Thursday, August 20, 2009

Old Soldiers Never Die...

___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___

"But at this time, sources have confirmed that Captain
was pronounced dead on arrival at Mercy Hospital."
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Well, unless you've been living under a very large rock for the past week or so, you probably didn't miss the news screeds trumpeting the death of Captain America. The Talking Heads and 24-Hour Tubers had a field day: the Right called it treasonous, the Left called the kettle black, while scalpers salivated and skeptical fans were left scratching their collective heads wondering "What the hell is up with this?"

So, is Cap really dead?

This ain't my first rodeo. If there is one thing constant in comic books it is the non-consistency of one's own mortality. Hell, even Cap's old partner, Bucky Barnes, isn't as dead as we once thought. Yeah, that Bucky; as in "In the Marvel Universe only Uncle Ben Parker and Bucky stay dead forever."

So how did Cap die? Sorry ... don't have a clue. As a loyal reader of the title for a good twenty years now (-- and I really really hate the fact that I can now quantify things in my life in terms of two decades -- and teetering on THREE...), a check of all the retailers (what few there are) in a 200 mile radius found nary a copy available. Not surprising since it made such a national splurge -- though I am thankful that at least Marvel isn't trumpeting six different variants of the same issue; bagged and foil stamped, with a holographic cover. Yet.

Guess I'll have to wait for the trade.

Now, the skeptic in me is shaking his head, thinking "okay" this is probably a publicity stunt for the whole Civil War shenanigans playing out in Marvel right now. And it was probably a LMD (Life Model Decoy) that took the shots, or a Skrull, or somewhere, the Red Skull is holding the reality warping Cosmic Cube in his hand and giggling like a little liebchen right about now. Or, maybe this is some kind of reboot or retcon to coincide with a possible upcoming movie. I mean, Quesada reboots the old MU every other month, right? Or perhaps this is a result of the long litigation between Cap creator Joe Simon and Marvel over copyright issues. Could Marvel lose this character all together? (Eep. I thought that was settled?) I hope not; the MU without Cap is like bread without butter. Old web-head and the X-franchises maybe the framework for the House of Ideas, but Cap is the bedrock on which that structure is founded.

So, I'm gonna take a wait and see attitude here. Why? Because I honestly trust Ed Brubaker, who penned this scenario, and am curious to see how this plays out. I've been a fan of his since the long, lost, and lamented Gotham Central, and his current run on Captain America has been nothing short of fantastic, giving Steve Rogers something that you usually don't associate with his alter ego beyond the red, white and blue -- real depth. (Cap's even getting some nookie -- a lot of nookie.) Honestly, I think Brubaker's capable of something more profound than my suspicions. I don't think this monumental passing was meant for the people who would only buy this one issue, but for those of us who've bought the last ten or twenty (or two hundred) and, probably -- hopefully, the next ten (or twenty or two hundred). Let's hope I'm right.

I will be honest, here, though. Cap is the last Marvel title that I read on a monthly basis. (I stopped reading the X-Titles around The Age of Apocalypse; the Spiderman titles around the Clone saga; and everything else when the whatever titles' momentum was derailed to be shoehorned into whatever company wide crossover loomed.) That's right: I, a born and bred Marvel fanatic, have been reduced to this. But it's not just Marvel. As a whole, I don't like the direction either of the Big Two are taking right now. I haven't followed Civil War at all, and almost a year later the whole One Year Later program over at DC can be best described as a colossal misfire. (I was reading seven or eight titles over there, and now I'm down to two and fading fast.)

I know ... I know ... you can't please everybody. I'm an old school whiner, right? Sure. Absolutely. I'm also part of rapidly dwindling market share. My last trip to the comic shop found me walking out with only two new slicks and six Runaways digests (which, for the record, was like a breath of fresh air in the world of hero-dom. Damn fine book, that.) That's what I've been reduced to. Trades. And you know what? I'm cool with that. I can live with digging into the Essentials and Archives. It's someone else's Universe now, let 'em run, I say. And I wish them luck.

But! I will say this: have the balls to stick with it. And if this new Universe or direction doesn't work out and flounders and we retcon back to square one, just don't expect me to come back anymore. I don't think that is the plan with Cap. I hope not. I have no doubt that he will be back (-- and something inside me believes it might be awhile, like maybe a year and half). As to how, we'll have to wait and see. And depending on how, will determine whether I stick around or not.

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