Well folks, the big day is here! After a long wait (which didn’t feel all that long) Nick Spencer and Daniel Acuna’s SAM WILSON, CAPTAIN AMERICA #1 hits comic stores! After several disappointing interpretations, I’ve been hesitant to let myself get too psyched about new Captain America books, but something about the way writer Nick Spencer talked about his vision for Cap made me optimistic, albeit cautiously so. In interviews, Spencer promised us a new direction for Cap and his team with a lot of words being thrown around like “upbeat” and “fun”, but how well did all this translate into the book? Is Sam Wilson finally getting the respect he deserves as Cap, or are we just going to retread old ground again? Let’s take a look.
*Interesting note- The cover of the comic has this book titled “Sam Wilson, Captain America” while the copyright page has it as “Captain America: Sam Wilson”. I’m sticking with the cover iteration, but feel free to tell me I’m wrong.
The book starts out with Sam on a plane trying to cram the iconic shield into an overhead compartment, which should pretty much set the tone for you- this is not the super-serious Captain America comics we’ve had the past 10+ years. Far from it. From the very first page you can tell we are about to embark on a strange and slightly quirky Cap adventure, something that reminds me of reading Steve Rogers back in the late 80’s/early 90’s back when he and Diamondback were running around making friends with mummies. We are treated to an often humorous narration by Sam which helps lighten the mood in some scenes which would be otherwise sort of depressing, allowing us to vibe with the optimistic nature of the main character and gives us all the more reason to route for the good guy. The overall feel of the book is the same- even the newly introduced bad guys have a certain humor to them while still being able to remain intimidating. I’ve never read anything by Spencer before, but I’ve been told that his ability to use humor in such a casual manor is one of his strengths. After reading this book I have to agree. It’s not overly cheesy humor, nor is being shoved in our faces that they are trying to be funny. The jokes felt very natural and at least twice while reading it I found myself chuckling out loud.
The story moves along at a brisk pace and does a good job of keeping us engaged. Nick Spencer acts quickly to sever the ties between Captain America and S.H.I.E.L.D., closing off the “Cap vs. HYDRA” chapter we’ve been dragging through since Captain America: The First Avenger. Looks like we’re finally ready to move on to something new, and that “something new” is Sam taking a political stance in hopes to unite a divided nation, but resulting only in uniting the nation against Captain America. Sam is now on the outs with Steve’s old benefactors and is left to fend for himself as a superhero in a world where not even Captain America can afford to buy gas for his car (or jet. Whatever.) Without the financial support of government backing, Sam is going to have a rough time living up to the standards set by the previous wielder of the shield- a task that will surely get our new Cap into some ridiculous situations that harken back to the early days of Spider-Man. In many regards, this felt like a solid superhero comic and reminded us that Captain America is more than a member of the Avengers. Sam is a Cap who can stand on his own, and if the end of the issue is any indication, he is sure going to have his work cut out for him.
Luckily, though, Sam isn’t going to have to go it solo. Like all good Captain Americas (all…both…same thing) Sam has a team of supporting characters to get his back when he needs it. We already saw him trade googly eyes with Misty Knight during “All New Captain America” so it’s no surprise that she returns as Sam’s love interest/sidekick. The big shock for me, a very pleasant shock, was the inclusion of Dennis “Demolition” Dunphy, the D-Man, as the final member of Cap’s trio. If I remember correctly, D-Man was brainwashed by HYDRA and became the new Scourge of the Underworld before being fatally wounded by Sharon Carter. I’m not sure how he survived, and quite honestly I don’t care. I’m just happy to see one of Steve’s old running crew back in the game, and he even sports a spiffy new look which makes him, to paraphrase Dunphy himself, “finally look cool!”
D-Man’s new look is provided by artist Daniel Acuna, who is another creative mind I have had no previous exposure to. Acuna’s bright and cheery art really helps guide the direction of this book, and his panels are easy to follow from one to the next, meaning that new readers shouldn’t get too confused. Both action scenes in the book are pretty standard, but they aren’t overly showy or complicated so even though they are short, they are still fun to look at.
The only area where I felt the book suffered a bit was the heavy-handed way Nick Spencer used Sam as a Barrack Obama stand-in. We got it the first time it was brought up, Nick. You don’t need to bathe us in it. But since I tend to shy away from any political topics, I’m not going to get into it any more than that. I guess in that way I’m a little like Steve Rogers.
Overall I felt that Sam Wilson, Captain America #1 was, well, fun and upbeat- a welcomed change from the other recent titles starring our favorite Star-Spangled Avenger. I’m really excited to see where we go from here and I’m curious how Sam and Steve are going to interact next issue. I don’t normally rate things, but if I had to, I’d give SWCA#1 a solid 93%- the same as Redwing’s approval rating.