Captain America issue #14 ends with the announcement that the war with Bravo and New Hydra will conclude in next month’s New World Orders. I’m venturing a guess that the last four issues of Ed Brubaker’s wonderful Captain America will be dedicated to the Avengers Vs. X-Men arc. Whatever goes on in the next five issues, it’s sad to think that one of the best comics on the stands will be gone. However, at least issue #14 is another stand out offering from Ed Brubaker. I really don’t think this man has ever written a bad comic.
Captain America has tracked Scourge to a loading dock while trying to protect his next target, Roger Gocking aka The Porcupine. Scourge, with the help of former government agent Henry Gyrich, is tracking down criminals under witness protection and killing them. This one is personal for Cap as his former lover Diamondback was brutally beaten by Scourge. If history has shown us anything it’s that you don’t want to piss off Captain America. As Cap tries to draw out Scourge, Sharon Carter races to make the assist while trying to figure out with Dum Dum Dugan how to tell Captain America that Scourge is actually his former friend Demolition Man.
The battle between Cap and Scourge rages and Cap is on the losing end. Scourge is stronger, faster and knows Captain America’s moves inside and out. Meanwhile Gyrich has suffered some kind of aneurism, which keep him in a vegetative state and unable to help. Cap realizes mid-battle that he’s fighting his friend and, in true Captain America style, attempts to reason with the man bludgeoning him to death. At the last moment Sharon Carter arrives and shoots Scourge in back, killing him and saving Captain America. Naturally Cap blames himself and layers another load of guilt on his shoulders.
One of the main reasons I’m sad to see Brubaker’s Captain America go is because it humanizes the iconic hero. Most other books play within the Captain America parameters of leader, hero and infallible Avenger. Brubaker’s Captain America shows the man behind the shield. His mistakes, his fears and the tremendous guilt he carries. Brubaker’s entire run on Captain America has added depth and dimension to a character that is so easy to play safe with. Brubaker also has a gift for telling intricate stories with adult themes.
Captain America #14 deals with guilt, betrayal, justice and the harsh choices heroes face. Brubaker allows each character to not only have their own voice, but their own fears. Dum Dum is scared to see Cap as human, Sharon is afraid to fail him and Captain America is torn between who he is and his duties as a protector. Watching him try to reason with Scourge while being beaten is Brubaker’s nod to the Captain America we all know, the one who always takes the high road. Sharon Carter killing Scourge is the reality of the war, which sets in a tragic juxtaposition to Cap’s higher ideals.
Patch Zircher and Mike Deodato do a fantastic job with the art. I don’t know which of them handles the faces but it’s some of the best work out there. Each face is different and each one carries a depth of emotion. The look on Sharon’s face when she realizes she might not be able to save Cap. The panel where Scourge, having been unmasked, screams his feelings of betrayal because of the criminals being given new lives is heartbreaking. You see the pain in Scourge’s face and you can feel that he truly believes in what he’s doing.
Aside from that, the action and movement is wonderful here. Every hit between Cap and Scourge has real weight to it. The bird’s eye view shot of Cap, Scourge and Sharon after Scourge dies is crushing. Zircher and Deodato work in tandem to bring out the emotions of the book as well as the action.
Captain America #14 and the Scourge storyline is further evidence that nobody knows and understands comics the way Ed Brubaker does.