[Warning: This review contains spoilers for the end of the issue, because reading me dance around it will be no fun for anyone, especially me.]
“The Trial of Captain America” concludes in a somewhat abrupt fashion after spending much of the issue on James Barnes trying to rescue the Falcon and Black Widow from Sin after escaping from custody. While there’s a nice balance between the action and courtroom scenes, the ending is ultimately unsatisfying, not simply the twist cliffhanger on the final page, but the pages leading up to it. Unfortunately, the final courtroom scene undermines the issue and ends the story arc on a sour note.
Much of the issue is devoted to the fight between Sin and Captain America (along with their various allies and flunkies), and is a well done bit of action. There’s nothing surprising or sensational as Brubaker and Guice deliver a superhero/supervillain scenario that plays out in a fairly classic fashion with the villain getting away to terrorize another day. Given how new Sin is at being the 21st century’s Red Skull, anything other than her getting away would be disappointing. This builds the feud between the new Captain America and the new Red Skull, making any future conflicts that much more exciting and meaningful. That James also risks everything to save his friends is a great piece of character development, demonstrating how far he’s come since his return as the Winter Soldier.
The final pages of the comic is where it falls apart to a degree as, during the closing arguments, James is so swayed by the labored and somewhat broad argument made by the prosecution about how superheroes are never responsible for their actions that he changes his plea to guilty, because, even though he was mind-controlled as the Winter Solider, he still committed the actions. It’s a strange left turn for the story to take and not a convincing one. It’s only made more problematic by the judge sentencing him to twenty years and then commuting that sentence to time served. It seems like Brubaker wanted a meaningful, symbolic ending, and, instead, delivers a cheesy groan-inducing scene that still had one more swerve coming. It’s an anti-climactic and baffling conclusion to the trial.
The art, like the writing, is at its best during the action scenes. Guice makes an effort to present dynamic visuals that jump off the page. There’s a strong flow to his art as he uses the rain to give the impression of speed and movement in some places, and varies his layouts to speed up and slow down the reading experience when necessary. The coloring comes off as a little too bright at times, lacking that more grounded and muted tone of Dean White’s colors during Guice’s first issues as the regular artist on the book.
“Captain America” #615 is a disappointing end to “The Trial of Captain America” story arc with a courtroom scene meant to be both moving and surprising and, instead, has uncharacteristic swerves and theatrics that fall flat. While the final page provides potential for future stories, the means by which the series gets there is the first major misstep it has had in a long time.