I have been following Brubaker's Cap in the Premium hardcover editions, after picking up the huge omnibus edition, but with the return of Rogers coming soon, and since the HC covers up to issue 48 anyway, I thought I'd get completely caught up. Very briefly, the HC features Bucky enlisting the aid of Namor to fight a Chinese mad scientist who is weaponizing the remains of the WW2 era Human Torch. Issue 49 centers on Sharon and the return of her memories, and the return of the 50s era Cap . In issue 50 its Bucky's birthday, rarely a good day for him. The issue has a couple of extras. Marcos Martin writes a good synopsis of Cap's life to date, both Steve and Bucky, and Fred Hembeck contributes a short.
Issue 600 sees Sharon's memory blocks fall into place, or, I guess, out of place, and introduces an element of the assassination that raises the possibility of Steve Rogers' return from the dead. That much of the story, called 'One Year Later', is contained in about the standard number of pages, but we also get a lot of padding, some of which is good. Most isn't. The good stuff: Mark Waid's 'The Persistence of Memorabilia' tells us Cap's fate as a comic book star within the MU and Joe Simon contributes a couple of pages about Cap and Kirby. The just okay stuff: We get a standard recap of the life of our hero, by Dini and Ross, originally published in 2002. It is okay, but we just had a better version in the previous issue. And 'In Memoriam' has a couple of second tier characters mourn the death of their friend and hero. Added nothing. The bad: A 1942 Captain America story by Stan Lee and Al Avison. Or, rather, a truly awful 1942 Captain America story by Stan Lee and Al Avison. Why not something by Simon and Kirby? Lastly, we get a cover gallery of all 600 covers. A great idea, but they are reproduced in so small a format you really can't appreciate them at all. There is also the renumbering itself. Someone has joked, 'What, I missed 550 issues?!', but this is a pretty standard sales gimmick. I wouldn't give it any thought, but the return of Rogers is going to be in a separately numbered five issue mini. What's the point of that? Will the next issue of Captain America be 51, 601, or 606?
There really isn't much to say about Brubaker's run that hasn't been said a million times before. He is giving us one of the best, most readable stories in a long time. He has done so well that I am just going to assume he will do an equally great job of bringing Rogers back, but I would be lying if I didn't say its still much too soon. I've made these points before, but Steve Rogers, like Superman in the DCU, is far too often too much of an iconic figure to be interesting. Half the time it seems that all the other characters do is say, 'Wow! Its really him!' He commands respect just by virtue of who is, quite a part from what he does. Not that he doesn't always do exactly the right thing. And, unlike Superman, Cap's admirers often add stories about when their grandpa told them about how he met Captain America. Gee whiz. Bucky is different. Taking on the mantle of Steve Rogers is a burden to him. Not a negative one, but not one he can easily bear either. He has never been his own man and now he has to be a great one. This is great for Captain America. Now, without corrupting the character's legacy, he suddenly has something to prove. Something to live up to. He has been doing a great job of it and, I think, has the potential to do a great job for sometime to come. Perhaps the newly resurrected Rogers will stand trial as originally planned, bringing down Registration through the system, and Bucky can continue to wield the shield. Here's hoping.