Thursday, January 26, 2012

Captain America: Two Americas (comics)

Writer: Ed Brubaker
Artists: Luke Ross, Butch Guice
Collects: Captain America: Who Will Wield the Shield, Captain America #602-605

And so, with Bru's big Captain America epic out of the way - and one of those re-numberings that Marvel loves so damn much - it's time to move on to other stories, with Bucky still holding the shield for the time being.

Now, I just love those comics where the backstory is almost as interesting as what's within the pages. The main arc here caused some minor bitching from Neo-Con pundits - who of course only care about comics when an American icon goes against their shitty ideals - for showing what was essentially a Tea Party rally - complete with "Tea Bag the Dems" signs - and having Falcon remark that he - a black man - wouldn't feel comfortable among a bunch of angry white people. Why would he feel that way? It's not like there's any underlying racism at one of those gatherings, right? Marvel caved and changed the signs, sadly.

That's interesting, of course, but what makes the whole thing hilarious is that the minor alteration really didn't change a thing; while the sign was changed, that was never as big a deal as the story in question.

See, this story picked up on a prior plot thread during the Brubaker run. Anyone with a passing familiarity with Captain America knows that he was frozen in suspended animation for decades, but during the time he was gone the US decided to train replacements to keep the icon in play. The 50's Cap went crazy from the Super Soldier Serum and Bucky fought him once in recent times. Now he's back, only this time he's joined with a radical movement and trying to find the "real America".

Crazy Caps inner monologues essentially amount to a big "in my day" spiel. He's lost and confused, wondering what happened to the great America of his youth. He wants to reclaim that fleeting memory, through force if necessary. In a way, he's almost pitiable; it's not hard to relate to a feeling of your country circling the drain, having lost itself along the way. I feel that way at times, especially when I hear about the latest bill that will torpedo American rights for the interests of Big Business. But - and this should sound familiar - he's misguided, failing to realize his methods and solutions will only make matters worse. Only Crazy 50's Cap has the excuse of being insane.

The plot is dressed up with some superhero conventions, of course - talking heads debating politics would be one boring comic - but, even with the overt references removed, it boils down to kicking Tea Party/Neo-Con politics in the nuts. Maybe not to the degree of a Bioshock - which took a heaping dump on Ayn Rands entire philosophy - but it's plain as day. Remove the bombs, the spandex and the tech and you've got a fairly accurate portrayal; after all, how many times have we heard several of them talk of revolution or overthrowing the government? Hell, a fairly well known author once said as much because the government was slowly legalizing gay marriage and apparently that means that the government is corrupt. Gay Marriage: Totally destroying our country more than Wall Street, am I right?

The cherry on top is the minor theme of racism, which even ties into that whole revolution thing; after all, I'm pretty sure we fought a civil war over similarly wrongheaded ideals like, oh, I dunno, the persecution of blacks.

So it provokes thought and says something. Even with all that, though, it's not one of Bru's best Cap stories. Granted, that still places it well above most of the competition, so that's not exactly me condemning it. It's another volume of Brubakers Captain America run; that's not a bad thing. Its problem may just be a combination of being more of a straight up adventure than Bru has done in a while and the fact that the story is coming right after the end of Bru's Captain America epic, after which most things would seem unremarkable.

Oh, there's also this one shot special about whether Steve is going to take the shield back or if Bucky will keep it a while longer. It's kind of pointless. I really don't get why we had to have a special to answer that question instead of a regular issue of the Captain America comic. Anyways, it gives us our answer with minimum thrills - not Bru's fault, since I can't picture an exciting comic about who will wear a set of clothing any more than I can about talking heads discussing politics - and sets Steve Rogers up for what he'll be doing while Bucky stays in the outfit for a while.

I think at one point one issue specials were supposed to be, you know, special. Seems almost quaint now. I guess tough decisions on who will wear the flag on their spandex is the new special.

The Score: 7.5 out of 10

Another good volume of Ed Brubakers extended Captain America run. It feels a bit like a breather arc between big stories, just with bombs, fake Caps and some political underpinnings. Next volume is supposed to be pretty heavy for Bucky, so it's fitting.

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