When Stevie Was Dead: Part I: Heroes Divided, Villains United
In the Great Exodus from Livejournal to our current homeland, many a precious memory was lost; among them, the entirety of the "The Death of Captain America" mega-arc. Since that was probably the most widely-publicized comics storyline of the decade, not to mention one of the best, I decided to get around to reposting the thing for posterity.
Ed Brubaker's whole run is really one big story, but the stuff really pertinent to "The Death of Captain America" begins in #22, the first Civil War tie-in (CW being the storyline which prompted Brubaker to change or move up certain elements he'd had in mind to make the current story). The crux of the issue is Cap's girlfriend Sharon Carter, SHIELD Agent, struggling between her job and her boyfriend, with the framing device of Sharon speaking to a SHIELD psychiatrist.
Maria Hill orders her to honey-trap that sucker:
They argue over registration stuff, and this is one of the better depictions of the argument in terms of not making the pro-Regs neo-conservative fascist strawmen, but it's not particularly relevant, so we'll skip ahead. Sharon totally fails to turn Steve in, hence being sent for an eval.
Aw, he seems like a nice guy.
This is Doctor Faustus, classic psychological manipulator, in his first appearance in quite a while.
Incidentally, pretty much since this issue was first published I've thought the Captain America movies, whenever they get around to solo adventures for Steve in the present-day, should definitely do a variant on this reveal. Have Steve seeing a psychologist as part of his adjustment to the 21st century, played by a fairly anonymous bit actor (ideally, use these sequences as a frame for flashbacks), and then...tada.
Anyway, next issue is focussed on Bucky, Cap's former sidekick, now working for Nick Fury. Bucky raids a SHIELD facility looking for a MacGuffin, and comes across:
Nick promises to keep tabs on it, but he evidently does a pretty shitty job (not that he didn't have a lot going on in this period).
Incidentally, that "Baron of Iron" thing is a lingering plot point Brubaker introduced in the middle of his Cap run, and he's hinted that he'll revisit that story at some point (and also that we'll see Doom again in the pages of this title at some undetermined time, from what I understand).
In the final Civil War tie-in, Cap goes on a mission to raid an AIM facility, looking for information on the Red Skull, who, unbeknownst to him, is now sharing a body with General Lukin, the head of Kronas Corporation (thanks to a cosmic cube). Cap fights some AIM guys, then some capekillers, and is rescued by Sharon (using the MacGuffin that Bucky retrieved for Fury last issue).
Love that classic hand gesture at the end there; very old-school evil.
So that's our main villain cabal: Red Skull/Lukin, Dr. Faustus, and Dr. Zola (evil mad scientist).
Civil War ends, as we all know, and Cap is being taken to the federal courthouse for arraignment. Sharon and Bucky are present as part of a plan by 'ol Nick to spring Cap, but they never get to that, as Steve spots a sniper aiming at one of his guards (the sniper is Crossbones, the Skull's top minion):
And the page that was (not undeservedly) reproduced in a thousand newspaper articles and blog posts (not to mention other comics):
Brubaker talked a lot in interviews about how he based this on his observation that America's big icons (JFK and MLK being two examples) tended to just be BANG! gone.
Bucky and Falcon go after Crossbones, and apprehend him, while the Skull's evil daughter, Sin (Crossbones' girlfriend), watches from a distance.
Steve is taken to hospital, but he dies.
This whole sequence has been the fan equivalent of the Zapruder film, as you might imagine, with arguments over whether the guns depicted in the two versions match up, if she actually did it, etc.
One of the things I really like about this story within wider continuity is that it gives the Red Skull a really tangible win for once. For all his being Cap's top villain, there's been a weird tendency for most of the really major blows to Cap through the years to be delivered by other villains. I once read a fan argument that, really, Cap's archnemesis should be the Zemos, since Zemo Sr. 'killed' Bucky, and Zemo Jr. had the whole "Under Siege" thing, including the famous memento-destruction that reduced Cap to tears even after he'd won. Also, when Sharon 'died', it was Faustus who was responsible.
Anyway, that's the kickoff, and it's quite a doozy.