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!
By Christopher Franey & Rafael Encinas
Welcome back fans and we are in part six of our read/review of Ed Brubaker’s Captain America and Grant Morrison’s Batman which were both legendary then and now. Lots of elements that have become major mythos to these heroes in the comics, movies, shows, games, and most importantly their history. 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. This part of the journey is probably going to be my favorite because we now have Bucky Barnes and Dick Grayson taking the mantle and running with it.
Let me also do a time check for you and us as well…Captain America vol 5 # 1 was released November 17, 2004 and the current issue we are starting with is Captain America vol 5 # 34 which was published in March of 2008. While Morrison’s Batman began with issue # 655 back on July 26, 2006 and we are currently starting with issue # 687 and was released on June 10, 2009. So you can see how close these two runs are now in terms of time. Rafa why don’t you start us up with what you liked about this volume of Captain America?
Thank you, Chris! As always rereading these stories and sharing these discussions with you is one of my favorite parts of the week. This week, I got to experience the excellence that is Bucky as Captain America. Captain America: The Burden of Dreams, continues its explosive pace from the first act of this story. We get to see Bucky Barnes put aside his hatred of Tony Stark and become the new Captain America. Seeing him put on his own version of the iconic uniform gave me chills and the way he made the persona his own just felt inspiring. There were many stand out moments in these issues, but seeing Bucky throw the shield while at the same time not shy away from using his sidearm felt exciting and just felt right. He was not trying to be Captain America. He was honoring the legacy in his own way. And I think this is important. Dealing with the theme of legacy, it perfectly showcases how one can continue to honor those we love and look up to while making it wholly our own.
Brubaker does an excellent job of upping the pace and really delivering a suspenseful, thrilling, and explosive second act that fully immerses the reader into Bucky’s role. And this is where I think that this volume of Captain America becomes essential reading; where it becomes almost transcendent. We have seen Bucky grow so much and transform from brainwashed boogeyman to the new symbol of peace and justice. Watching him through all the politics, the civil wars, and his own personal demons, when we finally see Bucky commit his first missions as Captain America, and it feels earned, and that is something truly spectacular to read on the page. I now completely understand your love for this character, Chris!
Right!! This was totally the run that made me a fan; like I always enjoyed Bucky when I saw him in flashbacks in other stories but now for the first time I’m reading him in continuity and it is not a flashback. Brubaker just did wonders with this character. What is nice about this trade paperback, The Burden of Dreams, is that it features issues 31-36 of the series. So with that in mind we don’t get Bucky Cap right away we get to see the torment that is on his mind from his own past, mistakes, and also the tampering that Doctor Faustus is inflicting on him. Issue 31 opens with a great example of that and it is just so much head trauma that Bucky is facing, dealing with, and trying to fix.
Even later in the issue there is a great monologue about him losing part of his body but also dying in those cold waters. Like you see the Red Skull in his hood almost looking like Death and I really feel like this is where Avengers Infinity War and Endgame got that idea for that image. Yet also in this trauma is Sharon Carter as she is also taken advantage of by Red Skull and company and we get to read about how she is feeling while she is fighting her demons during this struggle. Brubaker just slays so much at character writing that you feel it; I really wish they could have done more with Sharon in the MCU as Brubaker shows she is a strong character and this is why Steve Rogers is drawn to her. So the biggest moment for me in this tpb was the unveiling of Bucky Cap…like you said earlier Rafa, he is his own man but he is also honoring the legacy and they couldn’t have done any better than what they did with him; just check out that glorious page debuting Bucky Cap.
Alex Ross did such a beautiful job of capturing elements of Winter Soldier, Captain America, and a soldier in this costume. Like it fits right in with the world of superpowers but it also has that effectiveness that a soldier needs while in battle. Were there any moments that you didn’t like with this tpb Rafa?
Honestly, Chris, this tpb was perfect. The art is fantastic. The story is exciting, thematic, and inspiring. Like you said, there are so many layers in this story with a beautiful payoff which is Bucky putting on the costume. Not only that, but the subplot with Sharon feels important, we also get great characterization with Tony, Sam, and Natasha. The villains are multilayered and the threats feel so suffocating. I feel like Brubaker was able to build his Captain America story in such a way where it all felt worth it by this moment. Seeing Bucky carry the shield, watching him brawl with Crossbones, and seeing him share that moment with Natasha at the end all felt gratifying, and it is because I cared for this character. A character I had no feelings for whatsoever before this read. And I think there is something special in that and that says a lot about Brubaker’s story as a whole, but more importantly, so poignant in this tpb.
That is very true the story is amazing, like the bad guys are making a run for leadership/politics and authority/police and you can see how dangerously close they are to being successful in their push. Going back to character, Bucky got so much love in this series; for example with issue 36 of course the heroes save the day but I love when Bucky Cap tries to give the speech and people don’t want it from him so he feels so down about it, but the next day when he is back home and Black Widow asks him if he remembers everything and that reply, “Yeah. I remember everything, Natalia…and you were the one good thing in all of it.” Yep now I’m sold on all of this new history that is being inserted into the continuity of the characters because it honestly feels real. Bucky is a hero who wins some and loses some.
Perfectly said, Chris! Ultimately, this volume of Captain America is a story of triumph, and it is a wonderful moment for Bucky after seeing him lose so much. This is a great character who takes the burden of taking up the mantle of his partner, but he is not the only one. This week, we also got to see Dick Grayson fully immerse himself into the role of the Caped Crusader! What were your thoughts on Batman: Long Shadows?
I loved this trade paperback so much!! Of course in my mind seeing Dick Grayson going through this while Bucky was being Cap was such a great symmetry. Both of these guys had to grow up early; like we will learn more of their pasts and “childhoods” as these stories progress but they were the original sidekicks and now they are taking it to the next level. That is why I have so much respect for Wally West as he had to become the Hero and it was no longer “kid game” to him anymore. I enjoyed the interactions with Dick and Alfred which makes me miss him even more in current continuity but I love the dynamic shift here where this is a Batman with Alfred not a Batman and Alfred. This was such a great baptism of fire for Dick as he is now the only Bat holding Gotham City together and like Dick Grayon always does…he does it with help from his friends. What are your thoughts on this tpb, Rafa?
Though Batman: Long Shadows is not written by Grant Morrison, but instead by Judd Winnick, it is still an essential read into Morrison’s deeper story of Dick’s rebirth as the Caped Crusader. Equally as fun as it is somber, we get to see Dick Grayson get comfortable with his father’s identity. I love the moments where we see him make the Batman moniker his own by showcasing a different style of fighting, and by giving himself away to Two-Face by actually smiling while taking down bad guys. I think it does an excellent job of building Dick as the new Batman. You explain it perfectly when you say, this is Dick’s baptism of fire, Chris. We get to see a character that is incredibly beloved in the DC universe step into a new role, and that role is one that is almost impossible to live up to.
There were many moments that I enjoyed while reading this tpb. We see him create his new batcave, we see him train Damian, and we even get banter with Alfred, which is by far, my favorite thing about Batman: Long Shadows; the relationship between Alfred and Richard is something that feels heartfelt and wholesome. Seeing both of them having one another to cope with Bruce’s death was heartwarming. We see that they are both still hurting, and then having the mantle of Batman to honor is something that they both need; I think it keeps them going. Seeing their relationship grow and how Alfred had fun banter with the new Batman spoke volumes as to the characterization of these two characters. We got to see a new dynamic, and it came across as deeply therapeutic. This is the psychology of Batman, and I think it really plays powerful imagery of fathers and sons.
Speaking of psychology I love the fact that it is Two Face who is seeing that this isn’t the standard Batman out there being the Caped Crusader. Which is perfect as here is a character that knows about multiple personalities and not being who you really are. I think it was great that Judd Winnick used him but I also felt that Two Face was heavily used since we saw him in Nightwing the Great Leap and a bit in Battle for the Cowl so it felt like his appearances weren’t being edited properly or Arkham Asylum is just that bad a keeping criminals locked up.
That would be my only nit-pick with this story arc was just the overuse of Two Face but I also enjoy it because I honestly think Two Face is Dick’s main villain. Like I know that will get me flack as a lot of people think Blockbuster or Deathstroke from his Nightwing or Teen Titans runs but to me it always got back to his roots as Robin. Did you have anything that you didn’t like in this tpb Rafa?
The only real thing I didn’t like about this tpb was that we didn’t get any Tim Drake. Considering that this story is focused on Dick becoming the new Batman, we see him interact with the Bat family; however, we do not get to see him interact with Tim who was Batman’s Robin. I just wish we could have gotten more from their dynamic in this story, especially after their arc in The Resurrection of Ra’s Al Ghul. I also wish that that Two-Face Batman illusion that Dick saw was real and not just a hallucination. It was a very cool look for Two-Face!
It is funny that you mention the Two Face Batman as DCDirect did make a figure when they did their Batman Reborn wave they did which featured the Michael Lane Azrael, who was also the evil Bat-Devil earlier in Morrison’s run, Bat-Face, Jason Todd’s Batman, and Stephaine Brown’s Batgirl. I always had hopes that someday DCDirect would make a Dick Grayson Batman but sadly they never did and even more sad is the fact that DCDirect is no more. During the Batman Reborn era there was a lot of changes going on; Tim Drake was actually Red Robin and he was travelling the world and dealing with Ra’s.
All in all Rafa how would you rate these two stories against each other? Did you have a particular favorite?
I think that both stories were very similar, but I have to give the edge to Bucky’s Captain America. The build and payoff to him wearing the Stars and Stripes was absolutely perfect and resonated deeply with me. Overall, both stories do a great job of creating a “rebirth” of their iconic characters. We get a comparison of how two men are born again. They take on the burden of their new respective identities. What was most interesting in this comparison was the manner in which the mantle of their respective “new” personas were respected. Though both Dick and Bucky were reluctant to take on the responsibility and symbol that was Bat and Cap respectively, the manner in which they came upon the legacy was different. As we read in Brubaker’s story, Steve wanted Bucky to be the next Captain America. He recognized that Bucky needed it to bring him back to the fold. All of Brubaker’s run up to this point has led to Bucky’s evolution as the new Captain America. However, this is not the same case for Morrison’s Batman run.
His story while at the same time is dealing with the concept of identity, this is still Bruce’s story. Dick just happens to be thrust into this unexpected responsibility, and interestingly, Dick becoming Batman was never one of Bruce’s contingency plans. Dick took on the cowl even though he knew Bruce had asked him not to wear it. Bruce believed that the symbol of Nightwing was enough, however, he underestimated the weight Batman had in the world. All of these little details are important; however, it does not change the fact that both Dick and Bucky are put into impossible situations where they are forced to become something more than themselves, which is both poetic and reminiscent of the human experience. I just happen to feel that Brubaker’s story told it much more effectively. What about you, Chris?
I like those observations you have made Rafa because they are fantastic points. In Dick’s case Bruce doesn’t want him to be Batman and when Dick decides to go against that he also makes it his own, a “Happier Batman.” While Bucky doesn’t think he can be a hero yet Steve believes the Shield is what will help him, so Bucky becomes a “Darker Captain America” who packs heat. It is wild to see how these stories converge and diverge. I would say they are both amazing and near and dear to my heart but Cap’s wins it over. Just more going on with character and story over Winnick’s tale.
Well that brings us to the end of this leg of the journey and we hope you liked our thoughts on this. Please feel free to interact with us on our social medias Rafa is on twitter as @Mobilerafie and I am @StuffIShudSay and we would love to check out your thoughts on these legendary runs. Our next reading will be Captain America The Man Who Bought America tpb (which has issues 37 to 42 of Captain America volume 5) and Batman and Robin Batman Reborn tpb (which has issues 1 to 6 of Batman and Robin volume 1). Thank you for spending your time with us and we would love for you to check out more that Geek Elite Media has to offer and as always…GEEK OUT!