I had the good fortune of finding the Captain America omnibus in the library last month and read it over the course of a week and a hot weekend. I'd read snippets here and there, namely, Winter Soldier vol. 1 and Death of a Dream, but neither of them affected me as a story. The storylines hinted at something bigger, but never told me more, and so left me unsatisfied every time I finished reading. With the omnibus, collecting both those stories and much more, including the Winter Soldier storyarc, I got an idea of the bigger picture, and changed my mind. Here are the details. I'm going to do a rundown of each particular storyarc as the table of contents breaks it down.
Captain America Omnibus Vol. 1
by Ed Brubaker, Steve Epting, Mike Perkins et al.
issues 1-7: "Out of Time" and "The Lonesome Death of Jack Monroe"
see here. The Red Skull is assassinated here, which is the umbrella plot point for Brubaker's mega-arc that doesn't conclude with even this omnibus. This first arc is mainly important for establishing tone: Brubaker's Captain America is one that reads like a spy thriller, with political conspiracies and flashbacks to the war.
issues 8-14: "Winter Soldier"
This is the story that clinched it for me. In the seven issues we dig deeper into what happened after that rocket exploded, catapulted Captain America into the arctic and supposedly killed his sidekick, Bucky. I don't think it's a spoiler to say that Bucky didn't die, and there are some juicy details behind how Bucky spent his life up to the present. As the "Winter Soldier," he was behind some of America's worst assassinations, dropping in and out of cryostasis when his Soviet masters deemed it necessary. Cap gets word about it, and the build-up to their first confrontation in the final issue is so powerful. It's my favorite issue, and to me, it's the reason the omnibus exists.
This storyarc gives us what makes Bucky so special, why he's an important character and why he means so much to Cap. It makes me believe in their characters and their relationship. The most powerful moment to me comes in one of Cap's flashbacks:
Doesn't that just kick you, right there? How much does it hurt to know more people under the dirt than above it? That's what makes Captain America human to me. That's what attaches me to him as a character.
The next Captain America movie is based on this, and I highly recommend it.
issues 15-17: "Red is the Darkest Color" &"Collision Courses"
These stories give us an idea of the Red Skull's sick history, via his daughter Synthea. After the Skull is assassinated, Crossbones kidnaps her from S.H.I.E.L.D. protection, removes the S.H.I.E.L.D. programming and then goes on a crime spree with her. . . there's a lot of background to it, but it's pretty slick how the team writes it and draws it. A great sidestory.
Captain America 75th Anniversary Special
So this one-shot just nails it out of the park. It's a home run, and the ball's in the stratosphere. I really regret not picking this up the week it came out.
The special is one giant, vintage-colored flashback about one of Cap and Bucky's (and Nick Fury and the Howling Commando's) encounter in Germany, with the Red Skull's ridiculous radioactive robot "The Sleeper." It tells us, real-time, a lot of story elements that are crucial in the regular Cap title and tells it beautifully. Just look at this page from Javier Pulido.
It's so beautiful. Just dig the way those panels lead your eyes downwards, like a pinball falling from one slope to another. Look at that shield leading your eye into that final panel.
One more page:
He makes the special one of the highlights, of many, of the omnibus.
issues 18-21: "Twenty-First Century Blitz" and issues 22-24: "The Drums of War"
In the first storyline, Cap and Sharon investigate one of the seedy corporations that was responsible for the Skull's assassination, and cross paths with Bucky along the way. It's a fun buddy romp as Cap teams up with British heroes Firestar and Captain Britain. We encounter the Red Skull's sleeper here.
In the second storyline, Sharon struggles with working for S.H.I.E.L.D., an organization responsible for enforcing the Superhuman Registration Act (SHRA, see: Civil War) and her love for Steve Rogers, Captain America, a man fighting against the SHRA.
Compliments to the colorist Frank D'Armata who, regardless of the penciller, kept the tone of the book consistent. You'll have a difficult time distinguishing Mike Perkins art from Steve Epting art, and that's a good thing. That's how you know they're doing their job.
Winter Soldier: Winter Kills
This is a Bucky-centric, Lee Weeks-drawn "Christmas special," so to speak, in that Bucky has to deal with his first Christmas after getting his memories back. . . it's an award-winning comic book for the pathos it shows, and it's a sterling example of Brubaker's mastery of memory and emotions.
issue 25: "The Death of the Dream, part one"
Cap is assassinated here. I like Ed's commentary on it, provided in the back, on how he wanted it to read like an "American tragedy." It surely does.
issue 10: "House of M"
This House of M tie-in has nothing to do with Brubaker's mega-arc, but is included for continuity's sake. Like Winter Kills, it's drawn by Lee Weeks and it uses that evocation of the past that Brubaker is so good at. It's framed by a Steve Rogers, now old and wrinkly, reflecting on the accomplishments he made in his life: arresting Hitler and walking on the moon, amidst the mutant domination that's taken over the world. Although it has a final page that only House of M readers would understand, it's a powerful issue overall.
Oh, and Baron Zemo:
To sum up, do I recommend this omnibus? My answer is, a tentative yes. If you're interested, even a little, I suggest looking for some volumes in your library or online. Brubaker accomplishes so much in these 25 issues. It's a powerful, emotional and fun tale to ride if you're willing, and it's a great introduction to Captain America.
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