Orchestral Suite From The Inner Light by Jay Chattaway
When Stevie Was Dead: Part II: On The Hunt
Continuing the compilation of the "Death of Captain America" mega-arc. Previously, Steve got shot; where do things do from there?
The next issue of Captain America, #26, focusses on the various wakes being held for Steve.
Jeph Loeb's Fallen Son miniseries had the actual funeral, but that's not particularly important for our purposes (or Brubaker's; he specifically said in interviews he wasn't interested in lingering on that sort of thing, and only alludes to Sam's allegedly great eulogy, which Loeb depicts; fortunately, Loeb's written eulogy is in fact quite good, and the issue in question by far the best thing he's written in quite a while).
On their way to one, Sharon talks with the Contessa (Nick Fury's old flame), and mentions having an argument with Tony Stark previously about Steve's body.
Sharon quits SHIELD thereafter.
Though it may not be especially evident here, Brubaker earns major points from me for being one of the few writers of this particular period to understand that Tony wasn't a cackling supervillain.
Speaking of which:
The New Avengers (plus Patriot, Hawkeye II, and Night Nurse) hold their own wake, away from the official one.
Falcon makes the rounds, attending all of them, and is finally called away to look into a bar fight (since he's now a registered hero). The bar fight happens to involve Bucky Barnes, who overheard some guys badmouthing Cap, and decided to beat the crap out of them:
I shudder to think what JMS would have done with this story.
Anyhoo, next issue, Bucky's on the hunt for Steve's shield, which he discovers is not actually on display in the Smithsonian, but in a super-secret location, and he has to flush it out.
Elsewhere, Sharon contemplates the sweet release of death:
I like how she's trying to shoot herself in such a way so that most of the blood, etc. will tidily collect in the bath tub.
The man in question, Bucky, pulls a Xanatos by breaking into a SHIELD facility in such a way as to clue Tony into the fact that he's after the SHIELD, which prompts Tony to order to SHIELD moved from its current location to a more secure one, which, of course, is what Bucky wants, because that's how he can get to it. He wonders who Tony would trust to guard such a property in transit, and finds it's his old pal Natasha Romanova, the Black Widow.
They fight for a bit, but are pretty evenly matched. Bucky unleashes his secret weapon: hair-pulling.
He wins, eventually, and gets away with the shield; Sam and Sharon turn up at the scene, and head after his trail.
Back at SHIELD:
Natasha tells Tony that Bucky is going to try and kill him, and that he should be very concerned.
Meanwhile, Crossbones, Cap's killer, is still in SHIELD custody, and Tony brings in Professor X to mindscan him.
This is another little touch I really give Brubaker credit for, because in "street" books like this it's easier to ignore the more fantastic powersets when they'd get in the way of storytelling. Even when this series has a time machine involved, there's a certain "realistic" sensibility. But he has Tony do what Tony logically would do, and call Charles in for help, and works a logical way around it.
Natasha isn't having any luck finding Bucky; nor are Sam and Sharon.
On the subject of Sharon not trusting SHIELD:
And his putative target, Iron Man, after dismissing a SHIELD agent who thinks there should be a new Captain America, gets a message that a lawyer is here to see him with something from Steve.
When I say Brubaker writes a proper Iron Man, this is the sort of scene I mean.
Elsewhere, the Red Skull's new enforcers, the Serpent Squad, led by his daughter Sin, run rampant. They raid the NYSE to cause some economic trouble, and then...
Of note, that last panel there is probably the most gratuitous pose in this entire run, which, by wider comics standards, is pretty tame. This series has great art.
Sin makes good on her pledge.
Also, this scene.
Bucky returns to Kronas Corporation, which is run by General Lukin, his old boss when he was evil, and, unbeknownst to anyone, the current host of the Red Skull's mind (they timeshare; previously they were arch-enemies, so nobody suspects the connection).
Sam and Sharon and still on Bucky's trail, and raid an AIM facility in search of information.
Sharon has a bad acid trip back to killing Steve...
Natasha spots them leaving, and realizes that they're working the same case.
Bucky surprises General Lukin.
Bucky fights Sin and Crossbones, while Lukin/Skull laughs and puts on his mask. Having beaten them, he is about to kill Crossbones, when the Skull interjects that he never thought that Steve would've considered cold-blooded murder an option.
Oops again. Red Skull sends Bucky off to Dr. Faustus for some shrink-wrapping.
Remember when Sharon threw up earlier?
On the subject of unexpected visitors, Sam gets one in his apartment.
Last panel: isn't she just adorable?
While this is going on, SHIELD finds the dead body of the man Faustus has been impersonating, and Tony pieces the whole thing together. He calls Natasha to warn her.
Not only is Iron Man not a one-dimensional villain, he actually gets to be heroic here too!