Comic Book Review: Captain America #34

The Revolution is running out of compliments to lavish upon Brubaker’s Captain America. I know that my reviews have to start feeling repetitive and bordering on the ramblings of a sycophant. However, the fact is that Captain America truly is a stunning piece of work. And I think that Brubaker has an absolute gem in store for us with Captain America #34 as he unveils the new Captain America. Let’s not waste any more time and do this review.

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

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

Synopsis: We begin with news reports about the death of Kronas CEO Lukin. That the new CEO of Kronas, Vladmir Morovon, has doubled the price of oil. That the mortgage division of Kronas has foreclosed on properties across America. That Wall Street is in havoc as the Dow Jones has plummeted. Foreclosures are at a record high. That people are rioting in New York and in Washington, D.C.

We cut to Bucky and Black Widow on their way to stop an AIM attack on a gold reserve designed to further send America into a terrible recession. Bucky comments how he may never be ready for this moment. That he is used to covert operations and not charging into the front line like Steve used to do. Bucky says that he knows that he will never replace Steve and that he can’t be Steve. But that Bucky can honor Steve and make him proud.

Black Widow comments about how Bucky is packing a heater. Bucky responds that he has always carried a gun and now that he has a red, white and blue target painted on himself that he is going to need guns more than ever.

Bucky then puts on his Captain America cowl and says he is ready to go to work. Black Widow and Captain America then attack the AIM soldiers. Captain America adapts his usual covert style of combat to fit the current style of charging head first into battle. Captain America kicks butt on the AIM soldiers.

We cut to Tony Stark on the bridge of the SHIELD helicarrier. Tony is meeting with The Secretary of Defense. Tony tells the Secretary that Lukin is not dead. The Secretary says that they are in a state of crisis and that they don’t have time for Tony’s unfounded accusations.

Tony spits out that this entire crisis is an orchestrated attack on the U.S. By the Kronas Corporation. And that Kronas is being run by the Red Skull.

We shift to Red Skull meeting with Zola. Zola informs Red Skull that the Chamber is ready. Red Skull comments that it is time for Faustus to activate his first wave.

We hop back to Bucky squaring off against three remaining AIM soldiers while Black Widow stands and watches. Bucky throws his shield and missed the three AIM soldiers. The AIM soldiers laugh that this Captain America isn’t as good. Bucky then whips out his gun while the AIM soldiers are distracted by staring at the shield that is whipping around their heads missing them. Captain America blows off the knee caps of the three AIM soldiers. The shield then flies back around Bucky and takes out a fourth AIM solider that was creeping up behind Black Widow.

Captain America stands there and thinks how he will never replace Steve and that he can’t be Steve. However, he can honor Steve and make Steve proud of him with his own style of being Captain America.

Black Widow compliments Captain America on his work taking out the AIM soldiers. Black Widow comments how she is getting SHIELD reports that the rioting is spreading from Washington, DC, to Chicago and other cities. That who knows where they will be needed next. Bucky curses that they are two steps behind the Red Skull. That they should be tracking him down. That this is what the Red Skull wants them to do.

Black Widow retorts that the Red Skull wanted another wave of economic fear to rip through the country and that they just stopped that. And they will keep at it. After all, that is what Captain America does. Bucky reluctantly agrees.

We cut back to Tony talking with the Secretary of Defense. On a giant video screen, they see a huge crowd of protestors forming outside the gates of the White House. The Secretary comments that Kronas is just playing hardball. That they are trying to raise profits. Tony cuts off the Secretary and asks him how much Kronas has donated to him and his friends.

Suddenly, Tony is interrupted by a report that SHIELD has just got a fix on their missing agents. That they are outside the White House performing crowd control. Tony quickly orders that there are rogue agents in the field. We cut to Dr. Faustus on his cell phone giving the order to the agents that it is time. The rogue SHIELD agents lift up their weapons and start shooting the protestors. End of issue.

Comments
The Good: Captain America #34 was simply amazing. Honestly, this isn’t going to be a long review. The reason is because I have run out of superlatives and high praise in which to describe and heap upon Brubaker’s work on Captain America. This title very well may be the best and most consistent title that is currently on the market.

Captain America #34 is a wonderfully paced issue. Brubaker is the master of the slow burn, but he certainly cranks up the intensity with the purpose of creating as much tension inside the reader as we get a true sense of impending doom. The plotting continues to be incredibly impressive. Brubaker posses such phenomenal long range vision and is able to craft complex plotlines with an unbelievable attention to detail that you just can’t find on most of the titles currently on the market.

Brubaker dishes out plenty of his always finely crafted dialogue. Brubaker is able to generate such realistic dialogue that has a nice natural flow to it. Each character is well fleshed out and comes across as real-life people. This realistic dialogue and the well rounded characters are what pulls the reader into the story and makes this title such a compelling read.

I dig how Brubaker manages to tap into the current fears of the average American with the state of the economy. The average American watches as foreclosures have skyrocketed, the mortgage industry has collapsed, the real estate bubble has burst, the stock market is taking a beating, the dollar is weak abroad and gas prices continue to soar to all new highs. A good storyteller knows that the best way to hook a reader into feeling the fear and trauma of the characters in the story is to tap into the real life fears of the reader. This move gives this story a much more realistic feel as it is firmly rooted in our world rather than some fantasy comic book universe.

I have to say that I think Bucky makes an awesome Captain America. Brubaker is handling Bucky’s transitioning into the role of Captain America perfectly. I like that Brubaker has Bucky continually emphasis that he is not Steve Rogers. That he cannot act like Steve and do the same things that Steve did. That Bucky has to do things his way in order to honor Steve and to make him proud.

This is an excellent move. It helps readers who may be unwilling to accept Bucky as Captain America get over their dislike of anyone other than Steve Rogers assuming the mantle of Captain America. This move also helps distinguish between Bucky and Steve so that Bucky’s run as Captain America is distinctive and unique. If an established hero is going to be replaced then it had better be done with a character that is much different from the establish hero’s character and personality.

This also creates some intriguing internal conflict within Bucky as he struggles to cope with being the new Captain America. This shows the massive emotional toll that this is taking on Bucky as well as the maturation process that is going on with his character. We have seen Bucky transform from the teen-age side kick to a silent assassin to the confused and lost rogue agent. Now we are seeing Bucky in his final transformation as he is becoming a bit more mature and is trying his best to evolve into a man who will make Steve proud of the way he conducts himself.

Even though I know that Steve’s return is inevitable, I hope it is a long time from now. I am really digging Bucky as Captain America. He brings a whole new dimension and depth to the role of Captain America that Steve’s character lacks. I think that Bucky presents Brubaker with plenty of options and the potential for some intriguing stories.

Brubaker delivers some pretty sweet action scenes. I definitely like Bucky’s unique style of kicking ass. It is different from Steve’s style of fighting, but it is just as effective. I thought the ending to the fight scene where Bucky takes down the four AIM soldiers in his own way was a completely bad-assed moment. And the fight scene was a nice way for Brubaker to demonstrate how Bucky as Captain America will be different from Steve as Captain America.

Brubaker ends Captain America #34 with a phenomenal hook ending. Tony calls out the Secretary of Defense as being corrupt and on Kronas’ payroll. Then the missing SHIELD agents from back in Captain America #29 suddenly make their dramatic appearance and leave the reader with their jaw dropped to the ground. That is an excellent example of how no matter how small a plotline might seem that there is nothing that Brubaker does that isn’t important or that won’t play a role in the story at some later date.

Epting provides plenty of his usual quality artwork. Epting’s style of art is a perfect match for Brubaker’s story and helps to give this title its realistic look and feel.

The Bad: I have no complaints with this issue.

Overall: Captain America #34 was an absolute treasure. I cannot urge everyone enough to go out and give this title a try. It honestly is unlike any other comic book currently on the market. Captain America is a combination of traditional super hero action, super spy action, the mystery and intrigue of a good crime drama and the politically charged world of secret organizations and corrupt politicians.

This title is truly worth every penny of its cover price. Even if you never liked Captain America before, I still think you will enjoy what Brubaker is doing on this title. I never liked Captain America before Brubaker came to this title and now I am absolutely hooked.

5 Comments

  1. Reading this, it struck me that Brubaker has basically replicated the core trio of his first two arcs (“Out of Time” and “Winter Soldier”):

    The Captain – Steve/Bucky
    The Sexy Ex/Partner – Sharon/Natasha
    The Director – Nick Fury/Iron Man

    Really brilliant cliffhanger; the kind of low-key realism makes it all the more shocking.

    I wasn’t sure about Alex Ross’ costume design when I first saw it, but as Epting, Guice and D’Armata render it, it looks great (Ross’ super-shiny look contrasts poorly with the black; since we know Bucky and Tony designed it together, I imagine the session going something like this:

    “So I was thinking an all-metallic, shiny costume.”
    “No, no, a black costume.”
    “Shiny.”
    “Black.”
    “Shiny.”
    “Black.”
    “Alright, alright, we’ll go halfsies.”

  2. No nazi rule violation Rokk?

  3. Hey, I can take Bucky and the Black Widow being this century’s Captain America and the Falcom.

  4. Quick question from lurker-land, because it’s been bugging me and you’re knowledgeable. Heh. But, how do the timelines of these various interlocking titles work? It’s one thing to say that Mighty Avengers and New Avengers are supposed to be occurring simultaneously, except for the delays caused by Cho’s lateness, but what about Iron Man and Captain America? Because they both seem to be set in the “Marvel present,” if you will, except in one you have Tony gearing up to fight Red Skull and, um, the Second Great Depression, I guess, and at the same time, in his own title, he’s off to get totally flattened by the Mandarin (poor guy). As much as I like seeing him in both (and Mighty Avengers too! Crazy-busy!) and not OOC in either (frickin’ JMS), the timeline thing is starting to bug. Any ideas?

  5. I truly couldn’t wait to read this issue. I’ve been a Cap fan on and off since I was a kid. To see how Brubaker handles this timeless character even with the main character on hiatus is amazing to see month after month.

    The only other person I thought could be the new Cap would have been that soldier in the “Capt. American: The Chosen” miniseries. But I’m very pleased to see Bucky evolve from his resurrection and take on the role of Captain America. I always saw Bucky as a little pansy back in WW2; but now we see how much of a cut throat he really was. Good show, Brubaker. James will never do what Steve has done but it was great to see how James took down those AIM guys. Knee cap reconstruction for everyone. Lol!

    I know Steve Rogers will return eventually but let James Barnes have his time in sun.

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