Hello fellow fans of Comic Books, Chris and I have returned to continue our rundown of Ed Brubaker’s Captain America/Winter Soldier arcs alongside Grant Morrison’s Batman run. We will continue to discuss the things we enjoyed, disliked, learned, and even compare/contrast the issues as we went through them; mostly we will be reading in a trade order with some slight changes. Since this will be involving our two voices we will use the following font styles: Chris will be in BOLD and Rafa will be in ITALIC. After last week’s introduction to these characters, we will continue with discussions on Captain America: Winter Soldier volume 2 tpb (Cap vol 5 issues 8-14) and Batman: The Resurrection of Ra’s Al Ghul tpb (which collects Batman Annual #26, Robin Annual v4 #7, Batman #670, Robin v4 #168-169, Nightwing v2 #138-139, and Detective Comics #838-840). Once again, let us begin with Captain America. Chris, what did you like about Captain America: The Winter Soldier volume 2?
Ok so reading through Winter Soldier Vol. 2 was such a joy! The action is on such a level of hype that you can’t put it down. More of Lukin just being devious was intense and how he was messing with Cap and baiting him was intense; like the scene where Cap, Sharon, Nick, and S.H.E.I.L.D. storm Kronas Corporation (issues 9) and just got humiliated was so raw, like I could feel Cap’s anger at being played. What a villain who can do this horrendous thing and put his signature on it all while still getting away. Issue 10 was so sad…plus I’m really bummed that it wasn’t included in the trade, I get why, but still highly recommend reading. This tale of a man who grew out of time was just as sad as Jack Monroe’s character issue. Then issue 11 hitting us with the story of Bucky’s true fate was crazy; the first time I read this that is when I became a hardcore fan of Bucky’s. I always appreciated the character but that issue gave him so much more. One more, which is tough as each issue was dynamite, but in #14 when Cap uses the Cosmic Cube on Bucky to “Remember who you are” was pure drama and Bucky’s reaction to it, “How can I….? No…you should’ve just…killed me.” was heart wrenching as you know Bucky means it. He is such a free spirit and to be turned into the Winter Soldier was probably the worst that could’ve happened. How about you Rafa?
Expertly said, Chris! I can read the passion in your voice when you talk about Bucky, and it totally makes sense. Before this, I had little knowledge of the character besides what I had seen in the MCU; however, reading the plight that this man has been put through is heartbreaking. I think Brubaker did an excellent job of showcasing the real emotional bond that Rogers and Bucky had. We see it in the dark outlines and shadows cast on Rogers’ face when he is thinking about Bucky. We see a man tormented; we see him deal with the absurdity and gravity of what is going on, and it is masterfully illustrated on the page. This is amplified by the instant likeability of Rogers’ Captain America. We would not care as heavily or relate to Steve Rogers as much as we do if we hadn’t been made to love this character. We feel for the Captain because we grow to respect him as we see the story unfold. This is done with so many beautiful action sequences where we see the super soldier put his raw strength, acrobatics, and shield throwing skills on full display. A personal favorite moment for me that showcases exactly the kind of unstoppable and never-give-up man that Captain America is, is in the first issue of Vol.2 in which he is cleaning the mess from the explosion of Philadelphia. We see him save children and then take out some of A.I.M. ‘s scientists to then be confronted by a legion of soldiers form the MODOC squad. In artistic brilliance, we see Captain America just smirk at these ominous foes as he just quips, “All right… Let’s go.” It is moments like this that showcase the indomitable human spirit and how Rogers will never give up on Bucky.
Rafa you nailed it with those points, like I would say this book is Captain America’s but honestly it is Bucky’s story. Brubaker did the impossible and broke comic book law by bringing Bucky back; the story is so believable and a worthwhile journey of a man’s soul towards redemption. Ok, so looking at this I can honestly say there wasn’t anything I didn’t like or maybe just the flaw of the trade not including issue 10; just because you are missing out on some beautiful story by Brubaker and amazing art by Lee Weeks. You bring up an excellent point Rafa that the art is just amazing, massive kudos to Steve Epting, Michael Lark, and Mike Perkins while I”m at it especially the coloring team…look at the picture example that Rafa provided from issue 8, like I can feel the flames and taste the smoke. Anything about the issues that didn’t sit well with you, Rafa?
I think you perfectly encapsulate what I feel in regards to the trade paperback’s shortcomings. The story is essentially perfect with excellent pacing, consistent art and voice, as well as powerful themes that make this a quintessential Captain America story. Like you said, I feel like issue 10 adds a lot more weight to Rogers’ ideals and showcases a powerful “what if” moment that still fits with the story Brubaker is telling, so I do wish it was included in the tbp. However, other than that, the only other gripe I had was that I wish it had more Falcom. Sam is a great friend to Steve, and when he shows up at the end of issue 12 is a hype moment.
Ok, we have gushed over Cap quite a lot so let us jump into the Bat side of things with the Resurrection of Ra’s Al Ghul. I’ll admit it was a hard read for me but the things I did like was seeing Don Kramer art, loved his art on his JSA issues, and finding out a little more about Ra’s. They didn’t dive deep but they did enough for the story-arc with the twist of Ra’s first son which was just a tragic character. This was my first time reading the whole story as I just read the Batman tie in issues by Morrison, so it was nice to see it fleshed out and this adds to my theory that Damian was probably going to be a Morrison thing only; since it was Morrison who killed him later on, but we talk more when we get to those issues. My favorite thing about this was seeing Nightwing gravitate more to Damian so that early exposure helped me with bridging their relationship for later. What were some of the things you liked from this story-arc Rafa?
I agree that Batman: The Resurrection of Ra’s Al Ghul was hard to get through at times; however, I was able to find some important and resonating things that made me appreciate the characterizations of some key characters much more. I really appreciated how the writers developed a story on family dynamics. It was an important adventure that endeared me to Damian a lot more. Seeing him try to mend fences with Tim and Alfred (in his own way) was interesting, and I got to see a little more warmth in his cold and calculating demeanor. Seeing him try to win his father’s approval while trying to escape his grandfather’s manipulation was nicely done, especially toward the end of Detective Comics #839 where we have an uplifting scene where we basically get the first moment where Batman brings Damian into the Bat Family.
Similarly, characters like Tim and Dick are shown to really shine with very real familial conflicts. Tim is feeling ostracized from all the loss in his life, and we see him wrestle with Damian for the mantle of Batman’s rightful heir. Like you stated, Chris, We get to see Nightwing further delve into the big brother/mentor role for these young Robins. The way he is written with his comedic chops and real heart reminds the reader why he is beloved by so many DC fans. Alfred had some standout moments that really made me chuckle (see his banter with Ubu in Detective Comics #838). However, the MVP of this story for me was Talia Al Ghul. I do not think Talia gets enough credit for being a loving mother to Damian. She is multi-layered in this story as we see her fight to keep Damian safe, and I think this characterization is unfairly butchered in the later stories, but in this instance we get to see the humanity in one of the most important characters in Batman’s life.
Overall, I think that all these characters illustrate powerful family dynamics that further reinforce the love and light that does exist in the Dark Knight’s world. What do you think, Chris?
You’ve given me much to think about with your points; this does sit better if you think about how it highlights the Bat-family and also Talia. It did a great job with their interactions and overall voice. I think what hurt this tpb, in my opinion, was just too many writers, five in total, and too many issues that caused the story to be watered down. The saving grace of this was the characters and family. I would say my biggest fear was that Tim would cave to temptation but luckily he didn’t but the way it was presented felt story forced instead of character choice. Were there any negatives that you have about this story Rafa?
Again, I think you bring up a lot of my same criticisms, Chris. The story overall is very convoluted with too many characters that I unfortunately do not care about, specifically the characters associated with Ra’s. Because of all the different writers, I think there are too many voices and it overall does not work as well as it could have. Also, it was very long. There are nuggets of excellent storytelling throughout, but some issues are a real struggle to get through. For me, the Nightwing and Robin stories have the most heart and save this story from being unreadable. It is interesting how a story focused on Ra’s works best when it is not Ra’s the story is focusing on. However, I am glad I read it.
Ok so big moment…which tpb would you say was the better of the two? I’ll open with Winter Soldier vol. 2. I felt it had better story motivation, villains (Red Skull and Lukin), and better character interactions. When I sit down to read these issues/trades I flip back and forth between Bats and Cap…the only reason I got through Resurrection of Ra’s Al Ghul was so I could read more Cap. I know I’ve been ragging on this tpb a lot in this article, but it just doesn’t hold. Rafa which one would you give your vote for?
I agree completely that Brubaker’s Captain America is the superior read. The story is much better told, the emotional weight behind the themes of betrayal, loss, and redemption is much more impactful, and the art is so much more eye catching. I feel like I had to find things to enjoy about The Resurrection Of Ra’s, but I did not have that problem with Winter Soldier Vol.2; instead I was completely immersed and ready to read more.
So that makes this another clean sweep for Brubaker’s Cap story in our votes for another week between the two. We hope you enjoyed our thoughts and criticisms about these two stories and also we hope you are just as hyped as we are to continue the journey of Morrison’s Batman and Brubaker’s Captain America. Join us next week as we take on the Red Menace tpb (Captain America vol 5 #15-17, Cap 65th Anniversary Special, and 18-21) alongside the Black Glove tpb (Batman vol 1 #667-669 and 672-675). As always GEEK OUT!
Hello fellow fans of Comic Books, Rafa and I will be taking a journey across the runs of Ed Brubaker for his Captain America/Winter Soldier arcs alongside Grant Morrison’s Batman run which introduced a lot of new elements to the Bat-Verse. Rafa and I will be talking about what we liked, disliked, learned, and compare/contrast the issues as we went through them; mostly we will be reading in a trade order with some slight changes. For the reader’s sake Chris will be in Bold Font and Rafa will be in Italic Font. So for our opener we will discuss Captain America: Winter Soldier volume 1 tpb (Cap vol 5 issues 1-7) and Batman and Son tpb (Batman vol 1 issues 655-658 and 663-666). Let us begin with Cap; Captain America volume 5 #1 launched November 17, 2004…Rafa what did you like about the beginning trade of Winter Soldier?
Thank you, Chris! As always, it is a blast to collaborate with one of the best minds in comics today! Overall, Captain America / Winter Soldier is excellent for the fact that it brings weight and emotional stakes to Steve Roger’s mission. This story is happening right after the events of Avengers Disassembled where he has just lost his newfound family of fellow heroes. In this story, we have a gritty take on the spy and espionage of a world that he is still foregin to. He is haunted by his past and his current present because he cannot escape death and loss, and what a way to start the first issues of this TPB with the shocking death of The Red Skull. I think Brubaker does an excellent job of showcasing the unexpected in this story. With the Red Skull dead, what could possibly happen next, and boy do we get a crazy set of events that shake Captain America to his core.
Yes you bring up some amazing points…I did not realize how close this was to Disassembled and honestly Brubaker does such a great job of revitalizing Cap in this series, it is spectacular. Being lucky enough to have read this series and doing a reread puts the whole haunting in a different light as I believe that was manipulation by the Cosmic Cube…yet I wonder who was manipulating the Cube, maybe Bucky? You’re right about that huge twist of the Red Skull being killed in issue one creating a sense of the unexpected and I’ll add to that as it seems to set up Aleksander Lukin as a major foe to Cap and Company. I also appreciated the chemistry that Brubaker set up for Steve and Sharon like they aren’t a couple and it is the job and mutual respect that brings them together again. I’ve got to say I was so excited to be on the ground floor of this series as Bucky is one of my favorite characters and the journey he goes through as the Winter Soldier was absolutely amazing.
Exactly, you bring up a great point with the chemistry of Steve and Sharon, as well as the characterization of Lukin. This story does a great job of thematically calling attention to the sins of the past with Steve’s flashbacks. War is not pretty and this take is gritty and solemn which allows for Lukin’s plot to be that much more ravaging to Steve’s resolve. The incorporation of Crossbones to wound a broken Rogers is excellent because we see this brute (with all of his history with Rogers) to let him go; seeing that he is not fighting at 100%. These acts from the characters showcase an interesting buildup in relationships, and it feels grounded and real. There is real tragedy to these characters, especially to the character of Jack Monroe.
Those are two great characters to bring up and I’m glad you did. It is really wild to see that moment where Crossbones has Cap dead to rights but spares him as he doesn’t want to take him down that way; and if you’re new to this we will be talking a lot about Crossbones in this series. Man, the “Ballad of Jack Monroe” was just so damn sad…to be honest with you I almost skipped reading the issue for time and decided to skim it; yea couldn’t do that I wound up reading the whole thing. Monroe was a character that just fell under the cracks but got a moment in this run; I really feel for his fans as that was a hard pill to swallow. Were there any moments that you didn’t like in these first seven issues?
There were few moments that I thought weren’t up to par with the excellence of this story, but the only real gripe I had was that I wished we got more time with the Invaders. There is an excellent moment in the third issue where Rogers talks about his respect for the French people that really reminded me exactly why I think the character of Captain America will never be dated. He is a man who inspires and I just wish we maybe got a little more of his conversations with Namor or Buckey during the flashbacks. How about you Chris? Were there any moments that you did not enjoy?
This will sound like a non-answer, haha, but on my initial read of this series I didn’t care about the Jack Monroe stuff and almost skipped it, but with this second read I found myself really being hit by it emotionally. So I hope we see some justice for Jack later on. Brubaker seems to be a student of History and really did teach some lessons throughout the issues, I felt the same way about learning of the French Resistance. Ok so let us switch gears and jump over to the Batman side of things and talk about Batman and Son. In this trade we are treated to Batman as written by Grant Morrison; to be honest with you I always thought this run and Ed’s Cap were published at the same time, but Grant starts with Batman #655 released July 26, 2006 so it’ll be interesting to see if the issues catch up in publication time and where they are at in their stories if and when they do. Rafa why don’t you open it up on Grant’s Bats and share your insights?
Thank you, Chris! Morrison’s Batman begins in absolute chaos with the Joker being shot in the face by an imposter Batman. This sets the Caped Crusader’s world upside down unexpectedly because he now gets a reprieve from being Batman with his villains being on good behavior due to Batman supposedly having enough of the Joker and shooting him point blank. This is great because we get some great moments where we see exactly how much the mantle of the Bat has overtaken Bruce. Alfred mentions that Batman’s gritty voice no longer belongs to Batman, but that it is now Bruce’s own voice. This is fascinating because Morrison begins to give us a Batman that is immersed in his own iconography. Bruce Wayne is the facade now because of Batman’s mission which now becomes a legacy when Talia Al Ghul shows up with Damian Wayne, Batman’s son. I really enjoy this story and love to reread it from time to time because it showcases how Batman keeps getting pulled into the world of crime fighting and how his role of mentor and teacher is now one of Father to the unruly Damian.
It is a whole new dynamic that was revolutionary. Just the thought: Batman has a son!? Is so strange. Morrison really explored new ground with this. Hell, to be honest, one of my favorite things in this story is Damian’s characterization. Spoiled, young, and violent we get to see a new side to Batman that we are not accustomed to. We see him put Damian in his place and it feels great. Watching Batman try to immediately hone his own son as a new tool to fight crime instead of just trying to be a father showcases just how he has fully immersed himself into the Batman persona. Your super-villain girlfriend shows up and tells you to take your son, and Batman’s first instinct is to train him to be a part of Batman’s army. It is very fascinating. Chris, what did you think of the addition of Damian Wayne to the Bat Family?
At first I didn’t care for Damian Wayne he was just such an annoying brat…so great job Grant! Again knowing what I know and doing this reread I have a running theory about Damian Wayne but we should talk about that later, just remind me. Yet the idea of Damian is just wild in continuity because we don’t want our heroes to age; for instance Batman is always in his 30’s when I was a kid and now I’m almost 40 and Bat’s doesn’t look anything past 32 so having Damian was an interesting trope because it adds to the Mythos which is always fantastic in my book. Damian’s tension with Tim Drake was insane, especially with how close it was to Tim being adopted by Bruce…so Tim and Damian are brothers! I think the character I really like that was introduced was Jezebel Jet; just so beautiful and understanding. I thought this played really well with Talia returning to Bruce around the same time. I also can fully appreciate how much pre-planning Grant did for his run; in his first issue we see the phrase “Zur-En-Arrh” as background graffiti and also the Batmobile Bruce is working on will be seen completed later in the series. What a great representation that Batmobile has serving as the “Legacy of Batman and Robin.” Was there any parts of this read that you didn’t care for?
Though I appreciate all the intertwining stories being told in Morrison’s Batman, I really did not enjoy how Batman and Son was just a piece to this TPB. I like the idea of the three Batman imposters and even the super cool apocalyptic world of Damian’s Gotham in the 666th issue (gave me DC Metal vibes in this reread); however, it all felt very out of place and just thrown in. Also, though I did enjoy The Clown at Midnight interlude and I did appreciate its unique form of storytelling, it was still a chore to read and felt too jarringly juxtaposed to the overall story. I appreciate the lore and story Morrison was building, but it was too distracting to my overall enjoyment of the read. How about you Chris? Did you have any problems with Morrison’s first venture into the Batman Universe?
Oh man I couldn’t agree more about The Clown at Midnight (Batman vol 1 #663) it was just too much and the style didn’t entice me at all so I’m glad that was the only issue that was in that flavor. Grant’s run started off very weird and there is quite a bit of jumping around that can get annoying when trying to digest this story; should I stick with the original release date or how it should’ve been published? Tough call to be honest; even with this TPB there is a gap of issues, 659-662, which are a different story and creative team. I know as we continue this journey with Grant’s Batman I will be very challenged by reading order so that will be irksome, but luckily with the trades I can see how Grant and the Editorial wanted the story to be presented.
That is a very good point, Chris, and I look forward to seeing how this story will continue because, after all, both Morrison’s Batman and Son and Brubaker’s Captain America: Winter Soldier elicit some truly wondrous and memorable moments in comics. Though the stories are different and take place in different comic worlds, it is amazing to see the similarities both stories share. First and foremost, both stories take two deeply respected comic franchises and completely revitalize them with exciting new dynamics. Bucky is modernized for Captain America’s run, and Damian is introduced to Batman’s world. Both these additions make for some long-term changes in both comics’ lore; and these are changes that make all characters involved more human and more vulnerable. Rogers experiences a world that continues to outmaneuver him, and ghosts of his past come back to haunt him. Batman needs to make significant changes to his life because he is now a father.
I do agree with the changes and revitalization that it does for both characters and I appreciate the long commitment that both writers gave to these runs. It is interesting how continuity was changed for both; Bucky did survive the classic plane crash from Avengers #4 and Son of the Demon did happen, with a couple of twists from Grant Morrison’s selective memory of the story. Both of these characters are making huge changes to their lives with their mentor/father roles and I really dig how both stories make more use of the supporting characters. With this reread I saw some interesting bits with Nick Fury, Alfred Pennyworth, Talia al Ghul, and Sharon Carter and they did carry the spotlight even in these early issues. Rafa, how do you feel about the additions of Damian and Bucky’s backstories to the overall continuity? Did it make any changes for you?
It did not make any real changes to continuity for me, and I really enjoyed these backstories. For one, I really enjoyed the symbolism of ghosts of the past in Brubaker’s story. Having Bucky be a ghost, a phantom of who he once was added a depth to Captain America it needed. Also, the fact that Morrison gave us greater characterization and depth to Talia with her overall ambitions is great to see because I really like this character. Being able to see how Damian is conflicted on who to go with at the end of his story is heartbreaking because you can see he just wants a happy family dynamic with both parents; something that is taken away from him. And this is what I think makes these stories resonate with readers: both stories are tragedies for characters we care about. Both Rogers & Bats are men whose pasts come back to haunt them and change their entire world views. It is a harrowing venture through dirt, blood, and tears.
Great points, Rogers and Bats don’t have it easy for sure and I like how there is a lot of character growth with Damian and Bucky; they have to put away that blood lust of being an assassin/hit-man and transition into the role of hero. I think both writers, Brubaker and Morrison, created historical runs that are just wonderful. Brubaker’s Cap series did so much to set up for the Captain America Winter Soldier MCU movie, Bucky Barnes’ origin, and really help to show there is more depth/dimension to Rogers. Morrison’s writing connected the Wayne/al Ghul families and gave us a very conflicting character in Damian, the run did a lot for the Batman family both locally and globally (we’ll get into that later), and also gave Batman his edge back as a man who won’t back down no matter how hard you hit, mentally and physically. So just to add a little more insight to this rundown and insight of ours, Rafa which of the two TPBs did you find more exciting, Winter Soldier vol 1 or Batman and Son?
That’s a good question, Chris, and honestly, though I think both are wonderful reads, I have to say that I was absolutely enthralled with Brubaker’s Captain America more than Morrison’s Batman. I felt that Brubaker was able to write a tight and concise narrative that felt grounded in reality. The espionage/spy element made it much more exciting and I really appreciated how Rogers was humanized. Morrison’s Batman was a lot more fun with its comedic chops and meta set pieces (the comic book art gala was great), but the addition of the other stories in the trade really took me out of the moment too much. What about you, Chris?
I agree with you on picking Winter Soldier as the better read and my reasoning for that is because of the structure. Brubaker goes in and there isn’t a step missed at all; this trade is issues 1 to 7 no jumping around or anything. Morrison’s start feels like a lot is going on with Joker, Three Batmen, Talia, and issue skipping which is a minor gripe since it won’t matter in the TPB. Brubaker’s Rogers does feel like he is in a genuine situation of danger when it comes to going against Aleksander Lukin while over in Batman he is facing “Jerry Springer” issues with his family.
Exactly, and these points really shine a light on the reason why we read comic books. These are truly immersive tales from writers who dare to do new things and tread new ground. Rereading these stories allows the reader, in this case being Chris and myself, to connect with fictional characters that tell very relatable and exciting stories! Therefore, we are excited to continue our adventure into Brubaker and Morrison’s respective runs. But please start with these two awesome trade paperbacks! They are worth your time!
Come back next week as Rafa and Chris continue their journey across these two historic comic book runs as they talk about Captain America: Winter Soldier Vol 2 tpb (issues 8-14 of volume 5) and Batman: The Resurrection of Ra’s Al Ghul tpb (which collects Batman Annual #26, Robin Annual v4 #7, Batman #670, Robin v4 #168-169, Nightwing v2 #138-139, and Detective Comics #838-840). Read along with us and feel free to ask questions on Geek Elite Media’s Facebook or Twitter and you can find Rafa on twitter as @Mobilerafie and Chris as @StuffIShudSay. As always remember to GEEK OUT!