The Death of Captain America, Vol. 1: The Death of the Dream
written by Ed Brubaker
illustrated by Steve Epting and Mike Perkins
This trade paperback collects issues #25–30 of Captain America (volume 5) and begins writer Ed Brubaker’s epic Death of Captain America storyline. The first issue reprinted here, in which Captain America is shot and killed, captured the attention of the North American print and television media when it was first published in March 2007. The issue opens with a quick origin recap told as a flashback with accompanying black-and-white art. Brubaker’s exposition is deft and skillful. This storyline is linked to Marvel’s Civil War event, although one needn’t necessarily be well-versed in all things Civil War to enjoy the story here. The backstory is concisely set out in a series of media clips, giving readers all they really need to know in order to understand and thoroughly enjoy the story at hand.
Captain America had opposed the Superhuman Registration Act, which was introduced within Marvel’s Civil War crossover. The Registration Act entailed mandatory federal registration for anyone in the United States who possessed superpowers or abilities. Captain America resisted on the grounds that the act violated civil liberties, which led to an antiregistration resistance movement, and Civil War’s conclusion saw Captain America decide to surrender rather than see innocent lives jeopardized. Following this, he was arrested and criminally charged.
I do not want to spoil things for those who have yet to read these stories, so I will simply say that while Captain America dies at roughly the midway point of the first issue, the issue’s climax is genuinely shocking. The story in between is wonderfully and skillfully told. Those with whom Captain America is closest—Sharon Carter/Agent 13, Bucky Barnes/Winter Soldier, and Sam Wilson/The Falcon—at various points throughout the issue silently reflect upon what he means to them. These brief interludes work extremely well as exposition, giving weight and context to the current vista while also connecting what is happening to the rich history of Captain America comic books. The action is unyielding throughout. And the ultimate compliment to Ed Brubaker, Steve Epting, and Mike Perkins is that, while the action moves at breakneck speed, it always does so only in the service of story and character.
The ensuing issues deal with the events that follow Captain America’s death and the action and intrigue ante continues to build with each issue, culminating in another big payoff by way of a huge climax that concludes the trade paperback and will no doubt have readers quickly seeking out the next trade in the series. Brubaker’s skill as a writer of episodic monthly comic books is clearly evident, but the climax in the last issue here leads one to believe he was also framing the stories from the outset with eventual trade paperback publication firmly in the back of his mind.
With Captain America excised from the title, Brubaker makes everyone in his world seem that much more fascinating. Major villains—such as the Red Skull, Doctor Faustus, and Crossbones—are written as deadly seriously as they have ever been and to wonderful effect. In Captain America’s absence, Sharon Carter becomes, for reasons you will quickly glean once you read the trade, a character that is more incredibly intriguing each time she appears. Falcon and Winter Soldier are given the spotlight to brilliant effect. And the always interesting Black Widow also makes an appearance.
Brubaker presents his stories as vignettes that focus on particular moments or characters, and this structure facilitates the whirlwind, flat-out pacing that characterizes the issues reprinted herein. The stories themselves are superb, but the way they are told is commendable and will encourage one to perhaps read more quickly than one might otherwise. The artwork throughout is incredibly solid and consistently serves the interests of story in pitch-perfect fashion.
From a historical perspective, the stories in this trade are almost required reading for obvious reasons. Beyond this, the stories included herein bespeak a fundamental respect for readers and one gets the immediate sense that the creative team behind them is at the absolute top of their game. This is a fresh, original, and risky take on the world of Captain America and the storytelling and artwork are such that it deserves to be read very widely.
This trade paperback is highly recommended not only to Captain America fans but also to those who enjoy action-adventure stories that are rife with compelling character interaction and human drama. Anyone who appreciates extremely well told stories and great dialogue will also find much to like and enjoy here.-- Jeffery Klaehn