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Mixed bag, but a good start for a hopefully memorable run
on December 21, 2011
It's hard to review this book without keeping my pretty high expectations into account. However, I feel I can honestly say that this is a good story with great artwork but also many faults.
The plot is complicated, buy it's basic point is one of guilt and redemption: Cap discovers that his original partner, Bucky, might still be alive and brainwashed by the Soviets into a stone cold killer. His reappearance may be tied to the apparent murder of Cap's nazi nemesis, the Red Skull, and the subsequent disappearance of his newly restored Cosmic Cube, a potentially almighty reality-bending weapon. All of this may in turn be part of the scariest revenge plot Cap's ever been the target of.
There's much more to this than this brief summary, also because this story nearly spans Cap's entire career, making a great job of tying things together and of redefining in modern terms many old, cheeky parts of the characters' rich history.
The main faults I see in the treatment, though, are indeed linked to characters and plot development.
Concerning the former: I can't really feel the Captain's guilt or his drama, so he mostly strikes me as too indecisive but with no real reason, and not particularly smart to boot. Except when he figures out they can track the Cosmic Cube's energy signature, which is comic book-clever and not very representative of his intelligence. It rather belittles guest star Tony Stark, supposedly a technical genius, by comparison. Again Carter is supposed to be a top level field agent of Marvel's premiere intelligence agency, S.H.I.E. L.D. Still, she wears long, unbound blond hair all the time and on her first mission looks like a scaredy bimbo, down to the screaming for surprise or fear when suddenly faced with a cadaver. Nick Fury is supposed to be S.H.I.E.L.D.'s cunning, manipulating chief, but he acts and sounds like a boy scout, mostly. All this is, to me, poor character treatment.
As for plot development, you're often told secrets so straightforwardly that it deprives the revelation of momentum and drama. The primers and hints dropped along the way end up feeling like out-of-date teasers or previews pretty soon, with little emotional impact or suspense creation. It's pretty dull when that happens. It gets better towards the end, until Cap's half assed assault on the enemy, which looks less heroic than simply brash, while also being unjustified in its urgency, because there should be no rush in risking your life to get to something you can track any time, or secure in other ways (be it the Cosmic Cube or even Bucky, aka Soviet killer the Winter Soldier, himself).
Kudos, though, to the treatment of the Red Skull (this one I won't spoil :-) and the final issues of the storyline, as well as to the art teamsinvolved, especially flashback artist Michael Lark, though Epting and Perkins turned in great art too.
This book is after all, just a huge set up for what comes next. In this respect, it works well enough and I surely want to know and read more.