By Christopher Franey & Rafael Encinas
Welcome back everyone to part seven of our read/review of Ed Brubaker’s Captain America and Grant Morrison’s Batman which continue to up the ante with each volume we explore. These are two respective runs that continue to illuminate the vast importance of the Captain America and Batman mythos and legend. During this read to make it easier for the reader CHRIS will be in BOLD FONT and RAFA will be in ITALIC FONT as we express our views on these great comics. In this part, we continue our adventures with both Bucky and Dick running with their new mantles. We have seen them embrace their new identities, let’s see how they continue to fair! For those of you reading alongside with us, we will be discussing Captain America vol 5 #37-42 and Batman and Robin (2009) #1-6. Let’s get started with arguably the greatest mind in comics; Chris, what did you think of Captain America: The Man Who Bought America?
As per usual with Ed Brubaker he starts where he does best, in WWII and with that flashback of the Invaders winning a battle against Red Skull and his minions it just goes to show that Skull plays the long game and you can see that right here:
Skull wants them to enjoy the victory and eventually he will take that and more from them as is told to us with that title, The Man Who Bought America. It is no joke and I remember when I was first reading these issues I was so scared of his plan because it could happen, this is right up there with Geoff John’s Avengers run where Skull became Dell Rusk. That infiltration of the system to use it against itself is horrible yet full of suspense just right for Bucky to take on along the way on his journey towards redemption. I like how it plays to both sides of the coin since Bucky as Winter Soldier would infiltrate America and try to bring it down from within. Skull isn’t the only villain here, Doctor Faustus is quite the character in this story arc as well. I love that Faustus doesn’t have a turn of heart in order to stop Skull, yet instead it is that he is tired of being the whipping boy.
With that set of panels I appreciate that he is a heel, but not a total scumbag. With him taking away the knowledge of Sharon’s baby it is quite the double edged sword; it is pretty wild and I don’t know if today’s comics could get away with it, but you have to remember this is not the writer, this is the character and how he would act. Speaking of characters Brubaker just does such a wonder with all of them and he has so many to choose from with Bucky, Sharon, Black Widow, Flacon, Skull, Faustus, and “Mad Cap” aka the Grand Director; what where some pop out moments of character for you Rafa?
For me, this story had so many wonderful character moments. We get to see Sharon Carter’s story continue to unfold into tragedy which was surprising but also felt real. To your point, we get full utilization of the secondary villains like Zola and Faustus which made the story feel like there were multiple layers between the main plot point of Red Skull and Bucky’s political tango. Hell, what worked for me the most was the relationship between Sam and Bucky. I like the moments where these two had a moment to train or to catch their breaths. Two men who lost the same beacon of hope helping one another to pick up the pieces and honor Steve’s legacy. Seeing them develop a friendship through their buddy-cop team up adds to the flavor and tone of the story, and what a story it is.
Ed Brubaker really amps up the criminal espionage and political drama with this volume of Captain America. I really enjoyed how “The Man Who Bought America” continues to build on Bucky’s voyage to carry on the legacy of Steve Rogers. It is more excellent moments with Bucky as we continue to get a look into his mind and feelings. We get to see him train and inner monologue about how he needs to not tarnish the good name of Captain America. This is juxtaposed to the arrival of another man claiming to be Captain America that really shakes the core of this political drama, and oh, what a political drama it turns out to be. The usage of 3rd party presidential candidates, the Red Skull’s menacing agenda to fabricate a narrative, the idea of fascism polluting the democratic system fire at all cylinders. Once again, akin to political espionage films like The Manchurian Candidate (1962) this tpb delivers a suspenseful plot that is interesting, multilayered, and exciting.
I believe this story to be a technical feat by the writer because even though this is just another chapter in Brubaker’s Captain America narrative, it still feels important and gives us a blockbuster climax to the suspense that’s been building for these past 3-4 volumes. It is quite impressive. Any last thoughts on this volume of Captain America, Chris?
As per usual your eye and mind catches the best of things and you nailed it with Brubaker bringing the flavors of Buddy-Cop with Political Thriller/Suspense; I mean what more could you ask for in patriotic street level comics? I really did enjoy the moments with Sam and Bucky and this has me even more hyped of the upcoming show and I hope, if they’re smart, they look at these issues and future ones to get the full Sam/Bucky experience. Looking at Cap’s legacy that is quite the cross Bucky has to carry and I love the fact that Brubaker even brings it up by having Hawkeye pop in for a visit and it just makes the point even better and more honest as Bucky says it out loud that is the last thing he wants to do is tarnish Steve’s memory. The conclusion that issue 42 brough was so satisfying and it closes the major arc with Lukin and Skull’s transformation but yet we still have the menace of “Mad Cap” to deal with, which is going to be amazing if memory serves. I love the ending of hope that Brubaker leaves with too.
Excellent points as always, Chris! I love that you mention how this volume ends with a happy ending for Bucky, at least for now . The good guys get a win for a change. I think this ties perfectly and resonates deeply with the overall tone and nuance of Grant Morrison’s Batman & Robin. I remember reading this first tpb, Batman Reborn, and having a huge smile on my face. Rereading this now with greater context into Morrison’s Bat-World, my smile just gets bigger.
After the extravagance of Batman R.I.P., the convolution of Final Crisis, and the personal ballad of Battle For The Cowl, Morrison gives us a new format to play with. He gives us Batman & Robin: Batman Reborn. Set up as an introspective look into Dick’s foray as Batman, and set up as a fun, albeit weird homage to the adventures of Batman and Robin, this story is something unique; something that is exciting. Morrison wastes no time in creating his own brand of the macabre and strange with his very own rogue’s gallery of antagonists. The usage of these baroque-esque villains is provocative, silly, and disorienting. Professor Pyg, the Dollotrons, and Flamingo are all so extravagant that it is shocking, which is made even more jarring by the colorful palette of Frank Quitely’s art and Alex Sinclair’s colors. This choice of art coupled with the strange narrative presented feel unique, albeit sometimes disgusting, and this is important because it makes it memorable. We get so much more than just a Dick and Damian bonding story; we get so much more than a new Batman tale. We get something inherently different, that feels different, and I think Morrison does this perfectly.
However, though the style and presentation to this tpb is a standout, I would be remiss if I did not also credit the wonders of its narrative. Morrison’s Batman & Robin is so much more than its wild presentation; it weaves an interesting and heartfelt story about two sons; both who have lost their fathers and must now do their best to create a new foundation for their father’s legacy. Watching Dick and Damian work in tandem feels good and refreshing. We get a new dynamic to the Batman and Robin stories we had in the past. Watching these two bicker like a real family feels sweet, it feels earned. It is a pretty creepy, violent, and disturbing story, but Morrison is still able to put a whimsical fun and adventure into it. What stood out to you, Chris?
For me it was the smaller moments, seeing Batman and Robin together again was great but it was funny to basically deal with Bruce Jr. and adult Grayson. I love the twist on the dynamic and I love the realism in their relationship. Right off the bat in issue one this gave me a laugh as it pays to the history and forges to the future:
Dick recalling his days as the boy wonder and seeing Damian, basically with body language, say I don’t care. It was great, it really reminds me of working with younger kids who think they are so cool and edgy. The villains as you said earlier were exactly that gross and extravagant. I have to say Pyg is just horrible like the way he is drawn. I can imagine if he were real he would stink to high heaven, so gross and the stuff of nightmares. The second story in the arc really stuck out to me with Scarlet; she is just so damn tragic and the fact that Robin said he would help her and let her down made it much harder with her story. I will say that Grant’s Jason Todd did feel out of character but it works since it was so early on with Jason/Red Hood that DC probably didn’t know what they were going to do with the character.
I’m glad that Scarlet and Jason have since found better stories for them to go on with. I do like their introduction of Oberon Sexton, Gravedigger; since we know who he will turn out to be, it is going to be great to watch and see what he does between now and the reveal. I didn’t mind this read of the stories in this tpb, but it wasn’t my favorite set of stories. I feel Grant had a rough start here and everything was so “flash in the pan” but then again that works since this is Dick and Damian’s first adventures as Batman and Robin. Are there any other insights you have to this set of stories, Rafa?
I think you explain it perfectly when you said that the smaller moments are what worked best for you, Chris. Even though this story does feel very bombastic in its presentation, it really does work best in its smaller moments, in the inside jokes and call backs shared between characters. I liked that they utilized Jason in this story and how he tries to be his own version of Batman. The way he and Dick get into it after their tussle with the flamboyant Flamingo is a standout moment because we get to see them really hash out that old family drama. I think this moment is cathartic and moves the young men another step closer to healing their old wounds. I think this is a good rock bottom moment for Jason, so that we appreciate the hero he becomes later in Batman’s narrative. Overall, I felt that both Morrison and Brubaker did a good job of creating a brave new world for both Dick and Bucky. They have already been introduced, and now we are seeing them live out their new identities. I am excited to see how these stories continue.
There we go, both Morrison and Brubaker have teased us with the set of stories that began with Steve Rogers and Bruce Wayne now handing it off to Dick Grayson and Bucky Barnes. We have been treated to some amazing adventures and the best is yet to come. Come back and join us again as we continue our read with Brubaker’s Captain America: The Man with No Face tpb (issues 43-49 of Captain America volume 5) and a return to Tony Daniel’s Batman in Life After Death tpb (issues 692-699 of Batman volume 1). Please feel free to reach out to us and let us know your thoughts and opinions as we would love to get your views as well as share this excellent read of comics with you all; you can find me on Twitter as @StuffIShudSay and Rafa as @Mobilerafie, please check out all Geek Elite Media has to offer on this site as well as our podcasts and social medias and always remember to GEEK OUT!