as if Bucky is going to let anyone else be that guy. Tony spits that he has read Steve’s letter a hundred times. Tony asks if Bucky wants to be the one to let Steve down. Because Tony knows what that feels like.

Bucky puts down the letter and says that he will do it on two conditions. One, that Tony does whatever he can to Bucky’s mind to make sure no one else can ever control him again. That there are no more Winter Soldier safe-words or implants. Two, that Bucky doesn’t answer to Tony or anyone. Tony agrees to Bucky’s terms.

We cut to a SHIELD lab where the scientists begin working on Bucky’s mind. Black Widow tells Tony that this is a big mistake. That Bucky is not even the right person to carry Steve’s burden. Tony says that Steve would probably disagree, but that is beside the point. Tony says that Steve asked Tony to save Bucky and if this doesn’t do it then Tony doesn’t know what will. Plus, Bucky already has the SHIELD.

Comments
The Good: Captain America #33 was another fantastic read. I am running out of superlatives to lavish on this title. And I know that I must sound like a base shill when it comes to Brubaker’s Captain America. But, the fact is that this title truly is one of the best reads that you are going to find from either Marvel or DC.

Brubaker gives us a brilliantly paced and plotted issue. It is amazing how Brubaker has such a deft touch for the pacing of a story. Only Brubaker can employ a slow burn approach to a story arc that leaves the reader anxious and on the edge of their seat rather than yawning and bored. And very few writers are able to allow plotlines to unfold so organically and realistically as Brubaker does on Captain America.

Brubaker continues to amaze me with his ability to weave such complex story arcs as well as his excellent attention to detail. Every detail no matter how small is important in a Brubaker penned story. And Brubaker makes sure that Captain America #33 delivers an enjoyable blend of action and drama.

Brubaker cooks up plenty more of his usual masterful dialogue. I don’t know what other writer out there that is currently crafting finer dialogue than Brubaker is on Captain America. All of the characters are so well rounded and properly fleshed out. The characters interact superbly with each other. The flow of Brubaker’s dialogue is so realistic. The level of realism that Brubaker is able to bring to a super hero comic book is a true rarity.

What has made Captain America such a phenomenal read is that Brubaker remains committed to the belief that a strong story is based on incredible character work and dialogue. Some writers give us more plot driven story arcs while Brubaker opts for more character driven story arcs. Brubaker employs excellent psychology in studying the various personalities of each character. The reader enjoys watching as the various characters struggle with their internal demons and either evolve and grow or sink even lower as we see in the case of Sharon Carter.

Brubaker has done an incredible job nurturing and evolving Bucky’s character. I am still shocked at what a complex and mesmerizing character that Brubaker has turned Bucky into. Ever since the first appearance of the Winter Soldier, we have watched as Brubaker has allowed Bucky to struggle to regain his mind and to try and become the man that Steve Rogers would want him to be.

The scene with Bucky struggling to assume Steve’s burden was pulled off perfectly. Bucky is torn with the decision to become the new Captain America. Ever since Steve’s death, it has been clear that Bucky would never let anyone else carry Steve’s shield. That no one else is worthy to do so. Yet, at the same time, Bucky doesn’t want to be the next Captain America, because Bucky views himself just as unworthy as other potential replacement for Steve.

Brubaker does a solid job with Tony. While Brubaker still succumbs a bit to casting Tony as a villain, Brubaker has certainly given us the best version of Tony outside of Iron Man’s title. Brubaker has managed to tap into the strong connection that Tony had with Steve. That there is no way that Tony will ever fail Steve. That despite their differences, Tony will die trying to fulfill Steve’s last request.

The fight between Iron Man and Bucky was far better done than I expected it to be. I’m not buying for a moment that Bucky would be able to pull off Iron Man’s faceplate. And in reality a character who is one of the most powerful characters in the 616 Universe would turn a normal human like Bucky into a grease spot.

But, just like Batman is somehow able to beat the entire Justice League of America, the logic follows that a character like Bucky can hold his own against vastly more powerful characters. And I’m okay with that because Brubaker did such a pleasant job with the fight scene.

You knew that it had to end in a draw. It simply isn’t realistic that Bucky could defeat a character as powerful as Iron Man. And Brubaker isn’t going to let Iron Man punk out the future Captain America. So, we get a draw.

I’m not crazy about draws, but this one was very well choreographed and orchestrated. The move by Brubaker to have Iron Man avoid the EMP blast was a nice touch. That is by far the most convenient plot device to take down Iron Man in a fight. And it makes sense that after all these years Tony would have figured out how to deal with an EMP blast.

The scene with Bucky and Tony at the end of this issue is quite powerful and rather emotional. Brubaker simply knows how to tap into the various emotions of the reader. This scene is an excellent example of how a dramatic scene can have plenty of impact without being over the top and too heavy handed.

The ending to Captain America #33 was awesome. The subtleness of it all is so incredible. Brubaker doesn’t need to give us an over the top ending with ham handed dialogue and trumpets blasting from the rooftops to herald in the new Captain America. Instead, Brubaker approaches this pivotal moment in the history of Captain America with his usual restrained intensity. And it makes the ending that much more realistic and powerful.

Bucky as the new Captain America makes perfect sense. Despite the fact that Bucky views himself has being unworthy to assume Steve’s role as Captain America, there is just no way that Bucky would ever let anyone else assume that role. And it is a natural progression of a character who is mightily struggling to become a better man.

Bucky may not be able to follow in Steve’s footsteps. Bucky may never be “perfect” like Steve. Bucky may never make as good of a Captain America. But that all doesn’t matter. All that matters is Bucky’s effort to try and make himself a better man. The result doesn’t matter as much as how hard a man tries to accomplish something.

Epting and Guice crank out some fine looking artwork. Their style of art is a perfect match for the mood and tone of Brubaker’s story.

The Bad: I only have two small quibbles with this issue. The first is one that only a long time Iron Man fan would ever raise. Brubaker’s version of Tony is just a bit too heavy on the guilt. Brubaker clearly places Tony on the side of wrong continuing the main defect of Civil War in that it was supposed to be a neutral story. And Brubaker clearly makes it known to the reader that Tony views himself as having made the wrong decision during Civil War and that he failed Steve.

This is totally contrary to the Tony Stark that we have always gotten on his own title. But, Tony has been continually mischaracterized on every title outside of his own ever since the beginning of Civil War.

Tony did what he did during Civil War because he genuinely felt that the government was going to go ahead with the Registration Act regardless of Stark’s cooperation. And that it would be better to have someone on the inside keeping an eye on the government to make sure they didn’t go overboard. And that is exactly what Tony did. Tony felt he was correct. I see no reason that Tony wouldn’t view Steve as having let Tony down rather than the other way around.

Tony is a man who is supremely confident and when he makes a decision he puts all his effort into and almost never displays any remorse or regret. It is extremely rare for Tony to think that anyone else knows the proper course of action other than himself.

At any rate, it is a small quibble. And at least Brubaker has never butchered Tony’s character beyond any and all recognition like other writers in JMS and Bendis.

Now, I thought Brubaker did an excellent job pulling off Bucky deciding to assume Steve’s role as Captain America. It was well written and made perfect sense. Brubaker has been steadily grooming Bucky’s character for this inevitable decision.

But, personally, I would have kept Bucky as the Winter Soldier. I would have kept him as a ghost figure that you hear about in various titles across the Marvel Universe, but you rarely see. You only see the aftermath after he has pulled off a mission. I like Bucky in that role and find that much more intriguing than him being Captain America.

But, I still gave this issue 9 out of 10 Night Girls because the fact that I personally wouldn’t have made Bucky the new Captain America is irrelevant. The score for the writing is for how well and logically the writer delivered the story. And the fact is that Brubaker made Bucky’s assuming the role of Captain America very logical and believable and it was well done.

Overall: Captain America #33 was another phenomenal read. If you have not given this title a try then I absolutely urge you to do so. There is simply no other title as well crafted as this one. Brubaker’s Captain America is one of the few comic books currently on the market that I would actually classify as literature.

5 Comments

  1. I don’t think Brubaker suggests Tony knows he was “wrong” or anything like that; he said in interviews that Iron Man, in his view, blames himself for some part of Cap’s death, simply because he died while in federal custody/etc., regardless of whether he actually is responsible. There’s a scene in What If? Civil War that Brubaker wrote where Tony talks with the Watcher, and says he wasn’t responsible for what happened; the Watcher says that while that’s objectively true, Tony is a scientist, and so doesn’t believe in absolutes, so Tony cannot entirely believe that.

    As for the Bucky/Iron Man fight, certainly, it’s not realistic that he could last that long, but, as you say, “badass normals” (well, Bucky’s got a cyborg arm) like Batman or Captain America get to punch above their weight class by virtue of being cool (and appealing to nonpowered readers). I’m especially forgiving in this case because Brubaker isn’t out to have Iron Man lose the fight by depowering him, just stalemate, and the reader is meant to agree with Iron Man throughout that the fight is pointless and Bucky’s anger is misdirected. As a sidebar, another reason I think that “badass normals” tend to win/draw fights like this is that there’s fundamentally nothing impressive about, say, Superman beating Batman in physical combat, given the massive discrepancies in their physical powers.

    I think Bucky taking over as Cap is a good placeholder until Steve comes back (which he will, eventually); it keeps the book’s title relevant.

    Also of note, Bucky as Cap debuts in #34, but Brubaker is also writing the first issue of Young Avengers Presents due out on the same week, focussed on Patriot (the Cap legacy on the team) seeking out the Winter Soldier (following up on their awesome team-up in Winter Soldier: Winter Kills). It’s set between the two issues. Not essential, but it’s tied into this story, it’s written by Brubaker, and if you’re interested in trying the YA (which you really should, if you like the Teen Titans; they’re the best new Marvel characters in a decade at least), I’d recommend it.

  2. Honestly, I’ve thought of tony’s actions in this comic to be the other side of the coin for Tony.

    Tony doesn’t regret doing what he did with the SHRA. He regrets some of the things that spun out of it, but he understands that the ends justifies the means. Anything with meaning carries with it a series of risks and could have beens. Tony knows he made the right choice, and he understands that not everyone can see through to the vision he had and that something like the Civil War, on some scale, as inevitable.

    What I think tony blames himself for is that he assumed he would be better able to make his vision and knowledge clear to Steve. that he would have been able to sway him over and, through him, avoid a large part of what happened. While he was always conscious of the fact that there was a chance that that would not be possible, and he was prepared for that fact, it will always be something that nags at him, especially since deep down he views that missed chance as inevitably leading to Steve’s death.

    Tony doesn’t think he was wrong, he’s just in the inevitable ‘second guess’ position that people find themselves at when they lose someone close to them. Was there a different line of reasoning he should have taken with Steve? Was there someone else he could have used to help Steve understand? Should he have exerted some force to keep Steve from being on those courthouse steps? Should he have been better prepared, to know it was too inviting a chance for Steve and the Avenger’s myriad enemies not to take a shot a prepared better?

    This is basic human nature. Logically, Tony knows he did the right thing. emotionally, it hurts like hell and he’s willing to live with that, because it means things are better off for all concerned. He’s just, now and again, showing that he’s still just a man inside that armor, and for all the ower he’s got, he still hurts like everyone else. He’strying to use that to empathize and get connect with bucky.

    As far as the fight, I saw Brubaker admit that Iron Man should have wiped the floor with Winter Soldier, looking at it logically. However, the outcome comes more from the fact that Tony’s goal is not to win the fight, but to prove to Winter Soldier that the fight is pointless, and the rage he’s feeling is misplaced. It seems more likely to me tht for all Bucky’s skill, training and ability, a general outline of the enounter was ‘staged’ by Tony to help get his point across. Such as, allowing the winter soldier to pull the faceplate, making Tony appear vulnerable while also allowing Bucky to expell some of the rage inside him so he’d be more likely to listen to reason.

  3. Very good review. Recently I’ve been reading some of the reviews here and, for the most part, agree with most (though definitely not all) of the reviews posted. I’ve kept an eye on the Captain America reviews, since I’ve been hearing a lot of good things about it, and I’ve become interested enough to give the title a try. I’ve ordered the CA omnibus and the following trade and am dying to read them.

    Keep up the good work. I enjoy the reviews and candid remarks. I like seeing other point-of-views on books and admire your thoroughness.

    -Jose

  4. Reading the issue, I got the definite impression that Iron Man was holding back, since he was trying to reason with Bucky. That is why Bucky was able to do as well as he did. If Stark had really wanted to totally let loose, he probably would have been able to defeat Bucky, rather than having the fight end in a draw.

  5. I’m with cierdwyn2.
    Thats pretty much how I read the issue as well, except s/he explains it so much better than I ever could.

    This comic in no way makes Tony look bad.

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