“Captain America” is just about as consistent a comic book as you’re likely to find today. Each issue is very much like the last in quality, even going so far as to have an unimaginably consistent look despite numerous artists handling those duties. The book is so consistent that it’s difficult to find new and interesting things to say about it. It's almost easy to forget about this title as it is taken for granted that, each month, “Captain America” will come out and be quite good.
Ed Brubaker continues to write a thrilling comic about international politics and our relationship with history as the twenty-first century is constantly impacted by the twentieth. This issue marks the end of the three-part “Time’s Arrow” as new Captain America and former Winter Soldier, James Barnes, confronts an old enemy in the form of the Man with No Face.
His current fight with the Man with No Face as Captain America is juxtaposed with his past encounter as the Winter Soldier to great effect. Both confrontations seem to respond to one another as an action taken in one will be dealt with in the other. The Winter Solder shoots his enemy in the past and the Man with No Face tosses Captain America through the air in the present. The jumping back and forth is very effective.
Intriguing is the idea that Barnes is actually less capable as Captain America than he was as the Winter Soldier, which the Man with No Face raises in the present. Brubaker is mindful that Barnes is new at being Captain America and that the limitations in that role still need to be overcome and worked with. Showing how Barnes deals with the same threat in each persona is illuminating and aids in demonstrating the journey he’s on.
Most of this issue is action, but the plot is also greatly advanced as the target of Batroc the Leaper’s interest is revealed and, once again, ties into the past of Barnes. Brubaker is building a rich and detailed history of the character and seems very interested in how his “lost years” can affect his new life.
As I mentioned earlier, the art continues to be remarkably consistent thanks to colorist Frank D’Armata, whose work really gives the book a signature look. However, Luke Ross does falter in a few places as some panels aren’t up to the book’s usual standards or his own work in the past few issues. Maybe fatigue has set in; things look a little rushed as Butch Guice contributes a few pages but, for the most part, Ross’ work is dynamic.
For most books, simply saying that it’s another typical issue wouldn’t be much of a compliment, but for “Captain America,” I can’t think of a better one. Every month, this book is consistently one of the best books published, which is quite a feat to achieve for nearly four years.
(James Barnes fights the Man with No Face in the past and present in CBR’s preview!)