I love Ed Brubaker and I love his work with Captain America. Believe me, I really do. But am I the only one who feels kind of disinterested in Captain America Reborn? Brubaker’s run with the character has shown that mysteries with obvious answers aren’t so bad when the storytelling is excellent.
It looked like they were bringing Bucky back and, lo and behold, they did. It looked like they were going to turn Bucky into Captain America and, low and behold, they did. The stories were obvious based on the hints and how natural they felt, but Marvel still acted like they were mysteries.
It’s not working this time, honestly. We knew from issue one that Cap would be coming back. The first issue was a basic explanation as to how he would be coming back. Everything else has felt like filler. Even worse, we’ve been given some scenes of Steve Rogers alive and well after this, so there’s no real drama to look at.
New Avengers Annual #3 shows Steve surprising everyone by showing up on the last page in his chainmail tights. The latest issue of Iron Man has both Caps there to share their shield. Before either of those is Dark Avengers Annual, ending with Steve in a more SHIELD-like outfit hanging out with Bucky Cap on their hunt for allies against Osborn.
Aha! The plot thickens. Since it was official that Steve was coming back, there had been lots of speculation that he was going to be taking over the Fury/Hill/Stark/Osborn spot as king of the superhero/government relations mountain. This would allow Bucky to remain as Captain America for at least a little while longer. This will probably be covered in part next week as Captain America: Who Will Wield the Shield? is released. This isn’t to be confused with Captain America: All Those Who Chose to Oppose his Shield Must Yield.
Like all things relating to me and Marvel, this goes back to issues of What If because I’m a fool who can’t stop bringing up that series. The fifth issue of the first volume was What If Captain America Hadn’t Vanished During World War II. It wasn’t an especially good story, but it does mirror what we seem to be moving towards: Steve Rogers is the Director of SHIELD and Bucky Barnes is Captain America. Sadly, it doesn’t turn out too well, as Bucky dies heroically against Baron Zemo and Sharon yells at Steve for it.
BUT! The What If parallels aren’t totally negative. In fact, there’s a reason I’m jazzed at these turn of events. Two years ago, they released What If: Civil War. It featured two stories with a framing device holding them together. The framing is written by Ed Brubaker with art by the always-inspiring Marko Djurdjevic. It’s an homage to the issue What If Elektra Had Lived, which everyone but me seems to love for reasons I could never understand other than it being Frank Miller.
Seriously. I get why people like All-Star Batman and Robin. I get why people like Dark Knight Strikes Again. I just can’t understand the love for that comic.
Much like in that Elektra issue, the Watcher appears to our hero in a cemetery during rainfall. Holding an umbrella, he proceeds to show him another world where things happened differently.
The first story is by Kevin Grevioux and Gustavo. In it, Iron Man dies during the Extremis story and isn’t around to hold up his side of the Civil War. Captain America has the entire superhero community behind him and fights a war he cannot win against a more cutthroat government. By the end of it, many heroes are dead – including Cap and Spider-Man. Henry Gyrich is President of the United States and the country is protected by an army of Sentinels and Thor clones. Not the most positive outcome.
Back in 616, Tony is cool with this story because it proves his point. Without him, things would be worse. He was right. The Watcher shows him another possible outcome that’s too late to come to pass. In a story by Christos Gage and Harvey Tolibao, when Iron Man confronts Captain America and shakes his hand while suggesting they talk things over, he proceeds to speak his mind and tells the truth about his feelings.
“Steve… thank you for doing this. I… Like I said, I believe in what I’m doing… but I want to be sure I’m doing it the right way. I need someone I trust to make sure I am. I need your help, Cap.”
Cap turns off his electric gizmo hidden in his palm and agrees to talk. Long story slightly shorter, Clone Thor is released and both sides unite to kick the utter shit out of him. Goliath is spared from his fate in this reality. Steve and Tony later discuss their differences and Tony finally hits the inspiration needed to end the war. When Cap says that the government is too corrupt to have power over the superhumans, Tony suggests that Cap could fill in that role.
Due to overwhelming popularity for the idea from the American public, the President folds and gives them the opportunity. Over a montage, the Watcher narrates to Tony.
“Under your shared leadership, the Avengers became an unparalleled force for good… One no foe could stand against… One which quickly won the respect and admiration of those it strove to protect. The champions of Earth stood together, united, under the banner of the Avengers. Young superhumans were trained by their elders; taught both tactics and responsibility; serving only by choice, their identities protected. And when discipline became necessary, it was meted out by their brethren, both swiftly and justly. So began a new golden age of heroes. In some ways, far different than what had come before… in others, much the same.”
A final look at this world has Iron Man and Captain America bullshit over meeting notes and how glad they are that they worked things out. Everything looks like sunshine and lollipops, but then we have to go back to stupid reality.
Poor guy. The Watcher says that he’s only showed these visions to pay tribute and show Tony Stark a lesson in how his actions, no matter how big, have consequence. Really, it shows the true moral of Civil War to me: Tony Stark was right, but he was a dick about it. Then again, could there be more to the Watcher’s appearance here?
Keep in mind, this framing device is 616 and Brubaker’s writing it. That means that it’s canon. Tony knows that Steve in charge (of our days and our nights! Steve in charge of our wrongs and our rights!) is a good thing. Could it have been part of the writing plan?
I certainly hope so. With the Big 3 of the Avengers on their way to standing side-by-side once again, maybe they should give this “new golden age of heroes” a shot.