Captain America #19 (Final Issue)
Note: Some spoilers follow…
Brubaker’s final Cap issue is a great examination of the Cap mythos and what it means to be Captain America and how some have had such a hard time living up to what the symbol means, while others have become anything and everything the Marvel U has hoped for. This issues sends this volume of Cap out on a more somber and relaxed note, but it’s importance should not be understated.
Right up front, this issue leaves me with some mixed feelings. One, I feel like it was a bit too soon for Brubaker to leave this comic, and although no one would ever publicly admit it, it seems like this was something that, while Bru felt it was coming, came a bit too early. On the other hand, I feel as though this is a great end to his run (more on that later).
Putting aside the fact that this issue seemed to come too soon, Brubaker spends much of his time in this issue delving into what it truly means to be Captain America. Played out in a conversation between Steve Rogers and William Burnside (the Cap from the ’50s), Rogers explains all that he has learned over the years being the Sentinel of Liberty. On paper, this may sound like a slow-moving and somewhat tired type of storyline, Brubaker is able to infuse it with some genuine gravitas and pathos as Rogers tells his story. Never once do you doubt the genuine emotion coming through in his voice and Bru should be commended for that.
I think that’s what makes this issue so impressive; that an issue mostly devoted to a discussion (more so an explanation I suppose) can be so interesting and truly Cap off a run so epic and fantastic as Brubaker’s was. Lesser writers would force some kind of overdone conflict or final battle into an issue like this, and leave us with some kind of ridiculous cliffhanger or push toward what might be coming next. Instead, this issue does have some finality (at least for this version of Captain America) and while it sets the stage for what is to come next, it never stops being its own story.
Most importantly, Brubaker has such an excellent handle on the character of Captain America (and Steve Rogers) that even retreading familiar territory while emphasizing what he’s learned over time is exciting and engaging. Sure, we’ve seen details about how Steve Rogers became Cap, and how he got frozen in ice, and how he came back, and even once stopped being Cap, but somehow, it works all over again and never feels like a “been there, done that” type of storyline.
It’s been a long time since Steve Epting drew a Cap issue, and I remember being wowed by his art back when Brubaker’s run first started, thinking that he was the perfect fit for the book, capable of drawing the world of Cap with that espionage and noir combo that has become a staple of the book over the run. Characters are draped in shadows in the more somber moments, and the gritty, real-world look of the battles and action never fail to impress. Having the one who began it all with Bru–8 years ago–come back for the finale was a master-stroke, and the art doesn’t disappoint.
Overall, this issue is fantastic. However, if you’re expecting some kind of big action extravaganza to end Bru’s run, you’ll be disappointed. Yet, if you’ve stuck around for this long and have enjoyed the amazing ride that it has been, you’ll see the true value in this issue and its commentary on the series and character as a whole. I’ll miss Bru on Cap, but I’ll never regret having followed his entire run.