Review: Captain America #1

Steve Rogers is back in uniform, and he's got a love triangle, a loss to mourn and an impending threat in Baron Zemo.

Iann Robinsonby Iann Robinson

Captain America #1

What makes Captain America such a great hero? What makes the Star-Spangled Avenger something we continue to read with great affection? Over the last few years, the writing has helped elevate the largely two-dimensional character into something beyond just a hero. The key here is the introduction of Steve Rogers as a human being, not just the all American alter ego. Captain America #1, the newest Marvel reboot, continues that trend by involving Rogers in a love triangle, one that could mean his undoing. Writer Ed Brubaker pulls out all the stops for this issue, taking us from 1944 to the present and throwing everything at Captain America from rogue Hydra agents to Baron Zemo. It’s a nice welcome for the new series and it helps to define why we love Captain America.

Captain America #1 opens with the funeral of Margaret Carter and closes with Baron Zemo. The story in-between takes place in both 1944 and the present. In the current world, a rogue Hydra sect run by a former ally of Captain America, Codename: Bravo, is trying to assassinate Cap while also attempting to kidnap another former ally named Jimmy Jupiter, the boy wonder that’s now a catatonic old man. By the end Codename: Bravo has enlisted the help of Baron Zemo in destroying Captain America.

To fill in the gaps, Brubaker whisks us back to 1944 and sets up how a failed mission, the love triangle featuring Cap, Margaret and Codename: Bravo and the wunderkind talents of Jimmy Jupiter all lead to what’s going on today. Brubaker takes his strength at writing mystery and puts it to work here. He gives us tidbits of information but then holds things back in order to create interest. Is Codename: Bravo’s entire motivation revenge against Cap stealing his girl? What’s the Baron Zemo angle? How does Jimmy Jupiter fall into all of this? By the end of the book, you’re agonizing over these questions and waiting for issue #2. BAM! Brubaker has done his job and we’re hooked.

The one glaring issue with Captain America #1 is the total lack of Bucky Barnes. Since Steve Rogers is wearing the uniform, we can assume this is post Fear Itself so why is there no mention of Bucky’s passing? Even at the funeral of a fallen ally and friend, nobody says a word about Bucky. It’s a jarring omission and one I can only chalk up to unresolved plot elements in Fear Itself. Matt Fraction has played such havoc with continuity that nothing happening in the Marvel Universe feels right. However, Captain America’s latest story arc turns out, this lack of memorial towards Bucky makes the usual smooth Ed Brubaker story a bit on the clunky side. 

Steve McNiven does some outstanding work here. It’s not perfect, such as how 1944 era Nick Fury looks like Wolverine, but for the most part it’s a win. McNiven’s art naturally has motion to it. Nothing he pencils are controlled by the dimensions of the panel, the action literally leaps off the page. He’s also great at human faces, something so many working artists seem to suck at. Captain America #1 isn’t a gangbusters all-out slam dunk, but it is a solid launching pad for the star spangled hero. I also know to trust in Brubaker, he always manages to take things to new levels of greatness and I expect nothing less here.