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Waiting for the Trade - Death of Cap

Waiting for the Trade

By Bill Miller

The Death of Captain America: The Death of the Dream
By Ed Brubaker, Steve Epting and Mike Perkins
Collects Captain America #25 – 30

Why I Bought This: I actually checked this out from the library. It will probably surprise a lot of people here that for as much as I love Cap, I avoided the Bru run until last year when I got the first two trades and yea, holy cow is it ever awesome! Anyway, now I’m making my way through volume by volume and my local library branch has a huge collection of Cap trades in stock at all times making it easy to read these on a budget.

The Plot: Captain America is assassinated and we see how the fallout affects Sharon Carter, Bucky, Falcon and Tony Stark while Red Skull and Dr. Faustus pull the strings from the background.


Chapter 1 – In the aftermath of Civil War Cap has been arrested and is about to be publically arraigned when he is shot four times by a rooftop sniper on the courthouse steps. Bucky was staking out the court from a rooftop as well and is mistakenly believed to be the sniper by Falcon. They briefly fight until Nick Fury radios in with intel on the location of the real sniper: Crossbones. Bucky captures Crossbones and has Falcon turn him over to SHIELD while he makes himself scarce. Cap shares a few words with Sharon then dies in the ambulance. As Sharon mourns Steve in the hospital bathroom an agent of Faustus triggers her memory, and she realizes that while Crossbones fired the first shot, she fired the next three—which were the fatal ones.

Chapter 2 – Sharon quits SHIELD once Tony is appointed the new director. We see some conversation between Sharon, Falcon and Rick Jones at Steve’s wake. We learn Arnim Zola is working with the Skull and Faustus. The New Avengers also mourn Steve. Bucky picks a fight in a bar after watching coverage of Steve’s funeral on TV. Bucky then decides he wants to assassinate Tony Stark.

Chapter 3 – Tony holds a press conference saying there will be no new Cap and a museum is opened in his honor, which Bucky visits. Sharon wants to commit suicide but Faustus’s post-hypnotic suggestions won’t let her just as they won’t let her tell anyone that she killed Cap. Fury learns Bucky wants to kill Stark and asks Falcon and Sharon to take care of it (This is the era where Fury is off-camera in all titles as he investigates Secret Invasion). Bucky spooks SHIELD into moving Cap’s shield from where they are storing it and then makes his move only to be intercepted by Black Widow. We learn they had a forbidden love affair in Russia years ago. In the present Bucky wins the fight and retrieves the shield as Falcon and Sharon watch from above without interfering. In the aftermath Widow tells Stark of her past with Bucky and anticipates he will try to assassinate Stark.

Chapter 4 – Bucky suspects Skull was involved in Steve’s assassination but to get proof he needs to break into the Hellicarrier. Cut to said Hellicarrier where Prof. X is trying to read Crossbones mind for details on Steve’s assassination without success. Meanwhile Red Skull’s daughter Sinn is now leading a new Serpent Squad with members Cobra, Eel and a new (male) Viper and they kill a bunch of stock brokers then blow up the building. Fury, Sam and Sharon have lost Bucky’s trail so Sharon decides they should investigate the Skull instead. We see Faustus is hypnotizing more SHIELD agents. Tony receives a letter from Steve’s estate lawyer. Bucky takes down some AIM scientists and shakes them down for information on the Serpent Squad, whom we see have successfully infiltrated the Hellicarrier thanks to Faustus’s hypnotized agent letting them in.

Chapter 5 – We see the aftermath of the Serpent Squad’s attack via Tony and Maria Hill watching a recording of them killing bunches of people before freeing Crossbones and making good their escape. Meanwhile Widow is still trying to track down Bucky with little success. When Bucky learns of Crossbones escape on the news he is unhappy and decides to investigate a possible connection between Kronas Corporation (his most recent handlers as the Winter Soldier when he was still under mind-control) and Red Skull. We see Red Skull is gaining more control over the body he shares with Kronas CEO Alexander Lukin. Falcon and Sharon shake down some AIM agents, though Sharon’s guilt over Steve is making her physically ill. Widow spots them departing and deduces that they too are looking for Winter Soldier. Bucky confronts Lukin wondering why he would work for the Skull only to learn too late that Lukin is the Skull.

Chapter 6 – Tony pieces together that all of his agents who were seeing SHIELD’s in-house psychiatrist have disappeared then learns the psychiatrist himself is dead and has been for some time. (This is the man Faustus replaced and impersonated though Tony does not know who is responsible). Bucky takes down both Crossbones and Sinn as the Skull watches then Skull uses a failsafe codeword Lukin left in Bucky’s brain to shut him down. Widow meets with Falcon and offers to team up, while Sharon learns she is pregnant. Bucky awakes as Faustus’s prisoner, and he’s preparing to brainwash him. Tony goes through the records of the dead doctor’s patients and finds Sharon’s name and Tony pieces together that she killed Steve. He attempts to relay that info to Widow but she and Falcon have just arrived at Sharon’s house where Faustus’s conditioning again kicks in and Sharon shoot both heroes at point blank range. We end seeing the letter Steve left for Tony in which he asks for two things: that the Captain America name live on and that Tony makes sure Bucky doesn’t fall back into darkness.

Critical Thoughts: This is excellent. First of all these chapters are densely plotted by today’s standards. Each chapter is filled with both rising action and character beats as we follow a fairly big cast in the wake of Cap’s death. It’s amazing how good this book is even though the protagonist is dead. Just an amazing bit of ensemble writing that pays off in spades each time the stories from the different groups intersect.

It’s funny I avoided Bru’s run for a long time because it was centered around Bucky returning from the dead and let’s be honest on paper that sounds like such a contrived comic book plot. Plus to be honest I never cared about Bucky to begin with. It’s why I never liked Waid’s run because he constantly had Cap dwelling on WWII and Bucky and I’m of the opinion that Cap’s been thawed out long enough (probably 10 years Marvel time) that he should be over that by now. (My favorite era of Cap is from roughly issues 250 – 350 by Stern, DeMatteis and Grunewald; and each author told barely one Bucky story each as they kept the focus on Cap in the present.) But what Bru’s run shows is that any idea can be valid if you execute it right, and boy does he. Bucky’s decision to assassinate Stark is a fantastic plot twist I didn’t see coming that feels right inline with how Bru has recrafted the character. The subsequent reveal of a long ago connection between Widow and Bucky also plays out really strong in these chapters and adds a whole new layer to Bucky’s revival. Good stuff all around on the Bucky front in this trade.

It’s become clichéd to call Epting’s art during this run cinematic. But it is a cliché for a reason. The art is so visually fabulous and fluid. When you combine it with Bru’s writing you get a really intense espionage noir story that has just a dash of the superhero milieu. Anyway this is book is fabulous with characters like Sharon and Falcon having never been written better than they are here. (Sharon is another character that I’ve had very little use for historically but she carries the story here). The same with Faustus, a villain I’ve always found to be very unconvincing as a threat to Cap in the past and yet here because of the espionage overtones his psychological mind control shtick has never been more effective.

I can come up with a few criticisms but they’re mostly small. As a fan of Crossbones I don’t like how easily Bucky takes him down in their two fights. Under Gru Crossbones was shown to be very close to Steve in fighting skill on several occasions and also matched up pretty well against Bullseye in “Streets of Poison.” I also doubt that Cobra would rejoin the Serpent Squad after leading the Serpent Society, particularly if it meant teaming with a new Viper since the true Viper (a.k.a. Madame Hydra) tends to take revenge on those who try to usurp her place and Cobra has been shown to be wary of her in the past. It’s a case where Bru is clearly paying homage to Englehart’s Serpent Squad, and while I understand that impulse, I don’t know that it fits the characters.

The only other criticism I would add is the cliffhanger in the last chapter is off. Sharon shooting the heroes is clearly where the chapter should end and not on Steve’s letter, but again that’s a quibble. The scene where Sharon shoots the heroes just as Tony is trying to warn Natasha plays out perfectly and makes me want to rush to the library to get the next chapter and see what happens next.

Grade A.  Nuff Said


  1. This story really was gripping and the first page of the next issue I found to be quite chilling in particular. Definitely the most interested I've been in Steve's universe and the man isn't even there.

  2. The way you felt about Bucky's return was pretty much how everyone felt. When it was announced comic fans were skeptical, but damn it if Bru didn't hit it right out of the park. Not only that, but it was solid enough to base the next Cap flick on.


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