With James maintaining the Captain America mantle and Steve acting as a supporting cast member in that title, while leading a team in “Secret Avengers,” a mini-series focuses on him doing something alone is exactly what’s needed after his absence from and return to the Marvel universe. Ed Brubaker packs in the right balance of action and character work to make for a satisfying read. With Rogers returned from his time-skipping, it makes a lot of sense to write a story that involves his origin as Captain America, and Brubaker does so, remarkably, without any major retcons or forcing the issue too much.
The plot introduced last issue involved the grandson of Professor Erskine, the developer of the original Super-Soldier formula, rediscovering the formula with the intentions of selling it to the highest bidder. After investigating, Rogers confronted Erskine only to have both men shot at and Erskine dying in the process. In this issue, Rogers follows up on Erskine’s final words about protecting his wife and the head of security for Erskine’s company, Myron Smith, possibly being behind the attack. Rogers making his way through Madripoor’s underbelly in search of who ordered the assassination is a chance for him to be the badass super-cop that suits his new role.
Brubaker walks a nice line here between the superheroics of Captain America and the espionage of Rogers’s new job. He wears the bright costume, but moves in the shadows. Brubaker’s Rogers is a man who is highly capable and experienced with covert activities, which is a nice change of pace from the standard portrayal of Steve Rogers. Brubaker’s Rogers is also a man that exudes confidence, but is conflicted inside, especially since these events tie into his identity so strongly. It’s not often that Rogers isn’t in complete control of a situation and seeing him struggling his way through this issue is a refreshing change of pace.
Dale Eaglesham’s evolution as an artist continues in this series as does a contemporary style with obvious Kirby allusions. Ever since his time on “Fantastic Four,” his men have been broad-shouldered and square-jawed, a look that really suits Steve Rogers. He doesn’t just look more muscular than the average guy, he looks bigger, showing the effects of the Super-Soldier formula in a more overt fashion. Eaglesham’s art is also much more dynamic than it used to be. His figures burst with energy and his layouts do, as well. The opening action scene moves quickly and cleanly with interesting angles and vibrant poses, while later, quieter scenes also have the same dynamic energy bubbling just below the surface. He’s always been good, but he’s quickly becoming one of the better superhero artists in the business.
Normally, mini-series like this are forgettable or unnecessary, but Ed Brubaker and Dale Eaglesham are quickly making “Steve Rogers: Super-Soldier” a must read for anyone that’s a fan of the character. By building a story on the character’s origins, the duo root the story in Rogers’s past, but also use it to help show who he is now that he’s no longer Captain America. And the end of the issue is one hell of a cliffhanger: the sort that dares you not to buy the next issue.