NOTE: Read this article all the way to the end for an exclusive look at a shocking new CAPTAIN AMERICA cover
By Marc Strom
One full year: a long time to be without a captain.
Yet here we stand, almost 12 months to the day removed CAPTAIN AMERICA #25 hitting the stands and Steve Rogers hitting the ground. Since then, writer Ed Brubaker and artist Steve Epting have taken readers on a wild ride that, if recent issues give any indication, has only just begun.
With the volume cranked up to 11, it's do or die time for the man who has inherited the identity of Captain America, Rogers' former kid sidekick Bucky Barnes, as he seeks to stop the Red Skull from reaching his ultimate goal of America's annihilation.
While Cap's friends and allies were busy mourning his passing, the Skull, the man most responsible for Steve's death, wasted no time and took the opportunity to enact his most ambitious plan yet. The soon-to-be-concluded second act of "The Death of Captain America," entitled "The Burden of Dreams," has seen the Red
Skull's plot against the United State move towards its endgame as he orchestrates an economic collapse in America while faking the death of his alter ego, Aleksander Lukin.
"The Skull has been putting his pieces into position for almost two years now," series editor Tom Brevoort notes. "What he's planning is far grander and more far-reaching than simply killing Captain America. Here's a clue: the third book of the 'Death of Captain America' series is titled 'The Man Who Bought America.'"
In order to carry out his plan, the Skull has had to rely on the help of some old allies of his, Dr. Faustus and Arnim Zola. With so many villains in one place together, you'd expect more backstabbing than has been seen so far. Brevoort gives an explanation for the tenuous alliance:
"I don't think it's really within the Skull's nature to trust anyone. By that same token, he's a huge charismatic figure with an aura of authority and absolute menace. He's the last guy that you'd want to cross."
In the meantime, Steve Rogers' friends have had to keep moving as best they can. Last month in CAPTAIN AMERICA #34, Bucky donned the mantle of Captain America. But don't expect the role to fit perfectly right off the bat.
"Bucky is much more comfortable as a fighter than as a symbol, and he doesn't possess Steve's natural ability to dominate a room or to inspire those around him," reminds Brevoort. "So while he'll find the tail-kicking parts of the job a relatively easy fit, it's the intangibles that he's going to have to work on."
Tony Stark, aka Iron Man, has his fair share of problems, as well. While he managed to convince Bucky to take up Cap's shield, he can't actually acknowledge the new Captain America's existence, or the fact that he's funneling aid from S.H.I.E.L.D. to the Star-Spangled Avenger via the Black Widow.
And with Rogers' lover-turned-unwitting assassin Sharon Carter trying to conceal a major revelation of her own—she may be pregnant with Steve's baby—while still a captive of the Red Skull, one wonders if any of Steve's friends even had time to mourn his passing.
"Life goes on," Brevoort says of their mourning process. "That's kind of a brutal truth, but one that all of the members of our cast have had to come to grips with. Steve's life still casts a long shadow over everyone—Bucky, Sharon, the Falcon, etc.—and they've all got their own ways with dealing with his absence and soldiering on."
CAPTAIN AMERICA has, since Steve Rogers' death, received a great deal of mainstream attention, something which came as a bit of a surprise to Brevoort.
"Any time you do something as radical as killing off your lead character you're going to garner a certain amount of attention from people," the editor acknowledges. "But this storyline has been among the most scrutinized in recent memory by the general public, thanks to Cap's power as a symbol."
Scrutiny which will surely continue as the second act of "The Death of Captain America" comes to a close next month. You can expect more twists that you never saw coming when CAPTAIN AMERICA #36 flies into stores on March 19. And while you're waiting, take a gander over to the left for an exclusive sneak peek at the eyebrow-raising cover to June's CAPTAIN AMERICA #39…
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