CAPTAIN AMERICA, he of the pecs made of pure patriotism, slings his shield on the big screen this month in Captain America: The First Avenger. But if Seattle’s Ed Brubaker—who took over as the comic’s primary writer in 2005—hadn’t resuscitated the once-stale superhero, that trip to Hollywood might never have happened. Here are three of Brubaker’s most innovative books.
Winter Soldier 2005
Brubaker went mavericky in his first Cap storyline by spotlighting a secondary character: After WWII, the Russians abduct the red, white, and blue dude’s best friend, Bucky Barnes, brainwash him, and rewire him as a covert Soviet assassin. “Before Ed took over the title, it was about hollow stories that focused on Cap,” says Shane Ziemer, owner of Atomic Comics. “But most heroes are defined by their supporting cast and how they react to the character.”
Red Menace 2006
At heart, Brubaker has always been a crime writer; Incognito, the non–Captain America pulp series he began writing in 2008, was optioned by Twentieth Century Fox. And he manages to take a bit of the goody-two-shoes shine off of Cap’s shield here, as he pits the superhero against a corrupt corporate titan. “Brubaker took noir and added an espionage flair,” says Casey Silvia, a clerk at Zanadu Comics. “It’s less of a superhero book and more of an action-adventure thing.”
The Death of Captain America 2007–08
Brubaker made national news by offing the icon in a decidedly unsuperheroic way: Cap is gunned down by a sniper while on trial for refusing to reveal his secret identity. “Not only is the story arc compelling, but Ed also wrote it in a way that made it very real,” says Jim Demonakos, director of Emerald City Comic Con. “It seems like it could actually take place, even with these comic book tropes.”