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Captain America #616: Review

Mar 2011
Ed Brubaker, Travis Charest

Story Name:


Review & Comments

2 stars

Captain America #616 Review by (April 9, 2011)
Review: Nice if unexceptional anniversary issue. The regular issue stories are compelling, as a Russian gulag makes for a new and intriguing setting for a Captain America story, while the Steve Rogers episode uses too many pages merely to set up the basic conflict (they want Steve to be Cap again but he’s reluctant…there you have it in ten words) but is leading up toward Steve’s return in July (to tie in to the movie). The other stories are okay but nothing great. “Opaque Shadows” is too rushed and unfocused to be a classic; “Spin” is just a rehash of Cap vol. 5 #16 and 17 with Bucky, Sin and Crossbones (i.e. all the good parts) removed. “The Exhibit” looks more like a setup for a story rather than a story in itself and I bet we’ll never heard of it again, while “Crossfire” is just a bland war story. “Operation: Tooth Fairy” is the only real stinker in the bunch, with its cartoonish art and story. The big surprises of the issue are a) outside of the regular story it’s all Steve and b) no guest stars (the Invaders don’t count). While Cap has been better served in the past, at least it wasn’t an embarrassment.

Comments: “70th Anniversary Issue.” The contents of a regular issue are filled out with stories by creators who have not worked on Cap to sum up what Captain America means to them. The issue also includes pencils sketches of Cap by Jim Aparo and Curt Swan. In the main story, Gulag, neither Bucky nor Steve appears in costume as Captain America. “Must There Be a Captain America?” features cameos by Bucky, the Invaders (Sub-Mariner, Human Torch, Toro, Red Skull, Master Man, Iron Man, Thor, Hawkeye, Quicksilver, Doctor Doom, Falcon. “Opaque Shadows” doesn’t make it clear whether or not it was Steve who bought the painting.

"Beginning a bold new direction" is what they promise. Translation: "returning to the status quo!" See the essay at Comics 101 on the trend of comics to reverse any and all major changes sooner or later!


Synopsis / Summary / Plot

Captain America #616 Synopsis by Peter Silvestro
A one page summary of Cap’s career.

Story #2

Gulag—Part 1

Writer: Ed Brubaker. Penciler: Mike Deodato Jr.. Inker: Mike Deodato Jr.. Colorist: Rain Beredo.

Synopsis / Summary / Plot

James Buchanan Barnes, the former Captain America, is in a Russian prison, defending himself against an attack by Ursa Major, a Soviet mutant who can transform into a bear. As the other inmates cheer for Ursa, Bucky’s minds flashes back to the events of the last several days….

Before Bucky was taken away to Russia, Steve Rogers assured him everything was being done to free him from imprisonment for treason against the Soviet Union. At the prison, the warden told him that his treatment would be monitored by envoys from the Avengers but that if he even attempted to escape the deal would be invalidated and should he succeed he would be a fugitive from the United States as well. As he began the daily grind of forced labor, the other prisoners were afraid of him—until he was approached in the dining hall by a scarred enemy named Yuri who had a vendetta against the Winter Soldier. Offended that Bucky didn’t know who he was, he ordered one of his thugs to slug the American. As a result, Bucky was put into solitary confinement for "fighting." On the way to his new cell, the Warden informed him that his enemy was Yuri Petrovich, a former Crimson Dynamo, whose escape from prison was foiled by the Winter Soldier. This night, Petrovich had him spirited from his cell to fight to the death against another prisoner….

…and now he is at the mercy of the huge and brutal Ursa Major….

Story #3

Must There Be a Captain America?

Writer: Ed Brubaker. Penciler: Ed McGuinness. Inker: Ed McGuinness. Inker: Dexter Vines. Colorist: Val Staples.

Synopsis / Summary / Plot

Sharon Carter comes upon a despondent Steve Rogers watching a newsreel of his wartime exploits. He explains that the President told him nothing can be done to free Bucky Barnes from his imprisonment in Russia and asked if Steve would consider taking on the mantle of Captain America again. Steve feels helpless—anything he could do for Bucky would spark an international incident and he longs for the war when he and the Invaders could deal with the Red Skull and the Nazi menace directly, without all the red tape of modern diplomacy. Later he ponders what he didn’t say to Sharon: how he never wanted to be Captain America, how he was supposed to be the first of a platoon of super-soldiers and with the death of Professor Erskine, he became a symbol more than a soldier. He did not plan to carry on the burden after the War but he ended up frozen and revived in another decade when he was still needed. Being America’s symbol made him a better man, though it consumed his life. He does not want to pick up the shield again since he sees it is making Bucky a better man as well. He asks an old war buddy, the now elderly Wally Young, whether there still needs to be a Captain America. Wally responds that the country needs him now more than ever, a hero to rise above politics and let the people know someone is on their side. As Steve heads home, he knows he is still needed but is not sure he can do it again….

Story #4

Opaque Shadows

Writer: Howard Chaykin. Penciler: Howard Chaykin. Inker: Howard Chaykin. Colorist: Edgar Delgado.

Synopsis / Summary / Plot

Steve Rogers attends an auction where the premier offering is a painting by Kerwin Stockwell (think Norman Rockwell). It portrays Captain America taking a coffee break while a young woman touches up the paint on his shield. Steve thinks back to his sitting for the portrait….

Cap struck up a friendship with the model Jenny Grimaldi, who confided that she was a War widow but that she was too young for that to be her permanent status; she impulsively kissed Cap on the lips as he escorted her home. A few days later, her husband Mike, injured but alive, returned home. Later she told Cap that he seemed different; Cap counseled patience since he had been through a lot. Shortly thereafter, Mike took hostages at an industrial plant, revealing that he was not Mike Grimaldi (who did indeed die in the War) but a Nazi spy surgically altered to look like him. He obtained the information required by his master the Red Skull and took Jenny hostage to hijack a military helicopter. Cap arrived on the scene and told Jenny to jump just as he hurled his shield. He caught the young woman as his shield disabled the copter’s rotor, sending it to a fiery crash. Cap promised to stay in touch with Jenny but disappeared only a few weeks later….

After the auction, Steve meets a young woman who looks like Jenny; she turns out to be her granddaughter and namesake. Young Jenny explains that she is the one who put the painting up for sale. Steve mentions that he knew her late grandmother but won’t say exactly when….

Story #5


Writer: Cullen Bunn. Penciler: Jason Latour. Inker: Jason Latour. Colorist: Rico Renzi.

Synopsis / Summary / Plot

After several tornadoes rip through the town of Redfield, Oklahoma, Captain America arrives to help out and raise the morale of the National Guard and locals who were attempting to clean up the mess. He is approached by some teenagers who ask his help in searching along the worst section of the disaster area. Driving out of town they come to Old Man Haney’s farm where they find a sealed metal hatch in the yard. Cap goes down to investigate and discovers an abandoned A.I.M. lab; returning to the surface he finds Haney pointing a shotgun at him. Haney reveals that the town, facing a financial crisis, welcomed the money from the terrorist organization and that now he must kill Cap and the teens to maintain the secret. At this point a swarm of robotic spiders come out of the hole, having accidentally been activated by Cap, and they attack. Cap fights them off and tells the disarmed Haney that while times were tough, that does not excuse his actions, and that he will be searching for more dark secrets….

Story #6

Operation: Tooth Fairy

Writer: Mike Benson. Penciler: Paul Grist. Inker: Paul Grist. Colorist: Lee Loughridge.

Synopsis / Summary / Plot

During the War, Captain America and Bucky burst into a Romanian castle used as a Nazi base, where Cap confronts the sinister vampire Baron Blood. Elsewhere, the Sub-Mariner and Human Torch are questioning Nazis as to the existence of a cure for Baron Blood’s venom; a prisoner directs them to captive Jewish scientist Dr. Jacobsen who was on the project. As the Invaders hurry off, we learn the reason for their haste: Cap was earlier bitten by Blood and is slowly transforming into a blood-drinking fiend. Torch and Namor rescue the scientist who tells them there is no cure for the infection; the only possible remedy is the Baron’s own infected blood but the cure is by no means guaranteed. As Cap battles his enemy at he castle, he morphs fully into a vampire and bites his foe on the neck, drinking his blood. As Bucky prepares to shoot down his best friend, Torch and Namor arrive to stop him. Cap collapses and rises from the floor cured by the Baron’s blood. The villain has managed to escape though. The official report dismisses any reports of vampires or other fantastic creatures.

Story #7

The Exhibit

Writer: Frank Tierney. Penciler: Paul Azaceta. Inker: Paul Azaceta. Colorist: Matthew Wilson.

Synopsis / Summary / Plot

At a coffee shop, Steve Rogers is showing his portfolio of paintings of Captain America to art dealer Edmund Heidler. Heidler considers the artwork cheesy and sentimental but thinks that an exhibition would be popular. After making what may have been a racist remark about a black waitress, he promises to call Steve later and they part. Steve throws away the man’s card and gets into a car driven by Sharon Carter. When she asks why SHIELD is interested in Heidler, Steve reveals that the man is a clone of Adolf Hitler, created by the Hate-Monger many years ago. Sharon is all for killing Heidler now, but Steve explains that the man has done nothing wrong and is unaware of who he is. For now all they can do is keep an eye on him…..

Meanwhile, in his studio, Edmund Heidler can’t understand why he is obsessively painting swastikas….

Story #8


Writer: Kyle Higgins. Writer: Alec Siegel. Penciler: Pepe Larraz. Inker: Pepe Larraz. Colorist: Chris Sotomayor.

Synopsis / Summary / Plot

June, 1944: in the wake of the D-Day invasion, Captain America and Union Jack are holding an abandoned French town, trying to prevent the Nazis from returning and capturing the strategic bridge nearby. As they fight off enemy attacks, suddenly the bridge is destroyed by artillery fire. They realize that the Nazis have switched their mission from retaking the town to killing the two allied national heroes. As they are holed up in a small house a French woman and her young son arrive, having made their way into town secretly to bring the defenders provisions. Restored by the food and water, Cap and Union Jack repel the final attack and drive off the Germans, holding the city until the rest of the allied armies can get there. As a parting gift Cap presents the boy with a French flag, which he has never before seen.

Preview Pages
Click sample interior pages to enlarge them:

Travis Charest
Travis Charest
Justin Ponsor
Travis Charest (Cover Penciler)
Travis Charest (Cover Inker)


Listed in Alphabetical Order.

Bucky Barnes
Bucky Barnes

(James Barnes)
Captain America
Captain America

(Steve Rogers)
Human Torch
Human Torch

(Jim Hammond)
Red Skull
Red Skull

(Johann Shmidt)
Union Jack
Union Jack

(Brian Falsworth)
Ursa Major
Ursa Major

(Mikhail Uriokovitch Ursus)

Plus: Baron Blood, Crimson Dynamo (Anton Vanko), Hordes of HYDRA, Nazis, Red Barbarian.

> Captain America: Book info and issue index

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