It was bound to happen.
Sure, it’s an integral
part of the medium—and
a basic component of serial
storytelling—but still, it’s just
too soon. Things were going
great, everyone was happy,
and then—bam! Steve Rogers
comes back from the dead.
It’s been two years since Rogers was gunned down on the steps of a courthouse in Captain America No. 25, and since then, the book has been as good as ever, if not better. Cap’s old sidekick, Bucky (aka The Winter Soldier), has picked up the shield, donned the mask and tried to live up to the mantle of a murdered icon. The “shadow of a legacy” aspect is one of the most-interesting elements in the series now, and writer Ed Brubaker has woven it into a masterful tale that should end up as one of the definitive Captain America runs in history.
If Brubaker weren’t the one in charge
of the story, it wouldn’t be surprising if the
next issue ended with Patrick Duffy telling
us it was all a dream, because other elements
of this return are dangerously close
to “cheap stunt” territory.
Last month, Captain America No. 50 was
released, then Marvel switched the series
back to its original numbering (combining
all previous volumes), so that issue No. 600
could be released the very next month. That
issue was released on a Monday instead
of Wednesday, which is normally when
comics are released—a move that infuriated
numerous retailers because of extra
shipping charges that came with getting a
single book two days early. The release was
accompanied by a press blitz announcing
that Steve Rogers was, in fact, returning
from the dead, and that everyone should
rush out and buy issue No. 600.
The only problem is that Steve Rogers
was nowhere to be found in it. The
issue—while brilliantly written and
gorgeously illustrated—was little more
than a quick recap of everything that
took place in the first 50 issues. It ended
with a lackluster “To Be Continued in
… Reborn!”—a f ive-issue mini-series
beginning the following month.
The Internet, of course, was running rampant with theories as to what would take place in the pages of this overhyped issue— and most of them hinged on the July 22, 2011, release date of the movie adaptation. One of the better ones was that Will Smith would be playing the lead and that Reborn was going to re-introduce Isaiah Bradley—the first person to be injected with the Super Soldier serum and who happens to be black.
The less-outlandish and more-rational
theory is that Brubaker wanted to finish
what he started. He’s been writing the series
for close to five years now and might feel
he has run the course of stories he wants
to tell. Having been in the comics business
a long time—and knowing full well that
“dead” doesn’t mean the same thing in the
comics universe as in the real world—he
knew that it was only a matter of time before
Steve Rogers came back. And he wanted it to
be on his watch rather than someone else’s.
Captain America isn’t the only hero finding a new lease on life this year, either. Over at DC Comics, Bruce Wayne died at the end of its last event, Final Crisis (or he might have just been sent back in time). Now, his ex-sidekick, Dick Grayson (formerly Robin), has taken up the mantle, and all the Bat-books are graced with a banner that reads “Batman Reborn” across the top—which is either insanely brilliant or incredibly lazy, depending on your perspective. How long Bruce Wayne is actually gone from the title probably all depends on how long it takes to get that Dark Knight sequel off the ground.
In the world of comics, the status quo
never changes completely; it just gets shaken
up every once in a while to keep things
interesting. And dying never put much of
a damper on the legacy of any character,
because it’s merely a set-up for a heroic
return somewhere down the line.