Been a while, I know. Life kinda got ahead of me for a bit, but I just had to stop in for a minute, because I feel like a Star Wars fan when the prequel trilogy came out. Wtf?
A year ago, while talking with a friend, I said, “I should never be allowed to write a Captain America comic. The first thing I would do is bring back the Serpent Society, and I’m pretty sure that’s a really stupid idea.”
Turns out I was wrong- so far it’s an absolutely fantastic idea. Though I’m certain my story still would have been bad.
OK, so I realize I’m a bit behind on my Cap reviews. The holidays came ’round and beat me face up pretty bad, so I’ve been waiting for things to die down. Now that they have, and with issue #6 right around the corner, I have some catching up to do. No time like the present.
Captain America: Sam Wilson #4 comes out swinging as a ballsy “hot topic” type of story. Yes, it’s one that is coated to look like a super hero comic, but like many Cap stories that came before it, we are clearly going to get some controversial points thrown across while reading it. This is, of course, something that writer Nick Spencer has shown us he knows how to handle.
We have super villains in the form of the newly revived Serpent Society (or Serpent Solutions, as they are calling themselves now) who are pretty much pimping themselves out to high-paying corporations, doing the “dirty work” so the companies can reap the rewards without getting involved. In a world where heroes and villains wander the streets on the regular, kind of seems like this would be a logical step. I mean, getting a costumed criminal to do illegal things for legal reasons…I’m actually surprised it took this long to get here.
The snakes are lead in their new venture by the original ringleader of this circus- Viper. No, not Madam Hydra. The guy she killed. Yep, somehow, some way the original Viper, Jordan Stryke, is back and he’s as sleazy as he’s ever been. The former ad man is pulling the strings behind the Society, and man he is good at being evil. In the previous issue I had a problem with Spencer making his villains too jokey, but I can safely say Viper doesn’t follow that same pattern. Yeah, he’s funny, but in a creepy serial killer kind of way. Like if you don’t laugh, well, you’re pretty much dead. Viper is definitely presented as a viable threat, even he though he doesn’t do any of the dirty work himself. Huh, seems to be something to that.
Now I know what you’re all thinking- don’t I normally whine about “retreading old characters”? Well yeah, usually, but I’ve really missed the Serpents and they are so freaking awesome that i want more of them. I’m allowed to be a hypocrite. Shut up.
Besides, we haven’t seen them in years, especially Viper who’s been dead since forever ago. And I’m glad to see characters like Rachael, aka Diamondback doing something again, even if it’s not really what you’d have thought. If her story doesn’t break your heart then you’re a monster and I hate you.
To be honest my only major gripe with this issue was that Sam Wilson, our titular hero, doesn’t get that much attention. He’s still a giant wolf, and obviously he’s the main character, but this is very much the Serpent Society’s issue. Which, again, isn’t a bad thing, but I’d like to see some more of Sam interacting with his posse. I mean, has D-Man even do e anything since the first issue?
Acuna’s art was oddly absent this time out, with Paul Renaud taking the helm. He does a great job of stepping in to the point where my wife didn’t even notice there was a different artist until I pointed it out. As such it pretty much goes without saying that Renaud ‘s illustrations did a great job pairing up with Spencer’s wacky style of writing. A good thing since he’ll be doing the art for the next issue as well.
It’s time again to review the latest issue of Captain America! But wait, didn’t we just get a new issue 2 weeks ago? Why yes, dear reader, we did! Both issues number one and two of CAPTAIN AMERICA:SAM WILSON came out in October before it goes monthly. Why? I don’t know, all I care about is that it meant I didn’t have to wait too long in between issues! Huzzah!
If you read issue #1 of Nick Spencer’s Cap book, you know things weren’t looking that great for our “new” Star-Spangled Avenger. He has no money, very few friends, and half the country views him as a bad guy. Even his life-long buddy, Steve Rogers, the former Captain America, seems to be at odds with him. But before we really get to understand what’s going on we are dropped off in the deserts of Arizona to fight some costumed villains and save some people. Oh, and to start a political debate in the real world about the virtues of kidnapping immigrants. Not gonna touch that last one.
With so many unanswered questions this latest issue is sure to have a lot to juggle, and thus seems to be the sort of thing Spencer is really good at.
We start with a bit of backstory answering the question “Why does S.H.I.E.L.D. hate Sam?” Which eventually leads us up to what is going on with Sam and Steve. Here’s the deal- an unknown informant calling himself the Whisperer has leaked some pretty damning info about S.H.I.E.L.D. and Sam is up in arms about what they are doing. Thing is, so is Steve. Where everything goes wrong for Marvel’s greatest heroes isn’t what S.H.I.E.L.D is doing, but rather how they each feel the informant should be handeled.
Steve is playing the idealist again, believing that The Whisperer will need to stand trial for leaking government information. In his mind he should be held accountable for his actions, even if he had the best intentions.
Sam, being the more cynical of the two, feels that the Whisperer would never get a fair trial due to the nature of his “crimes” and therefor it is Captain America’s job to ensure he can escape capture, since all he did was, as Sam puts it “saved us from ourselves”.
After a brief exchange between the two heroes, Sam does the exact opposite of what Steve would have done and beats up some S.H.I.E.L.D agents, rescuing the Whisperer to live and rat another day. This is the action that causes the rift between these two former partners.
One of the things I love about this being the hot issue is that I, myself, am torn. I agree with Steve and stand behind him 100%, but at the same time I totally get where Sam is coming from and understand why he does what he does. There is no good guy/bad guy situation here. Nick Spencer gives us a realistic situation with no clear right answer, and again I feel like he has complete understanding of the characters he is writing. Both of these characters have views that seem natural and in-character for them, and I thank Spencer for keeping that in mind while writing. I do wonder, however, where Sharon stands on the subject – we haven’t heard from her yet.
So with the elephant in the room properly addressed we can move forward on to the white
-power super villains who, as it turns out, are working for a bigger badder…uh…badguy. While I’m not usually a fan of retreading old stories, I’m curious to see what the Power Broker has to do with this plot, and how it relates to Falcapwolf. Oh, issue #3 is going to be “The Return of Cap-Wolf” in case you didn’t know.
Issue #2 is pretty solid and sheds plenty of light on the situation developing with “Everyone vs. Sam Wilson” while still leaving us plenty of time to develop the story behind the Sons of the Serpent. Nick Spencer moves the story forward again in an interesting direction and keeps us wanting more, which is more than I can say for several previous Cap stories. Look for it in comic stores now.
Oh, I can’t believe Sam just left Misty on that plane after her whole “You wouldn’t like me when I’m bored” speech. I’m sure that won’t come back to bite him.
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.
Along with an entire universe worth of reboots, Marvel Comics announced the next stage of Captain America coming in October this year. Above is the promo art revealed for SAM WILSON, CAPTAIN AMERICA #1. While I’m excited to see another “new direction” for Cap, I’m not sure how I feel about the tag line “Who do you stand with?” as it seems to be hinting at some inner struggle within Steve’s group. I’ll hold off judgement until we get more info about the series since at this point I’m just relieved we don’t have to suffer through any more Remender garbage.
The new creative team of writer Nick Spencer and artist Daniel Acuña sure have their work cut out for them, since they are taking over the book…or starting this new one, I guess, just months before Captain America returns to theaters. I haven’t read anything by either of them, but I sure hope they’re up to the task. At the very worst, it’ll still be better than Remender.