by Ed Brubaker (writer), Mitch Breitweiser (art), Bettie Breitweiser (colors), and Joe Caramagna (letters)

The Story: Steve Rogers looks to both stop and save a new super soldier intent on taking up the mantle of Captain America.

The Review: I like Bucky Barnes.  I like Bucky-Cap.  With that said, however, this is probably the best issue of Ed Brubaker’s Captain America to come around it quite some time, the last 12 months at the very least.  Unfortunately for Bucky, who never even shows up here, I think that’s largely to do with Steve Rogers, who finds himself as the protagonist.

Ed Brubaker just has such a fundamental grasp on who Steve Rogers is.  In this issue, we see his sense of burden as well as his frustration over the current desk-duties he’s forced to deal with.  We see him yearning for those explosive WWII adventures of old.  It’s a quiet and subdued frustration that suggests a man uncomfortable, and perhaps not built for, his current job.  Brubaker’s Rogers ends up feeling very compelling as a result, and we get an issue that, for all its action scenes, ends up feeling all the more personal for Rogers.  Quite honestly, this issue has all the heart, vitality, and downright importance that the last few issues of Cap have lacked.  There’s a life and energy here that distinguished Brubaker’s prior work on the series and, if anything, this issue is a total return to form.

The particular conflict this month only allows us to delve further into Rogers’ inner turmoil.  Faced with a Cap wannabe, Rogers is forced to recognize the importance of Captain America and America’s need for him as an icon and a rallying point.  Again, this has been another strong point of Brubaker’s run, so seeing it again so heavily factoring into a story is quite the treat.  Enhancing this is all on a technical level is Brubaker’s restrained use of narration, again one of his strongest tools.

The Breitweisers also supply very strong art perfect for a Cap comic.  It’s pure, old-school pulp goodness.  While I can’t say Mitch Breitweiser is quite on the same level as Butch Guice (his work has a little less definition), it’s very good nonetheless and, as we’ve seen on previous issues, Bettie Breitweisers colors are absolutely fantastic and have become a defining feature for the comic.

All this aside, I imagine it’ll be the last couple of pages that’ll get people talking here.  I won’t spoil it, but if you’re a Cap fan, that page will give you chills of fanboyish glee.  Furthermore, the major, major plot twist at the issue’s end that leads up to this moment is pretty damned astounding.  Seeing Nick Fury again manipulating Steve Rogers might feel like old hat, but I couldn’t care less as, once again, it’s Brubaker playing to what he’s best at.

As a final note, I need to mention the whole .1 thing.  I’ve read five other .1 issues thus far and while most were fairly good comics, this was the only one that did what it was supposed to do, delivering both a solid done-in-one experience while also serving as an effective jumping on point for new readers.  There are major developments here appreciable by older readers that look to factor heavily into the series’ future, all in a standalone book that’s readable by all.

Conclusion: I’m by no means a Steve Rogers fanboy, but this was the best single issue of Cap since Reborn.

Grade: A

-Alex Evans