With Steve's return to Earth, Remender does a great job of establishing Steve's new status quo. He answers the most important question, informing us that Steve did spend 12 years in Dimension Z, though also letting us know that the Super-Soldier Serum prevented him from aging normally during that time. He also confirms the full extent of Steve's injuries (as unbelievable as they are, given that he confirms that Steve has been doing everything in these last few issues with a Zola-sized hole in his chest.) Moreover, we know that Steve considers both Ian and Sharon to be dead, giving us a sense of the incredible grief that he must be experiencing. After just the first few pages, we understand the full spectrum of mental and physical trauma that Steve has to overcome as a result of his time in Dimension Z.
That said, the answer that we don't get is how Steve will overcome that trauma. The reason isn't because Remender is remiss in showing us that process; it's because Remender understands Steve well enough to know that he himself has no idea how to do it. In a worrisome sign, Steve goes beyond just refusing assistance here; he's actively trying to keep people from knowing the full scope of his trauma, given that he and Jet have colluded to keep Ian's existence a secret. Remender does a great job of showing how everyone -- Bruce Banner, "Nick Fury," Maria Hill, Hank Pym -- defers to Steve to such an extent that it doesn't even dawn on them to refuse his request to return to work as quickly as possible. I kept waiting for the Falcon to arrive to suggest that Steve might not be in a place where he gets to make a decision about his best course of treatment. The fact that he goes home and burns all his possession to sever his link to his past is probably a good sign that he's not doing so well, mentally.
That said, something also feels right about that moment. After all, burning all his artifacts from the Second World War shows that Cap's time in Dimension Z eclipses that experience, at least to a certain extent. In a way, Remender is clearly trying to make Steve a more modern character. He keeps him as a man struggling in a time that he doesn't recognize, but it's now not because Frank Sinatra isn't at the top of the charts. Steve is completely forced to reconcile the experiences of one period of his life with the experiences in the time where he finds himself. In Brubaker's most recent run on this series, Cap was portrayed as struggling with the disillusionment that he felt over the political discourse in the 2010s, with an implicit parallel to the similar discourse from the 1940s. I was never really a fan of that parallel, since it seems too simple. In a way, Remender goes after it in his portrayal of Steve's youth, since an orphan of Steve's young age living in Depression-era New York would certainly be able to cope with the fact that America didn't always manage to deliver on its promises. By burning all his artifacts, Steve is somehow acknowledging that Depression-era New York, Nazi Germany, and Dimension Z all inform who he is, but he has to find out who he is in 2013 America. At this point, he has his mother's exhortation to always stand up and a shield. The rest is now an open book. If Remender brings Cap to a good place at the end of his run, it'll be a Cap who embraces his optimism that America will always deliver, based not only on those past experience but also on the experiences he has after his return from Dimension Z. In a way, it'll be a repudiation of Brubaker's Cap, who struggled to find that optimism in a politically polarized world.
Of course, he could also just go crazy. I think it would actually be interesting for Remender to explore this idea, similar to the road that Brubaker took with the Winter Soldier upon his return. It's pretty easy to see Steve break, driven mad by being displaced from place and time to such an extent that he has no cultural, ethical, or political moorings; 2010s America might as well be 2110s America, because his experience in that iceberg and Dimension Z have robbed him of any frame of reference. Maybe sometimes you just can't always stand up, even if you're Captain America. I actually hope that Remender takes us down that road for a while, because I think it'll mean more when we find ourselves in the place of optimism that we all hope we'll eventually see.
Anyway, the fact that I've written this much about this issue shows just how incredible I think what Remender is doing with Cap is. I can't wait to see where you go from here.