Rick Remender’s all new Cap story has so far been a brutal imagining of classic Captain America tropes and this issue is no different. The man behind the shield may have changed, but Captain America is still fighting Nazi’s, jumping on flying vehicles, and inspiring those around him to step up. This is a fast paced book, the art is clean and punchy, and there is some solid action; if you’re looking for a modern telling of classic super heroics this book would be a good choice.
There are plenty of hallmarks of classic Captain America, the shield, the moves, the commitment, but for me the key one is his ability to inspire people to do good, whether that is the heroes who stand beside him, the people he saves, or in this case one of the villains he fights. Sam Wilson has always been a strong character willing to make sacrifices and push himself hard to make sure the bad guys get beat and Remender does an especially good job in this issue bringing those two traits together – Sam won’t ever stop trying to do the right thing, and that can inspire even the hardest of hearts to do the right thing.
After the cliffhangingly surprising death of Nomad (Steve Rogers’ alternate dimension son Ian Rogers) this issue opens with a slower paced flash back to Steve and Sam talking shop after an apparently devastating fight in a city centre (I wonder if this can be placed in the Marvel timeline using Sam’s outfit and injuries?). This is a great scene, one that we are rarely shown, as the heroes take stock in the immediate aftermath of a tough fight (and with more rounds left to go) and the sentiment here is also a rare one; Sam has forsaken a family and a peaceful life so that he can make the world a better place. Heroic sacrifice in comics is more often than not weighed in blood and bodies, it is unusual to see its currency measured in something far closer to home, and it brings home the conflict at the core of Sam’s being – he wants to have kids, but not in an imperfect world, so he can’t stop fighting until every danger has been eradicated. It is a touching scene that adds greatly to Sam’s character, and also speaks to his mental state later in the issue by foregrounding the real costs (Nomad’s life) and opportunity costs (Sam Wilson’s family) of being a superhero.
Cap wandering the slums of an Indian city presents some tough visuals and the art team do some strong work here, the colours by Marte Gracia are particularly striking as Sam’s costume and the vibrant colours of passers-by are shrouded in shadows, dust, and desperation. Stuart Immonen is on fine form depicting the action with Armadillo and Cobra with pace and power (Armadillo looks very impressive), and it feels believable that Sam would be in trouble in this fight. In fact, Remender continues to do great work writing Sam’s inner monologue throughout combat scenes – Sam doesn’t have super soldier blood, or x-genes, or terrigen mist juice, he is just a highly trained human and he has to work that much harder to keep up with the super powered villains he fights. Watching Sam pushing his limits, fighting beyond the failure point, and just keeping his head in the game when everything is going to pot, is what makes him such an endearing hero, we want him to win, but know that the odds are stacked against him a way they rarely are for Steve Rogers or Superman or Wolverine.
Captain America is an inspiring figure, a paragon of virtue that doesn’t stand for the American way, but rather the just way. We see last-minute betrayals all the time, an ally of the hero turns his coat and joins the villains (we even saw the hostage do this last issue), so it is nice to see it go the other way for a change. It is testament to Remender’s characterisation of Sam, and Immonen’s rendering of him in a near-death situation, that this scene is both tense and, when Armadillo does switch sides, believable. Sam Wilson is a man who I can believe would inspire a borderline villain to balk at the idea of wiping out generations of innocent civilians. Sam speaks to Armadillo like a fellow-man, uses his real name, and asks for his help. It is good to see Misty Knight join Sam’s team too, it further emphasises that he can bring people together to get the job done, and it makes sense that he would be looking for help wherever he can get it in this situation.
Cap’s battle with Baron Zemo is well constructed, Sam just let’s out all of the frustration he is feeling and pummels Zemo. Immonen’s tight panel work effectively shows the quick-paced cut and thrust of the fight, and Sam’s inner monologue shows how focused he is on beating Zemo. This opens the door to Sam losing focus and letting Zemo get the upper hand by the end of the fight. Tying in Sam’s thoughts of missing out on a family to the Hydra plan to sterilise humanity and then to the death of Steve Rogers son creates an effective theme for the this story, and gives Sam further motivation over and above saving the world. However, as Sam monologues to himself he places a lot of emphasis on how the tragedy of Nomad’s death affects Steve. Sure, that is the theme of this story, and Sam is exploring his own feelings of familial loss through Steve’s imagined pain, but it also seems a little strange that he really mourn his partners death for what it was. Nomad, Cap’s friend and sidekick, is dead, but all that matters to Sam is how that will make Steve feel. I guess the point is that Sam is angry right now, not sad, and mourning may come later, but it did seem a little dehumanising to me.
This continues to be a strong, action-packed run, with some solid character and thematic work at its core. The art team are all delivering good work and the plot is moving forward pretty well. I think this is ultimately a very successful, if ‘traditional’, superhero book, albeit one with some occasionally dark content. Sam Wilson continues to grow into the Cap role, and his adventures continue to offer some exciting comics moments.
All-New Captain America #4 // Writer – Rick Remender / Penciler – Stuart Immonen / Inker – Wade Von Grawbadger / Colourist – Marte Gracia // Marvel
Notes and Observations:
- Steve bringing Sam a cup of coffee in the flashback scene – a simple and realistic gesture that reminds me how much I love the character.
- Captain America uses his wings to form a makeshift shield against Armadillo’s ram; inventive, practical, and very cool.
- Pet peeve alert – Misty takes out one of the other Hydra facilities in Madripoor, and it just happens to be ‘manned’ by Viper. All too often it seems like comics avoid having female heroes face male villains, like women can only fight women for some reason. Annoying.
- I picked up my third Phil Noto variant with this book – his retro-photographic covers are really doing it for me at the moment.
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