by Ed Brubaker (writer), Bryan Hitch & Butch Guice (art), Paul Mounts (colors), and Joe Caramagna (letters)

The Story: It’s Cap vs. Buckycap as Steve finds himself trapped in the Red Skull’s mind.

What’s Good: It feels as though Brubaker has gone old school this month with his dialogue, with plenty of cheesecake to go around.  While some may find this unbearable, I found that it added good, clean fun to a comic that has been pretty dark thus far.  Red Skull in particular is nothing short of an old fashioned, cackling villain, letting loose twice with trademark villainous laughter.  At one point, he even goes through the classic bad guy routine of telling one of the heroes his entire plan, in detail.  It’s wonderful stuff, and it’s clear that it’s intentional on Brubaker’s part, as he writes the book very much in the spirit of the Captain America comics of yesteryear with his signature dash of pulp-awareness.  There are some lines that are just so kooky, it’s hard not to smile.

It’s clear that Brubaker is trying to conjure the dichotomy of Skull and Rogers, once again positioning them as arch-nemeses as he brings Rogers back into the world.  Much like Johns did with Sinestro and Jordan, Brubaker is making the classic opposition between the two characters into the basis for Rogers’ rebirth, and it’s done well.  In bringing back this age-old battle, Brubaker also brings back the old school comic bravado that comes with it.

I also do have to say that I greatly enjoyed Hitch’s depiction of the Red Skull’s mind.  His abstract, almost distractingly fragmented paneling worked well, and the Skull-centric, Nazi-imbued NYC was a nice touch, at once sinister and surreal.  As Skull and Rogers tumble about a black and red mental plane, it really does look gorgeous.

What’s Not So Good: With a title like “Reborn,” Rogers’ coming back is no spoiler, but seeing him actually walking about in Iron Man and the Avengers Annuals does make this series lose some of its luster.  Even if we always knew the happy ending was coming, reading Reborn #5 actually feels like we’re reading a back issue.  It’s such a damned shame, since this issue is clearly meant to conjure excitement and vitality, but delays have basically robbed it of the chance.  What we get instead feels a bit like paint by numbers, at times, with everything unfolding just as expected.

Also, while much can be excused as Brubaker’s paying tribute to the style and rhetoric of classic comics, we’re still seeing another scenario of “good guy loses control of himself.”  It’s a situation we’ve seen one too many times:  the good characters telling their team-mate to “fight it,” the friend who can’t hit his buddy, the constant wonders if Steve’s still “in there.”  It’s just not very original.

The real criminal this month though, is Bryan Hitch.   There are anatomical issues throughout the comic, especially with respect to the possessed Steve Rogers.  Many times, Steve looks bizarrely skinny and gangly, with a panel of him kicking Sharon being particularly awful.  Also, Hitch gives us some rather strange perspectives this month, particularly in the action scenes.  Worse still is an absolutely terrible fight scene  near the comic’s end.  Apparently, there’s no real martial arts employed; the characters just trade off kicking each other in the face.  Seriously, in the span of three pages, there are five boots to the face.  What were Brubaker and Hitch thinking?

Conclusion: It’s good, old fashioned fun, but it’s also damaged goods.

Grade: C+

-Alex Evans