Hank McCoy (Before the Fur)

So I was talking to a friend this weekend about the Cap situation. What’s the Cap situation? Well, Steve Rogers is back from the dead.

This was bound to happen and I don’t give Marvel too much grief for it- granted, others have a different opinion. The obvious objection is this: why go to all the trouble of posing Cap’s elaborate death, a soul-shattering event that echoed into every comic book Marvel was printing at the time, just to bring him back so quickly?

And if I do have a complaint, it’s that- speed. I would have liked to have let it ride for a while longer. There was no doubt in my mind that Cap was coming back. Somehow. Personally, I would have been geeking out if, by some really weird twist of fate, Cap’s body somehow emerged healed and preserved in a block of ice somewhere, a la his original hiatus and reappearance (actually, one time I read a provocative 2099 story where this happened. Steve Rogers, perpetually out of time, wakes up un-aged and untouched in Marvel’s only-sometimes-supported dark future).

It’s the movies. The integration of Hollywood and comic-dom occasionally makes for some weird storytelling. With an Avengers film in the works, Marvel is going to want people to go to the store and SEE the same character in a book that they did on the big screen. But at least Cap’s death and the reverberations were EPIC. I would have liked another year or two to feel the Marvel U. without him around- but I’ll take what I can get.

Bruce Wayne is a different matter. With Batman-fandom at an all time high, the prospect of killing Wayne for very long never seemed very realistic. I did LIKE Battle for the Cowl, and a chance to see Dick Grayson step into the role was cool. Still, it’s like Wayne’s death was a footnote in the history of DC comics. I don’t know why. Something about Final Crisis (or Batman R.I.P.; pick your death/continuity) just didn’t stick for me. It wasn’t a big enough DEAL- I remember listening to NPR and hearing people talk about Civil War and Captain America’s death like it was breaking news. Wayne? People are so obsessed with Batman that we just quietly ignored what happened. It was like Grant Morrison said ‘He’s dead.’ And we all said ‘No he isn’t.’ and Morrison said ‘Okay, you got me. He isn’t.’

So you know. I accept the limitations of these things, I suppose.

Of course, Marvels got this other weird thing going on right now- namely that Rogers ISN’T Captain America, at the moment.

This is typical but always makes for some weird storytelling- new character steps into old hero’s role while old hero gets a slight makeover and a new name. Kyle Raynor, originally launched as the kind of character that was supposed to make you forget about all the Green Lantern history that had come before and Hal Jordan in particular, went by Ion recently and Guy Gardner became Warrior and gained superpowers that weren’t ring-related for reasons that are nearly incomprehensible. I suppose these aren’t even clear examples of what I was just talking about, but you get the idea. You know.

But Bucky as Cap…I like it. It’s- different. And I’m glad that they’ve at least decided to hang on to this for a while yet. At first, I assumed that the purpose of making Bucky Cap was to make the actual comic book, Captain America, be more about people getting shot full of holes than questions about ethics and morality. And okay, I admit- Cap, whether Bucky or Rogers, is kind of at an all time badassness (not a word) right now. I remember when Cap and Bucky overcame the Nazi party and the Fuhrer with some bad puns and some snappy fisticuffs.

Nowadays? They make it clear that these two fought in a WAR. THE war. The comic has become a really interesting place to explore the impact of war on people and society, I think. After all, Cap and Bucky live in a time and place where most people don’t even appreciate the kinds of sacrifices that occurred in the generation before them. What’s that gotta do, right?

So, yeah. Cap is a little grittier these days. Of course, Bucky is a blatant example of what I like to call "Jason Todd syndrome." That is- when a character’s sidekick is so unforgivably cheesy and disliked by the fans, the only course of action left is to A. kill them off and B. resurrect them, years later, as a much darker and seemingly evil reflection of the hero.

Bucky’s evolution into the Winter Solider has gotta be this last decade's biggest contribution to Cap’s mythology. So naturally, I assumed that Bucky as Cap would be all about how he had to do awful, awful things so that people could sleep comfortably at night and never know what the price of their freedom was, and all that. But if there’s one thing I like about Bucky, it’s this: he struggles with the role.

I think what people love about Captain America is not that he runs around telling everyone how great America is, but that he tries to live the way America SHOULD be. The way it was envisioned. Some of the greatest Cap stories involve him considering just how distinct reality and the ideals he believes in really are, and wrestling with the implications of that. It’s been interesting to see Bucky try to believe. Sure, he can play the role. He knows what Steve would say or do. And he isn’t too bad at inspiring people.

But does BUCKY believe it? Does HE really think the things he says as Captain America are true? I don’t think he’s quite as hopeful as Steve- afterall, he got brainwashed into become a killing machine who was trained to follow orders and not ask questions. He’s seen society and governments at their worst- murder, propaganda, manipulation, etc.

If someone like that could really believe in the American Dream- LIVE the role, not just play the role- than there really is hope, right?


  1. freaking awesome article man you hit exactly what we were talking about hit the point precisely.

  2. One of the worst cliches in comics (and there are more than a couple) is the idea of having a character "die" act like he is somehow really dead and then have a long, elaborate re-birth
    This kind of storytelling is usually a signal that writers a) have run out of ideas and b) need to get some easy attention for a venerable character (like Batman/Superman/Cap)-I will say that if any comic character in superhero comics seemed really, truly dead it was Bucky-Marvel did an interesting job reviving him as a badass and I think against all odds it pretty much worked and made some sense-It will be interesting to see what direction the character goes since he doesn't seem to line up philosophically with CA...

  3. When Captain America was killed, it was poignant. It shocked readers and it actually meant something. Batman's death was the same way; his was even more poignant in that he used a gun to kill Darkseid (and himself in the process). Superman was killed to increase sales.

    Regardless of the character, comic fans know that no death is ever final. And I think that hurts some comics. Especially when the death is a character as big as one of the three above...readers know that it's not final. Sure, that specific issue will benefit from boosted sales, but the publishers are walking a dangerous line in alienating readers.

    You can only cry wolf so many times, and then when you have an issue where someone dies that will actually stay dead its significance will be cheapened because readers know that character will be coming back.


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