Thursday, May 26, 2005


And thus concludes Out of Time, Ed Brubaker's first arc of Captain America.

I ran hot and cold on this arc as it came out, not really liking how Steve Rogers was developing as a man or how Captain America was coming along as a hero. But it was a lot stronger -- not to mention smoother -- on the re-read.

The first time around, the scope and magnitude of Cap's troubles weren't immediately discernable because it was the start of the series and the parameters weren't defined; we were not quite sure what qualified as 'normal', so anything out of the ordinary didn't register as such. Steve Rogers started this series in a new home, in a new situation, in new relationships with old acquiantances and Brubaker's take on the character wasn't established. There is so much baggage to choose from, it took time for the memories of events from World War II to start feeling different to us than, say, anything that came out of the Avengers Disassembled story or the end of the previous volume of Captain America.

Now, six issues in, we have a better sense of what's off-kilter in Cap's head because we have a better idea of what Brubaker sees as his world. And it's not a terribly cheerful place. We started the series with Rogers getting a talking-to from Sharon Carter about his recent activities, including the deaths of terrorists he'd foiled, and a peek into a very lonely existence. The issues have been absolutely action-packed and you almost get the sense that it's a relief for the man behind the shield because it means that he doesn't have to go home and hang out in a converted warehouse protected by holograms and space-age tech security. And be alone with those thoughts and those memories, even with the ones that are real. Brubaker has given us a Captain America who is haunted and a man who is not much more than a repository of memories and the inhuman flesh behind an institution that cannot falter or fail. There's a Batman quality to him, intentionally or not -- Steve Rogers has been largely sacrificed to feed Captain America.

Other characters... rereading the arc gave me time to appreciate just how lovely Brubaker's Nick Fury is. Fury at his best is a bastard with a soul, a man who will make the hard choice without hesitation but with a conscience (that he'll keep bound and gagged until it's not a problem). It's hard to nail that balance, to capture Fury's rightful confidence without veering into boastful arrogance or cold diffidence. Brubaker's got it just right. Sharon Carter has never done anything for me -- she's a generic tough blonde with a heart of gold underneath -- and Brubaker's not given her much to do other than listen to Fury and Cap talk, cluck at Cap, and get clocked on the head.

Sharon's still girl-hostage in this issue, but the rest was more exciting. The use of the cosmic cube by Alex Luzin to maneuver Cap into bearing witness to the destruction in Philly would have had a stronger impact with me if I understood the cube better than as some god-level toy vaguely analogous to a Green Lantern ring, but it was certainly properly clever villain activity. Especially with the jealous Neal Tapper as the trigger. The realizations on Cap's part of his having been manipulated -- both currently by the cube and in the past because he'd forgotten what he now believed to be true -- was also kinda neat and foreboding.

And, finally, the matter of a certain dead sidekick. Apparently I'm the only one not getting my knickers in a twist about Maybe-Bucky. Because I don't think it's him and I'm not quite sure why everyone else does. My reaction to the 'revelation' of the Winter Soldier as Bucky was pretty much the same as when Jeph Loeb tried to convince us Jason Todd was back from the dead during the Hush storyline: yeah, right. [And, yes, I know what Judd Winick is writing over in Batman.] Now I may end up having to confess to being wrong later on, but here's my reasoning:

(1) This is the Marvel Universe, which specializes in clones of various stripes. Most everyone knows of Maddie Pryor as Jean Grey's clone, of Ben Reilly as Peter Parker's, and some of us remember Lorna Dane thinking the robotic clone of Magneto was her father. Heck, at the end of the previous volume of Captain America, Steve Rogers bedded a life model decoy of Diamondback without realizing that it wasn't the real thing and this volume started with the reminder that Red Skull was basically a clone of Cap himself.

In a universe with LMDs, every X-Man having an evil twin somewhere, and an oversupply of mad geneticists, when someone shows up looking like someone else... why does anyone assume they're the genuine article? If this were the DCU, I'd say get worried because where Marvel does clones, DC does re-animation. But this is Marvel.

(2) There was this interview Brubaker did way back when we were all still going "Brubaker at Marvel?" and this was the part I remembered (enough to go back and dig up the interview):
NEWSARAMA: And you’ve promised a twist ending…

EB: Yeah – there’s something coming up that will – I hope – catch people off guard. But – something that’s almost funny is that I’ve seen some speculation that, thanks to the cover that Steve drew, that Bucky coming back is the big twist.

NRAMA: So it’s not…?

EB: Would I be telling you if it was? No – that’s not the twist. Why bring Bucky back and ruin everything I said earlier about the tragedy of the character? Bucky’s dead, sorry.

But still, there’s a twist at the end. Trust me, there’s a twist.
Whether Brubaker was yanking our chain then or he's yanking it now, somewhere out on the loony side of the country there's a funnybook writer who is mirthfully watching the fanboys explode.

Postscript, because it would be a shame not to mention it at all: Steve Epting's art. No flashbacks, so no Michael Lark, but Epting did (and has done) a great job.

Out of Time has been solicited as a hardback for late July. I don't know when the trade paperback will be released.


Anonymous Anonymous said...


Fri Nov 04, 03:40:00 AM EDT  

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