This issue is mostly Cap and Zemo having a dialogue about redemption, with some obligatory and well-choreographed punching thrown in. At the start of “No Escape” I worried that Ed Brubaker was going to drastically change Zemo; this issue dispelled my fears about that. There is never anything bad about this book.
This arc hasn’t been particularly strong. The last few years of BuckyCap (which was often fantastic) have had a lot of stuff about Bucky feeling unworthy, about him trying to square his new role as Captain America with the things he did as Winter Soldier, sometimes with old enemies coming at him, reminding him of that dark period. With the return of Steve Rogers, and Steve’s endorsement of Bucky as Captain America, I think that this storyline being yet again about Bucky’s insecurities and troubled past is going in the wrong direction — further maudlin examination, less about him being a hero. Now, maybe the moment toward the end of the story where he chooses to live and keep fighting signals that he has finally accepted it all; I don’t know. I’d really love to see more straight-up heroics going forward, although considering the next issue is “The Trial of Captain America”, I have a feeling we’ll be seeing a lot more Winter Soldier drama to come.
The main story in this issue wraps up the Bucky-is-kidnapped-by-Baron-Zemo plot that has been perfectly functional, if stretched out more than necessary. Ed Brubaker, as always, writes good action scenes, though I’m not a fan of Butch Guice’s pencils. The backup Nomad story has been a greater attraction on this series for me lately, though, and this issue perfectly illustrates why. Rikki Barnes is an appealing teenage heroine, just the right mix of sentimental and stubborn. Here we see her friendship with Steve and with Spider-Gril Anya Corazon explored, along with supervillain fights and bowling. What’s not to love?
This was an excellent conclusion to both Ed Brubaker’s main story and Sean McKeever’s Nomad backup. The primary story was a great character study of Bucky, who is tested by Baron Zemo in a way that allows both Bucky and the reader to reflect on his personality and his history. This comic attempts to answer the question of why, exactly, Bucky still gets to be Captain America despite Steve’s return, and I think it does an admirable job, at least as far as the in-universe logic is concerned. But the real standout here is the backup story. Maybe I’m just a sucker for stories about Captain America and kids, but seeing Steve Rogers interact with Rikki Barnes throughout this arc has been a real treat, giving a lot of insight into how Rikki is handling her new life and how Steve might fit into that equation. Butch Guice on the main story and Filipe Andrade on the backup both do admirable art jobs, but each drew at least a few panels that looked downright bizarre, which is the only reason this book isn’t a perfect 10.
I’m not sure how I feel about this issue. Though I’m fine with the ending they came to, with Bucky finally ready to confront his past as the Winter Soldier, I’m not clear on what Zemo’s motivations for putting him through hell were. Still, there were some good moments, specifically Steve telling the President he can hold while he rescues Buck. Butch Guice’s art continues on with some strong Steranko-like compositions. The Nomad back-up is nice, but it doesn’t seem to be going anywhere; it needs some forward story momentum to keep my interest.