By Ed Brubaker (writer), Butch Guice (artist), Dean White (color art), VC’s Joe Caramagna and VC’s Joe Sabino (letterers and production)

The Story: Bucky has yet to fully come to terms with himself, or his role as Captain America. When this begins to affect his performance as Cap, Steve Rogers and Sam Wilson sit him down for a frank heart to heart. Elsewhere, Baron Zemo has gathered allies and set a plan in motion that may destroy Bucky entirely.

The Good: I’m glad we’ve started a new arc. “Two Americas” just wasn’t doing it for me, so I’m happy we’re in fresh territory here. Very fresh, in fact—this issue is so chock full of exposition that it almost feels like a #1. This isn’t entirely a bad thing; in fact it’s a rather nice change of pace from the full-on action of the last few issues. A breather to reevaluate where the characters (and especially Bucky) stand is exactly what the doctor ordered, and this issue delivers it pretty well.

I like where the art in this book is going, too. Personally speaking, it’s the exact level of realism I like. Guice does some very nice (and consistent, thank God) work on the characters’ faces, and I really enjoy the way he makes use of shading and shadows to set the book’s rather dark tone. My only complaint on this front is the enormous amount of white space in between panels. It’s certainly a technique, but I prefer my art much more fluid than this.

What’s Not So Good: Not real direct issues with the book itself; for the story he’s trying to tell, Brubaker does quite a fine job. I’m just not on board with the whole direction the series is taking. Storyline-wise I love Bucky as Cap; it makes complete and total sense that he would take up the mantle, and it also makes sense that Steve Rogers would be going on to bigger and better things given the current climate of the Marvel U. in theory, it should work perfectly.

But… I’m just not buying it at all. The hallmark of Captain America, to me, has always been his idealism, leadership, and his confidence. Bucky, at least right now, is sorely lacking in both. Again, from a character standpoint, this makes complete sense, but it also makes for a very poor Captain America. I know that characters have to change and evolve with the times—and hell, maybe in the current political climate, a more conflicted and unsure-of-himself Cap is something that people will respond to. Me, I miss Roger’s strong moral compass, and his ingrained assumption that walking the Right path is the only possible choice. Conflicted heroes are a dime a dozen; they echo who we are. Captain America has always been (in one way or another) about idealism—about what we should strive to become. It would be a shame to lose that.

Conclusion: Good issue, and a decent setup for the arc. It may become even better in retrospect, as we learn how Bucky is going to evolve, and exactly what Brubaker is setting up.

Grade: B