If you’ve been even slightly paying attention to the comic book industry in the past few years, you’ve surely heard a good amount of praise for Ed Brubaker’s run as writer on Captain America. In a run that began in 2005 and ran until the Marvel Now! relaunch in 2012, spanning more renumberings and spinoffs and events than can be easily counted, Brubaker did the impossible. He resurrected one of the only guys in comics who fans were sure would never come back: Bucky Barnes. What’s more is that Brubaker, through realistic storytelling based on character rather than spectacle, pulled it off… and even had Bucky act as Captain America for a decently long stint, all the while turning the book into a dark and gritty but still fun sci-fi noir.
What stuns me most, however, is how accessible it is given all of that. On paper, it sounds like it’s a Captain America fan’s dream book… and it is. But besides that, it’s also a fantastic entry point into the modern, mainstream superhero comics world. I know because it was my entry point.
My last article here was about the comics that I’d been reading as a kid. I had a shoebox full of them, and I read them over and over. However, when I got to be about eight or nine years old, it was all about Goosebumps for me. I started devouring prose, and found myself gravitating away from my shoebox. I didn’t come back until 2007, when Joss Whedon announced Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season Eight, the comic book continuation of the original show, which happens to be my favorite. In preparation for this, knowing I’d be buying every issue, I hit the comic shop and purchased a bunch of Angel comics from IDW. (Some, in fact, were written by Blastoff’s very own Scott Tipton.) I liked those a bit, and I began reading every Buffy and Angel comic I could find. I was content with those for a while, but I eventually moved to the Vertigo titles, such as Preacher and Y: The Last Man. My first modern Marvel title was Runaways, but they were a team so separate from the Marvel Universe as a whole that I didn’t feel inclined to read anything but them.
Then, around 2010, I was working at Borders, where I specialized in making the graphic novel section not look horrendous. Being a voracious reader and a… uh, way less voracious salesman, I would often flip through the comics back there when we were closing and no one was looking. I discovered a good many of indie titles there (side story, it was also where I first read Zenescope’s stuff, and now I write for those books for a living, which is pretty crazy now that I think about it)… and one of those titles happened to be CAPTAIN AMERICA: WINTER SOLDIER ULTIMATE COLLECTION, which included the first issue of Brubaker’s run. I read the first few pages and was intrigued, and they had some kind of employee appreciation week where we could buy a book with our discount and then get another book free. (I miss Borders. Gah.) I figured that I could give the book a chance at no risk – I was fond of the comic as a kid, but hadn’t really felt a desire to read any more superhero stuff until the first few pages of the book caught me.
I wasn’t even worried about an impossible wall of continuity that I’d never be able to climb – I’d assumed going in that would be the case, so I decided to just roll with it. By the end of the first issue, I found that I was completely wrong. It was perfectly structured to, yes, be a good Cap comic, but also to introduce the character and the world to a reader who has never read any Marvel – or hell, any comic – before. It was a cinematic page turner filled with intriguing characters and a concept that made me think… and that was just the first issue. I quickly finished the trade and bought the next volume, doing the necessary research to find the proper reading order.
After reading Captain America, I quickly began to pick up other titles, from JMS’s Thor to Bendis’s NEW AVENGERS – I loved them all so much that I went back and began reading the majority of Marvel’s backlist, starting with Avengers Disassembled, while also pulling a variety of single issues. That right there is the power of Bru’s Cap run. It’s addictive and welcoming, simple yet thought-provoking; also, it builds its own story while also slyly casting light on the other portions of the Marvel Universe.
In 2014, when a Captain America sequel is one of the most anticipated flicks of the year, more new readers are going to be looking for these comics than ever before. If they are steered toward Brubaker’s work on the title, I’d be willing to be they’ll be in it for the long haul.
PAT SHAND is a writer and an editor for Zenescope Entertainment. When not producing comics or writing articles, he can be found wasting both his time and yours on Twitter (@PatShand) and Tumblr (PatrickShand.Tumblr.Com)