Yield to the Shield


Captain America #34

Well, I talked myself into getting the issue with the new Captain America. Heck, I didn’t even talk myself into getting the issue where Cap was killed, or the one with his funeral. Don’t know what changed my mind for this one — I probably just gave in to the hype.

For those of you who got here late, the original Captain America, Steve Rogers, was assassinated a few months back. His WWII sidekick, Bucky Barnes, was long believed killed during the war, but he was secretly recovered by the Soviets, brainwashed, and turned into a killing machine called the Winter Soldier. He’s since recovered his memories, but he’s still a lot harder-edged than he used to be. And with Cap dead, Bucky has decided to take up his mentor’s adamantium shield.

Cap’s old archenemy, the Red Skull, has a new plan to destroy America — and instead of pulling the old lame supervillain gags, he’s updating his plans for the new millennium. The Skull has secretly gained control of an international megacorp called Kronas Corporation, and with that, he’s doubled the price of oil and foreclosed on thousands of homes, throwing Wall Street into a tailspin and kicking off a major economic panic. To push things over the brink, the Red Skull sends his minions to steal Wall Street’s gold reserves.

Bucky makes his debut as Cap, and he and the Black Widow rout the bad guys without too much trouble. But Tony Stark (Iron Man, and the current director of the S.H.I.E.L.D. spy agency) discovers that the Red Skull has co-opted and brainwashed some of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s own agents, and they’re going to push the chaos even higher…

Verdict: Thumbs up. Bucky’s very well-written, and they’ve done great work on explaining both why he’s not all that well-suited for the job (not as intensely patriotic as Steve Rogers was, definitely not as athletic or physically overpowering) and why he actually works very well wearing the big white “A” on his forehead (great tactical thinker, knows how to fight against huge masses of goons, knows how to throw a big adamanatium shield). And as for the bad guys, the Red Skull’s plan is wonderfully devious. Using America’s economy against itself? Oh, that one’ll never work, Herr Skull. Uh, wait a minute…

And yes, he uses a gun. But to my surprise, he doesn’t actually kill anyone with it. I wasn’t expecting that at all. I had him pegged as the dark pessimistic anti-hero who goes too far and eventually has to be taken down by his resurrected mentor. So far, things ain’t playing out like that at all. Good — that kind of story was tired and played out a decade ago.

Anyway, like I said, thumbs up. Good story, good art, good dialogue. Marvel did a good job with this one.

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