Monday, June 30, 2008

Captain America returns (sort of)

When the shot heard round the world was fired last year, major news sources like USA Today and even CNN jumped onto the coverage: Captain America was dead. The living legend and icon was gone in a time when America needed stability the most. Of course, this is the world of comic books and no one really stays dead, so who was holding their breath it would last?

Captain America #39 hit the stands last week and the cover says it all. Cap has returned to face his replacement, namely Bucky Barnes (aka "Winter Soldier"). The only hitch is that this isn't the Steve Rogers Captain America, but the Cap from the 1950's.

See, comic books went through a hard time in the 50's. They were blamed for juvenile delinquency everywhere and were even publicly burned by concerned parents' groups. Comics did manage to weather that storm, but the outcome was hard for superheroes. Western comics came through smelling like roses, but heroes didn't make it as well. When Marvel decided to attempt to relaunch Captain America, he would no longer be fighting Nazis, but Communists. This required a little playing around with his origin, so a new Cap was created. This same hero was eventually tucked away in the Marvel Universe until he was revived as the new Hate Monger and thought to be killed. Turns out he was being held in suspended animation the whole time. Now he's back and ready to take on the mantle of Captain America again. Unfortunately, someone else is wearing the stars-and-stripes at the moment.

This setup is awesome for Marvel. I've really enjoyed Captain America since the Civil War happened and his death was faked--I mean, he was killed. Bucky's done a great job as Cap and now we have a great turnaround here with the appearance of the 1950's Cap.

For years, the 1940's Cap was teamed with the 1950's Bucky (Jack Munroe, who later became Marvel's coolest hero ever: Nomad). Now the 1940's Bucky meets the 1950's Cap, but there's a small bit of animosity between them: Bucky killed Jack Munroe when he was still Winter Soldier. The new/old Cap knows this, and we have the setup for some great fights ahead.

While this issue is a great start, it only sets the stage for the upcoming battle next issue. Will this Cap stick around for a while? Who knows. He won't replace Bucky (that'll be Steve Rogers' job when he comes back), but he could add a new hero to the Marvel roster. Of course, with US Agent running around out there, we don't really need another Cap rip-off, so I say this guy is heading for a dirt nap before his storyline is through. We'll see. Either way, it's been a great story so far and looks like it will only get better.

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