The Trial of Captain America part 2

Writer:  Ed Brubaker

Artist:  Butch Guice

Publisher:  Marvel

Price:  $3.99

Previously:  After the apparent murder of Steve Rogers, the former Captain America, Cap’s partner from WWII, James “Bucky” Barnes, took on Steve’s mantle and his mission.  Even now that Steve Rogers has returned from the grave, Bucky continue to wield the shield as Captain America.  But Bucky has a dark and secret past as the Winder Soldier – an assassin trained employed and mentally manipulated by the KGB to stymie U.S. efforts in the Cold War. A past that Baron Zemo has exposed to the world.  And with the media frenzy building, Steve Rogers can’t stand to see his wartime partner’s name stained anymore; he knows Bucky wasn’t acting of his own accord, and he is determined to prove it.  For now, though, it seems that Bucky Barnes run as Captain America is over:  he turns himself in…to await the trial that will decide his fate.

Ed Brubaker continues to make Captain America riveting and relevant, probably the most the character has been explored in most of his storied history.   He has been filling issues of Captain America with political debate and drama, the exact sort of things that should undergird the character of Captain America (as much as his ties to the military and espionage worlds).  If Captain America is the symbol of the country, then through him the country gets examined.  He’s the stand in as well as the ideal, the mirror the country—it’s political and military side—has to face.

Story-wise, the comic has the feel of a of a gritty crime book and isn’t a slave to the splash page.  Unlike many super hero comics, there isn’t the rush to fill the pages with action packed fight scenes, but rather the tension is cranked up and threaten to bubble over.  There is so much going on, Brubaker becomes guilty of Bendis-esque talking heads, which is almost unavoidable considering the legal and media examinations involved in the story line.

“If this is my path to redemption, I’m sure as hell earning it.” –Bucky

On the character front, Bucky has to deal with his past in a much more fundamental way as it will set the course of his future.  He has been publicly outed and has to face the consequences of his sinful past.  He had committed some atrocities yet seeks redemption.  Does he have the right to wear the uniform of Captain America and take on the honor and responsibility that goes with it?  There will always be those who will hate him and not give him the chance to show that he is a different man, but for that matter, has he been disqualified from being a hero and leader?

Bucky doesn’t just want the mantle and title, but he wants to be worthy of the responsibility of leadership and the burden of being a symbol.  It’s a tough issue to wrestle with. There are some behaviors which should “disqualify” you from the mantle of leadership. On the other hand, a you still have gifts and you are obligated to use them.

Our cultural ideas of leadership tells us that leadership is about power, prestige, and possessions.  Kingdom leadership is informal, without many official positions. Not everyone is meant to “lead” or, better said, hold office. Those who aspire to leadership, realize that the more “power” you have, the more you are called to serve.  The model of leadership we present is Jesus and yet, he led by serving. He saw needs–physical, emotional, or spiritual–met them, and THEN spoke. It was more important for him to walk alongside his disciples and pour himself into their lives—getting a towel and washing the feet of those who walked beside him—rather than isolate himself so that he could prepare sermons every week.  And through him we know redemption is possible for anyone no matter what their past.

Between Bucky and his lawyers, Steve Rodgers, the Falcon, Sin and Master Man, and all of the media scenes, Brubaker has a lot of threads to keep track of and weave together.  He is ably abetted by the photo-realistic art style of Butch Guice.  With all of the political intrigue and social commentary, this arc of Captain America continues to build organically.  It feels like an extended story arc, with a lot of history behind it, but one definitely worth reading (and going back and reading if you’ve missed any of it).