When Captain America died last year, I went immediately into denial saying, "there's no way Cap is really dead." He'll be back. My second reaction was to begin imagining how he might return. I guess the guys at Marvel went through a similar process -- and then decided to publish all of those stories. Because now, instead of no Cap, we've got Caps comin' out our whazzoo. It's very much like the death of Superman. The minute he left us, he was replaced with a half dozen second rate Supermen.
Captain America was shot point blank by his secret agent girlfriend and I was still convinced that it wasn't enough to kill the Super Soldier. But in the weeks and months that followed, we were presented with evidence that seemed to confirm that Steve Rogers was definitely dead. Maybe the most amazing thing about Cap's death has been Brubaker's ability to keep Captain America's comic book alive and kickin' with its title character apparently pushin' up daisies (maybe, takin' a dirt nap on Boot Hill would be more appropriate than daisies).
Brubaker has done a lot more than just keep the spirit of Captain America alive. And he's had plenty of help from Marvel's best and brightest. As a matter of fact, Alex Ross, Brian Bendis, Jeph Loeb, Mark Millar, Matt Fraction, and Ed Brubaker have all had a hand in bringing back Captain America from the dead. So much so that we now have had at least nine appearances of Captain America since Steve Rogers was plugged full of lead. That's right. Nine.
Here they are in no particular order.
Captain America, the Corpse.
We've all seen this guy. It's supposedly the body of Steve Rogers, dead as a doornail. But is it really? Now that we've seen Captain America from Outer Space (see below), can we really be sure that Agent Carter didn't hypnotically ventilate the body of a Skrull imposter? This has my vote for how Marvel plans to return Steve Rogers to Marvel U continuity. But it's certainly not their only option.
Captain America from Outer Space.
Secret Invasion is Marvel's blockbuster event for the summer and Brian Bendis kicked us all in the brain balls with his show stopping scene at the end of issue 1. A space ship lands on Earth and is confronted by the New Avengers and the Mighty Avengers. When the space ship doors open up, who steps out? Marvel's Mightiest Heroes of the 1970s. Luke Cage sporting his tiara. Spider-Man with webbed armpits. Furry blue Beast before the catlike transformation. And Captain America. Over the course of the next couple of issues, it was revealed that some of these 70s throwbacks are the real McCoy (Hank?) while others are actually Skrulls. We've been told that this is Outer Space Cap is the real Cap but it hasn't been confirmed. Until then, here are some other options.
Captain America from the Invaders.
A little time traveling hocus-pocus, and Shazam! the Invaders from WWII are suddenly pulled from the past and thrust into the mixed up continuity of the present. Of course, the Invaders were a team of super heroes that included the Human Torch, Toro, The Sub-Mariner, Bucky, and Captain America. Now, with the wave of a magic wand (or magic keyboard as the case may be) and Voila!, the original Captain America/Steve Rogers is back. But is he here to stay? And how will he feel when he discovers that he's been assassinated by his girlfriend and replaced by his sidekick? If you thought Steve Rogers had problems before when he thought his sidekick died in an explosion and he had to adjust to contemporary American life, just imagine what it would be like to have this particular Invader's current blast of cold reality hitting you in the face.
Captain America, the Sidekick.
If you think for a second that the death of Captain America is the end of Captain America, witness Bucky Barnes. Long considered one of the few permanently dead characters in comics, Ed Brubaker did the unthinkable by bringing Bucky back from the grave to the applause of fans everywhere. Apparently Bucky Barnes was picked up by the Russians who brainwashed him, augmented his body with bionics, and transformed him into the world's most lethal assassin, the Winter Soldier. Thank goodness he was rehabilitated in time to fill the boots of his mentor. Today, Bucky Barnes IS Captain America. But I would be pretty surprised if Marvel left it that way. For one thing, they made sure they gave him a distinguishably different costume supposedly so that you can tell the difference between the real Cap and the Barnes Cap.
Captain America, the Punisher.
One of the first Marvel characters to pick up the mantle of Captain America was Frank Castle. Apparently Frank is a bit of a Captain America fanboy. Who knew? Anyway, soon after Cap's death, Frank decked himself out in his own version of Captain America's costume and set about Punishing criminals in his new guise. It's pretty hard to take seriously once you see the costume. But when it comes to effectively creating dramatic situations with tongue firmly placed in cheek, no one does it better than Matt Fraction, author of Punisher War Journal (and Iron Fist and Iron Man, too). Frank's not a real contender for the title of Captain America but he's been another one of the many Caps to hit the scene since Rogers' demise.
Captain America, the Archer.
Another huge fan of Captain America is Clint Barton, the man that used to be the Avenger named Hawkeye. I guess all those years of getting yelled at by Cap had the same effect as the Helsinki Syndrome. Anyway, not too long after Cap was put into cold storage, Tony Stark approached Clint Barton and asked him to take up the mantle of Captain America. After a brief tryout, Clint gave it up, admitting to Tony and himself that he was no Captain America. Too bad. He would've been my choice to put on the old stars and stripes in a world without Mr. Rogers.
Captain America, the Life Model Decoy (LMD).
One of our first glimpses of the posthumous Steve Rogers was in the pages of New Avengers, and seen through the astrally projected eyes of Doctor Strange. ("The coast is clear!" Yeah, right. Thanks Doc.) But alas, it was just a trap, as Wolverine confirmed later with his excellent super sense of smell. So who was that laying on the slab in the SHIELD morgue? A SHIELD LMD of course. As a matter of fact, if you wanted to get technical, Marvel is probably crawling with Captain Americas considering how many Cap LMDs SHIELD has made. As far as SHILED is concerned, you can never have too many Captain Americas around.
Captain America from the Fifties.
In a recent issue of Captain America, Agent Carter is digging around the Red Skull's lair when she comes across a Steve Rogers in a tube. By the next issue, we find out that this isn't Steve Rogers but instead some guy from the Fifties who was recruited to be Captain America's replacement while Steve was locked up in a block of ice somewhere in the Arctic Ocean. I guess, later this Cap replacement showed up and made trouble for the original Captain America who had been thawed out by then by the Avengers. Cap had to put this second rater down for whatever reason. And now the Red Skull has gotten his mitts on him and plans to make him the new Captain America. I'm sure Captain America the Sidekick will have something to say about that.
"Cap," the Earth Protecting Robot.
Probably the most unexpected Captain America appearance came in the pages of Mark Millar's Fantastic Four. In Millar's story, an old friend of Reed Richards has constructed a parallel Earth to be home to humans after our planet has been destroyed by our own pollution and neglect. To help make sure this new Earth will be safe from the ravishes of war, they invented "Cap," a very aggressive and effective robot designed to wipe out all military forces everywhere. "Cap" is a giant robot decorated to look a lot like like Captain America. When it accidentally ends up on the original Earth, "Cap" begins to fulfill its programming by going around the planet and destroying every military base on Earth. Eventually, Reed Richards puts the bot down 'cause "Cap" was programmed to never harm former boyfriends of his creator. Go figure.
So, as you can see, there's no shortage of Captain Americas. Quite the contrary. We have quite a glut. So the next time somebody decides to kill an A-lister like Batman, just relax. Chill out. It ain't nothin' to worry about. There are always plenty of skrulls, robots, time travelers, imposters, decoys, pacts with the devil, and sour seafood induced nightmares around to bring back any superhero from his (always) premature demise. Superheroes never die, they just get re-invented.