Captain America: Reborn #1 Review

I have mixed feelings about Captain America: Reborn #1. I am part of the camp that believe that there is no reason to rush Steve Rogers back so soon after his “death.” I have been enjoying what Brubaker has been doing with Bucky as Captain America and how Brubaker has fleshed out all of Steve’s supporting characters. I believe that Brubaker easily has enough stories in him to keep Bucky as Captain America for another two to four years.

So, while I might have pushed back the return of Steve Rogers, I understand that Marvel feels the need to rush Steve back before they release the Captain America movie. I have loved Brubaker’s run on Captain America and have very high expectations for Captain America: Reborn #1. Hopefully, Brubaker can meet my high expectations and deliver a well crafted read with Captain America: Reborn #1. Let’s do this review.

Creative Team
Writers: Ed Brubaker
Pencils: Bryan Hitch
Inks: Butch Guice

Story Rating: 6 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 7 Night Girls out of 10

Synopsis: We begin with a flashback scene to D-Day with Captain America leading the Marines in storming the beach in Normandy. Captain America tells the troops that he is not going to lie to them. Captain America says that this is going to be one of the hardest days in their lives. Captain America tells the Marines to follow him. A voice narrates that this is the story of the life of Captain America that everyone knows.

We then cut to Sharon shooting Steve Rogers. A voice narrates that this is the story of the death of Captain America.

We shift to the new Captain America and Black Widow breaking into a HAMMER Helicarrier. Captain America and Black Widow kick ass on a bunch of HAMMER agents. A voice narrates that Steve Rogers’ old cohort, Bucky Barnes, is now the new Captain America. After Captain America and Black Widow wipe out all of the HAMMER agents, Black Widow radios someone and informs them “All right, we’re in.”

We slide over to Hank Pym’s lab where Hank is meeting with Vision, Falcon and Sharon Carter. We learn that the two voices narrating all of the previous scenes has been Vision and Hank Pym. Sharon Carter explains how she was the second shooter and that she killed Steve Rogers. Sharon continues how she was under the mind control of the Red Skull. However, Sharon was eventually able to break free from the Red Skull’s control.

Sharon tells Pym that Arnim Zola constructed a variation of Doom’s Time Platform. Sharon re-tells the events of Captain America #42 where she was hooked up to the time platform. Sharon says that she saw Steve Rogers in the bright light of the time platform. Sharon broke her connection with the time platform because she was not going to let the Red Skull have Steve. Sharon says that it seemed like Red Skull was trying to bring Steve back.

Falcon then shows Pym the gun that Red Skull had Sharon use to kill Steve. Sharon continues that Red Skrull referred to her as “the constant.” Sharon says that Red Skull needed her to make the whole thing work. Pym asks if they know what happened to what was left of this time platform. Sharon says that they do now.

We cut to yesterday with Nick Fury meeting with Bucky and Natasha to plot their infiltration of HAMMER. Nick tells them that HAMMER is holding all of Red Skull’s confiscated tech on HAMMER’s main helicarrier. Nick says that there is no record that the tech has ever been examined. That it appears it has been lost in the shuffle during the transition from SHIELD to HAMMER. Nick gives Bucky the breach point on HAMMER’s ship. Nick says that he can make sure the surveillance cameras are looped for fifteen minutes. After that, Bucky and Natasha are on their own.

We zip back to the present with Captain America and Black Widow making their way past some HAMMER soldiers on HAMMER’s helicarrier. We cut back to Pym’s lab. Pym is inspecting the gun that Sharon used to kill Steve. Pym says that the gun is definitely Doom-tech. Pym says that they need to get Reed Richards to examine the gun. Pym says there is something odd that is not making a lot of sense. Some kind of tachyon field or something unstable.

Pym then asks what are the odds that Norman Osborn would not know about Arnim Zola’s time platform that is sitting in Norman’s own helicarrier. Pym says that it is generally a bad idea to underestimate Norman Osborn.

We cut back to Captain America and Black Widow in the storage room in the HAMMER helicarrier. Captain America tells Black Widow that they have a problem. Not only is there no sign of the time platform, but there are also no signs of the pieces of Arnim Zola’s blown up robotic body that were confiscated by SHIELD. Captain America says that they have to go now. That this is not right.

Suddenly, the Ares and Venom appear on the scene along with a ton of HAMMER soldier.

We zip over to Thunderbolts Mountain which is serving as HAMMER’s National Headquarters. We see that Norman has partially re-constructed Arnim Zola’s robotic body. Arnim Zola tells Norman that Doom’s device locked Steve’s body in time and space. That with both the time platform and the constant that they were able to pluck Steve out of the time stream where he lay dormant. However, Sharon destroyed the time platform and that caused them to lose Steve’s body during the transfer. Arnim Zola states that Steve has become unstuck in time.

We cut back to Normandy during D-Day. Steve looks around at the dead. Steve thinks that this is not right. That he should not be here. Bucky runs up to Steve and tells him that more Germans are coming and that they have to retreat. Steve is surprised to see Bucky alive. Everything goes white. We then see Steve as a young boy watching his mother die. Everything goes white.

We then see Steve back in World War II in the middle of a battle. Bucky dives and knocks Steve out of the way from some falling rubble from a bomb. Bucky says that Steve was in a daze. Steve responds that he is fine. Steve then thinks “Oh god…What’s happening to me?” (Um, you are basically Desmond from Lost.) End of issue.

Commentary
The Good: Captain America: Reborn #1 did not live up to my extremely high expectations. I found this to be a slightly above average debut issue. Still, there were plenty of positive aspects to Captain America: Reborn #1. Brubaker most certainly succeeded in making this issue extremely new reader friendly. Brubaker used the first seventeen pages of this issue to concisely and effectively re-cap the high points of his run on Captain America. New readers get the essential facts of Brubaker’s run. This enables new reader to hop on this title and have absolutely no problems knowing what is going on.

In terms of sales and marketing, this was a smart move by Marvel. However, as a reader who has been following Brubaker’s run on Captain America with the very first issue, the final thirteen pages were what actually interested me.

Brubaker performed his usual solid character work with this issue. The dialogue was also well crafted. Brubaker is an old hand with all of Captain America’s supporting cast and knows how to write them properly. I loved the insertion of Norman into this story. This provided for a nice unexpected wrinkle and added yet another faction into the mix. Plus, this also helps to anchor Captain America: Reborn in the Dark Reign setting of the 616 Universe. I particularly enjoyed how Brubaker properly writes Norman Osborn as a dangerous and smart man who is not to be underestimated.

I also enjoyed that Brubaker worked Hank Pym into this story. I appreciate the concerted effort at Marvel to try and properly rehabilitate Pym’s character. Brubaker continues the recent trend of firmly re-establishing Pym as one of Marvel’s premier big brains right up there with Reed Richards and Tony Stark. The use of Pym in this story also helps to tie Captain America to the Mighty Avengers who I view more as the “real” Avengers compared to the motley crew on New Avengers.

Captain America: Reborn #1 was a strongly plotted issue. Brubaker does his best to show the reader how all the various clues during his run on Captain America connect together to arrive at this story. Brubaker seamlessly builds off the events from Captain America #42 in this issue. It is obvious that Brubaker has had a clear goal in mind from the moment that he “killed” Steve Rogers. Brubaker moves the story forward in a logical fashion with an obvious purpose in mind.

I like that Brubaker wasted no time in giving the reader at least the generalities surrounding what happened to Steve. Sure, Brubaker held back some of the finer details, but the reader gets the basic gist of what Red Skull did to Steve. I am glad that Brubaker decided to clue the reader in from the start of this story. This allows Brubaker to simply focus on the journey that our heroes are going to have to undertake in order to rescue Steve over the course of the next four issues. And it gives the reader enough information so they know what to expect with the rest of this series without spoiling too much.

Brubaker ends Captain America: Reborn #1 with a solid hook ending as Steve begins to realize that he is sliding up and down the time stream. I have to admit that even though I want a couple of more years of Bucky as Captain America; it was nice to see Steve Rogers back in action once again. Brubaker certainly did enough with the “surprise” ending of this issue as the reader discovers that Steve has become lost in the time stream to hook readers into coming back for more with the next issue.

Bryan Hitch and Bruce Guice combined to deliver plenty of nice artwork. While I do prefer it when Hitch inks his own work, Guice does a fine job with this issue. And more importantly, having Guice perform the inking duties hopefully will enable Hitch to meet his deadlines with this title. Hitch gives Captain America: Reborn #1 a nice dramatic look. I love how Hitch frames this story. Hitch’s panel layouts are great and he makes this issue enjoyable to look at.

The Bad: Captain America: Reborn #1 did not live up to my lofty expectations for this issue. I have extremely high standards for Brubaker when it comes to Captain America. As long-time followers of The Revolution know, I have been consistently praising Brubaker’s Captain America since the first day The Revolution started. I do believe that Captain America is one of the best comic books on the market. So, because of my respect and appreciation for what Brubaker has done on Captain America, I have extremely high standards of what I expect from Brubaker. Captain America: Reborn #1 simply did not live up to those expectation.

Brubaker’s run on Captain America has been well crafted and quite original. While Brubaker has used some fantastic devices like the cosmic cube; his run on Captain America has trended closer to a realism based story rather than your typical outlandish super hero comic book story. On the other hand, Captain America: Reborn #1 was a rather unoriginal story. And this issue also veered toward more of your typical super hero comic book complete with goofy elaborate plans by the main villain.

As many of the followers of The Revolution know, I have been watching the DVD’s of Lost like a madman for the past month. I am currently watching Season 4. The odd thing is that on Tuesday night I watched the fifth episode of Season 4 entitled “The Constant.” If you are unfamiliar with Lost then check out the recap and review of “The Constant”.

On Wednesday, I was relaxing in the lounge of my local comic book shop. Yes, my local comic shop has a lounge. That is part of why it is the best comic shop in America. I was talking with a couple of other guys about Season 4 of Lost. In particular the episode “The Constant.” We were all raving about how incredible that episode was.

We then picked up our copies of Captain America: Reborn #1 and decided to read them and talk about what we thought of this issue. Once we all finished our copies of this issue, we looked at each other and all said: “The Constant.” Maybe Brubaker was not ripping off Lost when he came up with his concept for Steve’s mind and soul being unanchored and travelling along his time stream and requiring Sharon to serve as the constant to anchor him back into reality and into the present time stream. I guess that is possible.

But, the fact remains that Brubaker’s concept for Captain America: Reborn is exactly what we got in Lost in the episode “The Constant.” Desmond becomes detached from the present day as his mind and soul begin to slide up and down his time stream. Desmond has to use the love of his life, Penny, as his “constant” to anchor him to reality and the present day.

Now, the creators of Lost have stated that they were inspired by Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five when they wrote “The Constant.” And I understand that often writers look to earlier works for inspiration for their own stories. But, when I was reading Captain America: Reborn #1 I felt like I was simply reading a reconstituted version of “The Constant” in super hero format. Insert Steve for Desmond and insert Sharon for Penny. It was disappointing to see Brubaker deliver such an unoriginal concept as the centerpiece for Captain America: Reborn. Hopefully, Brubaker will be able to give this story a more unique and original feel over the course of the next several issues.

Despite my reservations surrounding the originality or lack thereof of the main concept of this story, my biggest problem with Captain America: Reborn #1 is the act of bringing characters back from the dead. Unfortunately, resurrecting characters seems to inevitably lead to a cheesy and contrived story that is tough for the reader to swallow.

Brubaker’s explanation of how Steve “died” and how he can be resurrected was a bit lame and cheesy. And that is the heart of the problem with constantly killing off characters and then bringing them back. It is asking too much from a writer to resurrect a character and to do so in a fashion that does not make the reader roll their eyes at some point.

This is why I wish characters would not be killed off so often. To cheat death, the writer will almost always have to resort to some convoluted and silly plot device to bring the character back to life. The idea that Red Skull would have Sharon use a special gun that sends Steve’s soul adrift in the time stream only to then build a time platform and use Sharon as a constant to bring Steve’s soul back into the present day was goofy.

I find this story much less interesting than the rest of Brubaker’s run on the Captain America. Personally, I would much rather read about Bucky as Captain America than this contrived story of how Steve Rogers was brought back to life.

Another problem with this ridiculously convoluted plan that the Red Skull had for Steve is that it runs the risk of making Red Skull look like an idiot. Brubaker unveils in this issue how Red Skull planned an unbelievably ornate and elaborate plan rather than having the Red Skull simply have Sharon kill Steve with a regular gun and thereby forever being done with his arch nemesis. This type of silly plan is standard issue comic book fare that makes the villain look more like Dr. Evil from Austin Powers than an intelligent villain who is a legitimate threat.

We have seen this time and time again where the villain engages in a laughably and overly elaborate plan to dispose of the hero rather than simply shooting the hero with a gun and ending it once and for all. And in Captain America: Reborn #1, the reader is left with the impression that the Red Skull is an idiot for engaging in such an elaborate plan to deal with Steve. Hopefully, Brubaker has an excellent reason why the Red Skull would employ such an over the top plan rather than simply having Sharon shoot Steve with a real gun.

A more practical complaint of Captain America: Reborn #1 was that it was a slow read. As a long time reader I was bored while Brubaker spent the first seventeen pages recounting what we have gotten on this title since Steve Rogers was “killed.” I understand why Brubaker went this route, but it did nothing to make this issue an exciting read for long-time Captain America readers. I suspect that now that Brubaker has gotten all the set-up out of the way that the remaining four issues should be more exciting for long-time Captain America readers.

Overall: The fact remains that despite the weaknesses of Captain America: Reborn #1, Steve Rogers fans are going to absolutely love this issue. And they should. Fans of a character can easily look past many defects of a story if the end result is the return of a beloved character.

Case in point is how I view Flash: Rebirth. My love for Barry Allen’s character and my excitement over his return has allowed me to be relatively immune to the obvious defects of the story. Those defects usually only irritate readers who are not devout fans of the character being resurrected.

Despite my problems with this issue, I would still recommend Captain America: Reborn #1 to long-time Captain America readers. This is the moment that Brubaker has been building to since he came aboard this title. And if you have been reading Captain America since Brubaker’s first issue then it will be tough for you to skip on Captain America: Reborn no matter the obvious defects of this story.

I would definitely recommend Captain America: Reborn #1 to readers who have never read Captain America before. This issue is very new reader friendly and it offers a technically well constructed story.

On the other hand, readers who are tired of reading contrived stories where a character is brought back from the dead are better off served by not bothering with Captain America: Reborn.
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Rokk

8 Comments

  1. I only know as much about Brubaker's run on Cap as I hear here at The Revolution, but it always seemed to me that he was making Mt. Dew out of urine with the "big death" mandate that came out of Civil War. (Note that I like Mt. Dew, so I mean that as a net-positive.)

    That said, I first got into the character back in the 80s, and my very first issue was Captain America #333, where John Walker took over. It was a few issues before Steve Rogers even showed up, and when he did, the combination of ideals and the ability to wreck asses made me a fan for life.

    It's been postulated that Steve will come back in a "Director of SHIELD" type of role. He'd almost have to, since having the original Cap anywhere near an Avengers team would mean it was about fifteen minutes until Osborn would get completely humiliated and destroyed, and Marvel is loving this "Dark ____" stuff way too much lately to let that happen.

    Onto this issue, I thought it was a good set-up and recap (pun intended) for those like me that haven't been buying the regular series. My only issue is with the WWII flashbacks: Cap's costume is wrong. Unless he's jumping Sliders-style and that's the Ultimate MU, he should be wearing the original Simon/Kirby gear. I will admit that I like what Hitch has done to stylize the "A" though. ^_^

    Given all the development of the New Cap, if they really want to bring Steve back in the role I would hope that they could co-exist. Heck, it's been sixty years since he's had a promotion…why not have Steve be "Colonel America" or something?

  2. Rokk, great review. Your comments connecting Cap Reborn to LOST were interesting; I never would have made that connection, and I'm a huge fan of the show. I'm very glad that you've become a LOST convert right before the show is about to end. Better late than never, lol. I'm surprised that you weren't a watcher from the beginning. Some of the show's writers, notably Damon Lindelof and of course, Brian K. Vaughan, have written comics.

    Personally, I did not buy Cap Reborn #1. To me, this series has a similar feel to Battle for the Cowl, in that no matter how the story is told, we have a pretty good idea of what's going to happen: Steve Rogers is going to come back in some form just as Dick Grayson would ascend to become Batman.

  3. Just a historical correction: it wasn't the Marines that landed at Normandy, it was the Army. (Thanks, Granddad.)

  4. It's not like the idea of being lost in time and tethered to the present by a loved one is a particularly new idea. Lost might have used it, but so has the Flash (Linda if Wally's anchor every time he goes off, and Iris is Barry's anchor as well), additionally there is a movie coming out based on a book published in 2003 called the Time Traveler's Wife, which has a similar idea. It's hardly fair to criticize Cap because it uses an idea Lost also utilized because it isn't original to Lost either.

  5. Other Anonymous: Actually, the Marines did land at Normandy, as did the Army, unless I'm mistaken.

    And the idea of Steve Rogers taking over SHIELD when all is said and done while letting Bucky Barnes take over as Cap is actually a really good one. I'm going to cross my fingers now and hope that's what they're doing.

  6. I think Captain America: Reborn is basically Marvel trying to match DC's The Flash: Rebirth, and since no other big profile chararcter (that I can think of) is dead, they chose Cap. I guessed originally that they were going to have something where a Steve Rogers from the past would be brought to the future because just having Dr. Strange or Brother Voodoo, whoever the magic guy is now, take Steve's body, find his soul and reunite it to his body so that he could lead the heroes on their last battle against HAMMER was a little cliched. So obviously their trying to draw people away from DC with Barry Allen returning by bringing back someone more popular in the public eye in Cap. That theory could be wrong of course. it could be that they recognized the whole Battle for the Cowl thing was basically copying Cap's death with them "killing" off Batman and having his old sidekick take his place. So now by bringing Cap back it looks like Marvel is challenging DC to bring Bruce Wayne back like right after the new slew of Batman books started. thats pretty clever if you ask me.

  7. Other other anonymous: nope, the Marines did not land at Normandy. It was one of the reasons Ike was prejudiced against the Marines: he felt Normandy demonstrated that the Army was perfectly capable of performing amphibious operations as well as the Marines.

  8. Anonymouses: Well, I was wrong. Just looked it up. I think I was thinking of the Rangers – who I wouldn't confuse with Marines normally, just that I remember distinctly different infantry units going up the beach… So, yeah. OK.

    I'd just like to say I totally guessed wrong about the whole CAP REBORN thing, incidentally. I knew time travel was going to be involved, but what I thought was going to happen was that they were going to pluck Captain America out of time from the 40's again. That way his "man out of time" status, which was one of the tenets of his character he quite naturally has lost in the last near-50 years, would be restored.

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