As Marvel begins a new "Heroic Age" in May, Captain America by Ed Brubaker will have a semi-new artist, a newly evil villain, and a brand new status quo for the book's main character.
In the aftermath of Captain America Reborn and Siege, James "Bucky" Barnes isn't just filling in for Steve Rogers anymore. As of May, he becomes not only the official Captain America, but a member of the good-guy Avengers, something that's a bit of an adjustment for the former assassin.
Along with a new sense of heroes comes a new type of villain, and in Captain America #606, former anti-hero Baron Zemo gets a new sheen of evil as he tries to kill Bucky and finish the job his father started.
The issue will also introduce the new series penciler Butch Guice. Just like Bucky has gone from fill-in Cap to full-time Avenger, Captain America #606 represents a similar transition for artist Butch Guice, since he's filled in frequently on Captain America.
Newsarama talked with Brubaker about the Zemo storyline and the book's new banner -- and whether "Heroic Age" will change the critically acclaimed Captain America title.
Newsarama: Ed, is this the first time, officially, that Butch Guice is joining you on the comic as penciler? Because I know he's done a few issues before.
Ed Brubaker: He was filling in here and there when Steve got behind, or when Mike needed help. And he inked Hitch on Reborn. He was supposed to enjoy the entirety of the Who Will Wield the Shield? thing, but then every issue of Reborn ended up being 10 or 12 pages longer than anticipated. And we were constantly under a deadline crunch. So I think he only drew the first 13 pages of the Shield book.
But yeah, this is our first time really where Butch is going to be the main artist on the book, as much as that is humanly possible. He's the official regular guy from now on, until whenever he isn't.
Nrama: With this storyline, you're kicking off the Heroic Age. How does this feel different than the Cap we saw before in your comic?
Brubaker: Well, the main thing, because everything post Siege is the new Heroic Age, so the main difference is that now Bucky is officially Captain America. He's in a public Avengers team. He's officially Captain America. Most of the world doesn't know who he is, because he's got a secret identity. But he's out in public. And Steve Rogers is back.
The heroes are in charge again, and that's the biggest difference. Since Civil War, really, a lot of the good guys have either been on the run or underground. Then when Dark Reign started, the bad guys were actually in charge. So now the world has been righted again.
That's where our story starts. Some of the bad guys who are left in the gray areas are kind of mad that things have gone back to the old bright colors, with black and white and good vs. evil way of looking at things. Osborn blew their chance, basically. That's what our whole story spins out of.
Nrama: How does all of that affect James as he becomes the official Captain America?
Brubaker: In his mind, he was always "filling in." He was being Captain America just because no one else would. He was Steve's best friend. And now Steve's back and saying, "Look, you're Captain America. I'm not going to be Captain America anymore." And so now, it's really like, "OK, I've got big shoes to fill."
A lot of the stuff that happens in the current Captain America storyline, "Two Americas," builds to its climax with Bucky doing some stuff that kind of messes him up a little bit, mentally.
He's a dark character to bring into this Heroic Age, in a way. He's a guy that was thought to be dead and was a Russian assassin. He's got a really, really dark history. So it's not going to be an easy path for him to walk right into this "heroic" world.
Nrama: Is sounds like it's the same types of struggles we've seen for the character, but just in a different backdrop and situation within the Marvel Universe.
Brubaker: Yeah, anyone who's been reading my book will know what Bucky is going to be going through. The book is pretty much the same. It's like when we were doing Civil War, that was reflected, but it was still Captain America. Whatever's going on in the Marvel Universe is part of the story. All this stuff was always reflected in our world. But we're still following the same plot threads as before, and building on all the stories we did before. But now we have a sort of different canvas on which to tell the stories.
Nrama: You have a different villain for this story that fits with that idea of the "gray area" villains and how they react to all this.
Brubaker: Exactly. Baron Zemo. I'm really excited about him actually. A couple summits ago, like at the previous Avengers summit, I asked, "Can I please have Baron Zemo? I know he's been in Thunderbolts forever, and he had his own mini-series. But nobody's been using him for awhile."
I just really wanted Baron Zemo to be in a Captain America story, either as the villain or how Cap and his friends would perceive as a villain. 'Cause let's face it: Zemo's dad blew up Bucky, and he's only around because the Russians got to him to revive him.
In my mind, Zemo has always been one of the key Cap villains. And I'm not going to bring back the old Baron Zemo with the saggy mask, you know, when we've got a really awesome Baron Zemo that has this big history in Marvel for the last couple decades.
Nrama: But Zemo is a full-fledged villain in this, right?
Brubaker: Definitely. One of the things that I think is nice about the Heroic Age is that we have this idea of hero and villain. Because over the years we've taken a lot of the cooler villains and, because people like them so much, they sort of make them into good guys. Like, for a while, it looked like Sabretooth was maybe going to be a good guy. And I was like, "No! Not Sabretooth!" But Juggernaut was one of the coolest villains of all time, and for a while he was a good guy! I mean, seriously? Juggernaut's going to be a good guy?
So my mission for this story is I want Zemo to be a really bad guy again. I want Zemo to be one of the best villain bad guys that I can turn him into while still finding a way to make that organically work with his whole history.
Nrama: With Cap being part of the Avengers, will we see the Avengers showing up?
Brubaker: Yeah, from time to time, but we'll still have the same cast. Black Widow's there; Falcon's there. Steve Rogers will be in the book from time to time. And with Bucky in the Avengers, we'll see them. But the book will still focus on Bucky and his role as Captain America.
We're having more and more discussions about that stuff, especially me and Brian, making sure all our books work together without conflicting each other a lot. You want each book to stand on its own, but at the same time, you want people to feel the presence of the larger Marvel Universe.
But there will be occasional Avengers appearances. Hopefully not crossovers. I know we're all tired of those.
Nrama: People have been drawing parallels between this return to a "Heroic Age" and this idea of "hope" being such a prominent slogan for the current era in the United States. What do you think of that? Is there any credence to it?
Brubaker: For us, it's more about the pendulum merely swinging the other direction. We had this dark Marvel world that started, really, with what Brian did in Avengers Disassembled. That laid the groundwork for what became Civil War and all the big event things. Everybody says nothing will ever be the same. It did actually change stuff for a good year or so. I mean, Tony Stark was kind of the bad guy of the Marvel Universe. And then for a year or so, Norman Osborn was in charge of SHIELD, basically.
So for me, on a pure storytelling front, it feels like the pendulum is just swinging in the other direction now. We've explored the darker stories for a while. But now Thor is back, and Tony is being redeemed in Matt's Iron Man book, and Steve Rogers is back. The three main Avengers are back. And Siege is going on. And once that's over, the heroes are back in charge. So it kind of structurally makes storytelling sense for this to be the next logical step. Plus DC is doing it too, so we have to. It seems like the pendulum swings in all comics like that, and out of that darker place, it just follows that there would be something like this.
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