Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Review # 177: "The Trial of Captain America Omnibus"

Nearly every great comic book creative run has its low points. They may not necessarily be bad, but for every peak there must be a valley.

So comes "The Trial of Captain America," which covers the weakest stretch of Ed Brubaker's time as writer. This omnibus covers the time period after Steve Rogers' resurrection to the first two volumes of his permanent return to the Captain America mantle. The results are mixed.

Let me start with what I dislike the most: yet another ongoing plot device where Steve loses his powers. Several writers have been eager to pose the question as to if Cap is the same person without the super soldier serum. For better or worse, the answer has always been "yes." We don't need to see this yet again, and it's a tired way of making Steve appear vulnerable.

More than making up for this is the continuing narrative surrounding Bucky Barnes, who has easily eclipsed the then-superfluous Steve as the best character in the comic at this point. Bucky is in big trouble after it's leaked to the media that he was the Winter Soldier, and he's forced to go on trial for his crimes. Complicating matters is the return of the now-disfigured Sin who claims Bucky was a non-brainwashed accomplice. Her insertion and subsequent hostage situation on Ellis Island is the highlight of the book with some well-executed suspense. The aftermath of the trial where Bucky is sent to a Russian prison comes in second.

The book wraps up with Steve becoming Captain America again after Bucky's apparent death in "Fear Itself" (which is not included here.) Brubaker begins this volume the same way he began the last: by tweaking Captain America's World War II history. Unfortunately, with a set-up not as great as the Winter Soldier this time around, Brubaker is fighting an uphill battle going that route and it shows. He tries to make the overall tone different by adding some more trippy elements - which is a risk worth taking - but the result of the tonal shift is an inferior product and seems like an unfortunate use of Steve McNiven's pencils after the work he did on "Civil War." Making things worse is a change in artists. I love Alan Davis, but his style just does not mesh with the atmosphere set out by the likes of Steve Epting, Mike Perkins and Jackson Guice and this Cap written by this author with these visuals is jarring and unappealing.

Regardless, this is still a worthy addition to Brubaker's run - especially the Bucky stuff. And with the author's feet dipping in so many Cap-related pools at this time, things would get better across multiple titles, and it would happen very shortly.

Rating: 7/10

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