Monday, June 18, 2012

Captain America: Prisoner of War (comics)

Writer: Ed Brubaker
Artists: Mike Deodato, Butch Guice, Chris Samnee
Collects: Captain America #616-619

This volume has the distinction of being the last before a relaunch; a new Captain America #1 came about - as I recall this was right around when the movie hit - while this book pulled an Incredible Herc and changed its mission statement whilst retaining the numbering.

Personally, I think this is stupid - just because a major run is ending and a movie is out doesn't mean you need to relaunch the goddamn book - but I can kind of understand why they're doing it in this case. The fourth volume - from Winter Soldier up to now - has been as much about Bucky as anyone, even when Steve was holding the shield. With Steve set to be the main focus of the new volume, I suppose they're looking for a clean break. Fair enough, but I don't think it's necessary.

When we last left Bucky, he'd managed to triumph in his trial, only to find himself suddenly extridited to Russia for crimes he supposedly commited as the Winter Soldier. Steve Rogers, not being a complete idiot, smells a rat - it's very likely Russia is just sore that their Cold War secrets are out in the open, after all, and are looking to dispose of that nagging loose end - but officially his hands are tied. It doesn't stop him from covert attempts to follow up. Meanwhile, Bucky is forced to survive in a Russian gulag, where everyone is out for his blood.

Everything is fine right up until we hit the end. As I noted earlier, this volume contains the last issues before the books relaunch, so you'd expect some manner of closure. It wouldn't necessarily need to be definitive or tidy, but an ending of sorts to Buckys days as Captain America is certainly in order.

Well guess what; we don't get one. For the first time since Civil War, Ed Brubakers run falls victim to a crappy event. Hell, at least that one worked to his advantage. Nope, we end on a "to be continued in Fear Itself", even if it isn't necessarily worded that way. I don't know if Brubaker was in on it or okay with it, but thanks for that regardless, Marvel. I guess it's way too much to leave a book alone to wrap it's own business. Gotta stick it in the summer event, of course.

That aside, there isn't much to say about the writing that hasn't been said before. This time, Bru splits the narrative between Bucky adventures in Russian prison and his buddies outside trying to figure out how to get him out of the mess. This is, of course, not what Bucky signed up for; he was ready to face his past before, but that was also before it involved being thrown to the wolves in Russia, where the warden and everyone employed by him are corrupt and the inmates all want to kill him. This on top of the fact that memories of his Winter Soldier days are bubbling to the surface, haunting him.

Bucky's a very compelling character under Bru. After all this time I think it's safe to say his return was a masterstroke. I'm sorry to see him leave this book, even if he is getting one of his own.

The art does a bit of mixing and matching. Each section - Bucky, Steve and Widow - has it's own artist. Not a great way to keep some visual consistency under normal circumstances, but it's clear it was designed this way. Hard to say if it's a good or bad move on Marvels part - I guess it comes down to the individual to decide - but I must say I kind of liked the effect. I don't mind assigning different artists to sections involving different characters as long as the stylistic shift isn't too jarring. There's a big difference between structuring your comic that way and having crappy fill-in art.

The Score: 7.5 out of 10

It doesn't quite provide the closure it should have to Bucky's time with the shield, but it's still a solid, entertaining book through and through. Hopefully the quality holds up when Steve Rogers is the focus.

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