This month’s issue of Captain America: Sam Wilson is sort of a big deal- not only is it the 75th anniversary of the character, but this latest book marks the return of Steve Rogers as a youthful Avenger. No, that isn’t a spoiler yet. Well, not if you’ve read anything about anything comic-related over the past few months. Marvel hasn’t exactly been shy about the return of the original Cap since announcing Captain America: Steve Rogers #1.
The book is broken into several different stories- the main ongoing title is split between CA: Sam and CA: Steve, both written by CA:Sam regular Nick Spencer, and the supplemental stuff done a variety of other writers. As you may imagine, the artist duties are equally distributed throughout the book, but for the sake of keeping things organized, I’m simply going to review each story independently.
This is a mighty hefty book, with 60+ pages of story, so hit the bathroom now, because there’s no rest stops on the way.
“CAPTAIN AMERICA: SAM WILSON”
Story: Nick Spencer/ Art: Angel Unzueta & Matt Yackey
The story starts with Sam arriving in Pleasant Hill at the same time as Bucky, AKA The Winter Soldier. Both were following separate tips that lead them to this remote S.H.I.E.L.D. installation to figure out just what is going on and shut down the KOBIK Program. Casual Marvel fans and Cap readers are likely having a “WTF?” moment. Luckily, Sam’s entire story here is really a “Catch the audience up to speed” recap.
Basically the idea is this: S.H.I.E.L.D. was doing a thing with the fragments of some Cosmic Cubes until Sam and Steve found out about it and forced them to shut it down. Well turns out under the direction of Maria Hill, that project, called KOBIK, was still under way in secret. I know, shocking, right? It seems that, at some point, the fragments of the Cubes fused together and became sentient, which isn’t that unusual as Cosmic Cubes have done that from time to time, but this one turned into a little girl also named Kobik instead of some giant super-being. S.H.I.E.L.D. decides to use Kobik’s infinite power to create the world’s most badass, yet morally questionable, prison by having her alter reality, turning dangerous villains into harmless townsfolk of the “Leave it to Beaver” style prison-town known as Pleasant Hill.
What could possibly go wrong?
Yeah, so everything. Somehow the Fixer builds a machine that reworks the villains, including the sinister Baron Zemo, and a Thunderbolts reunion tour starts just as Steve Rogers comes to shut the place down. Explosions, carnage…you know the deal.
This entire story arc gets explained over eight pages as Sam and Bucky fight their way through a gaggle of circus-themed villains with very little difficulty. The pair meet S.H.I.E.L.D. Agent Avril
Lavigne Kincaid and she helps the duo fill in the blanks along the way. We get a lot of Sam/Bucky bromance, or as my wife has started calling them, Bam. The two do work rather well together, and it’s fun to see them back in action for the first time since the Brubaker run a few years back. I know people are all about “shipping” Steve and Bucky, but this here, folks, is where I’d put my money.
Interesting note- my wife chose “Bam” after realizing the other option was “Sucky”. Good call.
Anyway, Kobik appears to Bam to warn them that Steve was in dire trouble, and he needs his friends now more than ever, so our dynamic duo (I’m kidnapping it for Marvel) rush to his side.
Like I said, this is a fairly short story, but since the purpose was really just to act as a recap, it didn’t need to be too long. I rather preferred this approach to just exposition, mainly because Bam was (were?) really entertaining to read.
The art in this short outing is handled by Angel Unzueta and Matt Yackey, who do a mostly successful job matching Spencer’s zany antics, but something about the way Bucky was drawn irks me. I can’t put my finger on it, but something” just seemed off. Overall a solid start to the 75th anniversary.
“CAPTAIN AMERICA: STEVE ROGERS”
Story: Nick Spencer/ Daniel Acuna
GIANT, BLOODY OLD MAN ROGERS FACE!
I hope that got your attention, because that’s how the next chapter of this book starts. All we know is that Steve is at a considerable disadvantage and Crossbones, Cap’s long-time adversary, is about to finish the job. I love this scene, honestly, because once again we see just how much Spencer knows the characters he is writing. Crossbones’ lines about not underestimating Rogers and “Zemo’s an idiot” are really on-point.
We jump back in time (Spencer loves doing this) to the events that directly followed the Super-Villain prison riot in Avengers Standoff. Maria Hill is gravely injured and using the remainder of her energy to blame Steve for the bound-to-happen cataclysm that has just went down. We also learn that she intended to use Kobik on herself so she could live peacefully in this pseudo-reality she’s created. I’d feel bad for Hill if I didn’t dislike her so damn much.
Steve calls for medical attention, and after a brief back-and-forth with Mentallo, Zemo steps in and admits that, yes, he does need Hill alive, but in order to jump her up ahead the wait list for medical attention, someone else will need to step down and trade places with her. After all, HYDRA doesn’t value the powerful more than the little people. Apparently.
Unfortunately for Danny Rothstein, random S.H.I.E.L.D. accountant, he was just in the wrong place at the wrong time and that means his head is on the chopping block. Classic Zemo. Heartless, but classic. However, now that a spot has opened up on the list, Steve picks up Hill and is ordered to carry her across town to the local doctor. Of course he isn’t allowed to just go it alone as Zemo orders Father Patrick to accompany them. Who is he? Dunno, but odds are he’s a villainous villain.
While crossing the streets Steve, Hill and Patrick come across the Wrecking Crew, who, despite their immense powers, are easily tossed aside by Father Patrick. Just who is this mysterious badass!?!
The trio makes it to the building where Eric Selvig is locked up and Steve takes Hill inside while the good Reverend stays outside for some reason. After a brief exchange with Selvig, Steve learns where Kobik might be hiding and decides he needs to get to her before Zemo does. He makes a hasty escape, leaving Selvig and Hill behind to deal with Father Patrick, which seems like a terrible idea as we pretty much know this guy is a powerful villain. Turns out that it’s even more risky than we thought considering Father Patrick is revealed to be THE RED SKULL. I would tend to guess that Zemo had no clue who he was either, since I can’t imagine he would ever entrust Steve’s safety to the Star-Spangled Avenger’s arch enemy. But this is where I get a bit confused. Steve has no clue who Father Patrick was, but his plan involves leaving a defenseless Hill and less-than-average Selvig behind with a man he just saw beat the snot out of a group of guys who regularly tackle Thor, which turns out to be okay since Patrick is revealed to be the Red Skull, and the Skull apparently has his own plan which involves leaving the helpless pair alone while ensuring Steve escapes “Zemo’s wrath”, and that in turn makes me wonder why the Skull didn’t just walk away after getting Steve to the building instead of trying to barge his way in to begin with. I’m honestly not clear on what his entire plan was.
Also I have no clue if this is the original Skull, or the cloned one that became Onslaught, or if there’s even a difference anymore, but in any of those cases when did the Red Skull become strong enough to single-handedly dismantle the Wrecking Crew in two seconds. Sure, it was a cool scene, but I feel like I missed something.
Moving on, Steve heads to the town’s bowling alley where Kobik is hiding out, and after a heartfelt plea for Kobik to stop using her powers, Steve is able to convince her to hide just as Crossbones enters the building. This should bring us full circle to where we started with this chapter, as Steve starts to get his wrinkled butt handed to him.
The next few pages are just Nick Spencer 100% completely getting Steve Rogers. It’s really refreshing after the last joker they had on the book to get a writer that understands the character, his motivations, and his mentality. I just love the way he writes Steve this entire book and it makes me excited for May’s “CA:Steve”.
This chapter comes to a close as Kobik steps in at the last minute and, just before the killing blow, “makes Steve a hero again” by returning him to his youth using her world-altering cubey powers. Yeah, you knew it was coming, and you knew this was likely how it would play out, but for some reason it doesn’t make the moment any less impactful. Watching Steve turn the tables on Crossbones and beat him down is, well, it’s one of the reasons I read this title. Bam shows up just in time for Steve to get in a good glamour shot as Bucky chimes in with “Wow! About time!”
Nick Spencer really tells a solid story here, despite some confusing Red Skulling, and it was an entertaining read from page one straight through. I already knew he understood Sam, but I’m glad to see he can write Steve, too. And the great thing is that while Spencer has a specific style he doesn’t make the two characters sound the same. They are each independent characters with their own personality, and that’s how it should be.
Daniel Acuna handles the art in this chapter and if you’re at all familiar with his work on Sam’s book you know what to expect. His bright colors and great action scenes are not the traditional comic art many people are used to, but I love it, and it goes well with this story. He won’t be sticking with Steve, though, as he’s continuing his run on Sam after this issue.
Story: Joss Whedon/ Art: John Cassaday
This next story is short, only 9 pages, but it’s not bad. Written by Joss Whedon, “Presentation” is the story of Steve Rogers losing his original shield. Now, I get a little turned around here because I thought Steve got his iconic shield long before he even went overseas (as he had it in Captain America Comics #2 back in 1941) and this story has him losing it while fighting some giant Nazi skull tank, but the Marvel history has been retconned so many times I don’t know what to believe anymore. It’s good to see John Cassaday drawing Cap again, too, and teamed up with Whedon’s writing it makes for a good, yet brief, read.
“CATCH ME IF YOU CAN”
Story & Art: Tim Sale
“Catch Me if You Can” is Tim Sale’s filler story about how Steve beats his way into a HYDRA facility to reclaim a cherished heirloom of his. 8 pages, 7 word bubbles- it’s short and sweet, but nothing stellar. I’m not a big fan of Sale’s art, so to each his own.
“PAS DE DEUX”
Story: Greg Rucka/ Art: Mike Perkins
Writer Greg Rucka seems to think Steve Rogers hates the ballet. That’s the only thing I got from this story. Wasn’t a fan. Always delighted to see Mike Perkins draw Cap again, though, I just wish he had more to work with.
For being the 75th anniversary issue, I had high expectations going in and, to be honest, I wasn’t let down. Yes, the supplemental stories weren’t spectacular, but they also weren’t bad, and we all know they’re not what we came here for.
Before I close this article out, though, I need to gripe about one thing I don’t think I’ve ever mentioned in these reviews before- the cover. No, it’s not bad art, and I actually like the throwback to the old Captain America Comics #1 cover that Alex Ross gave us. My problem is that it recreates the original cover where Cap is punching Hitler with Sam punching Steve. I don’t know why it bothers me so much, but something about Steve Rogers in the “Hitler” spot on this cover just seems really wrong to me. It doesn’t even make sense with the story to have Sam punching Steve, but I guess that’s why they say you can’t judge a book by it’s cover.
That said, great book. Welcome back, Rogers!