“Steve Rogers has come unstuck in time.”
Wait, don’t you mean Billy Pilgrim? Or the Losties? Mr. Brubaker, what is going on?
In March, 2007, Marvel Comics did the unthinkable, with no spoilers invading the internet until after the event happened: they killed an iconic comic book and pop-culture icon, one with almost 70 years of history. After the events of their Civil War, Marvel Comics did the ballsy thing and continued with their political allegories masquerading as “funny pages”; they made an overt political statement by killing the embodiment of “America” as a character. 2007 marked the beginning of the final stretch of a controversial presidency, and Steve Rogers acted as Marvel’s reaction. To Marvel Comics, the notion of America was dead.
There was no hype, like when Superman “died” at the hands of Doomsday or the banner running across Batman titles, telegraphing that he would be “RIP” (but HE’S unstuck in time, too! However, he’s just in a prehistoric cave. He’s not shifting in time).
But comic characters don’t stay dead. Just as we all know the Phoenix will once again rise in the pages of X-Men (or maybe in the third part of their Phoenix trilogy), we knew that America couldn’t be dead. I mean Captain America. CAPTAIN America. Is Marvel trying to tell readers that America is alive and kicking again? Is our great nation, now under a new president, hopeful? Will the economic crisis turn around, just as it (sort of) did in the run of Cap comics between Steve’s death and resurrection?
Who knows. But what we do know is that there remains a very clear precedent for this story. Kurt Vonnegut, the late, great American novelist, wrote words very similar to those in Captain America Reborn #1: “Listen: Billy Pilgrim has become unstuck in time.” What followed was a romp across Pilgrim’s life, as he relived events in kaleidoscopic fashion, shifting from one instant to one twenty years later, then four years prior, and then nine minutes later, constantly moving in a manifold-theory-esque movement across space and time.
Like Vonnegut, Brubaker presents events clearly, so there is no head scratching or beard stroking. It isn’t until the final pages that we see Steve as he shifts from soldier in World War II to scrawny youth at his mother’s funeral to soldier in a different battle of WWII. However, the story’s consistency throughout remains a priority, and because the writer of this limited series wrote Steve’s “death” and every issue of the current 50-plus run of Cap comics, there was not ret-conning involved. Brubaker left the door open for Steve’s return from the get-go.
With the idea that Sharon Carter is his constant, Lost becomes another clear allusion in this series. Some recent internet chatter has claimed that Brubaker is an intellectual property thief, but I am inclined to disagree. The cannon of science fiction, as I suppose is the category with which you would lump superhero comics, has always benefited from authors using other authors’ seeds of ideas and taking them in different directions. In fact, all literature is privy to this sharing of ideas. To me, a comic of this caliber and quality NEEDS to pay homage to its literary predecessors. Slaughterhouse-Five needs to be referenced almost verbatim for this story to keep its merit. This story needs to be told because America needs its symbol of heroism back, and really any excuse for Bryan Hitch to draw Captain America needs to be taken advantage of. Check out his art:
So, yes, Brubaker probably meant to reference Vonnegut, and might have intentionally referenced Lost, though he says that’s a coincidence. Whatever the case may be, this series is great so far, and this rebirth is necessary for fans.
America needs Captain America. Thanks to Vonnegut, America will get Cap back! Poo-tee-weet?