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Comics for Noobs: Captain America

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The full listing of Comics for Noobs posts can be found here.

Variant cover to Captain America #600

Captain America. Short of Superman, no comic character is more iconic.

Early Years

Captain America appeared way back in 1941. While rival DC Comics kept their heroes out of world events, Marvel thrust theirs straight into World War II. Captain America and others fought alongside the soldiers in an effort to boost patriotism.

Steve Rogers was your average American youth. Wanting to join the Army, he was sadly rejected because of physical shortcomings. Due to his extreme patriotism, he was given a chance to help his country by volunteering to be a test subject for Project Rebirth. Steve was the only subject to survive being given the Super Soldier Serum and became the pinnacle of human physique.

This is one of Captain America's most endearing qualities. He has no superpowers. While he may possess well-above-average strength, stamina and agility, they are no greater than what any other person could possess. Paired with his brilliant mind, Captain America truly was a Super Soldier.

Unfortunately, Dr. Erskine, the scientist behind Project Rebirth was assassinated shortly after Steve's successful trial. Dr. Erskine never wrote down his research, instead committing everything to memory. His death meant the death of the Super Soldier Serum. Steve Rogers, Captain America, would be the world's ONLY Super Soldier.

While Captain America would fight alongside many other heroes, he is best known for his sidekick, Bucky.

After WWII ended, Cap and Bucky went on one last mission. Attempting to stop a missile heading towards Washinton D.C., Bucky was killed in an explosion, and Captain America was lost at sea.

The Avengers

I've previously discussed Cap's return with The Avengers. There is just one thing I would like to touch on here.

Joining the Avengers is what changed Captain American into Captain FREAKING America. Cap always was the Super Soldier. He was always a great fighter. With the Avengers, he became something more. It takes something special for this collection of heroes to defer to your judgment. Even THOR, the actual Norse God of Thunder, followed Captain America's orders.

This is the draw of the character. Anybody can kick ass. Captain America serves as an inspiration. He truly is a symbol of everything that, not just America, but the entire free world stands for. As a human being reading a fictional character on paper, I was pumped up watching Cap dismantle an entire squad of SHIELD Capekillers during the Civil War.

Modern Day

I don't feel like I'm going to spoil anything here. When a comic book is the lead story on CNN, it ceases to be a "spoiler."

Captain America as a solo hero has always been up and down. In his own books, he goes from Captain FREAKING America back to just Captain America. He's still a great hero, and there's good stories to be told. Just, personally, I've always preferred him in a team setting.

In 2004, Cap's solo series was relaunched with Captain America (Volume 5) #1. This version of the series was notable for the incredible, award-winning writing of Ed Brubaker.

Cap once again finds himself facing off with his oldest enemy, the Red Skull. While the story would require an excessive amount of explanation from me, one major event stands out: the appearance of the Winter Soldier.

Who is the Winter Soldier? He is a super-secret agent of Russia, dating back to the Cold War. He is kept in suspended animation and only thawed out when a missin requires the best of the best.

The Winter Soldier's real name is James Buchanan Barnes, aka Bucky. Yes, THAT Bucky. Turns out he wasn't dead after all. (Comic Noobs, this is what we call a "retcon")

Cap would chase Bucky for several issues, eventually bringing him back to his senses.

The whole Civil war thing went down, and Cap went on trial for his actions afterward. Then and there, on the courthouse steps, Steve Rogers, Captain America, was shot and killed.

The entire country stopped. This move came out of nowhere, proving that even in the age of the internet, some people can still keep a secret. Like I said above, this was actually the lead story on CNN. Everybody remembers what they were doing during historic events. I remember where I was when Captain America died.

So, Comic Noobs, where should you start reading?

Captain America, Volume 1: Winter Soldier, Book 1 is the start of the Brubaker run. This story arc wraps up in Captain America, Volume 2: Winter Soldier, Book 2.
The Death of Captain America, Volume 1: The Death of the Dream starts with Issue #25 and The Shot Heard 'Round the Marvel Universe.
The Death of Captain America, Volume 2: The Burden of Dreams finds Bucky, yes BUCKY, taking up the Shield and becoming the new Captain America.
Captain America: Road to Reborn brings the revelation that Steve Rogers may not be as dead as originally thought.

Basically, I'm recommending almost the entire Brubaker run. There's a reason he's won "Best Writer" awards three years in a row.

Questions? Comics can be very confusing to new readers. Feel free to email me at samodeanhc(at)gmail(dot)com. If I can collect enough questions, I would love to publish them in a Q&A Session post! Please specify if you would like the question answered publicly or privately.

Kimberly said...
December 17, 2009 at 6:44 PM  

Loving the Comics for Noob series. My experience with comics started and ended with Archie. My guy, however, is a comics nut.

So do you realize, Mr. Samodean, how many geek cred points I earn in situations, like tonight, when my guy is watching the Iron Man 2 trailer and I just happen to drop, "yeah..he was one of the original Avengers, right?"

His eyes light up like a Christmas tree.

Thank you!

Samodean said...
December 17, 2009 at 7:06 PM  

Haha, that's great. Glad I can help.

Syrana said...
December 17, 2009 at 10:43 PM  

So, where *were* you when Captain America died?

Samodean said...
December 17, 2009 at 10:47 PM  

@Syrana: I was at work, hanging out at the receiving dock. It was a Monday, so I knew something had to be up. New comics always come out on Wednesday, why was Captain America 25 coming out today? I expected something big coming out of the Civil War storyline. It was around 1 or 2 in the afternoon, since most comic shops don't open until noon-ish. I received a text from a friend, "They just killed Captain America. It's on the news RIGHT NOW."

Syrana said...
December 18, 2009 at 10:07 PM  

You weren't kidding, you clearly remember the moment you heard the news. My memory of finding out Kurt Cobain was gone is not nearly that clear.

But... it's as detailed as my father's story of the day JFK was shot.

Also, thanks for sharing :)

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