by Ed Brubaker (writer), Will Conrad (art), Rain Beredo & Sotocolor (colors), and Dave Lanphear (letters)

The Story: Steve Rogers delves into the mind of John Steele, trying to figure out where it all went wrong.

The Review: This isn’t an Avengers comic.  Hell, it’s not even a team book.  Rather, it seems like in penultimate issue, Ed Brubaker has given up even putting up the pretense, choosing instead to just go ahead and write a Steve Rogers Captain America comic.  I guess Beast is in it, but beyond that, there’s really nothing suggesting otherwise.

Once you get over that though, you end up with a pretty solid comic book.  It’s a Steve Rogers book, sure, but there’s a dark, conspiratorial tone throughout.  I mean, the book either takes place in the dark bowels of a ship, or in the dead of night in a rural village in Nazi Germany.  There’s a constant sense of dark foreboding.

But that’s not just on a superficial level.  Aside from the usual Nazis, there’s human experimentation, Frankenstein’s-monster styled zombies, and a really creepy alien looking thing that we only catch a fleeting glimpse of.  The fact that it all takes place in a castle in a European forest almost lends it all a kind of Mike Mignola-esque feel, especially what with the monsters and Cthulian robed dudes.  Adding to this all is John Steele’s character, a psyche that, even back in WWII, is clearly on the edge of becoming something very nasty, sadistic, and evil.

And really, despite his derivative name and appearance, John Steele continues to be quite the success under Brubaker’s hand.  He’s a highly competent soldier this month, fighting for the right team, but he never seems trustworthy.  That’s not because he’s conspiring or anything like that, but rather because of his obvious dark side.  There’s a continual sense that he’s always about to lose control and certainly he shows some dark tendencies. Seeing him fight alongside Cap is quite the treat.  More than that, Brubaker puts the whole “entering John’s mind” plot into good use, seamlessly integrating John’s mind’s realization and rejection of the psychic intrusion in a manner that’s smart, seamless, and a bit surreal.

If there’s one thing that bugs me with this issue, it’s that it’s Brubaker’s second-to-last issue, but it feels anything but.  It’s clear that Brubaker’s departure was an abrupt thing, and I think there’s going to be a lot of loose ends left over.  I’m not even sure that this John Steele story will be wrapped up conclusively, but of course, we’ll judge that next month.  Regardless, it’s somewhat concerning just how much Brubaker is going to leave hanging, and I find myself bracing for a disappointing lack of resolution next month, after having read this issue.

Art-wise, Will Conrad does an impeccable Mike Deodato impersonation.  In fact, until I read the creator credits, I was positive it was Deodato.  Of course, that’s by no means a bad thing, as it means that the art is highly detailed and incredibly polished.  Of course, in the Deodato style, it also means that all of the men are incredibly jacked with 8-packs all around as well.  Well, aside from Beast, though I’m sure if he were more human, he’d have an 8-pack as well.   Of course, that didn’t stop Conrad from giving the zombie-monsters 8-packs, but I digress.

Conclusion: An enjoyable Steve Rogers adventure.

Grade: B

-Alex Evans