Written by Ed Brubaker
Art by Steve Epting
Brubaker and Epting crank the dial up to 11 in this issue. To be honest, I'm not even sure where to begin, there was just so much going on here.
I think the biggest development was with Dr Faustus betraying the Red Skull. While it makes perfect sense, what with his recent string of 'failures' (or, at least, Skull blaming him for everything), but it still felt a little rushed.
Just how bad did Faustus screw the Skull over? Royally would be one way to describe it. Not only did he skip town on the Skull, but he gave Sharon Carter her SHIELD gps tracking device, contacted SHIELD, left without reprogramming the Grand Director and screwed all of the Skull's plans. I see a Luger in his future with the Skull on pulling the trigger for this betrayal. That is, if the Skull gets away unscathed.
Speaking of the Grand Director, it appears he went on the lamb post-Bucky beat down and both Bucky and Falcon had been trailing him for the past while. The issue opened up with the two having a hilarious game of cards where Bucky demands he pay him in Euros, what with the US economy and all.
The duo then followed some AIM goons, who were sent to and, surprisingly, succeeded in capturing the fake Cap. This lead them to meet up with the Black Widow and some SHIELD agents, where they are then filled in on the Dr Faustus betrayal.
On the Skull side of things, Arnim Zola has been working diligently on what appears to be Dr Doom's time platform, but to what end has yet to be revealed. It seems the Lukin and Skull minds can't hold up in the one mind anymore and it's driving both insane, prompting me to believe the time machine will pluck a body, maybe Cap's or maybe the Skull's from the past and they'll be able to separate them that way. It also seems like Sharon's baby was going to play some part in this, but it's not revealed why it was important.
Speaking of which, it is also revealed Sharon Carter's baby is really dead, but there's enough wiggle room for a resurrection / reveal that it's still alive if they decide to return to it. I think it's poor form on Brubaker's part to use the whole 'dead baby' twist to drum up tension, but the story isn't over yet and there's still lots of time to redeem that part of the story.
The issue ended with a kickass scene of Bucky stopping Sin from assassinating one of the political candidates and shouting he's Captain America that had me giddy and was a great way to solidify Bucky as Captain America in my eyes.
Verdict - Must Read. Amazing issue and one of the strongest for Captain America in months. It looks like this arc will end with a bang next month, but this issue definitely put the ultimate in penultimate.