By Ed Brubaker (writer), Butch Guice & Luke Ross (artists), Dean White (colorist)

Although we’ll never know whose bright idea it was to release this one shot before the last issue of ‘Reborn’, I suppose I should thank them nonetheless for saving me the $3.99 to find out how that story ends, since this comic has proven itself to be a thoughtful epilogue to the fairly convoluted story of Captain America’s return to mainstream Marvel continuity. In fact, I’ll take it a step farther and go so far as to suggest that if you’ve never picked up one issue of ‘Reborn’, you will be able to read, understand, and enjoy the hell out of this particular comic. I know I did.

We are often told that it’s the journey, or the plot, of a story that is more important than its final destination, and yet this comic has inexplicably proven the reverse to be true by making the aftermath of ‘Captain America Reborn’ for more meaningful than the main storyline. Here, Steve Rogers and Bucky Barnes, friends and comrades in arms through the ages, come together to confront the elephant in the room and decide who should go on bearing the mantle of Captain America. Where Brubaker truly excels in this simple tale is by making you question who you want to see continue wielding the shield. Keep in mind that we’ve been following Bucky for over two years now and have grown to respect him and his motivations for carrying on in Rogers’ name; we’ve developed a well-earned admiration for the former Winter Soldier, nurtured expertly through Brubaker’s storytelling, and now that admiration has been put to the test in the only way that makes sense, by pitting it against the only man who has any right to take the shield back from Barnes.

And no, I’m sure as shit will NOT tell you how this ends, so stop asking.

I will tell you though about how Guice, Ross, and White completely knocked this one out of the ballpark and turned in some of the finest art I’ve seen all year. From White’s sepia-toned flashback sequence at the beginning of the comic to Guice and Ross’s arrangement of the battle with Hyde, everything about the art in this comic mixes old school Marvel comic excitement with modern sensibilities, a deliberate choice by the art team, I suspect, to further underscore the thematic importance of the Captains America coming together to deliberate.

I’ve done a lot of complaining this year about the rising costs of comic and their perceived plummeting entertainment value. What I’ve never told you though is that, through all of my ranting and railing, Captain America has continued to be the one $3.99 comic I keep on my pull list because of its consistently high quality art and captivating, dynamic stories. For those of you who, like me, have been following Brubaker’s run on the title from the beginning, you will be well-rewarded here with a comic that resolves long-standing plot threads and sets the stage for a whole new era in the world of Marvel’s greatest hero.

Grade: A

-Tony Rakittke