The incredible run of Marvel movies really have a basis in some great material from the comic books. In the case of Iron Man, the Extemis arc by Warren Ellis and Adi Granov, and for Captain America, the long run of Ed Brubaker and many talented artists including Steve Epting. In 2005, Ed Brubaker and Steve Epting launched the fifth volume of the Captain America comic for Marvel. Brubaker took away the super heroics of the character that made him a parody in earlier comics. Instead, he brought the character back to a man and his mission. He has taken Captain America to his death and return, re-introduced Bucky as the Winter Soldier (featured in the new movie), and covered many of the heroes and villains throughout the character’s history. Which brings us to Captain America #19 with the final issue logo on the cover before the re-boot. It has Steve Epting returning to pencil and provide a cover with Cap trailing the flag behind him against a red background of his many allies and enemies. It opens at a S.H.I.E.L.D. hospital where the partial seen character dismisses a nurse’s comment about his “friend.” He walks into a room where the patient who resembles Cap moans and the visitor apologizes.
This moves to a two page splash at the top of the page with a flashback to six weeks ago in New York City. Captain America is slinging his shield at some armed clowns on top of a train. This is a mirror to the scene in Brubaker’s first issue of Captain America with the same panel arrangement (different figure placements). Cap knocks one of the clowns out with his shield, dodges machine gun fire with a handstand and catches his shield. Cap rams the clowns with his shield and the narrator says the mistake was he was angry. A clown falls off the train and crashes into the window of a car. The car goes out of control and is about to hit a girl. Cap swings in and saves the girl. He gets angry and is about to punch the wounded clown when his fist is stopped by the real Captain America. Brubaker does a great job of showing the mistakes of the replacement hero which has been attempted by so many great creators with so many characters. The replacement Cap is struck by Captain America and shocked runs off into the path of a truck.
The next panel has Steve Rogers talking to the Captain America of the 1950s, William Burnside at the hospital. Rogers is worried about Burnside taking up the Cap mantle; “But you’re my dark reflection William… and my biggest fan.” This shifts to a flashback of Roger’s childhood years in the Depression. Epting uses black and white panels to get the flashback look used in the Brubaker run. The scrawny kid Steve Rogers has lost his father and feels scared not of the bullies, but losing his mother. This is a great addition to the Captain America story that really brings out his human quality. Back to the present, Rogers shows Burnside his copy of Captain America Comics. This is probably the best use of a comic book cover inside a comic and reminiscent of the scene in the movie. Here Rogers uses it to shift back to Bucky, James Barnes, frustrated that the character in the comics is so young. Cap replies it is to inspire the kid readers.
One of the best parts of the comic book is showing Simon and Kirby at work creating the Cap comic which really shows Brubaker’s respect to the character’s creators. The narrative moves to some battlefield scenes where Rogers soon realizes that the soldiers looked to him because they needed hope. There is a brief scene that shows Rogers taking the Super Soldier formula and transforming into Cap. The flashback covers the death of Bucky, his suspended animation in ice, and shifts to others taking up the Cap mantle. Rogers tries to find the other Captain Americas which leads to a confrontation with Burnside. He moves to more recent events with his retirement and the death of a Captain America. Rogers says he realized that he can’t separate the mission from the symbol of Captain America. He tells Burnside that his mission has ended and that he spoke at his funeral. Rogers salutes Burnside in shadow. He explains to Burnside that he will need to heal, but can never become Captain America because that it is his burden. Rogers gets on his motorcycle and rides into the sunset. Brubaker finishes the issue with a page explaining his love of the character and the many creators and personnel that he worked with on his run. A fantastic issue that sums up the character and opens the title for the next run.