Sunday, April 18, 2010

Captain America: Road to Reborn by Various

Steve Rogers is dead. He died when he surrendered to pro-registration forces, intending to take his case to the courts. But someone assassinated the hero on the steps of the courthouse, murdering him in cold blood. Tony Stark, now head of S.H.I.E.L.D., gave his indestructible shield to his former partner, Bucky Barnes, who survived the same explosion that had thrown Cap into the cold waters and sent him into suspended animation for years.

Brainwashed by the forces of the Soviet Union, Bucky had become "The Winter Soldier", his memory erased through hypnosis and drugs. But Cap, with the aid of the Cosmic Cube, restored Bucky's memories, and now Bucky, after atoning for the harm he'd done when he was brainwashed, has taken up the mantle of his longtime partner and friend.

"Daughter of Time" takes up the story of Sharon Carter, Cap's lover, the niece of the woman he dated during the war. Unbeknownst to her, she was his assassin, brainwashed into it by the Red Skull, an old foe of Cap's. But even though the mind control and brainwashing were broken, she has a hard time living with what she did.

She goes to see her aunt, who is going senile in a nursing home, and discovers, after a dinner with a neighbor, that she had been pregnant with Steve's child, and lost it, which throws her into a depression.

But her aunt may not be senile after all, because akthough she claims that Steve has been visiting her, the man who is visiting her bears a very strong resemblance to Steve Rogers. Actually, he's the ringer who replaced Steve Rogers after he disappeared in the Arctic, who idolized Captain America and endured countless surgeries and injections to not only look like his hero, but have the same appearance as him. He was put into suspended animation when he was no longer needed, but has since been freed and is trying to do the right thing.

Bucky Barnes is fighting a group of supposed Patriots called the Watchdogs. They, too, were big fans of Captain America, but they don't accept Bucky as anything close to the real thing, and oppose him because of that. And even though it's Bucky's birthday, he can't take it off... he has to spend it fighting, which brings back other memories of the war, when he enlisted at 14, and at 16, was finally sent to advanced Combat School.

Two years later, he and Cap were undercover in Germany, when an overeager member of the team inadvertantly rats them out to the Nazis, he spends his birthday fighting again. So today, can he have a birthday that's really a birthday?

Meanwhile, Sharon Carter is having strange visions and memories, and she thinks that the gun she used to kill Cap was not a normal gun. She remembers handing it off to someone and spends time tracking it down... to find out that she is remembering right- it isn't a normal gun. And she goes back to the Avengers, because there is a chance that Steve isn't really dead- and that he can be brought back.

And in the final story, Bucky recounts an untold story of the war, of Vampires infecting the Nazis and having to be fought, even ones like a little girl. What horrors did Cap and Bucky really face in the war?

Comics by Fred Hembeck and personal reminisces of writing and drawing Captain America are included by Joe Simon. Also included are other stories of events surrounding Captain America's death, from a sale of memorabilia of him to the tale of an alternate, female Bucky Barnes transported to our world, after her Cap died.

I was actually kind of annoyed by this book. Captain America didn't die all that long ago, and yet, here we are, getting ready to resurrect him. It's not that I have anything against Captain America, but death means far, far too little in comics. It's not even as if dying even means anything any more. Death has become a revolving door for comic book characters- they go through and always come back.

The only thing even "surprising" about Cap's death was that this time, his heart actually stopped beating. But even when I heard about it outside of the comics, I knew he'd come back. The only ones who really die are the small, minor characters that no one really cares about. The big ones will always come back. Always. No company is going to throw away a character that people really care about- the franchise is worth too much.

The consequence about all this death and resurrection in the comics is that death for characters have lost its meaning. Why care how anyone dies if you know that in 6 months, a year, two years, or whatever, that the character is going to be back because the company will not throw that character away, or the next creative team to work on that book, well, you know, they had IDEAS for that character?

It's gotten to the point where characters don't just have to die, because off-panel or offscreen death is as good as "never happened". It's an automatic out for anyone who wants to bring the character back- now it not only has to be in your face, but happen with actual blood and brains and gore, because otherwise, that death is too easy to weasel out of.

I have only one thing to say when it comes to comic character death- don't. It doesn't add anything to the story, and it actually demeans it, because the fans know by now that nobody really dies- just wait, and they'll be back. You may have to wait a long (relative) time, but unless they are a forgotten minor character, hero or villain, sure as shooting, they are coming around again. Death has become a joke. A positive joke, in comics- something it should never be. Death is too serious to be a joke. And with numerous resurrections and bringing back from the dead, being dead is like being sent to the bench in baseball. Sooner or later, they'll all be back in the game.

So, aside from my general anger and irritation with the whole subject of bringing Steve Rogers back, I found the comic interesting, but a bit uneven, with stuff by Hembeck stuck in there- but some of the stories, like the one with the Nazi Vampires, held my interest and were a pleasant change.

Would I recomment this book? My irritation with the death issue aside, yes, I would. It had some really interesting and effective stories and plot bits, and I even noticed that one of the characters in the book bore a great resemblance to Stan Lee. So, recommended.

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