Captain America’s a rather curious blend these days, mixing provocative, big statements with a distinctly old-school tone and feel. Granted, the recent controversy over the use of Republican slogans in the racist Watchdog movement’s demonstration was an unintentional way of bringing one of the book’s lower-key arcs back into the spotlight, but there’s a general canniness to the way the old and new are combined here, which doesn’t always play out in the way that would be expected. The resolution to the ‘Death of Captain America’ scenario had the retrograde step for the book being the headline attraction, with Steve Rogers’ return all over the news-stands, while the unexpected element of allowing Bucky to retain the title and shield was relegated to a footnote. The outcry over the first part of Two Americas has shown the delicate balance that Brubaker is striking, injecting modern relevance into an apparently traditional tale of Captain America battling a separatist movement.
This second instalment continues to present an outwardly conventional face, with Bucky’s plan to infiltrate the Watchdogs going awry and the insane 1950s duplicate of Steve Rogers receiving an unexpected addition to his arsenal, but there a degree of subversiveness under the surface. Much of the conventional feeling comes from the artistic partnership of Luke Ross and Butch Guice. It’s hard to pinpoint whether the pencils or Guice’s heavy, near-noir inks imbue the book with it’s old-school vibe, but there’s an interesting feeling of the middle of the twentieth century in the Falcon’s attempted flight trough the fire escape of a run-down hotel. The narrative has given the fifties Cap the upper hand, and the art reflects this by adding an element of his lost era to the action.
What sets the book above its pulp inspirations is the occasional moments of sophistication, such as the 50s Cap’s fleeting recognition that the world he desires is long gone or continued re-writing of Bucky’s origin to increase the character’s plausibility. The stand-alone components of Brubaker’s Captain America may sometimes slip of the radar, devoid of reference to the broader Marvel Universe, but there’s a steady vein of richness running through the apparently inconsistent book.