by Ed Brubaker (writer), Butch Guice (pencils), Rick Magyar & Mark Pennington (inks), Dean White, Elizabeth Dismang, & Frank Martin (colors), and Joe Caramagna (letters)

The Story: Cap and Black Widow battle the Beetle as they struggle to discover the identity of their mysterious foe.

What’s Good: Thus far, I’ve very much liked Brubaker’s use of Baron Zemo, understated though it may be.  Never has this been more the case than this month, where Zemo is truly a palpable presence despite only being actually being visible for one page.  Rather than being shown as a direct participant, Zemo instead feels like an all-encompassing shadow, surrounding Cap’s world, the plot, and the general events of this month.  People talk about him in hushed tones and threats while his long reach is demonstrated.  In this sense, he feels all the more powerful and menacing as a villain; he’s the unseen enemy, and as a result, he feels much larger and much more powerful.  Through creating this atmosphere, Brubaker has managed to make Bucky’s predicament much more real and comprehensible to the reader.

There’s a great deal of action this month as well, and I enjoy Brubaker and Guice’s action scenes quite a bit.  They’re really fluid and acrobatic, dynamic but with an old school feel.  There’s just something innately fun about seeing Cap and Black Widow jump about like gymnasts.  This action sequence, and the issue in general, also benefits quite a bit from the Beetle.  She’s the kind of maniacal lunatic that’s always fun to see in a comic book and she manages to be delightfully grating.

Butch Guice’s work was solid as usual this month, for the most part continuing its pitch-perfect retro tone.  His art makes Cap unlike any other Marvel book on the market, detailed while looking like it came out of a time capsule.  This approach remains the best possible approach for Captain America.

It’s also worth mentioning that there is a major event that occurs this month relating to Bucky’s identity and the upcoming “Trial of Captain America” arc.  It’s a huge development that definitely makes me want more of this book.

What’s Not So Good: While I greatly enjoyed Guice’s pencils, I feel as though the group of inkers and colorists undercut his work due to their inability to coordinate towards establishing a single look.   The fill-in inkers and colorists inexplicably eschew the book’s retro style for one that’s more modern, more polished, and unremarkable.  I’m surprised how incapable they were at least attempting to mimic the approach that is used in the rest of the issue.  The shift is very noticeable and very jarring, not to mention the fact that the modern look is the inferior one.

Though it’s not a big complaint, I also felt that the actual battle scene with the Beetle went on a little too long.  I’m not really saying that it dragged, but it did feel a bit too extended in the sense that I was a little surprised to turn the page and see the fight still going.

Also, the Nomad back-up still sucks for all the same reasons that it’s sucked since its beginning; it’s horribly bland and uninspired.  Worse still, it goes for a more continuity-heavy approach this month that made me even more indifferent.  Oh well, at least the new artist’s work was fun to look at.  This back-up has been so consistently weak that it’s hard to hold it against the book at this point.

Conclusion: A really solid outing for Cap that left me wanting more.

Grade: B

-Alex Evans