Written by Ed Brubaker
Art by Steve Epting
Wow, a whole lot happened here and I'm not even sure where to begin. We've got several "deaths", Bucky and Black Widow hooking up and all that doesn't even touch on the conclusion to the Death of Captain America storyline nor the Red Skull's plans for Sharon Carter and her baby.
With so much going on in one issue, I think it's safe to say that it felt a little rushed. With how slow several of the first chapters of this storyline were - ever since Bucky became Cap - it just seemed like Brubaker ran out of time and had to just cram everything into this last issue.
Of course, if Brubaker goes back and touches on many of these "okay, we're done here, let's move on" moments in future issues, as I suspect he will, I think many of my problems with this issue will go away.
With the negatives out of the way, let's get to the good parts of this issue. I loved how Bucky took a major step forward in terms of accepting his role as Captain America. Just everything he did in this issue worked. While not doing everything exactly as Steve Rogers would, allowing Bucky to be his own man, it still felt like he was acting like Captain America, if that makes any sense. From his jumping out and stopping Sin's rocket with his shield to his reactions to the news media at the end and so on.
Another thing I liked was how the Grand Director was treated. I figured we'd be tossing him aside and never see him again or kill him off when this was over, but he ended up helping Sharon Carter escape and we see him near the end of the issue (I believe it was him in New York. He didn't have a costume), either setting him up as a future problem or potential ally after his helping Sharon.
Speaking of Sharon, she was captured (again) by the Red Skull and Arnim Zola and was being used, in conjunction with Doom's time platform, for some kind of experiment by the Skull. From what I gather, and it was fairly rushed and barely explained, it seems like they were trying to age the fetus (which I thought was killed, but Sharon talks about "it" growing during this) to use as a new body for the Skull. Again, I have no idea what was going on here, but Zola claims they can resume the process again later after Sharon breaks free of her restraints, ruining the experiment.
From here, it gets even more confusing. While escaping, Sharon takes a gun and shoots the Skull, who hadstarted laughing like a madman and took off his Skull mask, leaving the Lukin face and personality in control (I think). Yes, Sharon "killed" the Skull. At the same time, Zola was skewered by the recently freed Grand Director Captain America, "killing" him, too.
These deaths were quickly undone, though. Zola, we knew, would be back in a new body, as that's his gimmick, but the last epilogue of the issue was a shocking reveal of the Skull trapped in a Zola-like body of his own.
With the torrential pace of this issue, it's easy to overlook many of these confusing or detail lacking scene changes as the entire issue blended into one big action blockbuster conclusion to a storyline. However, taken as separate little pieces, it's easy to pick this apart. I'd like to believe a lot of these details, particularly concerning the Skull's plans with the time platform and Sharon Carter, will be explained in the future.
Verdict - Check It. I liked the issue a lot, but there's far too many details glossed over for my liking. May read better in hindsight / trade format after future issues fill in some blanks for us. Still a good Captain America issue and good Cap stories are still leaps and bounds better than most titles.