Before we get into Marvel’s next big event, it makes sense to explore some of the fallout of Civil War, and while the splintering of the Avengers and the Initiative as a whole all made for some major changes to the Marvel Universe, perhaps nothing was more shocking of poignant than the death of Steve Rogers, and the fallout from his assassination. 

Published by: Marvel
Written by: Ed Brubaker
Art by: Steve Epting, Lee Weeks, Jackson Guice, Roberto De la Torre & Mike Perkins
Year: 2009

Collects: Captain America vol. 5 #25 – 42

PLOT: The superhero ‘Civil War’ is over, and Captain America has surrendered to the authorities.

But as Steve Rogers prepares to stand trial, he is assassinated on the steps of the courthouse and is declared dead upon his arrival at the hospital. 

As America struggles with the death of a national hero, the question arises, who pulled the trigger?

Now, as the dust settles, Sharon Carter and the Falcon try to find their way in a world without Captain America, while Bucky Barnes – the Winter Soldier sets his sights on Tony Stark.

But as the new director of S.H.I.E.L.D., Stark has a more pressing concern – namely who will take up the shield and mantle of America’s greatest hero. 

REVIEW: I had initially only planned to review the first act of the overall ‘Death of Captain America’ storyline, The Death of a Dream, but in much the same way that Out of Time and Winter Soldier seamlessly blend into one another, so too do the three acts (and as a result, the three collected editions) of Death of Captain America.

Fortunately, you can also buy them as part of one big bundle, which you really should, because otherwise, the ending of The Death of a Dream ends on a cliffhanger that is less leaving you begging for more, and more just not telling you how the story you’re partway through ends.

The Death of the Dream focuses on the assassination of Captain America and the immediate fallout.

What I think is most notable about this story is the way Brubaker forgoes Captain America sacrificing himself to save the world, and instead just has him assassinated in cold blood. His death isn’t spectacular or glamorous and references the assassinations of other American icons like JFK and Martin Luther King Jr.

It seems fitting, as it speaks to Cap’s stature not just as a hero, but also as a person in the Marvel Universe. It also means there’s not some big build-up to something the title has already told you will happen.

Straight out of the gate, first issue, four gunshots and that’s the end of Steve Rogers.

It’s crushing, both to the readers who have watched his final day’s in Civil War and even more so to the characters, who are now left in a world seemingly without hope.

Seeing how each member of Cap’s supporting cast deals with such tragedy makes for some great dramatic moments, perhaps more so than most superhero comics.

There are costumed supervillain and the like lurking out, but a lot of Act One retains the espionage feel from Winter Soldier (both the book and the movie) and focuses on character first, theatrics second.

Their situation is easy to empathise with, as they all deal with grief in relatable ways, and for the most part, aren’t hampered by aliens or supervillain whose presence obviously isn’t felt in the real world. I am also a big fan of the development of Bucky and Black Widow’s relationship, and seeing it blossom across Brubaker’s run makes for a rollercoaster of a story. Subtle at first, but eventually devastatingly emotional. 

The book then blends into Act 2, The Burden of Dreams, which examines the rise of Bucky Barnes as the new Captain America, which is something I personally love. 

He and Steve are both American heroes, but there’s so much tension in the fact that Steve made being Captain America seem so effortless; always having the right actions and words for the situation, whereas Bucky – an outsider of sorts, is highly capable but not cut out for public speaking or inspiring people.

We see him as he struggles to be the Captain America people expect while trying to make the role his own. His background as a soldier and assassin bleeds through, as he’s just as likely to shoot bad guys as he is to throw his shield at them. He has an edge to him that I think in some ways his more in line with the reality of what America is, as opposed to the ideals of America that Steve Rogers represents. 

It’s especially interesting because stories like these often go one of two ways – they either build up a legacy character, or they highlight why the original was so great. Here, Brubaker does both; making you understand the longing for Steve Rogers’ return, but also hesitant to see it as you become invested in Bucky’s own journey.

This fact is cemented in Act Three, The Man Who Bought America, where everything, from Captain America’s assassination, and even before that, reaching back to the Red Skull’s opening salvo in Out of Time/Winter Soldier, is wrapped up, and the supervillain plot that’s been steadily building behind the scenes finally kicks off. 

Now, thrust into a world he’s unfamiliar with, Bucky not only has to convince people that he’s Captain America, but also help foil a plot by some of Captain America’s greatest foes – Red Skull, Arnim Zola, Faustus, Crossbones and Sin – Bucky is really put through a gauntlet of sorts, but the end result is a story that cements Bucky as the new Captain, while also retaining the same tone that the series has built so consistently. There’s no bombastic superpowered fights, just a man trying to do right by his country, its ideals, and the system he works in. 

Overall, this comic does wonders for Captain America’s supporting cast, from Sharon Carter to Falcon to Tony Stark. Alongside Bucky and others, they all get some real standout moments, that also emphasizes why Steve Rogers was one of Marvel’s greatest heroes.

It’s a must-read comic, and so, for that reason, I obviously give it a very enthusiastic…

Thanks for reading! What do you think of ‘The Death of *insert random hero here*’ stories? Interesting or overdone? Let me know in the comments below! 

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3 thoughts on “THE DEATH OF CAPTAIN AMERICA | Comic Review

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