Captain America #15
Written by Ed Brubaker & Cullen Bunn
Pencils by Scott Eaton
Review by Joey Braccino
Cullen Bunn joins Ed Brubaker for the final arc of the Captain America solo title that relaunched just one year ago. This is also Brubaker’s final arc before leaving the character of Captain America altogether after 8 years. In recent interviews, Brubaker stated that he would be leaving the character with the upcoming issue #19 in order to focus more on creator-owned work. He also suggested that he had simply run out of stories to tell with Cap in the lead. Also, Marvel wanted to adjust shipping schedules for their most popular books, Captain America included, to a more-than-monthly rate. To facilitate this demand, Ed Brubaker is joined by Cullen Bunn for this final arc. All of those factors combine to create a less-than-perfect situation for Brubaker’s Star-Spangled swan song.
Whereas the recent “New Scourge” story arc returned Captain America to the gritty, espionage-tinged atmosphere of Brubaker’s early run on the character, issue #15 kicks off “New World Orders” with some decidedly more traditional superheroic smash-‘em-up fare. Captain America and Falcon team-up to thwart some blue supervillains who are trying to burn New York City. If Queen Hydra, Codename: Bravo, and Baron Zemo didn’t appear later in the issue, I could have easily confused the story with one from the ‘90s runs on Captain America by Mark Gruenwald or Mark Waid. There isn’t anything necessarily wrong with that, but I had difficulty identifying Brubaker’s pen through the explosions and action. Perhaps that’s because he’s sharing writing duties with the capable Mr. Bunn, or perhaps it’s because, as he suggested himself, he’s run out of stories for Ol’ Winghead…
Also in this issue, a member of the Talking Head Punditry in news media is starting to publicly question Captain America’s effectiveness as America’s defender and hero. There are some weighty questions in the issue about politics and superheroics, but a reveal at the end of the issue neutralizes the development. It’s a bummer, too, because I could definitely see Brubaker ending his epic run on Cap with a story arc questioning the role of old-fashioned heroics in an era of unseen evils like political stagnation, economic malfeasance, and corruption. But alas, this final story arc kicks off with lasers, property destruction, and a hint that Steve Rogers and Sharon Carter’s relationship might be on the rocks.[Side-note: It wasn’t a good week for relationships in the Marvel U. Just ask all those Kitty/Colossus, Bucky/Black Widow, and Cap/Agent 13 ‘shippers out there… I’m pretty sure Northstar and his husband are still together though over in Astonishing X-Men, so there’s that!]
Scot Eaton is on art duty this week, and his kinetic, clean linework captures the superhero action well. His work channels the strong-jawed characterization of Steve McNiven and the shadowy, noir-tinged scenework of Steve Epting, both of whom have helped define the visual tone of modern Captain America stories.
Read it. Despite its flaws, this is still the final story arc in Ed Brubaker’s Captain America epic. Even though he’s joined by another writer and even though it seems slightly off-tone from the rest of the run, this book is still leaps and bounds above other comic books, and this entire epic run has been leaps and bounds above anything else in comics in general since 2005.