After the ups and downs of our new Cap book, the first story arc of Captain America: Sam Wilson draws to a close. Just 6 issues in and we can see Nick Spencer has a writing style all his own which gives us a fresh new take on the adventures of the Shielded One. It’s quirky, and humorous, and, as we’re about to realize in this issue, has nothing at all to do with the main character.
The last two months of the book I complained about Spencer using Sam Wilson, our shiny new Captain America, as more of a prop than an actual hero. He spent more time as a target of ridicule, a werewolf, and then a paralyzed werewolf than he did anything else. But, see, I’m optimistic. I knew that Sam would pull an ace out of his sleeve before this arc was over- after all, it’s his book, right? Well, let’s take a look.
We pick up where we left off last month- Sam is an immobile werewolf tied to a chair and thrown out a window. At the last second his new buddy, Joaquin, swoops in to save him from being the world’s furriest street pizza, but the momentum sends them both tumbling to the ground just as the Serpent Squad closes in for the kill.
As we should be used to by now, Viper, leader of the Society, starts up with his high-horse speeches before ordering his team to attack the new Falcon and the statuesque Cap-wolf. Cap tells Joaquin to run, and run he does as the entire Serpent Society chases him through the bustling streets of NYC.
Then we get a few panels of in-your-face social and political commentary. Because so far the themes were too subtle (?), and Spencer wants to make sure you get it. We jump back to Joaquin who is fighting for his life against an army of snakes when Sam gambles on an unusual, though kinda neat, strategy- he is going to use the psychic connection he has with Joaquin (thanks in part to Redwing) to help the scrappy little guy fight off his attackers.
Quickly the fight turns in favor of Joaquin, who looks an awful lot like Machine Man with wings, thanks to art by Joe Bennett. Then some more social and political commentary. Because it’s funny. I guess. Anyway, Joaquin seems to be gaining the upper hand until, as Sam points out via narration, the Serpents’ sheer numbers are able to overpower the little guy. He goes down hard and Cottonmouth is quick to step in and chomp off poor ol’ Falcon’s face. Ouch. Then more commentary. Not even good commentary. Just heavy-handed “it’s not just about super heroes, kids!” stuff.
Sam has all but given up, what with being a paralyzed pound puppy, as the Society moves in to finish him off when suddenly Joaquin comes to the rescue! His genetic manipulation a few issues ago also provided him with regenerative powers, meaning that the writers can phone it in any time this character is in danger! God, I’m so sick of regeneration powers. Such a lazy writing device.
Anyway, Mr. I-Will-Never-Die starts to fend off the slithering enemies when Diamondback, who had been sort of hitting the sidelines this entire issue, decides she’s had enough and swaps sides, helping Joaquin fight off his attackers. Why she couldn’t have decided this earlier and saved Joaquin from Cottonmouth I have no idea. Would have saved me a facepalm over healing factors, but whatever.
Suddenly the lovely Misty Knight makes her entrance with a sexy “get away from her, you bitch!” kind of pose. Now things are getting good! Oh, wait. She just stands there? She doesn’t fight? Oh. Well…uh…at least she looks good?
Now overcrowded with characters who, aside from the Serpent Society, Joaquin and Diamondback, are doing absolutely nothing, the book is digging around for direction. Maybe if we hadn’t spent time with all the damn commentary, we could have had some character development, or more time for the climatic action scene. Something.
But, see here’s where things get either better or worse depending on your perspective. There’s just so many characters with a whole lotta nothing happening that the book needs something to further the plot. Viper finally decides that its time to finish off Captain America, and moves in for the killing blow, ranting and being creepy as ever when he hears a faint sound. Enter D-Man driving a chain gun toting buggy, blasting Creedence on the stereo. He simply drives in and runs everyone over, saving the day. And you know what? I’m ok with that. At least they did something with D-Man for the first time in 6 issues, and unlike bringing Misty into this “final showdown”, good ol’ Dennis was actually useful. GTA style useful.
Then some more stupid commentary. Could have been three panels of fighting. Just saying.
In the midst of all the Dunphy-driven chaos, Viper takes the opportunity to slither away, but is abruptly stopped by by a shield to the face! Finally Cap does something! And it was off-screen! Sigh. We go three issues now where Sam, the main character of our book, has done next to nothing. He’s been the equivalent of a talking MacGuffin, I just can’t help but wonder if that will show to be a huge misstep on Spencer’s part. But I digress.
We get some final “shoved down your throat” commentary about corporate America, greed, and how it’s currently a necessary evil. Cap arrests both Viper (and I would assume the rest of the Society) as well as some big business honcho who was using the “Serpent Solutions” development package. Instead of being regarded as a hero for, as Sam puts it, “Taking on the Serpent Society and some of the most powerful men on the planet”, even though all he did was get beaten, tied to a chair, and eventually wake up to arrest some people, the media decides to focus on him meeting up with Diamondback at the strip club a few issues back. That part was actually kinda funny- Fal-Cap-Wolf-Pig. Just imagine Al Gore saying it.
We close out the story with the official introduction of Joaquin as the new Falcon. He poses in his costume which harkens back to Sam’s original green outfit from the early days, and while I appreciate the throwback, I don’t really know how I feel about the bare-chest look. I’m sure it’ll grow on me though, as I found Joaquin to be one of the more enjoyable aspects of this story, if you don’t count the stupid regeneration thing.
Assuming you’ve made it this far, I think you know where I stand with this issue. Overall the story was good, but everyone knows a bad ending can ruin a great story. Luckily this last issue wasn’t terrible, just very weak. Hopefully Spencer takes it easy on the political satire in the next arc. I don’t mind it as an undertone- I mean, all the best Cap books have had some sort of commentary on something in the social or political climate, but it just felt like there was too much in this last issue. To paraphrase the Robot Devil: “You can’t just go around having your story announce how it feels! It lacks subtlety! That makes me feel angry!”