Walking into St. Mark's Comics in East Village yesterday, there was only one thing on my mind: The monumental Captain America #600. In the front desk of the store, where the new issues from Wednesday usually go, 12 copies of Cap hung triumphantly. It was only 11:30 a.m. on a warm Manhattan Monday, and the copies of this issue on the shelf had already run out.
Marvel Comics had made the unique move of releasing #600 two days early, instead of the traditional New Comic Wednesday, and I patiently waited with a few other fans for an employee to grab more issues.
Marvel had been hyping this issue for months. Something big was going to happen to Captain America and no one should miss it.
Finally, after what seemed like an eternity (probably less than a minute), the employee brought two stacks of Cap. I had the choice between the Alex Ross or the Steve Epting cover. I immediately choose the magnificent Ross painted cover. Then, I thought about it for a while.
It was Epting, and writer Ed Brubaker, who had redefined the character for me and a whole generation of fans. I changed my mind and got the Epting cover; If something really big was going to happen, Epting deserved it.
Only two years ago, deep into Brubaker's run - which saw the return of Cap's partner Bucky and actually made Steve Rogers cool again - Cap was unexpectedly killed in issue 25. I was shocked, fans all over the world were shocked, and even the media had a field day with it.
As time went on, Bucky (also known as The Winter Soldier) would track down several of the people responsible for Roger's death, eventually become Captain America himself, and join the Avengers.
I didn't think it was possible, but Captain America without Rogers, the man who had been wearing the costume for half a century, was actually just as good. Brubaker gave Bucky a girlfriend, continued to grow the character (who for most purposes, he reinvented), and continued to weave the same type of spy-heavy stories that made the first 25 issues of the comic such a success.
Then, Marvel announced last month that #600 would change everything. It would be followed by a series called "Reborn" (see the trailer on TMR's homepage) and #600 would have "the most wicked plot twist since issue 25."
After buying the issue, I went to a coffee shop and read the much-hyped issue.
It was fantastic. Comics don't get much better than this.
The issue was $4.99, a bit high, but had 104 pages! This issue felt more than a trade paperback than a single issue. It had seven parts, which I will break down:
Alex Ross and a few others give us a two page origin of Steve Rogers. It's beautifully drawn but doesn't offer much for long-time readers. Although, it would be good for new readers who are starting with this issue.
Part Two: One Year After
This is the real meat and bones of #600. Ed Brubaker starts with a recap about Cap's life and death. The rest focuses on individual characters in six parts:
In "Sharon Carter's Lament" Cap's former girlfriend does her usual I-regret-that-I-was-brainwashed-and-killed-Steve thing, but then comes the first big reveal: She starts to remember new things about shooting Rogers and she finds out that she shot him with some sort of special gun. She tracks down the SHIELD agent that she gave the gun to (while brainwashed) and finds out it is "not a normal gun." This part ends with Carter saying, "Oh, Thank God. Thank God..."
Next, in "The Other Steve Rogers", we catch up with Bad Cap - the guy that took over for Rogers while he was in ice. It basically is a narrative of his life and path to redemption. Pretty good stuff.
In "The Youth of Today" a long standing plot thread is finally touched on: Rikki Barnes, a female Bucky from a different dimension, meets the Young Avengers' Patriot. Now, this will get a bit complicated. About 10 years ago, Marvel decided to hire a bunch of Image Comics writers and artists to redo some of their biggest characters. The result, "Heroes Reborn" was horrible. It was so bad that I even took a five-year break from reading comics after it. Probably one of my least favorite comic writers, Jeph Loeb, brought this awful concept back last year for "Onslaught Reborn." It was, as expected, complete garbage. But, at the end of the series the Bucky from that universe was stuck in the normal Marvel Universe.
I wanted to vomit when I heard Rikki Barnes would be joining the characters of Cap, but I actually like this short story. She has a cool costume, is kind of fun, and is an all right addition to the cast. We also get to see Patriot (the nephew of the black Captain America) again, which is cool. I'm a huge Young Avengers fan, so I hope she joins that team.
The next part, "Crossbones and Sin", follows the two characters that were in charge of killing Rogers a year ago. It is kind of boring, but you start to get more hints that Rogers isn't really dead. Sin says, "You know what day is is? It's the anniversary...Ha...The don't even know...the fools."
In "The Avengers Dilemma", Bucky works out with the Avengers. Pretty fun stuff. They discuss whether or not to go to a memorial for Cap in Central Park. The next part, "The Red Skull's Delirium", is Red Skull talking about how great he is.
The final part, "The Vigilant", is about the Avengers, and a large crowd, at the Park. Norman Osborn and his Dark Avengers make an appearance. The end of this part has the biggest reveal of the whole issue. Sharon Carter runs up to the Avengers and says, "It's Steve...I think we can still save him."
Part Three: In Memorium
This is about a few of Steve's old friends mourning his death.
Part Four: The Persistence of Memorabilia
Probably the one of the best Cap writers of all time, Mark Waid (second only to Brubaker), has a story about people buying Cap memorabilia at an auction. It is a really solid piece that ends with Tony Stark buying Cap's Avengers membership card for two million dollars.
Part Five: My Bulletin Board
Joe Simon, the first editor of Timely Comics in the '40s, tells us the story of Cap's shield. I think, at this point, Marvel is just filling space.
Part Six: Red Skull's Deadly Revenge
Like most comic fans, I'll sit around talking about how great Stan Lee is but when it comes time to read one of his comics I can hardly stand it. This reprinted comic from 1942 is just hard to read - It is really stupid. A different time, a different way of story telling...I guess.
Part Seven: Cover Gallery
600 Cap covers are reprinted. It is really cool to see how the character has changed over the years.
Overall, it was an amazing issue. I wished Bucky would stay Cap for a little longer, but I understand where Marvel is coming from. The movie The First Avenger: Captain America is supposed to be coming out in 2011 so I guess you don't want people running into a comic store after the movie and not have Steve Rogers in the suit.
The comic series "Reborn" about Rogers coming back to life starts on July 1st. Check out the trailer: