Review: Captain America #617

Published on May 3rd, 2011

Born,died,reborn, put on trial and now locked away in a Russian Gulag. This is the path that  James “Bucky” Buchanan Barnes has faced ,so far, in his lifetime. His is a story of redemption and survival. We have followed his struggles written beautifully by Ed Brubaker and currently drawn by  Butch Guice , Mike Deodato, Stefano Gaudiano, and Chris Samnee with beautiful colors by the talented Bettie Breitweiser. In this issue of Captain America #617 we pick up Chapter 2 of the storyline Gulag. Will we see complete redemption for Bucky’s crimes as Winter Soldier and his release or will he be pushed further into the dirt and grime?Read on to find out.

If you have been following the series so far you know that our pal Bucky can’t catch a break. He has been put through the ringer and keeps coming back strong. To quote Indiana Jones “I’m like a bad penny I always turn up.” but how long will that hold out? On top of  the normal great Bucky Cap stories we get from Captain America issues we also get a Commander Steve Rogers back up story to replace the Nomad back up’s that had been in previous issues.Now ontocaptainamerica617 our previously scheduled review!

Captain America #617 puts you right in the action from the beginning as Bucky fights  Ursa Major (a giant Bear) in the Gulag in a gladiatorial arena of sorts. Bucky is not only fighting for his life but in many ways fighting for the respect of the other inmates in this prison. He is walking a fine line in order to stay alive. In many cases he is finding allies from his old days as Winter Soldier. In many ways this story is not unlike The Devil in Cell Block  D from Brubakers run on Dare Devil. I see a lot of similarities with the current storyline  as both Matt and Bucky seem to be atoning for something and they both have to walk that fine line while surrounded by former enemies. That is not to say this is the same exact story but you can tell this is possibly a theme that Brubaker likes exploring in his stories and he does it well. While Bucky is fighting his was through old Soviet  villains Commander Steve has Sharon and Black Widow digging through paperwork to uncover something that might clear his friends name enough to get him out of hot water. It wouldn’t be a good story if it was easy for them so lucky for us it becomes anything but easy and leaves us with more questions.

Not only are we treated with a great Bucky story but we also get a Commander Steve Super Soldier story as well! The interesting thing that Marvel has done with this book is they have made the creative decision to spotlight Steve Rogers  and show how his story is still affecting the regular Captain America story. It is a interesting idea and a welcome one as I still love Commander Steve and it makes far more sense than the Nomad story that was in each issue.

Brubaker is still weaving an interesting story  and it leaves me wanting more every issue. I love that idea of  linking a Commander Steve back up story to the main story and I LOVE Butch Guice’s work on this issue. I am a little perplexed as to why Butch didn’t do the whole issue  and why someone like Mitch Breitweiser is not doing the back up story as he did such an amazing job with the Captain America point -one issue that was put out. I am sure it has something to do with Butch’s work load but I would love to see either Steve Epting or Gabriel Hardman doing the main story while Butch Guice or Mitch Breitweiser handled the Commander Steve story. Alas though this is not a wish list of what Sheldon wants but rather a review of this issue so I digress.

Final Verdict: This issue is packed with so many different ideas your head will spin. You get a prison drama, a spy story and a Super Soldier thrown in for good measure. If you want a great Captain America book then look no further!

Sheldon Lee