This Fourth of July, it seems only fitting that there be a list of recommended Captain America trade paperbacks (TPB) for everyone to read post-movie. But what, if anything, are you specifically looking for? Want to see more of Cap and how he works on a team? Want to see more of Steve and Bucky together? Want to just know more about Steve and what makes him tick? Hopefully one or more the following titles will help quench your star-shaped thirst this summer!
Captain America: Man Out of Time by Mark Waid
This is a great title for anyone who wants to read a more recent version of Steve Rogers’ backstory. Getting your hands on issues of Captain America’s original defrosting origin tale circa 1964 (a little over twenty years after his first introduction) would be next to impossible – not to mention your wallet would probably grow a pair of hands and strangle you for it – but luckily Mark Waid has written a great retelling of Cap’s introduction into the modern age.
Man Out of Time is a very strong story about how Steve went from being the poster boy for America, the guy that everyone knew, loved, and needed, to someone that America has all but forgotten about. There’s no need for Captain America in the 21st century, so how does Steve react to all of that? How does he react to a post-WWII society, to the historical events and people he missed? Waid explores all of that and more in this mini-series.
For anyone walking out of movie theaters itching to read more about the friendship between Steve and his friend Bucky Barnes, Man Out of Time really hits home. One of the main driving forces behind Steve’s actions in the modern era is his unwavering desire to go back in time to the forties so he can be with Bucky again, whom he found out died. A world without his best friend isn’t a world he wants to be in, so Steve has his heart set on going back in time to save Bucky. And not for nothing, but if the last few pages of Man Out of Time doesn’t make you feel like you got punched in the chest, you’re probably not human.
Captain America: Winter Soldier Ultimate Collection by Ed Brubaker
As you might’ve guessed by the title, this is the arc where the Winter Soldier is first introduced. Up until 2005, when the issues were first published, Bucky Barnes was presumed dead. That is, of course, until Brubaker decided to bring him back to life as the mysterious Soviet assassin known to the intelligence community as the Winter Soldier (let’s face it: nobody really stays dead in comics anyway, unless your name is Ben Parker).
Ask anyone who reads Cap comics and they’ll tell you that this arc with the Winter Soldier is a must-read if you want to expand your knowledge of Cap’s universe past what the movies reveal, especially in terms of his relationship with Bucky. Heck, that iconic line “Who the hell is Bucky?” came verbatim from the pages of the Winter Soldier arc.
But instead of a rehash of what the film showed, the Ultimate Collection really goes in-depth in terms of how Steve reacts to the identity of the Soldier. There’s a lot of heartbreak and angst to be had in these pages. It also expands his friendship with Sam Wilson (the Falcon) and his on-again-off-again romance with Sharon Carter (Agent 13), broadening Steve’s world past the whole “hero who doesn’t know his place in the world” storyline. In the Ultimate Collection, Steve has established friendships and relationships that help his character grow past the stereotype of ‘good old-fashioned American citizen.’ Goodness, after all, isn’t always boring, and this collection exemplifies that to the fullest extent.
If you want to read the arc that the recent movie pulled from, or if you’re interested in learning more about how Steve handles emotional challenges in the modern age, the Winter Soldier Ultimate Collection is a very good investment.
Captain America: The Death of Captain America by Ed Brubaker
I know what you’re probably thinking: why the hell are you recommending an arc where Captain America dies? Relaaaax, I’ve got you covered, which is why I’m recommending yet another Ed Brubaker-written arc.
Yes, it’s true, Steve Rogers does indeed die at the hands of… well, that’s a spoiler for sure. But the great thing about comics is that another person can always take up the mantle, or in this case the shield, and carry on in the deceased’s place. And seeing as this is a list of recommended readings for Captain America and not just Steve Rogers, it’s required of me to endorse an arc where Bucky Barnes picks up the shield and dons the stars and stripes.
That’s not all that happens in this arc, though. The Death of Captain America deals with the fallout of Steve’s assassination. How does Sam Wilson handle the news, not only of Steve’s demise, but of who killed him? How does Natasha Romanoff, the Black Widow, fit into all of this, and how does she help try to minimize the damage? How does Tony Stark try to salvage what he can of the crisis, and how can he carry out Steve’s wish that he watch out for Bucky when Bucky himself seems to blame Tony for Steve’s death in the first place?
Sound dramatic? Of course it does – it’s a Marvel title. But it’s a dramatic arc that really does wonders for the characters and their development as they navigate the murky waters of a world without Steve Rogers in it. The Death of Captain America exemplifies how Captain America isn’t just a person: he’s an ideal, a symbol to look up to. Even if the man beneath the mask dies, that doesn’t mean the ideal dies with him.
All-New Invaders, Vol. 1: Gods and Soldiers by James Robinson
You’re going to have to wait a bit for this TPB, as it doesn’t come out until August 12, but this is a fun book for anyone who wants to see Steve Rogers as part of a team. Sure, you still have your Avengers comics, but the Invaders are a really cool group, and writer James Robinson has done a solid job of updating them for the modern age.
The Invaders team originally banded together and fought in WWII. They were America’s leading team of superheroes at the time and by god if we weren’t all excited at the idea of a bunch of superhumans kicking the Axis powers from here to kingdom come. Made up of Captain America, Bucky, the original Human Torch Jim Hammond, his sidekick Toro, and Namor the Sub-Mariner, the Invaders were very much rooted in their WWII history as forces of good against the threat of Nazism.
So how do you update an age-old team for contemporary audiences? You bring in aliens, of course. In the first volume of the current series All-New Invaders, the Kree Empire’s best hunter Tanalth touches down on earth with the intention of finding the pieces to an ancient device that the original Invaders dealt with during their WWII glory days.
Thus, the gang is back (minus Toro, which could be a bummer to those looking forward to a full-fleshed reunion), and the threat is intergalactic and cosmic in size. Still, with such a wide arena to play in, this first volume does a good job of showcasing each Invader’s skill set and getting you to root for each of them in turn – yes, even Namor. If you haven’t been introduced to the original incarnation of the Invaders, or if you want to see how Cap works in a team that isn’t the Avengers, or both of the above, this is a solid arc. Bonus: All-New Invaders is still ongoing, so if you liked Gods and Soldiers, there’s plenty more adventures on the way!
Captain America: Reborn by Ed Brubaker
Okay, so in case it hasn’t been obvious yet, the basic gist of this whole list of recommendations is that if you stick to anything Ed Brubaker writes, you’ll be safe.
Captain America: Reborn picks up after Steve’s death in The Death of Captain America. His friends and allies are on the hunt for Steve’s body (how did it even vanish? Oooh, mystery) and there’s still an air of uncertainty surrounding the circumstances of his demise. In this TPB, science fiction meets action thriller meets noir as more familiar faces pop up left and right. You’ve got heroes like Clint Barton, Hank Pym, and Reed Richards getting involved, as well as villains like the Red Skull, Norman Osborn, and Arnim Zola plotting something sinister behind closed doors.
What this arc does really well is give us a new version of Steve Rogers’ ‘rebirth’ into the world and how he deals with the fallout of what his death brought on everyone. How does he handle the changes his friends and the world have gone through in the time he hasn’t been there? How does he balance the past with the present to prepare for his future? One of the things Brubaker does really well in all his Cap issues is the use of flashbacks, and there are plenty in Captain America: Reborn to keep readers, new and old, satisfied.
Part thriller, part character study, this TPB is a great dessert after the meal that is The Death of Captain America.
Captain America: First Vengeance by Fred Van Lente
So let’s say you’ve seen all the Marvel movies, you love them, but you’re not sure if you’re ready to dive into the messy ocean of comic books just yet. Fair enough. Luckily for you, Captain America: First Vengeance is a great prequel mini-series for the film Captain America: The First Avenger. It’s a fantastic way for new comic fans to get their feet wet without having to jump right into the deep end without a floatie to hold onto.
This is backstory heaven for those who want to know more about the events leading up to the film. How did Steve and Bucky first meet? What’s really going on with HYDRA and what are they all about? How did Peggy Carter get so involved in the super soldier project? Any lingering questions you had left over from the film are probably answered, or at least touched upon, in this miniseries. It’s always fun seeing the characters you already know and watching how they all came together before the film reel started rolling, not to mention the interactions that Steve has with his friends are fun and smile-inducing. Seriously, if you don’t like Steve Rogers by this point, there’s no hope, my friend.
The story jumps between past and present (‘present’ being during the war) which can be unnerving for some readers, but Van Lente manages to make each flip-flop through time relevant and important. The scenes are sewn together very well and help you make emotional connections to the characters and the events on the page if you weren’t already connected to them before. The miniseries also subtly ties in some of the elements that the Phase One movies laid out on the road to the Avengers film (read: you’ll learn that Asgardian tech is pretty cool), proving that even in the forties, chips were falling into place that would become essential in the future.
Gabby Taub, the Fantasy Reviewer at Girls in Capes, is a senior at New York University studying creative writing. She enjoys reading, writing, watching TV, and spending time getting lost among the bookshelves at Strand Bookstore.
She’s a bit of a Bucky fan – she’s written about Bucky Barnes as an orphan storyline as well as his relationship with Natasha Romanov in the comics. Recently, she’s reviewed Soulless, Snowblind, and The Shining Girls.