Captain America #14
Written by Ed Brubaker
Art by Patch Zircher w/ Mike Deodato
Colors by Paul Mounts
Review by Joey Braccino
Ed Brubaker ends the latest arc of his Captain America opus with an all-out brawl between our eponymous, star-spangled hero and the all-new, formerly-heroic Scourge of the Underworld (revealed last issue to be a brain-washed D-Man, former Avenger and friend of Steve Rogers!). Of coures, most storylines in comics end with bruising battles between heroes and villains, but because this is Ed Brubaker and because this is Ed Brubaker’s Captain America, there is much more going on underneath the punches and bullets.
Brubaker has constantly (and successfully) gone back to the old “skeletons in the closet” well throughout his tenure on superhero characters: Bucky, Holly Robinson, The Third Summers Brother, etc., etc., etc. In this case, Brubaker has taken D-Lister Demolition Man and turned him into a brainwashed killer of supervillains in a sort of Super-Witness Protection Program. D-Man’s emotional impact on the story rides heavily on his connections to Cap, going way back to the Mark Gruenwald era on the title way back in the late ‘80s. I won’t go into too much detail here, so let’s just say that D-Man was once one of Cap’s most loyal partners-in-tights and one of the most happy-to-be-here Avengers. Lately, however, he’s been akin to one of those old friends from high school that call you up all the time trying to hang out, but you’ve got other things to do, so you ignore it, but he keeps trying to get in with you and your new friends, and it’s kind of sad. Case in point: Brian Michael Bendis recently used D-Man as one of the potential babysitters for Luke Cage and Jessica Jones’ baby in New Avengers.
So when Ed Brubaker brings D-Man into the mix as Scourge and has him yelling that Cap “stands for nothing now” and that Cap “made [him] do this,” he’s adding a layer of guilt and pathos that most comic books lack. Even with the whole brainwashing thing, Brubaker successfully pens D-Man’s rage and Cap’s response in such a way that the subtext of their dialogue speaks to larger questions of morality, justice, and friendship. The ending to this issue is shocking, and the ramifications for Cap, Sharon Carter, and Company are complex and profound.
Patch Zircher illustrates the majority of the issue, with Mike Deodato filling in on the last three pages. Usually, fill-in artists severely undercut the visual consistency of a comic, but Deodato and Zircher’s styles are just close enough that it’s not that big of a distraction. The fact that Paul Mounts colored both artists’ work salvages some level of consistency across the entire issue. Zircher’s action is perfectly suited for Brubaker’s mix of espionage and action, and the fight scene that fills most of the issue is reminiscent of spy-thrillers like The Bourne Identity and the Daniel Craig iteration of James Bond. It’s dark, it’s brutal, and it mixes close-quarters combat with gunplay brilliantly.
Buy it. Buy it for a bunch of reasons. It’s awesome. It’s a great example of genre-bending, hard-boiled comics storytelling. Most importantly, Ed Brubaker’s Captain America opus is coming to a close in 5 short issues, and you should try to experience a piece of it before it’s over.