by Ed Brubaker (writer), Luke Ross (art), Butch Guice (inks), Dean White (colors), and Joe Caramagna (letters)

The Story: The Falcon fights his way through an explosive train, while Bucky is forced to don his old costume.

What’s Good: Much like the rest of this arc, this month’s issue of Captain America has a real old school feel, which is something that Brubaker excels at.  From the Falcon’s internal monologue to the Watchdogs’ goofy outfits and rayguns, to Bad Cap’s master plan (revealed in a cackling cliffhanger), this feels like a comic out of a time machine.  When it’s at its best, this comic is just pure, cheesy, retro fun.

For the most part, Brubaker keeps it simple this month.  Most of the issue is dedicated to an action scene, as the Falcon brawls his way through a Watchdog piloted train.  It’s an enjoyable read, particularly as Falcon emphasizes his relationship with Rogers.  The internal monologue throughout gives it a little more depth and significance, preventing it from being totally mindless.

Meanwhile, Bad Cap is as crazy as ever, with the inferiority complex well in place.  His back-and-forth with Bucky is actually fairly humorous.  If anything, Brubaker does a fantastic job in making Bad Cap into a very traditional villain, with evil scheme and henchmen in hand.  Nowhere is this clearer than on the book’s last page, as, hands on his hips and grinning, the villain reveals his plan to the hero.  It’s hard not to smile.

Certainly, in telling a retro tale like this, Luke Ross is the right man for the job.  If Brubaker’s story reads like an homage, Ross’ art completes the picture.  While the level of detail and quality of paper, ink, and coloring reminds us that this was indeed created in 2010, the art itself could easily pass for the best of a by-gone era.

What’s Not So Good: The problem is that Brubaker isn’t content to leave this as a fun, retro-book and tries to turn this book into a statement on contemporary political issues.   This hasn’t been a strong-point in the arc thus far, and in an issue that’s mostly action, it feels particularly out of place.

The whole effort just feels really forced.  When a train engineer makes a reference to Washington’s ignoring of “Main Street,” it’s hard not to cringe.  After reading several pages of wacky villains and good guys punching dudes in zany outfits, running into a ham-fisted commentary on our economy and political climate just feels off.  This is clearly a case of “wrong place, wrong time.”  While this sort of issue may fit in some Marvel Comics, one that’s largely retro, traditional fun isn’t really the one, especially when it requires large suspensions of disbelief.

Beyond that, for a pen-ultimate issue, there was just a bit too much Falcon and a bit too little Bucky.  The latter’s situation is obviously the more psychologically intriguing and the more integral to the plot, but we only get a glimpse.  Meanwhile, the Falcon’s scenes are basically just a single extended action scene.  A few pages could’ve been easily trimmed and given to Bucky, and the result would’ve been a more engaging, deeper read.

Also, it bears mentioning that Sean McKeever’s Nomad back-up continues to be a waste of time, filled with uninspired character designs and an utterly cookie cutter plot.  While it’s not offensively bad, it is as though McKeever was out to right the most typical, standard superhero yarn possible.

Conclusion: Fun, but it needs more Bucky and less attempts at being “relevant.”

Grade: B –

-Alex Evans