Ed FUCKING Brubaker.
I love him so much that I hate him. I love his ability to write, his natural gift for storytelling, and I hate him because I’ll never be that talented. Captain America #19 is Brubaker’s swan song to his 100-plus issue run. A run that included Captain America’s death, rebirth and an entire new chapter in the history of Bucky Barnes. Brubaker’s work with Captain America will go down in history. In 20 years, when the next crop of writers are making their bones, many will point to this run as their inspiration. So, how does a writer of Brubaker’s caliber end his time with Captain America?
Quietly and with great dignity.
I won’t front – my eyes got watery reading Captain America #19. It helps that I was listening to the song “On Floating” by The End Of The Ocean, but still, Brubaker’s writing in this final issue is perfect.. William Burnside, the unstable man who replaced Steve Rogers as Captain America after Rogers vanished in the 50s, has been hurt, badly. Laying in a hospital bed and trying to heal, Burnside is visited by Rogers. What unfolds is Rogers looking back over his own history and bearing his soul about the albatross of being Captain America to the one man who might be able to understand it.
There is no shock and awe, just reflection and a raw honesty that Steve Rogers rarely shows. Brubaker’s true gift to comic book fans was to make Rogers’ flawed and human, something largely missing from the character in the past. Captain America #19 showcases that beautifully by allowing Rogers to exercise some demons – demons he could never confess to anyone else. Brubaker even manages to work in a tribute to Jack Kirby and Joe Simon, which shows once again just how much he loves comic books. That passion is what revitalized Captain America and it glows off every page in this last issue.
Steve Epting’s art is just as on point. With each panel, you can feel him saying goodbye. There’s a mastery to what he’s doing, a use of shadow and complex lines to put real emotion into the story. There isn’t much action here, but Epting uses all the tools in his arsenal to make a very personal final message to the fans.
Captain America never truly goes away, and in November, Marvel are starting over with issue #1. At the helm is writer Rick Remender along with artist John Romita Jr. I’m fans of both men but, sadly, they have already failed. Nobody in the foreseeable future will be able to touch what Ed Brubaker has done here. It’s a staggering run from a man of staggering talent.
(5 Story, 5 Art)